Counter Insurgency needs a long term view – need for Military action to provide security for undertaking the necessary Politico – Economic measures – clear Rules of Engagement and definition of End State – understand the Do’s & Don’ts.
Quotations for consideration:
- “We all have to be concerned about terrorism, but you will never end terrorism by terrorizing others.” – Martin Luther King III .
- “We give express charge, that in our marches through the country, there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the locals upbraided or abused in disdainful language; for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.” – William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III Scene 6.
- “A merely fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.” – Johan C. Shiller .
- Counter Insurgency (COIN) is the comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and thereby address its root causes.
- In dealing with any insurgency we need to remember that the time scale of counter-insurgency is simply too long. We need to be clear about our objectives and the methodology to be followed to attain to the desired ‘End State’. If we are not winning, then we are losing. We are then in the midst of a low grade, prolonged civil war.
- We should be clear on our strategy – what is it that we are trying to do? How are we trying to do it – that is, what course of action to pursue? What sorts of resources – people, time, and money – are likely to be required to reach those goals? One good way to undertake such a review would be to seek out dissenting views, probing differences inside the administration, especially those between civilian and military officials and then arriving at the actions to be taken.
“Haziness about ends and means, about what to do and how to do it, is a mark of strategic ineptitude; in war it gets you killed” – Dr. Elliot Cohen .
“Short term approach to long term problems generate multiple short term plans that often confuse activity with progress” – Col. H.R. McMaster .
Don’t let hope posing as a plan be your strategy. If you can’t explain your campaign plan, you probably don’t have one. We need a real strategy built around the principles of counter insurgency warfare as recognized in the many such campaigns in the past and as so succinctly put by those who tackled the insurgency in Iraq.
- There should be clear ‘Rules of Engagement (ROE)’ and a clear vision of an attainable ‘End State’ before we engage in any action.
ROE which call for – not opening fire till fired upon or till the enemy is positively identified beyond all doubt and having undisputed proof of his intentions, are unimplementable and represent a danger to the soldiers
and also undermine their confidence in battle and even makes them disheartened and even hesitant, with disastrous conclusions. The Government and the people should trust in the training given to their soldiers and leave it to them to decide and act appropriately in the Field. Of course they need to have internal systems to investigate and deal with any aberrations. As far as is practical, the troops should not be locals, however knowledge of local language and customs should be encouraged.
Troops should be positioned for at least two years, to allow them to develop ground knowledge and to buildup local contacts and any handing over should be done over a period of about 3 months to allow for it to be done properly.
As Thomas E. Ricks writes in ‘The Gamble’ – “The aim of a counter insurgency campaign is to destroy the (Insurgent), – but often by isolating him and making him irrelevant, rather than just hunting down and killing him. The best insurgent is not a dead one, who might leave behind a relative seeking vengeance, but one who is ignored by the population and perhaps is contemplating changing sides bringing with him invaluable information.”
Hence the corner stone of any COIN (Counter Insurgency) effort is not just to locate and kill the insurgents but to win over the locals and to protect them and provide them sustainable security and opportunities for earning a livelihood and to isolate the real insurgents from them. Non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect.
As Gen. George Casey Jr . wrote – “The potential second and third-order effects, however, can turn a raid (that captures or kills a known insurgent) into a long-term defeat if our actions humiliate the family, needlessly destroy property, or alienate the local population from our goals.” We therefore need to teach our officers not just what to think, but how to think.
We should always remember that:
- It will not be easy to take on an insurgency, but hard is not hopeless.
Since WW-II, no major Power has been able to defeat an Insurgency militarily anywhere in the world. The total record is something like 23 to 0, or 21 to 2 if the British are considered as Winners in Malaya, even if this was more a Political than an Military victory, and the Sri Lankans over the LTTE, who lost perhaps because they made the mistake of trying to fight like a regular Army defending Territory. Hence the policies should be Military and Politico – Economic and both short term & long term. This will require greater commitment of both, the Forces and of all resources, than visualized at first and we should be ready to do so.
- Treating and fighting insurgency as if it was a conventional war is inefficient and counterproductive. No successful COIN campaign has ever lasted less than 10 years.
- The Insurgents/Naxals/Maoists take control of an area and then work to turn it into a paying concern by intimidation and
- violence. They create a fear psychosis by killing or humiliating any dissenters into submission.
- For insurgents the War is total, while for the State it is limited though necessarily brutal, and hence the need to be clear on what we should Do and what we should Not Do.
- Protect and serve the population – The people are the decisive ‘terrain’. Work with police and other authorities to provide the people security, to give them respect, to gain their support, and where necessary, to facilitate establishment of local governance, restoration of basic services, and revival of local economies. The police and the military should live, eat and work side by side, so that when transition occurs, it is smooth. Also the police and Para-Military must be trained to develop an attitude that will enable them to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Find ways to speak to the locals – use loud speakers in built-up areas and radio in other areas. Disseminate general information / news and slip in information about the insurgents on terror incidents or killings, especially of other locals.
- Work with the Police to establish order and provide security. Even use the locals as recruits to ‘Civil Defense’ or ‘Police Assistance Teams’ or ‘Neighbourhood Watches’ etc, the locals can identify the insurgents, their informers and any outsiders and understand their movement patterns better than you.
- Set-up local or district level reconstruction teams to buildup the local economy from the bottom-up in order to improve security and provide earning and livelihood opportunities and eventually reduce the military presence.
