Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Dinner with Al Qaeda without precondition

  1. #1
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Posts
    1,177

    Default Dinner with Al Qaeda without precondition

    On two seperate occasions, I had dinner with Al Qaeda leadership and Sunni tribal leaders that actively supported AQI (mostly for financial gain). Now that the concept of talking to our enemies is in vogue on the tactical and operational levels, I wanted to see if anyone else had similar experiences and how you viewed the outcomes.

    Personally, I believe that these talks were significant shaping efforts in our COIN efforts in my AO.

    During the first engagement, I entered the meeting with a relative strength advantage in my town.
    During the second engagement, I entered the meeting with a relative disadvantage in my town.

    The first effort allowed me to understand the competing interests and grievances of the disenfranchised Sunni populace. Furthermore, I was able to identify and distinguish many reconciliables from irreconciliables.

    The second effort allowed me to convey the determination of the US military effort during "the Surge." I was able to plainly articulate my ultimatum to AQI- either lay down your arms and negotiate peace or be subject to extermination.

    The outcome truly amazed me. Over the course of the next ninety days, after some brutal fighting, the town was cleared and attacks went from six a day to almost zero. The hard-core AQI members not killed or arrested simply fled to other safe-havens. They didn't want to play anymore.

    I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

    Are their other stories out there of these engagements (not to be limited to AQI and the ME)?

    v/r

    Mike

  2. #2
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Posts
    1,127

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    On two seperate occasions, I had dinner with Al Qaeda leadership and Sunni tribal leaders that actively supported AQI (mostly for financial gain). Now that the concept of talking to our enemies is in vogue on the tactical and operational levels, I wanted to see if anyone else had similar experiences and how you viewed the outcomes.

    Personally, I believe that these talks were significant shaping efforts in our COIN efforts in my AO.

    During the first engagement, I entered the meeting with a relative strength advantage in my town.
    During the second engagement, I entered the meeting with a relative disadvantage in my town.

    The first effort allowed me to understand the competing interests and grievances of the disenfranchised Sunni populace. Furthermore, I was able to identify and distinguish many reconciliables from irreconciliables.

    The second effort allowed me to convey the determination of the US military effort during "the Surge." I was able to plainly articulate my ultimatum to AQI- either lay down your arms and negotiate peace or be subject to extermination.

    The outcome truly amazed me. Over the course of the next ninety days, after some brutal fighting, the town was cleared and attacks went from six a day to almost zero. The hard-core AQI members not killed or arrested simply fled to other safe-havens. They didn't want to play anymore.

    I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

    Are their other stories out there of these engagements (not to be limited to AQI and the ME)?

    v/r

    Mike
    In Tal Afar 06 and again in Ramadi, my BCT met with known insurgent supporting sheiks (leaders?). Sometimes produced results, sometimes not. Always left with better insight and intel into the enemy.

    Eventually we arrested one of them.

    COIN is fundamentally political, and usually negotiations end the insurgency. In principle, I would not be opposed to talking to the enemy - but you also have to understand that when talking to someone you confer legitimacy - they can turn around and use the meeting to show how powerful they are, and sometimes they can use that to revive a dying movement ("look, I brought them to the table"). So proceed with care, but do it where appropriate and understand the second/third order effects.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

  3. #3
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Posts
    1,177

    Default I introduced the topic lightly

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    COIN is fundamentally political, and usually negotiations end the insurgency. In principle, I would not be opposed to talking to the enemy - but you also have to understand that when talking to someone you confer legitimacy - they can turn around and use the meeting to show how powerful they are, and sometimes they can use that to revive a dying movement ("look, I brought them to the table"). So proceed with care, but do it where appropriate and understand the second/third order effects.
    Well stated Cavguy, and I agree with you that timing, tact, and circumstance are critical factors in determining negotiations, but I think that the concept of "legitimacy" underscores a significant conceptual block that we in the military face on a daily base in a foreign land.

    In some ways, the enemy is already legitimate b/c they are native-an attribute we will never have.

    Academically, it is refered to as the "meta-game," but my interpretation is that this game is the reality of what happens under the threshold of what we observe and interpret- the "real" environment in which we operate that we continue to attempt to penetrate through reconnaissance, surveillance, sourcing, etc...

