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Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Accidental Guerrilla

Full Title: The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars In The Midst Of A Big One.
Author: David Kilcullen
Publisher/ Location/ Date: Oxford University Press; New York, NY; 2009
Date of Review: August 11, 2009
Number of Pages: 306
Overall Letter Grade of Book: A+ Read this book if you really want to learn about COIN. Kilcullen book will be required reading for military officers for decades. You just think you know about how to defeat an insurgency, unless you have read this book.

1. P. XV, RE: the differences between CT and COIN. “Counter-terrorism, a discipline dating back from the early 1970’s, focuses on the enemy: the individual terrorist and the network of terrorist operatives…it is ‘enemy-centric’. On the other hand, classical counter-insurgency, a discipline that emerged in the 1950’s but has much older roots in imperial policing and colonial small wars, is ‘population-centric’ It focuses on the population, seeking to protect it from harm by—or interaction with— the insurgent, competing with the insurgent for influence and control at the grass roots level.”

2. P. XIX; RE: Takfiri. “The doctrine of Takfir disobeys the Qur’anic injunction against compulsion in religion (Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256) and instead holds that Muslims whose beliefs differ from the takfiris are infidels who must be killed. Takfirism is heresy within Islam: it was outlawed in the 2005 Amman Message, an initiative if King Abdullah II of Jordan, which brought together over 500 ‘ulema (Islamic scholars) and Muslim political leaders from the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League in an unprecedented consensus agreement. The term Salafi or Salafist refer to the belief that true Muslims should live like the first four generations of Muslims, the ‘pious ancestors’ (as-salaf-as-salih) Most extremists are salafi, but few salafi believers are takfiri, and even fewer are terrorists…”

3. P.2 RE: The Chinese book Chao Xian Zhan (Unrestricted Warfare) published by two senior colonels in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The key argument of the book is that Western countries, particularly the United States, had created a trap for themselves by their very dominance of conventional warfare. Confronting the United States in direct conventional combat would indeed be folly, but rather than eschewing conflict, other countries or even nonstate actors could defeat the superpower by …the “principle of addition”: combining direct combat with electronic, diplomatic, cyber, terrorist, proxy, economic, political, and propaganda systems.”

4. P. 15 RE: the U.S. role in helping to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis. “This cannot be “spin” : it demands genuine attempts to address legitimate grievances with regards to Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq “Fundamental to counterinsurgency is an ability to undercut the insurgents’ appeal by discrediting their propaganda, exposing their motives, and convincing at-risk populations to voluntarily reject insurgent co-option and intimidation.”

5. P.21 “In some cases we have fought enemies we had no need to fight, and have chosen to fight simultaneously enemies we could have fought in sequence. We have, in other words signally failed to follow Frederick Hartmann’s strategic principle of “conservation of enemies”, which states that although enmity is a permanent feature in international relations, successful powers must avoid making, or simultaneously engaging, more enemies than absolutely necessary.

6. “For example, the 9/11 Commission estimated that the 9/11 attacks cost AQ between $400,000 and $ 500,000, plus the cost of training the 19 hijackers in the United States before the attack. This would make the 9/11 attacks the most expensive terrorist attack in history but when one considers that the attacks inflicted a direct cost of $27.2 billion on the United States, and that subsequent operation in the “War on Terrorism” have cost about $700 billion to mid-2008, it is clear that that the cost of the attack to America has vastly outweighed its cost to AQ.”

7. P. 40 RE: a battle of Army Special Forces vs. Taliban on May 19, 2006 in Uruzgan Afghanistan which highlights the “Accidental Guerrilla” phenomenon. “The most intriguing thing about this battle was not the Taliban, though; it was the behavior of the local people. One reason the patrol was so cut off was that its retreat, back down the only road along the valley floor, was cut off by a group of farmers who had been working in the fields and seeing the ambush begin, rushed home to fetch their weapons and join in. Three nearby villages participated, with people coming from as far away as 5 kilometers away; spontaneously marching to the sound of the gun. There is no evidence that the locals cooperated directly with the Taliban; indeed, it seems they had no direct political reason to get involved in the fight (several, questioned afterward, said they had no love for the Taliban and were generally well-disposed towards the Americans in the area). But, they said, when the battle was right there in front of them how could they not join in? Did we understand just how boring it was to be a teenager in a valley in central Afghanistan? This was the most exciting thing that had happened in their valley in years. It would have shamed them to stand by and wait it out, they said.”

