WarThinker's Digest is a feature of theScience of Global Security & Armed Conflict blog that scans the scholarly literature from academia, government agencies, and major think tanks, highlighting new reports and documents bearing on the complexity of conflict and future trends in warfare. A must-read feature for defense and security strategists from all sectors interested in honing their "actionable intellect."
Obama's COIN toss
In Afghanistan, we have a plan -- but that's not the same as a strategy
By Eliot A. Cohen
The Washington Post
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Strategy is the art of choice that binds means with objectives. It is the highest level of thinking about war, and it involves priorities (we will devote resources here, even if that means starving operations there), sequencing (we will do this first, then that) and a theory of victory (we will succeed for the following reasons). That is the job of wartime presidents; it’s why they have the title commander in chief. Obama set out his objectives for Afghanistan, focused on thwarting al-Qaeda, and enumerated some of the means, chiefly a 30,000-troop, 18-month surge. But what about the hard part: setting priorities, establishing a sequencing and laying out a theory of victory?
C.I.A. to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan
By Scott Shane
New York Times
Published: December 3, 2009
The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide.
By increasing covert pressure on Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan, while ground forces push back the Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan, American officials hope to eliminate any haven for militants in the region.
One of Washington’s worst-kept secrets, the drone program is quietly hailed by counterterrorism officials as a resounding success, eliminating key terrorists and throwing their operations into disarray. But despite close cooperation from Pakistani intelligence, the program has generated public anger in Pakistan, and some counterinsurgency experts wonder whether it does more harm than good.
Assessments of the drone campaign have relied largely on sketchy reports in the Pakistani press, and some have estimated several hundred civilian casualties. Saying that such numbers are wrong, one government official agreed to speak about the program on the condition of anonymity. About 80 missile attacks from drones in less than two years have killed “more than 400” enemy fighters, the official said, offering a number lower than most estimates but in the same range. His account of collateral damage, however, was strikingly lower than many unofficial counts: “We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists.”
Reconstruction Under Fire: Unifying Civil and Military Counterinsurgency
By: David C. Gompert, Terrence K. Kelly, Brooke Stearns Lawson, Michelle Parker, Kimberly Colloton
Effective civilian relief, reconstruction, and development work can help convince people to support their government against insurgency. Knowing this, insurgents will target such work, threatening both those who perform it and those who benefit from it. Too often, the result is a postponement of efforts to improve government and serve the population until contested territory has been cleared of insurgents. This can lead to excessive reliance on force to defeat insurgents — delaying or even preventing success. A RAND team with combined security and development expertise set out to learn how civilian counterinsurgency (civil COIN) (essential human services, political reform, physical reconstruction, economic development, and indigenous capacity-building) could be conducted more safely in the face of active insurgency, when it can do the most good. The authors propose the following to improve the security of civil COIN under fire: a concept for setting priorities among civil COIN measures; a way to allocate security forces optimally among various civil COIN activities, as well as between them and other COIN security missions (e.g., direct operations against insurgents); new, integrated concepts of operation (ICONOPS) that military and civilian leaders could employ during COIN campaigns to manage risk and produce best results for COIN as a whole; and general requirements for capabilities and corresponding investments to secure civil COIN, derived from ICONOPS.
The New Counterinsurgency Era
By David Ucko
Confronting insurgent violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has recognized the need to “re-learn” counterinsurgency. But how has the Department of Defense with its mixed efforts responded to this new strategic environment? Has it learned anything from past failures?
In The New Counterinsurgency Era, David Ucko examines DoD’s institutional obstacles and initially slow response to a changing strategic reality. Ucko also suggests how the military can better prepare for the unique challenges of modern warfare, where it is charged with everything from providing security to supporting reconstruction to establishing basic governance—all while stabilizing conquered territory and engaging with local populations. After briefly surveying the history of American counterinsurgency operations, Ucko focuses on measures the military has taken since 2001 to relearn old lessons about counterinsurgency, to improve its ability to conduct stability operations, to change the institutional bias against counterinsurgency, and to account for successes gained from the learning process.
Given the effectiveness of insurgent tactics, the frequency of operations aimed at building local capacity, and the danger of ungoverned spaces acting as havens for hostile groups, the military must acquire new skills to confront irregular threats in future wars. Ucko clearly shows that the opportunity to come to grips with counterinsurgency is matched in magnitude only by the cost of failing to do so.
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, USA (Ret.)
1. Framing the Reorientation
2. A Troubled History
3. Revisiting Counterinsurgency
4. Innovation under Fire
5. Counterinsurgency and the QDR
6. FM 3-24 and Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon
7. The Ambivalence of the "Surge"
8. Innovation or Inertia
Conclusion: Kicking the Counterinsurgency Syndrome?
Counterinsurgency – a much failed strategy?
By Patrick Lang
COIN is a badly flawed instrument of statecraft: Why?
- The locals ultimately own the country being fought over.
- Such COIN wars are expensive, long drawn out affairs that are deeply debilitating for the foreign counterinsurgent power.
- COIN theory is predicated on the ability of the counterinsurgents to change the mentality of the “protected” (read controlled) population. The sad truth is that most people do not want to be deprived of their ancestral ways and will fight to protect them.
- In the end the foreign counterinsurgent is embarked on a war that is not his own war.
- For the counterinsurgent the commitment of forces must necessarily be much larger than for the insurgents.
What should we do?
- Hold the cities as bases to prevent a recognized Taliban government until some satisfactory (to us) deal is made among the Afghans.
- Participate in international economic development projects for Afghanistan.
- Conduct effective clandestine HUMINT out of the city bases against international jihadi elements.
- Turn the tribes against the jihadi elements.
- Continue to hunt and kill/capture dangerous jihadis,
How long might you have to follow this program? It might be a long time but that would be sustainable. A full-blown COIN campaign in Afghanistan is not politically sustainable.
Civil War Outcomes
By Roy Licklider
Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University
Saltzman Working Paper No. 11
This paper attempts to summarize the rapidly expanding literature on civil war outcomes, organizing it around three central questions, all of which remain under debate: (1) what are civil wars, (2) how do we know when they end, and (3) what can outsiders do to help end them and prevent their recurrence? It focuses on the normative and ethical issues involved in negotiated settlements to civil wars: do they reduce violence or not, do they encourage democracy or not, the conflict between amnesty and justice which they often raise, and, if they are seen as desirable, when are they likely to occur and how, if at all, can outsiders support them.
Third-Generation Civil--Military Relations
by Frederik Rosén
Security Dialogue, Vol. 40, No. 6, 597-616 (2009)
Counterinsurgency strategies employed by the US military in Afghanistan have led to the US military embarking on civil governance reform. This has created new forms of civil—military relations with Afghan and international counterparts. These relations appear less dramatic than ‘conventional’ civil—military relations, in that they do not create the same visible alignment on the ground between military and non-military identities. In addition, the increased merging of civil and military work areas creates a new complexity that stems from semantic confusion. This complexity is mostly about norms and principles, in that the core puzzle is the more general question of what kinds of tasks the military should and should not do, rather than about violent consequences to civilians and questions of neutrality. This article proposes the term ‘third-generation civil—military relations’ to capture and examine the conceptual challenges that stem from the merging of military and civil work areas in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.