    True, talking to an enemy provides some legitimacy, but what if the legitimacy is already there outside of our purview. Regardless, any engagement provides the opportunity to gain intelligence and understanding, but I think you're correct in stating that it must be weighed in a cost-benefit analysis.

    Just some quick thoughts as I grapple with the subject.

    v/r

    Mike

  4. #4
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    1,512

    Default

    Its also worth considering:

    -who the meeting is between - is this a meeting between the "leaders", or representatives (the higher it goes the more political the implications)

    -who else knows about it (public or private), and can use it to their advantage, or your disadvantage - gets to Niel's point about legitimacy

    -what is the intent of the meeting, and what is the bigger picture. I had advised an Iraqi leader to invite someone we both knew was bad (but could not prove was bad) over to talk, but the purpose was to collect additional information and to provide him with some disinformation. We agreed that at some point in the future this guy was going to slip up and we would have the confirmation we needed to disrupt his activities, but at the moment I felt it would be good for us to "know your enemy" so to speak. It was a controlled situation where we discussed the way the conversation should go several days prior, and guided the dialogue during the discussion, and largely accomplished our goals. It was also targeted and tactical in nature, although this person was developing into an operational player.

    Best, Rob

  5. #5
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    1,512

    Default

    Mike,

    I meant to ask what you knew (implicitly or explicitly) going into the meetings, and what did you know intuitively about the variables (town, enemy, competing agendas)?

    Did that change between meetings?

    Did you find out things that either changed the value of what you thought you knew, or left you with more questions. Did it bring people or motives into question that you thought were settled before hand.

    I think your last post was really interesting because you bring up the issue of "hard core" AQI, vs. the affiliated (bad word but it'll do I guess). It brings into light the idea of evaluating someones faith or loyalty to an idea or belief. In this case it is a combination of interpreting and evaluating the evidence you have against the impression you get from meeting with them. This ability to synthesize existing information in light of what comes out of the face to face meeting is critical to decision making.

    I hope you write heavily about your experience in the context of meeting with the enemy. Its something I think can really benefit the community.

    Best, Rob

  6. #6
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default

    I had the experience of being involved in talks with individuals providing support to an insurgent faction in the same city in 2005 and 2007. In each circumstance, we were using what I would call a triangulation approach. There were the irreconciliable elements, the pragmatists, and us. We were trying to turn the pragmatists against the irreconciliables. In 2005, this did not work well for a variety of reasons:
    - our lack of sophistication in negotiating the cultural terrain
    - immature and sloppy intelligence (single sourced garbage that was little more than hearsay, fabrications, and rumor)
    - the lack of flexibility that we had with funds and other support with which to facilitate the pragmatists' actions (the best that we could do was give them some confiscated weapons and limited ammunition)
    - a general lack of confidence that the people had in our willingness to follow through, largely due to the political rhetoric back home

    In 2007, all of these things factors were a mirror opposite of 2005 and, as a result, we got better results:
    1. Better intelligence helped us to better prepare for such negotiations because:
      • better knowledge of the enemy and the pragmatists helped us to better determine how best to leverage the pragmatists against the enemy
      • better knowledge of the pragmatists helped us to determine what would motivate them (what did they want and what were they willing to accept or concede)
      • a better general understanding of the environment allowed us to discern when we were being lied to and/or what the pragmatists were uninformed about (and then we could decide whether/how to exploit their lack of information)
    2. Greater flexibility and availability of funds gave us the credibility of immediately implementing concessions that would have sounded far-fetched only two years earlier. Being able to fork over cash to pay for something that you agree to lends you tremendous credibility. Equally important, it helps to initiate necessary movement much, much quicker.
    3. In 2005, many, if not most, Iraqis thought we were pulling out. The re-election of Bush, an influx of tens of thousands more troops, and a country-wide push out of the FOBs really helped to reverse that perception. Combine that with our newfound ability to fork out large sums of cash on short notice and it became apparent that we were in it to win it (like Yzerman) and the tribes could trust us to back them up if AQI and AAS fought back too fiercely.