8. P 52. … “A classical Maoist protracted warfare strategy. A Maoist approach seeks victory through a displacement strategy of building what classical counterinsurgency theorists call ‘parallel hierarchies’— a competitive system of control tantamount to a guerrilla counter-state in permanently liberated area— which then spread across the country and seek to defeat the government in, eventually, a relatively conventional war of maneuver. Rather, the Taliban appears to be applying an exhaustion strategy of sapping the energy, resources, and support if the Afghan government…”

9. P. 54 RE: Taliban organization: “a main force of full-time guerrillas who travel from valley to valley, and a part-time network of villagers who cooperate with the main force when it is in their area…Thus we need to induce local tribal and community leaders who have the respect and tribal loyalty of part-time elements to ‘wean’ them away from loyalty to the main force Taliban.” “Clearly, the weakest motivational links within the Taliban confederation are those that are based on the accidental guerrilla syndrome…and draw local part-time fighters to fight alongside the main force when it is in their area. Local security measures such as neighborhood watch groups and auxiliary police units, creation of alternative organizations and life-pathways (including jobs and social networks) for young men, protection from Taliban intimidation, and alternative economic activities are potential approaches to detaching these individuals from main force influence.”

10. P 59. Regarding propaganda, the Taliban have shown skill in using word of mouth and rumor, and in ‘pitching’ local officials using a combination of coercion and persuasion. These skills equate to what is classically known as ‘armed propaganda’. One good example of this is the use of ‘night letters’ (shabnamah). Taliban leaders have pressured local farmers in several provinces (Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar, and elsewhere) to grow poppy instead of other crops, using night-time threats and intimidation to punish those who resist and to convince waverers to convert.”

11. P. 60. “Fighting will be necessary, and cannot be avoided: counterinsurgency is not peacekeeping, and there is no known method of conducting it without using armed force to kill or capture insurgents. But as the classical counterinsurgency theorist Bernard B. Fall pointed out, a government that is losing to an insurgency is not being outfought, it is being out governed.

12. P. 64. “The same approach has been suggested by the Senlis Council, an NGO that has argued for the legalization of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. After examining this proposal in detail, I believe the money paid to farmers would still find its way (through landowners and creditors, extortion and intimidation) to the Taliban, thus this approach would probably be ineffective, on balance, in a counterinsurgency sense. The Taliban would still get their funding, but from us…In any case, since the value of the crop as paid to farmers is $800 million, purchasing the crop every year would be an extremely expensive proposition, potentially unsustainable over the long run.”

13. “It is extremely important, in analyzing an insurgency, to be able to put oneself in the shoes of local community leaders. In insurgencies and other forms of civil war, community leaders and tribal elders find themselves in a situation of terrifying uncertainty, with multiple armed actors,—insurgents, militias, warlords, the police and military, terrorist cells-competing for their loyalty and threatening with violence unless they comply. They tend to seek what we might call “survival through certainty” attempting to identify consistent rules they can follow in order to keep their people safe…Thus the natural tendency of the Afghan people is to triangulate between the government and the Taliban— phenomena known in civil war literature as attentisme, free riding, or simply ‘fence-sitting’.”

14. P. 69. “The equivalent of ‘exploitation’ in counterinsurgency is rapid follow-up with humanitarian and economic assistance, and rapid establishment of long- term security measures to protect the population and to confirm them in their decision to support the government.”

15. P.71. RE: the full-spectrum strategy of road-building in Kunar. “—an approach I call ‘political maneuver’—to separate insurgents from the people, win local allies, connect the population with the government, build local governance capacity, modify and improve government behavior, swing tribes that had supported the insurgency to the government’s side, and thereby generate progress across the four principal dimensions of counterinsurgency (security, governance, development, information). The road itself matters less than the construction process, which helps focus and organize a broader security strategy.”

