Essay on counterinsurgency

But the Taliban seem to be waging a different war, driven entirely by information operations. We can hurt you, or protect you—the choice is yours. In his view, winning hearts and minds is not a matter of making local people like you—as some American initiates to counterinsurgency whom I met in Iraq seemed to believe—but of getting them to accept that supporting your side is in their interest, which requires an element of coercion.

An information strategy seems to be driving the agenda of every radical Islamist movement. The result is an intimidated or motivated population, and a spike in fund-raising and recruiting. He concluded that the former had ten, almost half under government control, such as Saigon radio and local officials; the latter has twenty-five counting the Internet as only one , of which just five are controlled by the government.

Most of the rest—including e-mail, satellite phone, and text messaging—are independent but more easily exploited by insurgents than by the Afghan government. And it is on the level of influencing perceptions that these wars will be won or lost. In the information war, America and its allies are barely competing. In Afghanistan, it still could go either way. However careful Kilcullen is not to criticize Administration policy, his argument amounts to a thoroughgoing critique. As a foreigner who is not a career official in the U. In late September, Kilcullen was one of the featured speakers at a conference in Washington, organized by the State and Defense Departments, on bringing the civilian branches of the government into the global counterinsurgency effort.

In the hallway outside the meeting room, he made a point of introducing me to another speaker, an anthropologist and Pentagon consultant named Montgomery McFate.

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McFate grew up in the sixties on a communal houseboat in Marin County, California. Like Kilcullen, she was drawn to the study of human conflict and also its reality: at Yale, where she received a doctorate, her dissertation was based on several years she spent living among supporters of the Irish Republican Army and then among British counterinsurgents. Army officer. Of course, there was a thing called the Cold War, and we nearly lost.

And there was no guarantee that we were going to win. He had been contacted by battalion commanders with the 4th Infantry Division in a violent sector of the Sunni Triangle, in Iraq. For decades, the Pentagon and the humanistic social sciences have had little to do with each other. In , the Pentagon set up a program called, with the self-conscious idealism of the period, Project Camelot. Anthropologists were hired and sent abroad to conduct a multiyear study of the factors that promote stability or war in certain societies, beginning with Chile.

After Project Camelot and Vietnam, where social scientists often did contract work for the U. What broke that relationship is Vietnam.

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The tribal insurgency is a direct result of our misunderstanding the Iraqi culture. Our primary mission was the security of Camp Falluja. We relieved soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, and their assessment was that every local was participating or complicit with the enemy.

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This view was quickly adopted by my unit and framed all of our actions and reactions. But this had no impact because Iraqis spread information through rumor. We should have been visiting their coffee shops. Pilot teams are planning to leave next spring. Fondacaro sees the war in the same terms as Kilcullen.

Perception truly now is reality, and our enemies know it. We have to fight on the information battlefield. That carries so much strategic weight. It would have impressed them if we had exposed it, punished it, rectified it. So far, though, Fondacaro has hired just one anthropologist. When I spoke to her by telephone, she admitted that the assignment comes with huge ethical risks.

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Some of her colleagues are curious, she said; others are critical. At the counterinsurgency conference in Washington, the tone among the uniformed officers, civilian officials, and various experts was urgent, almost desperate. James Kunder, a former marine and the acting deputy of the U. During Vietnam, his agency had fifteen thousand employees; it now has two thousand.

After the end of the Cold War, foreign-service and aid budgets were sharply cut. The office would be able to tap into contingency funds and would allow cabinet-department officials, along with congressional staff people and civilian experts, to carry out overseas operations to help stabilize and rebuild failed states and societies shattered by war—to do it deliberately and well rather than in the ad-hoc fashion that has characterized interventions from Somalia and Kosovo to Iraq.

Lugar envisioned both an active-duty contingent and a reserve corps. Often maligned but seldom well understood, this phrase is erroneously credited to Gen. Yet, if legitimacy is indispensable, how do we explain the apparent ability of authoritarian states to defeat insurgents with little to no concern for popular support or root causes?

Conventional wisdom suggests that autocratic governments reflexively oppose any form of accommodation; autocracy, after all, denotes centralization of power. And yet, many authoritarian regimes expend significant effort to win support among the populations from which insurgent threats have emerged. Russian history is instructive. Similarly, following the occupation of the Baltic States and Poland, Soviet attempts to counter subversion included an agrarian program designed to win hearts and minds.

In this instance, the effort yielded various economic projects and a larger-scale, Marxist-inspired land redistribution program. After years of neglect, in , Putin granted funding to Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, to reconstruct the province. Grozny transformed quickly, given its starting point, with apartment blocks appearing throughout the city. Socially, Kadyrov engaged in a campaign of Islamization — building mosques the largest in Europe , enforcing headscarves for women, limiting alcohol sales, and closing down brothels.