    Our level of sophistication in dealing with the tribes also improved markedly, though I think the factors above would have been sufficient. In talking to some leaders, I think they have deluded themselves into thinking that they can make headway with the tribes just through skillful application of brainpower, political savvy, and their dynamic personalities. Aside from very few people having the latter two attributes, the Sheiks are too experienced and well aware of the dangers that they face. They are not going to be won over by a cocksure Army Captain in the same way that a naive college student will swoon at an Obama speech. These guys might have grown up without plumbing and may be illiterate, but they are experts at survival, incredibly savvy when it comes to interpersonal skills, and they can be stone cold, calculating pragmatists with no allegiance outside the edges of their city block. A friend of mine was trying to convince me that he was ready to make headway with the tribes on his upcoming deployment because his Arabic is strong, he's been studying the culture, doing lots of reflecting upon earlier deployments, and so on. My advice to him: Otto von Bismarck comes along once per generation. Don't assume that you're this generation's Bismarck.

  7. #7
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    1,512

    Default

    Schmedlap said:

    These guys might have grown up without plumbing and may be illiterate, but they are experts at survival, incredibly savvy when it comes to interpersonal skills, and they can be stone cold, calculating pragmatists with no allegiance outside the edges of their city block.
    I agree, the leadership (those with charisma, resources, conviction and intellect) are sophisticated and shrewd in ways that escape many. I think this is in large part because we transfer our rationality to them.

    Here, a school shooting occurs and it gets media coverage on all the major networks, massive investigations are launched, anyone who is remotely connected is interviewed, school is canceled for a week or more, parents then take off from work, brigades of psychologists are brought in and collectively we condemn the actions, review our gun laws, contemplate cameras in classrooms, counsel teachers that any child who gets angry or mentions guns is suspect of being a potential killer.

    There, a SVBIED kills a hundred and people seemingly just pick up the pieces and continue to live their lives - almost immediately. This just did not happen overnight, and I don't think it just began in 2003 or 2001. Its hard for us to imagine the scale of the killing that went on there in the Iran and Iraq War, or the bloody way that Saddam Hussein played off the tribes (to include Kurd on Kurd) over the years. A government that bought people off, installed its own sheiks (aka the 1990 sheiks), had the power to forcibly resettle groups, gassed thousands, charged the families of those executed for the means used to kill them. His sons raped and tortured at their leisure, and Iraqis saw no end to it. These are hard, shrewd folks regardless of their education or infrastructure, their calculus has been honed through survival - meaning the ones that did not measure up did not get recycled or told they could still be on the soccer team.

    I know a BDE level IA officer who I admire, like and have a great deal of respect for, but would not consider as someone I'd want to see promoted to high up because his calculus default always weighs in on what is best for him above all others. I don't consider it his fault, its what has kept him alive - not employed, not in a job, alive. Every move he makes he considers the range of possible consequences first as they apply to him, then his family and tribe, then other things ranked accordingly. For instance, he and I both knew several IA leaders who were accommodating AIF in either their area, or that they were themselves involved with illicit activities which were hurting not only the BN I was working with, but the BDE as a whole and the U.S. efforts writ large, but his willingness to do anything about it was extremely limited. He had to consider what came after - there is always an after if you don't rotate out of there. He had to live there. It was not until we'd changed the geometry by removing some of the consequences and created some new conditions favorable to our interests, and his while possibly adding in some incentives that it became too good to pass up.

    He was never above seeing what else could be gotten out of the bargain, and he often did, because we most often did not understand what his threshold was, and what we had to give often seemed of little consequence to us. This not only advanced his position physically, but allowed him to ask for more the next time.

    Hard times seem to hone those skills. Even today my Grandmother still haggles over small change. Its not the money, she has plenty, Its not just for the sake of arguing, she can do that with her son and daughters. Its a combination of her experiences from a time in America that is increasingly alien to a generation that buys off the Internet sight unseen, or picks up things- literally almost anything with the thought they will just try it out and if it does not work they can just return it for another, or just get rid of it with little consequence. We don't generally develop the types of shrewd negotiating skills we see elsewhere because we don't have to. We live in a society with fast food, relatively cheap goods, variable interest rates, disposable income, little consequence for behavior, rebates, refunds and host of other things to make life easier. When things don't go our way we cry, and demand justice to suit our individual position. The folks Schmedlap is referring to are the kind who are used going out an getting their justice, often at the expense of others - that is what they have known since they can remember.

    Best, Rob

  8. #8
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Posts
    1,177

    Default How do you train people skills?

