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Thread: Is an insurgent an insurgent?

  1. #41
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Three related comments...

    From BW:

    Perhaps Shay's rebellion and the Whiskey rebellion in our own fromative history are such examples of issue-driven insurrection; both of which served to help the government understand what "good governnace" looked like in the eyes of the populace and to shape a fledgling national government to more effectively serve its populace in a manner they found acceptable.
    Very good examples... but because these incidents did not occur against the backdrop of a national insurgency, they were recognized and managed as what they were. Add a national insurgency to the picture, and things get muddier.

    From Wilf:

    Exactly - BUT that is NOT a type of insurgency. What they want does not even have to be legitimate. Look at Sierra Leone and Colombia.

    Based on the idea that what you describe is an Insurgency, the US brands all "Irregular Warfare" as "Insurgency," this COIN! - and out comes the COIN play book and all the associated baggage.
    Very true... but when issue-driven insurrections overlap a national insurgency, they are often classified as insurgency and treated as such. The point I'm trying to make (possibly not very well) is that in any given local scenario, it's worth asking whether this "insurgent" is really an insurgent, as in trying to overthrow a government, or whether the primary motivation is a local issue that might be resolved.

    From Entropy...

    This…...is a problem if the "governance" is forcibly extended from the outside to a population that has never had it. That is what we are trying to do in parts of Afghanistan. The locals don't think they need (what they consider) outsiders coming in and giving them "governance." They think their governance is just find as it is and simply would like to be left alone to live as have for generations. It seems to me this is fundamentally different than a case where a disaffected population previously existed under some kind of central authority.
    Thank you for making the point I was trying to make, and doing a better job at it.

    Let me try to rephrase:

    The conditions of governance (or lack thereof) that generate insurgency are also likely to generate or exacerbate local issue-driven conflict between citizens and government.

    Insurgent groups will try to exploit these local rebellions: if they can absorb them into the insurgency they will, if they cannot they will try to encourage and support the local rebellion as a means to drain the resources of the government.

    Governments are likely to respond by classifying the local rebellion as a subset of the insurgency and trying to forcibly suppress it.

    The question, then, for anyone engaged in COIN or FID in support of COIN (I'm picking up the acronyms, slowly) on a local level is whether the "insurgents" you face in the field are actually part of a national insurgency, pursuing the goals of that insurgency, or whether they are primarily driven by local issues with government and working with the insurgency on an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" basis. In the latter case, it may be possible to address and resolve the motivating local issue (this may be as simple as leaving people alone and trying to govern them less), thereby re-establishing the legitimacy of government and denying support to the national insurgency.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 08-05-2009 at 01:02 AM. Reason: typo

  2. #42
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This is how we started; and change comes hard. Intel still resists changing its focus even though the strategic picture has cleared up considerably.
    ...to quote one of the guys in our S2 shop - "if it ain't enemies or terrain, I don't do it!"....

    Interesting thread - I guess an insurgent is one who insurges, no?

    If anything, the thread highlights how mainstream military "buzz-ism" takes words or concepts, which as Bob's World highlights have very specific meanings, and stretches them in the name of the "military innovation" or just plain trying to sound smart. Every few years, this bug hits military journals and service schools and if you have the right buzzwords, your paper is "current" and you know how to win wars. It was maneuver warfare that was the key to victory, then it was Revolution in Military Affairs, then - for a quick spell - it looked to be 4th Generation Warfare which quickly lost to "COIN".

    Now I see proposals for "COIN forces" and "COIN Aircraft" and organizing for "COIN" - as if shooting a rifle or dropping bombs on bad guys constitues COIN or "not-COIN" (I'm sure an antithesis will be derived shortly).

    Is labeling everyone in Afghanistan who isn't on the side of the Karzai government an insurgent similar to the past search for "communist bandits" or other such broad brush strokes? Are we guilty, as a profession, of reducing what is (and should) be something complex to a fad with its manual and trends?

  3. #43
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Yes.

    To your last paragraph.

  4. #44
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post

    Interesting thread - I guess an insurgent is one who insurges, no?
    You Sir are destined for greatness

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    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    You Sir are destined for greatness
    I guess I too am guilty of reducing this complex thread to simplicity - one must aspire to something.

  6. #46
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default To summarize...One mans's freedom fighter,

    is another man's terrorist...

    To paraphrase Dr. Tyrell, words mean things...semantics matter...

    In my own thought, in deep practice outside theory, I disregarded defining the common environment, human terrain, and COIN dogma to simply talking to people, understanding who they are, where they come from, and what they represent...

    For example...

    1. Sheik A supported the gov't but controlled militia to attack Sheik B b/c they had a long-standing feud. Additionally, his militia would attack coalition forces as a target of opportunity even though they were cautioned not to harm me. His cousin was the governor so he garnered a bit of support from the national gov't...

    2. Sheik B was an opportunist that swayed back and forth from the gov't support to AQ. He was mostly concerned about his economic trade and the benefits of gov't contracts. He disliked sheik A over his political connections.

    3. Sheik C hated the occupation, and he could not accept the current gov't.
    '
    4. Sheik D was a die-hard wahhabist that supported AQ.

    Everyone fell along the lines of each sheik...I solved the scenario my own way- I became the greatest sheik w/ a $10,000 bounty on my head...

    60% of all my operations were spent on intelligence collection (recon, surveillaince, etc) to continually update the problem set.

    How would you define the problem set???

    v/r

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 08-05-2009 at 08:05 AM.

  7. #47
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    I disregarded defining the common environment, human terrain, and COIN dogma to simply talking to people, understanding who they are, where they come from, and what they represent...

    60% of all my operations were spent on intelligence collection (recon, surveillaince, etc) to continually update the problem set.
    If you could only teach those two things to the rest of the US Army, you'd have achieved far more than many, many other people.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  8. #48
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Mike,

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Everyone fell along the lines of each sheik...I solved the scenario my own way- I became the greatest sheik w/ a $10,000 bounty on my head...

    60% of all my operations were spent on intelligence collection (recon, surveillaince, etc) to continually update the problem set.

    How would you define the problem set???
    Nicely done!

    One of the things I really like about this thread (and a couple of related ones), is that we are starting to get into the issue of why semantics matters and, at the same time, some of the pragmatic implications of semantics.

    Semantics is really about systems of sense making and meaning, usually embedded in language and cultural narratives. A lot of current operations - COIN, FID, SFA, etc. - require that people operate in a cultural landscape (a semantic environment) that they don't "know" at a gut level. This means that we have to be able to construct some type of semantic "translation matrix", although there are rarely 1:1 correspondences in meaning.

    Basically, what you did was to "translate" your position in the human terrain (Gods, I hate that phrase!), into something that "they" could understand at a gut level. "They" now "knew" how to make sense of you and predict your future actions.

    One of the things I see as causing a lot of problems is when the "translation" either makes no "sense" to the population or has an inverted emotional connotation (i.e. X is a "good thing" for us and a "bad thing" for them). For example, my suggestion to Bob's World on how to reconfigure his "governance axis" is based on that problem.

    Take the idea of a central government providing "security". I would suggest that it is "obvious", at least to most Afghans, that this is "impossible": if it was the case, then they would be living under a regime that they could not stand and, historically, have never accepted. It is also "impossible" because their everyday life experience has shown that it cannot be done (NB: even the Taliban never tried to do this). So any claims made that "security" is "of course" a government responsibility will have both a negative emotional connotation ("a tyranny? No way, we've fought them before and always won!"), are rejected by life experience (which re-inforces the tyranny image), and influence how other messages produced by the same group will be received (a "bleed-over" effect).
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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    http://marctyrrell.com/

  9. #49
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    While all insurgents by any definition are the illegal actor; they are not always the wrong actor.

    Meaning that sometimes the government has failed in some significant way and lost the support of the populace and is being sustained in power over them by either their own use of the state's power or the power of some protector state.

    As Americans we must never forget that our founding cornerstone document as a nation, our Declaration of American Independence, boldly recoginzes both the RIGHT and the DUTY of any populace, not just ours, to rise up in insurgency when government fails. Powerful stuff. We like to think that the American Rebels were the good guys in that one. I suspect others might see it differently.

    It is when we let a relationship with some particular government that over time has slipped away from supporting its populace outweigh our commitment to our populace -based principles as a nation that we get into trouble. When said failed or failing government is perceived to draw its legitimacy not from the governed, but from US; this is the ripe field where AQ reaps its harvest. Conducting UW to convince these populaces that the path to good governance at home requires that they first break this source of external legitimacy over their dysfunctional goverment.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  10. #50
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default Kingo, your post was too good to ignore..

    Quote Originally Posted by kingo1rtr View Post
    Saifullah - I dare say you don't have a library close by (if you do then alls the better) but if you can get hold of Frank Kitson's 'Low Intensity Operations' he offers a very good set of perspectives on various actors in these types of situations.

    Some of those who you describe might be in a class that Kitson calls 'subversives'. He describes subversion as 'all measures short of the use of armed force taken by by one section of the people of a country to overthrow those governing....it can involve the use of political and economic pressure, strikes, protest marches and propoganda, and can also include the use of small cale violence...' He goes on to distinguish insurgency as 'the use of armed force by a section of the people against the government..'.

    He also highlights Sir Robert Thomson (of Malaya fame) who observed that 'naturally, subversion and insurgency can take place in the same country at the same time...'.

    Kitson goes on to observe that 'if subversion fails to achieve its aim, it merges imperceptibly into insurrection...'.

    I hope these mild ramblings are of some help.
    I think that maybe a few folks were too busy talking past each other.

    As usual, Sir Frank K gets close to the mark. One of the best military minds to publish last century in my estimation,

    Cheers

    Mark

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Bob,

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    While all insurgents by any definition are the illegal actor; they are not always the wrong actor.
    And not always and for everyone illegal either - JMM's listing of this a while back is a really good point to keep in mind.

    As a related note, and one worth following up, many of the "insurgent" groups (and I'm using that term from our legal definitions) we are currently fighting have their own problems keeping their legal status. Remember all of the problems AQ had after 9/11 because they broke Sharia law by attacking civilians?

    One of the things most people don't realize is that Sunni Islam is an extremely legalist religion, where "law" is the analog of Christian "theology" (not of Cannon law). "Jihad" can only be legally waged under certain specific conditions, and what actions may be taken during it are also subject to legal acceptance. Illegal acts can end with the perpetrator being declared as a "heretic" and cast out of the community, in effect destroying their source of legitimacy and their ability to hide in the population.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Meaning that sometimes the government has failed in some significant way and lost the support of the populace and is being sustained in power over them by either their own use of the state's power or the power of some protector state.
    If by "failed" you include a failure to adapt to the changing culture of their citizens, then I would agree with you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    As Americans we must never forget that our founding cornerstone document as a nation, our Declaration of American Independence, boldly recoginzes both the RIGHT and the DUTY of any populace, not just ours, to rise up in insurgency when government fails. Powerful stuff. We like to think that the American Rebels were the good guys in that one. I suspect others might see it differently.
    What can I say? As the descendent of United Empire Loyalists who fought against your rebel ancestors, that's never far from my mind !

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    It is when we let a relationship with some particular government that over time has slipped away from supporting its populace outweigh our commitment to our populace -based principles as a nation that we get into trouble.
    Agreed. It gets even worse when you add in the morale effect of supporting a government that you philosophically oppose.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    When said failed or failing government is perceived to draw its legitimacy not from the governed, but from US; this is the ripe field where AQ reaps its harvest. Conducting UW to convince these populaces that the path to good governance at home requires that they first break this source of external legitimacy over their dysfunctional goverment.
    Not only AQ. Go back to the Wars of National Liberation and you see the same effect happening. It's a much better tactic to shift the diplomatic stance towards that government as a way of reducing the probability of that perception being accepted. That, however, can be quite difficult in some countries (e.g. Nigeria).
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    While all insurgents by any definition are the illegal actor; they are not always the wrong actor.
    Great point

    Meaning that sometimes the government has failed in some significant way and lost the support of the populace and is being sustained in power over them by either their own use of the state's power or the power of some protector state.
    And sometimes the populace has always had "their own use of the state's power" and so support was never lost because it never really existed in the first place. What is it, then, when a government comes in and attempts to provide that support and there is resistance?

    As Americans we must never forget that our founding cornerstone document as a nation, our Declaration of American Independence, boldly recoginzes both the RIGHT and the DUTY of any populace, not just ours, to rise up in insurgency when government fails. Powerful stuff. We like to think that the American Rebels were the good guys in that one. I suspect others might see it differently.
    Definitely. I think it also says that people have the right to reject a government forced upon them.

    This is what I worry about with Afghanistan. I worry we are forcing a uniform notion of what we think is governance on people who don't want what we or the kleptocracy in Kabul are providing. Populations in Afghanistan differ tremendously in what they want in terms of governance from the outside (by outside I mean outside their local, long-standing power structures). Some want no interference from outsiders at all be they Taliban or Karzai's government or the US or those in the valley next door. Some simply want dispute resolution and a system of justice to prevent blood fueds. Some want to become part of a "nation" called Afghanistan. Some want that only if their particular group has enough power in such a government to defend and promote the group's interests. Those are only a few examples - there is no consensus in Afghanistan on what government should provide.

    Does our policy of governance-promotion take this diversity into account? Is it able to adjust to local conditions to meet local needs, or is it a one-size-fits all approach? I don't know, but there seems to be a lot of smoke indicating the latter. And that's what worries me in addition to the fact that we are poor at delivering on promises.

  13. #53
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    As usual, Sir Frank K gets close to the mark. One of the best military minds to publish last century in my estimation.
    Apparently, still with us I believe. His LIC book is excellent, but hardly read outside the UK, and very rarely read today. Solid, simple stuff.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    I think that maybe a few folks were too busy talking past each other.

    As usual, Sir Frank K gets close to the mark. One of the best military minds to publish last century in my estimation,

    Cheers

    Mark
    Absolutely!

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    Default Kitson Alive and Well

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Apparently, still with us I believe. His LIC book is excellent, but hardly read outside the UK, and very rarely read today. Solid, simple stuff.
    Still very much with us. I'm hopeful that it might be possible to persuade a wee publisher to consider a bio of him while it is still possible to get first hand accounts with him.
    I would say 'watch this space' but I suspect you all ahve better things top do.

    Thanks for your comments Mark.


    Kingo1rtr

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    Default Kitson's influence

    I'd overlooked Frank Kitson's writings, in fact I'm surprised his name has not featured before - or as I'm aging failed to notice before. Many years ago I purchased 'Low Intensity Operations' and 'Bunch of Five'. Bravo for resurrecting the books!

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    While all insurgents by any definition are the illegal actor; they are not always the wrong actor.

    Meaning that sometimes the government has failed in some significant way and lost the support of the populace and is being sustained in power over them by either their own use of the state's power or the power of some protector state.

    As Americans we must never forget that our founding cornerstone document as a nation, our Declaration of American Independence, boldly recoginzes both the RIGHT and the DUTY of any populace, not just ours, to rise up in insurgency when government fails. Powerful stuff. We like to think that the American Rebels were the good guys in that one. I suspect others might see it differently.
    Very true, and very much worth remembering. All too often in the cold war we passively let our antagonists seize the moral high ground of opposition to fading colonial regimes and tinpot dictators, leaving us to respond with support for governments that were neither defensible nor sustainable. I'd hate to see that pattern repeated.

  18. #58
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default I understand that Sir Frank is still alive and retired to the country

    Quote Originally Posted by kingo1rtr View Post
    Still very much with us. I'm hopeful that it might be possible to persuade a wee publisher to consider a bio of him while it is still possible to get first hand accounts with him.
    I would say 'watch this space' but I suspect you all ahve better things top do.

    Thanks for your comments Mark.
    One or two of us have discussed the idea of attempting to contact him (perhaps through the Rifles' association) for a number of reasons:

    1. A much discussed (late at night after the port has gone around) edited work / biography about COIN leadership;

    2. A new monograph about his influence on COIN doctrine; and

    3. (purely selfish) to interview him for one of the case studies in my dissertation...

    Anyway, I digress, pound for pound I will take LIC and 'Bunch of Five' over any work by Galula. Any day.

    Cheers

    Mark

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    Anyway, I digress, pound for pound I will take LIC and 'Bunch of Five' over any work by Galula. Any day.
    Got to agree. Given Kitson's track record, it's a bit of a mystery as to where and why Galula crept into the picture.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  20. #60
    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Many good observations here

    MarkT and Dayuhan:

    In particular I like Mark's overall summary, and I like this comment by our Philippines based friend Dayuhan, but everyone's inputs are very insightful and helpful individually and in total:

    Again, I'm not at all sure that lessons learned among the hill tribes of the northern Philippines have any relevance at all to the hill tribes of northern Afghanistan, but I think it's worth considering that in any given area, some insurgents may be fighting because of local, immediate issues, and that it might be possible to divide these groups from the national insurgency by addressing and resolving the issues that motivate them.
    In Northern Pakistan the media, all their media, in genral use the terms "miscreants" and sometimes "extremists"

    Based on several years now of reading, studying and writing in the Pak media myself, where I use the terms terrorists, Taliban, and al Qaida, I will create some confusion I suppose by nothing that the terrorists (my choice of words) have to rob, steal, and extort money nowadays to keep their fighting up and going. We are harming their main source of income whenever we taken on the poppy growers who will do business with anyone who can pay them hard currency, anyone, that includes us.

    Shifting to remarks to me circa 2002/2003 from the Greatgrandson of a two times prior, based on the last King's tenure, of Afghanistan, who is retired from the Pakistani Foreign Service and was a protege of the late (executed) PM Bhutto (father of Mrs. Bhutto who was murdered by the Taliban agents it now seems clear to some of the world media in that the UN is formally invetigating now her murder/assassination)...the Afghans tribally are just that, tribes, loose confederations with a weak overall central governance system "until" the Taliban came long.

    Thus I think the PsyOps folks using VOA and related channels of communications should pound away at the past and future intentions of the Taliban, and AQ, to "take away" local tribes initiatives and freedom of local governance, to create the in fact true picture that if you think you have got it rough now (remember, these tribe folks have never, ever known nor do they understand democracy or western style governance) just wait until the Taliban and AQ should get back in power and first thing that happens is "off with your heads" as you immediately are a threat to "their" soverignty that would take away the budding system of local governance we are fighting to give back to you.

    How is that for another point of view without hanging up on technical military dictionary operating terms?

    Simple is always better to me, at least.

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