16. P. 75. “Akbar Ahmed, the famous anthropologist, diplomat, and former political agent of Waziristan, described the key institutions of Pashtun ideal-type behavior (known as Pashtunwali, ‘acting like a true Pashtun’) as courage (tora), revenge(badal), hospitality (melmastia), generosity to a defeated enemy (nanawati), and heeding the voice of the jirga, the tribal assembly. He also considers taboorwali (cousin or agnatic rivalry) and tor (literally ‘black’) the protection of women’s honor, a concept roughly equivalent to that ‘ird in Arab society) as key additional institutions.” “… (a hallmark characteristic of tribes as distinct from peasants) through violent resistance rather than withdrawal: desert tribes run, mountain tribes fight.”

17. P. 86. “Unlike Maoist protracted warfare, however, Taliban fighters tend to adopt the ‘focoist’ strategy popularized by Ché Guevara and later Régis Debray, according to which the presence of a roving armed band is supposed to arouse opposition to the government and ultimately instigate a popular uprising or revolution through inspirational violence.”

18. P.92 RE: The road building projects in Kunar. “ The PRT operates a ’10-kilometer rule’ which stipulates that 80 percent of unskilled labor on any project has to come from within 10 kilometers of it—this helps build community jobs and ownership over projects, and gives the people a stake in defending them against the enemy…”

19. P.93 “General John ‘Mick’ Nicholson…based his strategy on the delivery of four key operational effects: securing the people, separating them from the enemy, helping them to choose their own local leaders, and connecting them to the government via those leaders.”

20. P.94 RE: LTC Chris Cavoli, battalion commander of 1-32 Infantry in the Kunar valley 2005-2006 idea of persistent-presence. “The U.S. isn’t going away tonight and leaving the [village] elders to cope with the Taliban on their own. This forces the enemy’s hand. He cannot abide that much contact between the government and the people while he has almost none—staying out of towns while we’re in them would render him irrelevant to the people, a fate worse than death for insurgents. Therefore, he has to dislodge us; therefore, he comes to us to fight; but now when he gets there, the whole fight is constructed physically, visually, rhetorically to put him at a military and informational disadvantage.

21. P.112 “…if we can brush the enemy out of the way, marginalize them politically, root out insurgent infrastructure, and make local communities self-defending, we can inoculate the Afghan population against the Taliban and prevent their return.”

22. P. 152. “In a sense, U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was partially correct in 2003 when, during press conferences on the Iraq War he denied that the enemy was an insurgency and rejected the media’s comparison of the campaign with Vietnam.” Iraq differed from Vietnam because of a host of several traumatic events all happening simultaneously…trying to defeat the Viet Cong (insurgency)… rebuilding Germany (nation-building following war and dictatorship) keeping peace in the Balkans (communal and sectarian conflict) and defeating the IRA (domestic terrorism)”

23. P. 181 RE: How many troops does it take to quell an insurgency? “And as Robert Thompson pointed out more than 40 years ago, force ration in counterinsurgency is an indicator of progress, mot a prerequisite for it. You know things are starting to go your way when local people start joining your side against the enemy, thus indicating a growth of popular support, and changing the force ratio as a result. Merely adding additional foreign troops cannot compensate for a lack of popular support— the British lost the Cyprus campaign with a force ratio of 110 to 1 in their favor, while in the same decade the Indonesians defeated Dar’ ul Islam with a force ratio that never exceeded 3 to 1, by building partnerships with communities and employing them as village neighborhood watch groups, in cordon tasks, and on support functions.

24. RE: what is a weakness in the Army’s approach to COIN. “First Army operations have been enemy-focused, aimed at hunting down and killing or capturing key enemy personnel (high value targets; HVTs) and attacking armed insurgents in the field…Protecting and winning over the population are strictly secondary to the aim of destroying the insurgents. This is contrary to best-practice counterinsurgency, which is to focus on the population—an approach that, counter intuitively, has been shown to produce quicker, more effective results than targeting insurgents directly.