The intent is to out-Islamize the guerrillas , to appropriate their cause. Kadyrov also initiated a counter-corruption campaign, rehabilitated former guerrillas and turned its leadership, and resurrected Chechen traditions such as mandated teaching of Chechen in schools. The Chinese government has imposed repressive policies in Xinjiang, making organized dissent all but impossible, but it has also sought to win over the local Uyghurs. In parallel, the Chinese government accorded ethnic minorities privileges , such as a relaxed one-child policy, affirmative action, and lower taxes.

Yet, if there is evidence of authoritarian regimes engaging in hearts and minds programs, it is less certain that these charm offensives have altered regime legitimacy or the outcome of campaigns.

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Similarly, when the Soviet Union sought to co-opt the war-ravaged populations of the western borderlands, its go-to solution was taken straight from Das Kapital and reflected ideological impulse more than local need. Initially, taking land from the rich and giving it to the poor engendered pro-Soviet attitudes among the majority population — that is, the poor.

Yet, with time, the unrelenting foisting of collectivization as the answer to agrarian problems raised the worst fears of the local workforce, who were well aware of its disastrous effects in the Soviet Union. The essence of this strategy is the willingness to compromise with rebellious sub-nationalities on all issues with one exception: secession is taboo. But short of secession, the Indian state has been willing to compromise on most other political demands.

New states have been carved out to satisfy demands for local government and under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution some ethnic communities have been allowed to create autonomous regions and districts to allow for a measure of self-rule. Those rebels who were willing to give up the demand for secession and work within the Indian Constitution have been welcomed into the political order, becoming important regional leaders. I n order to permit such compromises, it was essential that military force be kept carefully limited.

Thus, though military force was employed frequently its use was circumscribed by the clear understanding that the ultimate solution would have to be a political rather than a military one. Today, the fact that the Indian forces do not use aerial bombing or heavy artillery in fighting against insurgents seems unremarkable. But a look at the manner in which other counterinsurgency campaigns are fought illustrates how remarkable the Indian approach is. Whether it was in the Cold War conflicts in Vietnam or Afghanistan, or in the more recent American campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Russian campaign in Chechnya, the use of heavy fire-power — aerial bombing, tanks and artillery — is standard.

Around the region, the Pakistani counterinsurgency campaigns in erstwhile East Pakistan and in Baluchistan, or the Sri Lankan campaign against the LTTE have all been marked by the intense use of fire-power.

It is not that Indian counterinsurgency campaigns have been gentle. Nevertheless, the intensity of violence in Indian counterinsurgency campaigns has been carefully calibrated by political calculations and it has completely abjured the use of heavy firepower that causes indiscriminate casualties and has the potential to become an obstacle to future political resolution.

The limitation on the use of force in counterinsurgency campaigns began with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Many of the early rebellions were initially handled by the state police forces or paramilitary forces such as the Assam Rifles. But by the mids, it was clear that the challenges facing the nascent nation state could not entirely be handled by these forces.

The Nagas, in particular, represented a serious challenge. Despite tribal differences, the Nagas had managed to forge a strong sense of common identity in opposition to the idea of an Indian nation that included them.

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  8. Their initial activism was confined to peaceful protests, including mass rejection of the national elections in But such peaceful initiatives were rapidly overtaken by more forceful ones, as the Nagas developed a growing military capability. The Nagas were well positioned to do this because a number of Nagas had fought in the Second World War, and some stocks of weapons were available. As the rebellion took a violent path, New Delhi dispatched military units to put the rebellion down by force. A s the Indian Army began to fight the Naga insurgents in the mids, they sought the use of airpower but were rebuffed by Nehru.

    He emphasised the political nature of the Naga problem, arguing that the Nagas had never developed a sense of Indian nationalism because they had been kept isolated from the rest of the country by British colonial rule. Thus, the Naga alienation was understandable, and their identity with the Indian nation needed to be developed gently.

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    Nehru, as a modernist, believed that development had a lot to offer, but was uncertain about the impact that it would have on the way of life of the tribal population of the region. All these uncertainties suggested a carefully moderated policy that emphasized the need for understanding the context of the Naga rebellion, and a strategy that sought political accommodation rather than military victory. Punitive actions were forbidden, and force was to be used as sparingly as possible. Nehru reminded the army that the Nagas were fellow-countrymen who had to be won over, not suppressed.

    Though there were rumblings within the army about being forced to fight with one hand tied behind their backs, the army accepted these political limits on the use of force. In the early days, the Naga tendency to fight conventional set-piece battles, a consequence of their experience in the Second World War, helped the Indian Army. T he use of force against the Nagas was complemented by political concessions to the more moderate sections among the Naga leadership.

    This concession managed to strengthen the moderates within the Naga community without seriously weakening the Indian position. A ceasefire was declared in late and a meandering peace negotiation began which ultimately led to the Shillong accord in under which most of the rebels agreed to lay down arms.