- Select the area to be occupied. Sneak in a ‘Sniper’ team into a location that commands the area and the approaches to it. Send a route clearance team to work its way to that location, followed by a Company of Army Troops or Security Forces to really move in and occupy the area. Deploy forces to the borders of the area to be controlled to cut and control all ‘Lines of communication’ eg: Roads, paths, river ways, passes, into the area.
- Establish scores of small outposts (Platoon Strength) and patrol almost incessantly, with a clear understanding that if you are present in a neighbour hood for only two hours a day, the insurgents may well control it the other 22 hours, and naturally no one will reach out to you as it will lead to inevitable retaliation. Maintain a constant presence in the disputed area, deny the insurgents the ability to accurately trace or predict your actions.
- Position outposts at key intersections and approaches, use circling drones if available, to keep an eye out for attacks. Ask the local leaders to advice on where to place the police stations and outposts, even if they tend to favour locations close to their own homes. Give them recognition and a sense of participation to win their involvement and support.
- Ensure your own security: The new combat outposts should have proper and secure living spaces and barriers
- to limit damage from small arms and small projectiles. To save time and decrease the vulnerability period, such outposts can be pre-designed and pre-fabricated in a modular fashion to be moved and set-up in the least possible time.
- Live amongst or in close proximity to the people – You cannot commute to this fight. Position security stations (jointly with the police if necessary), combat outposts, and Patrol bases, in the neighborhoods you intend to secure. Living amongst the people is essential to securing them and defeating the insurgents and also for gathering actionable intelligence. Be there, sleep there and move on foot, day and night. All this seems more dangerous than it really is. Establish links with the locals, who will thus see you as real people they can trust and do business with, not ‘aliens’ who drive through from remote bases, day-tripping like a tourist ‘in hell’, such behavour degrades your situational awareness, makes you a target and is ultimately more dangerous. This way you will isolate the insurgents. Remember – for insurgents isolation is death.
- Walk – Move mounted, work dismounted. Stop by, don’t drive by. Patrol on foot and engage the population. Situational awareness can only be gained by interacting with the people face to face.
- Hold areas that have been secured – once an area is cleared and control achieved, it must be retained, do not under any circumstances give it up or allow yourself to be driven away. Never give up – always show that you are there to stay. Develop the plan for holding an area before starting to clear it. The people need to know that you will not abandon them. When reducing forces and presence and handing over to Police and State Administration, gradually thin the line rather than handing off or withdrawing completely at a stroke. They will then begin to talk to you or help in other ways. Such as anonymously marking or otherwise indicating where a bomb had been planted, or an arms cache hidden the previous night, or where insurgents are hiding. Encourage and even suitably reward the informers, secretly if necessary.
- Pursue the insurgents relentlessly – Identify and pursue the extremist elements tenaciously. Do not let them retain support areas or sanctuaries. Force them to respond to you. Deny them the ability to plan and conduct deliberate operations. Remember killing insurgents is easy, it is finding them that is often nearly impossible. Enter into deals with local leaders/opinion makers. Compete with the insurgents for the loyalty of the local population. The locals will know their territory better than you. They will also know the individuals better and so be able to help identify the insurgents or their informants. Of course you then need to be able to protect your own informants or they will be killed by the insurgents.
- Generate unity of effort – Coordinate operations and initiatives with the police, para military, intelligence, local administrative authorities and governmental authorities, as may be necessary, to ensure all
- are working to achieve a common purpose.
- Promote Reconciliation – We cannot kill our way out of this endeavor. We must remain alert for signs of division within the insurgent movement. Encourage insurgents to change sides. Don’t be too unforgiving, remember many saints had an unsavoury past and every sinner can have a better future. We must identify and separate the ‘Reconcilables’ from the ‘Irreconcilables’ through engagement, population control measures, information operations, kinetic operations and political activities. We must strive to make the ‘Reconcilables’ a part of the solution and convert them, even as we identify, pursue, and kill, capture, or drive out the ‘Irreconcilables’ and protect the locals from them.
- Defeat the network, not just the attack – Defeat the insurgent networks. Develop and focus intelligence assets to identify the networks behind an attack, and go after its leaders, financiers, suppliers, operators and technical experts (bomb makers etc)
- Employ all assets to isolate and defeat the insurgents – Counter insurgency forces alone cannot defeat the insurgents/ extremists; success requires all forces and all means at our disposal. Employ Paramilitary Forces and Police and local protection forces or Neighbourhood watches etc and, when required, even Conventional and Special Forces, and also all other available multipliers. Integrate civilian and military efforts to cement security gains. Fight decentralized, and push assets down to those who most need them and can actually use them.
- Recruit locals as auxiliary police or civil defense or neighbourhood watches and as workers. The volunteers may be illiterate, under age or over weight, but they can be worked on. Create ‘Emergency battalions’ to work them (eg:- Pioneer units) and employ them. Arm them with captured weapons and get the Military to give them training, even if only for a week or two. Such political change can lead to improved security and a sense of belonging in the locals.
There will of course be protests against such militias (eg:- Ranveer Sena or Salwa Judum or Village Defence Cadres), especially if they are not properly monitored and directed, but the alternative is a failure of security and prolonged civil war. Those who protest should be asked to consider the condition of the locals if they are not so organized and just left to the mercy of the insurgents. Also, you can’t tell the terrorist from the good locals, the local militiaman can. He can also discriminate between genuine and justified movement/travel and that which is not.