    Niel/Rob/Schmedlap,

    All great posts, and it seems like we've had similar situations with differing outcomes. Rob, I'm in the process of trying to describe the engagements with AQI and other actions taking during "the Surge" that may have been innovative or creative enough to capture as a TTP, lessons learned, or simple case study.

    Schmedlep brought another subject up indirectly that I've been considering for some time.

    How do you train junior leaders to lead in an environment where they do not have direct authority/responsibility?

    SF and FAO's train their leaders to negoitiate, coerce, exploit, etc in order to successfully navigate their way through mission sets. Many of us pick it up intuitively, but I think it must be instituted for greater success.

    Now that we have to work with IA soldiers, tribal leaders, NGO's, PRTs, etc, we cannot rely on traditional means of leadership...i.e. I'm in charge so you will do what I say. This approach doesn't work. We have to learn how to teach our junior leaders a different form of leadership that is more collaborative and "people skills" focused.

    One of my old first sergeants remarked that his time as a recruiter probably taught him the best lessons on how to persuade.

    Just another issue I've been considering.

    v/r

    Mike

  9. #9
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Posts
    1,127

    Default

    Mike,

    Don't have a lot of time to reply now - but I still maintain that Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People was the most useful book I read for succeeding in COIN. Some things are cross-cultural. If you're an assh*le in English, you'll be an assh*le in Arabic/Pashtu/Dari.

    Relates also to the "Lost in Translation" Thread.

    Niel
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

  10. #10
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    How do you train junior leaders to lead in an environment where they do not have direct authority/responsibility?

    SF and FAO's train their leaders to negoitiate, coerce, exploit, etc in order to successfully navigate their way through mission sets. Many of us pick it up intuitively, but I think it must be instituted for greater success.
    ...
    We have to learn how to teach our junior leaders a different form of leadership that is more collaborative and "people skills" focused.
    The best education that I received in this area, outside of OJT in Iraq, were four courses that I recently took: Business & Public Policy, Business Ethics, Contract Law, and Property Law.

    In Business & Public Policy, we did nothing but stakeholder analysis and we discussed everything in terms of INTERESTS and sought solutions that we knew would be imperfect, but would meet some interests and minimize other conflicts. It was not neat and tidy. It was perfect.

    In Business Ethics, we had to think through issues from the most basic of human values, rights, and interests, starting from right to life, and then working up the hierarchy of needs, identifying those moral gray areas (as seen by us and the other stakeholders), and seeking a less undesirable outcome. Like the other course, it was perfect because it was imperfect.

    Contract Law and Property Law simply force you to think about the most basic of human concepts of "mine" and agreements, promises, and obligations. An American will view those things significantly differently than an Iraqi or even a European. Starting from the basics and reevaluating has been enormously valuable.

    GEN Petraeus encouraged the officer corps to broaden its education at civilian institutions. I have serious doubts about pursuing a career in business or law (I'm working on an MBA and JD); but the thought of just using these years as education for a return to the Army seems very worthwhile. With every passing day that I live amongst civilians and grow more and more disillusioned and disgusted with them, the prospect of returning to the Army soon after graduation seems more likely.

    On a slightly related note - I am financing my own education. Had I used the Army's retention incentives, I would not have had nearly as much flexibility as I enjoy now to tailor my education as I see fit. It is also worth noting that I will likely return to the Army after my education, even though the Army is not paying for one dime of it. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate whether that incentive is even necessary and, if it is necessary, whether the means by which it is applied make any sense. I regarded it as too restrictive and too burdensome to be acceptable and opted to leave the Army and spend my own money instead.

  11. #11
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    30

    Default

    In the 1970's the British listed Stephen Potter's Gamesmanship as one of the PME books for COIN or whatever we called it that day. Probably still applies but don't read it in public, people will stare when you start laughing.

    JHR

Similar Threads

  1. How Al-Queda may evolve, or end.
    By SWJED in forum Adversary / Threat
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 07-22-2008, 02:46 AM
  2. The Erosion of Noncombatant Immunity within Al Qaeda
    By SWJED in forum Global Issues & Threats
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 06-13-2008, 03:36 PM
  3. Insurgents Report a Split with Al Qaeda in Iraq
    By SWJED in forum Who is Fighting Whom? How and Why?
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 03-28-2007, 04:16 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •