View Poll Results: Evaluate Kilcullen's work on counterinsurgency

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  • Brilliant, useful

    26 45.61%
  • Interesting, perhaps useful

    26 45.61%
  • Of little utility, not practical

    1 1.75%
  • Delusional

    4 7.02%
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Thread: The David Kilcullen Collection (merged thread)

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  1. #1
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    Default The David Kilcullen Collection (merged thread)

    Moderator's Note

    Prompted by the SWJ Blog article 'Meet An Urban Planner For Cities That Don't Yet Exist' and link:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mee...dont-yet-exist I found that two hundred threads contain Kilcullen and nine threads specifically contain his name in the title, so before I merge them to this 'Collection' thread they were:

    1. In 2008 'Killcullen Briefing' a link to another website
    2. In 2008 after his book was published 'Kilcullen article' on defeating the Taliban
    3. In 2009 announcing a speaking slot 'David Kilcullen at the Pritzker Military Library'
    4. In 2009 a link to an Australian TV debate 'Kilcullen debates the ethics and tactics of contemporary warfare'
    5. In 2009 a thread after 'Accidental insurgent' was published 'Recovering David Kilcullen'
    6. In 2006 'Kilcullen -- New Theories for a New Way of War'
    7. In 2010 'Deconstructing Kilcullen's Counterinsurgency'
    8. In 2010 seeking questions for a meeting 'Questions for Dr. David Kilcullen'
    9. In 2011 'Kilcullen on Libya: U.S. Should be ‘Air Referee’

    In January 2015 four other threads were merged into this one.(ends)


    Kilcullen's work has been discussed elsewhere on SWC, including the thread on his "28 articles". But given the high-level attention it has received, a dedicated thread seems appropriate.

    Lt. Col in the Australian Army, Ph.D. in anthropology, Chief Strategist in the Office of the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, recently awarded the Medal for Exceptional Public Service, and subject of a glowing review in the New Yorker article quoted above.

    Here are his major works:

    Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency

    Complex Warfighting, April 7, 2004


    Counterinsurgency Redux, Survival -- IISS, Winter, 2006

    Three Pillars of Counterinsurgency, Dr David J. Kilcullen*, Remarks delivered at the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Conference, Washington D.C., 28 September 2006
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-11-2015 at 09:17 PM. Reason: Cleaned up links. 2012 & 2015 Note added.

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    Default Start at the beginning...

    "28 articles" was written for a Coalition Company Commander just warned for deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. With admirable clarity, at the opening he defines his subject.

    (Counterinsurgency) is a competition with the insurgent for the right and the ability to win the hearts, minds and acquiescence of the population.
    Right from the start … guaranteed failure. This definition is true when fighting a domestic insurgency, or if we are seeking to create or maintain a colony. Neither is true – yet – for America. Certainly not in Iraq.

    The Iraq government must win the hearts and minds of its people for the Iraq State. A US company commander can only help, as a secondary player in this game.
    Last edited by Fabius Maximus; 12-28-2006 at 02:17 AM.

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    Default Please vote "delusional"

    The number of votes for "brilliant, useful" suggests that America is doomed. I recommend that we all get dual citizenship with some refuge nation, perhaps an isolated communist State up in the hills. Like Albania, or Berkeley.

    Perhaps more evidence will help....

    Kilcullen then gives 28 steps to victory. Let's start at the top.

    1. Know your turf.

    Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your district.
    At this point a savvy Captain might toss this in the trash.

    This advice is either banal (“know your turf”) or impossible.

    The world expert on “your” district already lives there. What Kilcullen describes is called the home court advantage – and they have it, not us. US company commanders on a six to twelve month rotations cannot develop anything remotely like this knowledge about so foreign a place.

    It might not be possible for then to do so in Watts or Harlem.

    This does however, show the power of Kilcullen's work.

    First, Kilcullen has written a useful field manual. Unfortunately, it works only for insurgents -- not us. See #1 above.

    Second, he (unknowingly) shows why overseas expeditions do not work in a 4GW world. The "home court advantage" has the advantage when (like now) defensive strategies are dominant.
    Last edited by Fabius Maximus; 12-28-2006 at 02:15 AM.

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    Default Apologies, I forgot our ace in the hole!

    As usual with the US military, deus ex machina saves the day!

    Quote Originally Posted by "Knowing the Enemy", George Packer, The New Yorker (Dec 18, 2006)
    ... a “ruggedized” laptop computer, loaded with data from social-science research conducted in Iraq — such as, McFate said, “an analysis of the eighty-eight tribes and subtribes in a particular province.” Now the project is recruiting social scientists around the country to join five-person “human terrain” teams that would go to Iraq and Afghanistan with combat brigades and serve as cultural advisers on six-to-nine-month tours.
    Since there are so few Arabic-speaking, Iraq-expert social scientists in the US (even fewer for Afghanistan), the data for these laptops’ will mostly come from the locals. That is, our maps of the social terrain will be that of various partisans in the Iraq civil war. (there are no neutrals in a civil war)

    It's a high-tech way of making their enemies, our enemies.

    Good idea, just the wrong time and place.

    Also this illustrates our confusion between "data" and "knowledge." Even if the data is correct, most of our company commanders will lack the contextual understanding -- the wider view of Iraq/Afghanistan society -- needed to successfully apply it.
    Last edited by Fabius Maximus; 12-28-2006 at 02:18 AM.

  5. #5
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Questions

    Fabius, I take you don't believe much in Kilcullen? Who would you recommend?

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    Default Who should we be listening to?

    The usual suspects ... Lind, Richards, van Creveld ... and the other folks you see published on www.d-n-i.net

    Unfortunately we are in the early stages of developing strategies effective in the age of 4GW. Early days yet. Yet the wealth of writing of the subject, from both in and outside the services, suggests that we'll have results eventually.

    Implementing them might be a more difficult problem. I consider this the critical step, about which I've seen nothing of interest. Perhaps we must learn to wage 4GW on our own military institutions.

    The sage who I believe has produced the first keys to winning 4GW is MAJ Don Vandergriff (The Path to Victory). In the end, our people are our greatest strength. Nothing is more important than getting the right system to attract, retain, and promote in the armed services.

    Among my articles, the most operational is, I believe:

    "Militia: the dominant defensive force in 21st Century 4GW?"
    http://www.d-n-i.net/fcs/pdf/fabius_..._militia-1.pdf
    Last edited by Fabius Maximus; 12-28-2006 at 02:34 AM. Reason: editign corrections

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    Default

    its better to create assets within these tribes and social groups. that would better provide access and open coomunication lines with them. paving the way for a better understanding of their needs and helping in determining where and who the enemy actually is

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default David's new book

    David Kilcullen has a new book out, so is on tour promoting it - with at least two London events. The book is 'Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla', a Tweet via SWJ alerted me to some reviews on:http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...-the-mountains

    More reviews on:http://www.amazon.com/Out-Mountains-...rban+Guerrilla

    I plan to attend one London book launch, so may offer my own opinion.
    davidbfpo

  9. #9
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Default Kilcullen PT 1

    I spent an hour and a half on this post, only to find the subject closed when I hit submit. I'm posting in the soapbox forum for my own personal gratification.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    He's attempting to innovate, radically.
    Quite the opposite, actually. He's summarizing the evolution of leadership in theater that began in April 2003 when we first started to fight the insurgency. While you're quite fond of starting with the first point and shredding it to pieces in rhetoric brimming with hyperbole, I could give you concrete operational examples of virtually every one of the 28 points being implemented successfully by either my troop or one of my brother troops in theater over the last 3 and a half years.

    Point 1: Know your Turf- Very little difference from saying "Conduct IPB"
    Point 2: Diagnose the Problem- Looks like Mission Analysis
    Point 3: Organize for Intelligence- Companies don't have intelligence sections. Smart and innovative companies have developed intelligence sections that collect and analyze intelligence from the platoons. These ad-hoc sections were more often than not better suited and outperformed BN intelligence sections with actual intelligence MOS soldiers.
    Point 4: Organize for Inter-Agency Operation: in your typical Mission Rehearsal Exercise, a company doesn't even touch inter-agency operations. In theater, maximizing the effectivness of inter-agency operations, particularly in the realm of CMO projects, can make or break your combat tour.
    Point 5: Travel light and harden CSS- It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to see that CSS convoys were getting hammered right off the bat (remember PVT Lynch). We didn't do a good job in training our logisticians to fight on the roads. Conversely, for every tank or Bradley with a good load plan in theater I saw 8 gypsy wagons for tanks with all kinds of crap hanging off them that their crew would never use. Utilization of the conex for junk not used is an important PCI.
    Point 6: Find a political/cultural advisor- Why did SF traditionally conduct UW and FID missions? Because being culturally astute are SF imperatives in their doctrine. We, in the conventional force, were never trained that way. Good units pulled in people who knew what they were talking about. I remember learning a great deal from Dr. Hashim. Once in theater, I got hooked into a sheiks family who brought me up to speed on the specific cultural dos and don'ts in my area. It helped place my soldiers in my troop on a higher plain of understanding than other units in theater. Our performance and results spoke to that.
    Point 7: Train the Squad Leaders - then Trust them- On the high intensity battlefield, I, as a troop commander, can maneuver individual sections much easier than the COIN environment. The abilities of my junior leaders are paramountly important to everything I do. They conduct independent operations. Most of my patrols in my troop were lead by an E5 or E6. I had 3 officers in my troop. They couldn't be everywhere. I, as did my PLs, had to trust my NCOs to do the right thing constant with the commander's intent I wrote.
    Point 8: Rank is nothing, Talent is everything - Goes back to the rule of thirds that Ricks talks about in Fiasco. Some are really good at COIN, some suck. Some of our best COIN operators are E5s and E4s who are out there every day. They understand how 2nd and 3rd order effects work. They see them up close and personal.
    Point 9: Have a game plan- It may be surprising to you that many units go into an area without one. This ties back into Points 1-4.
    Point 10: Be there- Near and dear to my heart. As a reconnaissance tactics instructor, it's my job to communicate to the force that R&S planning and operations work in COIN just like they do in HIC environments. If you're unable to place effective fires at the critical point and time (which in OCIN is 3-7 seconds) you'll lose the engagement. Developing NAIs on areas that have high IEDs and overwatching them will eliminate IEDs in given area. Again, goes back to IPB and planning
    Point 11: Avoid knee jerk responses to first impressions- First reports are wrong 95% of the time. Insuregents know when RIP/TOA is happening. depending on where you are, some lay low and some hammer the new unit. Those laying low can paralyze a new unit into inaction. Going into the game with a plan and sticking to it is better than initial improvisation.
    Point 12: Prepare for handover from Day 1- We reinvent the wheel on each rotation. It has been said we fought the Vietnam war for one year 11 times, rather than for 11 years. Many units get the RIP/TOA files and paperwork and never look at them again. That's a travesty. Additionally, some units are preparing to RIP/TOA with indigenous forces. that needs to be planned from Day 1.
    Point 13: Build Trusted networks- May seem like common sense but many units think they can do it on their own. There are people in the community who want to help, despite great risk to themselves and their family. Taking them in and getting them to help your unit will make the unit successful. Goes back to the cultural advisor piece. If the tree branches are overt operations, the tree's roots are relationships with and in the local populace.
    Point 14 and 15: Start Easy and Seek early victories- Some go in and try to take down the entire AQIZ network in Iraq in their first 48 hours. the easiest victories have very little to do with kinetic operations; SWEAT-MS victories, tribal engagments, and equipping of security forces are the easiest 3 things to focus on. The populace see this and will warm to your unit quickly.
    Point 16: Practice Deterrent patrolling- Firebase concepts, which conventional units were completely against initially, lend well to this. Dominating the environment through sheer presense to deter attacks goes back to R&S planning.

    To be continued

  10. #10
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    Default Kilcullen PT 2

    Point 17: Be prepared for setbacks- Things don't go perfectly, despite even the best of plans. Western logic doesn't always translate well. Despite your best effort to explain a specific COA to a sheik, he may not roll with it. If you've hinged your entire plan on the COA he's refuted, you probably needed to plan a bit better. Stuff happens. Deal with it.
    Point 18: Engage the Women; Beware the Children- Iraq, despite the men's perspective, is a matriarichal society. Getting into the women's networks influences the family network and gets 14 year old Joe Jiahist grounded and beaten with a wooden stick by his mom. Aside from the pure comedic value of these types of events, the women's circles are often the untapped venues of success in this type of society. Conversely, the insurgents are more ruthless than we are. They use kids because they're impressionable and, to them, expendible. It's much easier, seemingly, to deal with the kids, but they're distractors and oftentimes scouts for insurgents.
    Point 19: take stock regularly- It may seem like common sense, but after continuous operations for prolonged periods, it's tougher to do than you'd think. Determining the metrics of progress can change from week to week. But it lets us know where we are and where we need to go.
    Point 20: Remember the global audience- Perception is reality, even if it's wrong. The way this war is covered, a private flashing a group of kids with the muzzle of his weapon on routine patrol can be cut and spliced into a nasty IO message for the insurgents. We are always on stage and they have the benefit of the doubt globally right now.
    Point 21: Exploit single narrative- This goes right into the IO plan. It must be tailored to fit your specific area. Again, this is something we don't train regularly and we learn by doing.
    Point 22: Local forces should mirror enemy, not ourselves- Further, they should mirror local operational requirements. What the use in providing the villiage doctor with an endocrinology lab that he doesn't know how to use? i don't know either, but some division surgeon thought it was a good idea. Additionally, just because we have bells and whistles for equipment doesn't mean our partnering Iraqi unit does to. We need to remember that. Often we don't.
    Point 23: Practice Armed Civil Affairs- CMO can be a decisive operation depending on where you are. You must be able to transition rom CA to combat operations quickly. Additionally, the CA bubba isn't the only one doing CA work; your 19D1O is probably doing more CA in a day than the Civil Affairs officer will do in 3 days.
    Point 24: Small is beautiful- Iraqis want to see results. The proliferation of small programs that work does wonders. Also, small is recoverable and cheap. They don't need to know that.
    Point 25: Fight the enemy's strategy, not his forces- The strategy is the iceburg, his forces are the tip. Ask Capt Smith from the Titanic what was more important. We often look for the 10 meter target and forget what's downrange.
    Point 26: Builld your own solution, attack only when he gets in the way- Combat operations doesn't win COIN For a company, since combat operations are what we've trained for, they're our comfort zone. CMO, IO, economic development, and the sustainment of security forces are all bigger moneymakers in COIN than combat operations. It's tough to get to work, but more productive once you do.
    Point 27: Keep extraction plan secret: Everyone has a farewell tour with the sheiks, tribal leaders, political leaders, and others in the AO they've worked with over the year. That gets back to the insurgents. We need to watch it, but I was guilty of this too. It's where human instinct and developed relationships interfere with what is doctrinally right.
    Point 28: Keep the initiative- Insurgents are used to the initiative. Hell, our battle drills are all named "react to ____." By good planning and intel development, you can kick an insurgent in the teeth by making him react. Insurgents can handle Initate ambush but aren't too good at the React to Contact game and usually die in place.


    The bottom line is that every point Kilcullen makes has an operational relevance that you apparently won't acknowledge.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    To "translate" what he says “down” into standard doctrine is, I believe, to frustrate the purpose of his work. That's what I believe was said earlier by referring to his work as a "cliff notes."
    Since I started using that phrase, that isn't what I was inferring at all. The 28 points are a checklist for good behavior, things you should be doing. They're a compass for operations that, until recently, we really didn't train on. Will they always work? Probably not. Even Duke loses a basketball game now and then with a great coach and a great plan. But I know that even Kilcullen would tell you that these are not meant to be an end-all, be-all answer to COIN operations.

  11. #11
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    Default Alas, an extremely relavent addendum

    RTK's points are spot on, and anyone can apply the W=RM rule to make them apply to their own organizations. Thanks for another tool. I'll be turning off my Surefire now...

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    Default Outstanding

    RTK, I read your posts twice and that is really an outstanding little piece work. Well done. Does anybody know why the thread was locked up?

  13. #13
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    Default Good Read

    RTK,
    Good read. I'll pass it on. Regards, Rob

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    Default do cowboys make indians?

    I'm picking up on an old thread here...this is RTK commenting on the 28 articles...

    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Iraq, despite the men's perspective, is a matriarichal society. Getting into the women's networks influences the family network and gets 14 year old Joe Jiahist grounded and beaten with a wooden stick by his mom. Aside from the pure comedic value of these types of events, the women's circles are often the untapped venues of success in this type of society.
    Has anybody had a good look at the effect sending our young men into the field, who will do the sorts of things that young men do while dressed up in and driving soldier kit using the kinds of power that soldiers have, has on the ongoing negotiations about whose on top and what kinds of power are more important in the societies where we are deployed?

    I'm starting from the assumption here that there are ongoing fights in every society about what kinds of power are important and who gets to wield those sorts of power. The folks and capabilities we field are a partial subset of the range internal to our society. I'm worried that the specifics of that partiality may induce changes on the other side that we might not like that much if we thought about it.

    The intro line comes from a deeply essentialist read of Canadian history. Apologies in advance...and here it is.

    When Europeans showed up in Tlingit areas the matriarchs told their proxies (old men) to send their disposables (young men) out to talk with our disposables (again, young men). The short version is that our young men played with their young men and the proxies that looked like their chiefs in ways that totally screwed up their norms and governance structures.

    We're still eating the consequences of this 300 years later.

    -peter

  15. #15
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi Peter,

    Quote Originally Posted by ptamas View Post
    I'm starting from the assumption here that there are ongoing fights in every society about what kinds of power are important and who gets to wield those sorts of power. The folks and capabilities we field are a partial subset of the range internal to our society. I'm worried that the specifics of that partiality may induce changes on the other side that we might not like that much if we thought about it.
    "may induce changes"? Hmm, I would have said "will", but...

    I would suggest that any interactions will cause perturbations in the various cultures involved and, sometimes, those will realign power balances. It's certainly happened before and I don't see it not happening this time. I think it's more a case of if we didn't, then what changes / vectors would there be, and would we like them less?

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-24-2010 at 08:47 PM.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default fyi, here is the final version of my paper about Kilcullen

    By the kind invitation from the SWC Moderators, here is the final version of my paper on Kilcullen:

    Why We Lose: Part four of a series about the US expedition to the Middle East
    January 4, 2007
    4,100 words

    URL:
    http://www.defense-and-society.org/f...06_part_IV.htm


    Comments are welcome and appreciated. First, here are a few important points about this paper.

    1. This paper looks at Kilcullen’s "28 articles" from the perspective of 4GW theory, mining his recommended tactics for insights as to what strategy might work best in such wars. That is, this article discusses 4GW strategy. As we all know, strategy should drive tactics.

    2. This paper does not consider or evaluate the utility of his advice to company commanders.

    3. This is just a sketch (only 4 thousand words), and cannot do justice to the breath and depth of Kilcullen’s large and subtle body of work (4 major papers on counterinsurgency, many on related topics).

    4. This article is in effect a chapter of a book. Like folks originally read Dickens (or Dick Tracy comics), this is a larger work published in serial form. Many logical and natural question when reading this are dealt with elsewhere, esp. in my analysis of Lind’s FMFM-1A and my “Militia” article (links to previous articles appear at the end).

    5. Two comments from Kilcullen’s works I believe apply to all of us writing about 4GW:

    From “Countering Global Insurgency”:

    This appendix IS NOT A BLUEPRINT FOR COUNTERINSURGENCY IN IRAQ. As described in the main paper, such a template does not exist, and in any case the situation is rapidly changing requiring constant innovation.

    From “3 Pillars of Counterinsurgency”:

    These thoughts are tentative; they need a large amount of work. The “three pillars” model is clearly incorrect — all models are, in that they are systematic oversimplifications of reality. But this, or something like it, might be a basis for further development.

    And time is of the essence: regardless of the outcome of current campaigns, our enemies will keep applying these methods until we show we can defeat them. Thus, this is one of the most important efforts that our generation of national security professionals is likely to attempt. Our friends and colleagues’ lives, the security of our nation and its allies, and our long-term prospect of victory in the War on Terrorism may, in part, depend on it.

    6. Last, here is an acknowledgement from the end of this paper:

    Also, my thanks to the participants of the Small Wars Council, whose criticisms were so helpful in refining this article. This site deserves attention by anyone seeking information or discussion about the small wars that dominate today’s military scene.

  17. #17
    Groundskeeping Dept. SWCAdmin's Avatar
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    Default From the Horse's Mouth

    The following reply fm Dave Kilcullen to Fabius Maximus's courtesy e-mail (ref the "heads up" below) re FM's new article (see prior post this thread). Posted here per permission in text. We think the added analysis and context from Dave is valuable and hugely appropriate for this forum. See also this thread. And FM's original post links to the other works cited.

    -------------
    "Fabius",

    Thanks for the heads-up, I actually spotted your article and also the discussion at SWJ that preceded it. I'm flattered and honored that you guys expended so much energy discussing my stuff, and very much appreciated everyone's comments in the discussion, from which I learned a great deal. You'll notice I've cc'd Dave Dilegge and Bill Nagle over at SWJ on this response. (Bill, Dave -- please feel free to post this if you think it's appropriate but the decision is yours).

    "Fabius", I'd be very happy to engage with you in a more detailed discussion of my ideas, of which "28 articles" is actually not a particularly representative sample: I wrote it in response to specific requests from several deployed company commanders when I was in Iraq in January-March 2006, and as I write at the start of it (bottom of page 1 on the internet version) "there are no universal answers...what follows are observations from collective experience: the distilled essence of what those who went before you learned. They are expressed as commandments, for clarity, but are really more like folklore. Apply them judiciously and skeptically."

    In other words, in 28 articles I'm not expressing my latest "experimental" or strategic thinking, but rather trying to provide a quick compilation of ready-reference tactical ideas based on extant "classical" COIN thinking, and where possible drawn from proven experience from the field. I'm fundamentally a practitioner rather than a theorist, and my aim was mainly to meet an immediate need from colleagues in the field.

    I do have other thoughts on these issues; "Counterinsurgency Redux" and "Complex Warfighting", as well as the long (internet) version of "Countering Global Insurgency" are the things I have written that come closest to expressing those other thoughts.

    But I am extremely cautious about claiming to have any particular answers here. I don't believe I do have the answer, and as I write in those other papers, although COIN theory is a better fit for current problems in the WOT than is CT theory, it's not a perfect fit. Indeed, I would argue that this set of conflicts we are in actually breaks all our existing paradigms so that we need a fundamental re-think. (BTW, I'm including 4GW in the subset of existing paradigms that need to be re-thought: I don't support the ad hominem criticisms that anti-4GW people mount, and I think there is much extremely valuable and insightful material in the 4GW corpus of writing, but I'm still yet to be convinced that 4GW as currently expressed, or indeed any other paradigm including COIN, contains all the answers we seek for the present round of conflicts.)

    But I don't claim to have the answer. I sometimes feel as if a new paradigm is on the tip of my tongue, and I have a strong feeling that the solution (if there is one) is about a strategic form of armed propaganda that goes well beyond our current concept of IO into a type of semi-kinetic "influence operations". But I'm still working through all of this, and others smarter and better equipped than I are also working through it. The search for a solution is way bigger and much more important than any one individual or ego.

    Also, as I just hinted, I often doubt that there is a single universal set of "answers" out there, except in the sense that we must always study each problem in its own terms and in the greatest level of detail we can muster in the time available, and then diagnose a tailored and situation-specific approach, consistent with sound principles, to deal with it. But that's simply to state the obvious -- as I say in pretty much everything I have written, I don't believe there is any single, fixed, templated or "silver bullet" solution here.

    I have to say, however, that as a practitioner I don't believe any of these discussions are ready for prime time. What the guys need in the field are workable frameworks and basic assumptions that help them in their day-to-day. So (especially in "28 articles") I have tried to help where I can without claiming COIN as the silver bullet solution to problems that are actually far more complex. I try to keep the speculative stuff for forums where it won't confuse guys whose average day is way more complicated and dangerous than mine.

    Do I believe that the admonitions I make in the paper can be carried out by the average company commander? Actually I have huge confidence in the adaptability and agility of the guys in the field and have been impressed, again and again, as I have served with them in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. But even if the advice is not strictly achievable, I still think it's worth giving since it helps turn the "ship of state" in the right direction.

    If you articulate a position ten steps to the left and the organization only takes two steps in that direction, that's a good result in my view-- if you articulate a position too close to the status quo, the result is no change at all. Some of the advice in "28 articles" is given knowing that it cannot be carried out to the letter, but in the hope that it will act as a memory-jogger to influence people's behavior in the field. That's the didactic purpose of all doctrine, in my view -- not as a descriptive depiction of how operations will actually be carried out, but as a tool to encourage and shape organizational adaptation.

    I would also make the comment that I don't believe "28 articles" is of as much use to insurgents as you think. I have had some field experience leading irregular non-state forces against a conventional army in a guerrilla fight, and my personal experience of doing this was that actually the nature of being an insurgent, and the nature of countering insurgency are so fundamentally different that knowledge of one set of techniques is little help in mastering the other. I learned and applied UW techniques on operations (my army calls it "Guerrilla Warfare" or GW rather than UW, which I personally find a better descriptor) before learning COIN in subsequent ops and during my PhD, and while some skills were applicable to both I found the two disciplines to be complementary in some ways but radically different in others. Most of my brethren with similar experience seem to have found the same.

    I do agree (and have written in a couple of places) that there's a fundamental difference between doing COIN in your own country and doing COIN in someone else's -- hence Northern Ireland, Malaya, and several other "classical" COIN examples have extremely limited utility in places like Iraq and Afghanistan (where the insurgency is only a limited part of the problem anyway).

    Finally (and you'll note I'm cc'ing my friends John Nagl and TX Hammes on this), I'd be very happy to meet in person to discuss this, or engage in a discussion online, on one condition -- you know who I am, my background, my views in detail; I don't even know your name. I don't "do" pseudonyms, I'm afraid.

    If you want to have a discussion in print, we need to either meet or exchange enough personal detail to establish legitimate bona fides. There is too much urgent practical work to be done for us to engage in empty disputation, so I'm not prepared to get into a theoretical discussion without some prospect of a positive practical result for the guys on the ground. My personal preference would be for a private, in-confidence, face to face discussion rather than a public debate -- which has the potential to de-stabilize some of the very people we are trying to help.

    Anyhow, no pressure -- think it over and let me know what you decide. And thanks for your contribution: there is nothing better than a spirited discussion with someone intelligent and well-informed who also violently disagrees with you; it's a rare and precious thing when you find someone like that and I appreciate the dialectic.

    best wishes

    Dave Kilcullen

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Errr....just...errrr.

  19. #19
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Errr....just...errrr.
    LOLOL. Well, all I can say is that this would be a great podcast . Barring that, I'd definitely agree to buy a couple of rounds to hear that discussion!

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Not bad

    I just finished Fabius's article, not bad, although I don't agree with much of it, I do understand his position now.

    Fabius states the obvious, which is that the home team has the advantage. This has always been true in every war we fought, so it is illogical to assume to this advantage always equates to victory. The fact is that it is not always possible to find indigenous personnel to do your dirty work (surrogate or unconventional warfare), and even when it is possible, it isn’t always desirable. We were doing a regime change, and while the Kurds and Shi’a supported seeing Saddam disposed, only the Kurds were willing to work with the U.S.. The Kurds are great warriors, but they are also a political liability, so their utility was limited. Non Kurds didn’t like seeing armed Kurds in their neighborhood. If our objective is a unified Iraq, then the perception we’re siding with one ethnic group has more disadvantages than advantages. The same can be said about using the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. We simply flipped the coin (NA on top, Taliban on the bottom); we didn’t really change the underlying conflict conditions. In my opinion we have lofty ideals that are not achievable (e.g. “imposing” democracy on a society that clearly isn’t ready for it), but that doesn’t mean our military strategy is flawed, it means our political strategy is. Yes they go hand in hand, but they are two different hands, and in this case the left hand is dysfunctional, because it doesn’t understand the limitations of the right hand.

    Another point on so called home turf advantage is that it is very much localized, as there are cultural sub-states within most nations. I don’t fit in well in Latino or Black neighborhoods, and nor do I fit in well in a fundamentalist Baptist town in Alabama. You can be a foreigner within your own nation, so achieving true home turf advantage using an indigenous army is normally a bridge too far.

    Furthermore, we're not losing in Iraq because we don't have home turf advantage, we're losing because we had no plan to transition from combat operations to stability operations (it was supposed to happen magically according to Wolfowitz), so we created a big gap where there was little or no control (remember we liberated Kuwait, we didn’t liberate Iraq, the difference is crucial), and that gap allowed chaos to grow to the tipping point. Several actors emerged in this gap quickly pushing the situation into a state of anarchy in many regions.

    This wasn’t a preplanned insurgency, because the regime didn’t plan on losing, and many Iraqi Military leaders were waiting to join the coalition (as promised), so this was an emerging crisis that could have been mitigated with martial law, enforced by the U.S. military in parallel with the Iraqi Army (which was the original plan, until Bremer made the biggest strategic mistake in U.S. history when he disbanded them). Then to add fuel to our incompetence fire, we denied the nature of the conflict (we don’t have an insurgency), and we didn’t have enough troops to react with.

    The reason I'm revisiting all of this is to point out that even if our COIN doctrine fails us in Iraq at “this time”, it isn't because our doctrine isn't valid (it may or may not be), but rather that we applied it too late. We're in a different type of conflict now, and more U.S. troops, more advisors, and more jobs more jobs may help (they definitely would have helped in 2003), it may also be too late for this approach, since Humpty Dumpty already fell off the wall.

    We failed originally because we refused to recognize the insurgency, now we’re failing to recognize the Civil War, so we still seem to be behind the power curve. Will our COIN doctrine work in the midst of a Civil War, I don't think it will. What we need now is a peace enforcement strategy with zones of separation, agreements between the belligerents, and then strive for political agreement (compromise, so hard to come by in the ME). It is a complex playing field with tribes, religion wars, freedom fighters (those trying to eject the coalition), organized criminals, transnational terrorists, foreign players (Iran, Syria, Turkey, others), etc. We need our best minds at the strategic level (realists, not idealists) to come up with workable solutions.

    Fabius from my perspective as a participant in 2003, I would argue that if every Company Commander and his Bn and BDE Cdrs had Kilcullen's 28 articles (and understood the intent) we would have created some breathing space, perhaps enough to allow for a functional political strategy to develop. You look at other divisions compared to the 101st in Mosul at that time, you can see the disparity. The 101st applied COIN doctrine and achieved a remarkable degree of stability (it was still a tough fight), while others simply made the situation much worse. Operations at the tactical level have strategic impact.

    What you're saying is true now because we failed to follow our doctrine, not because of our doctrine.

    Bill

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