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Thread: British COIN (merged thread)

  1. #41
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    see PM ; dimensions are off-topic, after all.

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    Default "What does it mean to promote a British school of counterinsurgency?" - Can you help?

    Hi everyone

    I've been reading this forum with great interest recently, and thought it was time to sign up and post!

    I'm currently doing my politics undergrad dissertation at Manchester Uni, which is under the working title of "What does it mean to promote a British school of counterinsurgency?"

    This is based largely around the report prepared on Operation Banner that stated the 'model' from NI had successfully been exported to other COIN operations, and been adopted by the US army etc. I realise there has been a lot of criticism for the report online and elsewhere, so wanted to look at what promoting this NI model really means.

    I'm interested in looking at it from the following angles:

    -What actors within the army are promoting this model (ie those in charge now that were engaged in clandestine operations during the conflict etc.)
    -How Operation Banner is portrayed by the British Judicial system and it's reaction
    -Changes in military doctrine and the post-cold war need to redefine the role of the army (and whether this is blurring the lines between the traditional role of the army and police enforcement, crowd control etc.)
    -The effect the 'War on Terror' has had on discourses on COIN, whether its making it more acceptable to discuss these things, whereas before it was seen in not-so-great a light, and whether it is just a rediscovery of what Frank Kitson suggested 30-odd years ago.

    I apologise for the lengthy post, but I'm finding myself lost in a sea of literature on COIN, and would be grateful for any opinions/suggested readings etc.!

    Many thanks

    James

  3. #43
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Alexander View Post
    This is based largely around the report prepared on Operation Banner that stated the 'model' from NI had successfully been exported to other COIN operations, and been adopted by the US army etc. I realise there has been a lot of criticism for the report online and elsewhere, so wanted to look at what promoting this NI model really means.
    Do you mean Army Code Publication 71842? If so I know the author and I am sure he would be happy to talk to you.

    The report does not assert that the 'model' from NI had successfully been exported to other COIN operations, and been adopted by the US army etc. The Forward makes some claims about the NI experience, but does not say what you say it does. The forward was written by the then CGS, and not the author of the report.

    -What actors within the army are promoting this model (ie those in charge now that were engaged in clandestine operations during the conflict etc.)
    Not sure any are. The report does not develop a "model" that I am aware of. It shows what worked and what did not, in the context it was applied.
    -How Operation Banner is portrayed by the British Judicial system and it's reaction
    That's all in the statute books, and ROE.
    -Changes in military doctrine and the post-cold war need to redefine the role of the army (and whether this is blurring the lines between the traditional role of the army and police enforcement, crowd control etc.)
    I doubt the accuracy of that statement. The British Army has been doing "crowd control" (without bayonets) for 50-60 years.
    -The effect the 'War on Terror' has had on discourses on COIN, whether its making it more acceptable to discuss these things, whereas before it was seen in not-so-great a light, and whether it is just a rediscovery of what Frank Kitson suggested 30-odd years ago.
    No one in the British Army "rediscovered" Frank Kitson. He was always well up in the discussions. Yes, COIN has become a fashion fad of late, probably because of the US involvement, but it has always been at the centre of non-US military thought and debate. Many many books were written on COIN prior to 911.
    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

  4. #44
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default UK Doctrine

    The UK is busy re-writing its COIN doctrine, which will (in the hierarchy of doctrine) slip in under the Stabilisation doctrine. The UK had pretty good COIN doctrine, it is just that few read it, even fewer understood it and there were bugger all resources to resource any of it!

    The new doctrine stresses that the nature of insurgency has changed while its essential character has not. Different ways and means, same ends and purposes.

    The new doctrine lists 10 Principles, and increase from the extant 6. For comparison (I have highlighted the new or significantly changed):

    New

    Primacy of Political Purpose
    Unity of Effort
    Understand the Human Terrain
    Secure the population
    Neutralise the Insurgent
    Gain and Maintain Popular Support
    Operate in Accordance with the Law
    Integrate Intelligence
    Prepare for the longer term
    Learn and Adapt

    Old extant since 2007

    Political Primacy and Political AIm
    Coordinated Government Machinery
    Intelligence and Information
    Separate the Insurgent from his Support.
    Neutralise the Insurgent
    Plan for the Longer Term



    What is interesting is that as 'Principles', briefings on them tend to encourage their use as a point for discussion and discussion. A welcome change in an organisation known to cherish the orthodoxy.

    Some points raised:

    Primacy of political purpose - whose? In AFG would that be the IRGoA, NATO, US or ?

    Unity of effort in a coalition environment (as well as pan government)

    Operate in accordance with the law - whose law?


    It also looks like we will adopt a Shape Secure Develop model.

    RR
    Last edited by Red Rat; 09-15-2009 at 05:52 PM. Reason: layout

  5. #45
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Interesting.... Well, the UK Culture Doctrine (JDN 1/09) was really good. Is the new COIN doctrine available online?

    Cheers,

    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/

  6. #46
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Default The Empire’s New Clothes: Maj Collin's Review of British COIN

    I was sent this by a friend, and while it isn't new information I found it to be a very well done presentation.

    It's a ppt presentation that is 7MB in size, so you have been warned. Available here: http://usacac.army.mil/blog/blogs/co...w-clothes.aspx

    I didn't see anything controversial or novel about it (which isn't a bad thing), and it kept me engrossed in it for a good 15 minutes. Very slick slideshow balanced by well reasoned content.

    Of greatest interest to me was the 'periodic table' of COIN comparing the re-occurrence of COIN principles in British doctrine over the last fifty years+. Also, his 'COIN equation' seemed to be bang-on the mark with regards to reflecting modern COIN thinking. No reactionary or revisionism thoughts here, rather just solid thinking and a few robust models.

    For quick reference, his conclusions were as follows:
    The British military had an enviable COIN reputation
    The Empire’s clothes are not entirely new
    The Insurgent Equation has changed
    The ‘British COIN Model’ is not the panacea
    Must use extant resources to counter insurgency
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

  7. #47
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Just run through it once, but there are so many things wrong with this, I just do not know where to begin - Sorry to sound harsh, and if the author is out there PM me!

    I know this is .ppt and not a Thesis, so I can only react to the slides.

    a.) COIN principles? Why just accept they exist? They clearly do not - and there is no such thing as "COIN theory."
    b.) Definitions of COIN? - If you cannot get a clear and useful definition, that may tell you something - which is why current UK "COIN" Doctrine is poor.
    c.) The delineation of "Classical", ""re-classical," etc adds nothing and is without evidence. It's also highly selective. Irregular warfare has not changed! We have changed, for reasons that never get touched upon. - Context, context and context.
    d.) Instead of this "Purity of the text approach," - quotes from manuals and books - why was there no analysis of why UK "COIN" has previously succeeded and why it now seems less effective? - The UK used to solve the problem and there is no evidence the problem has changed in a way that makes it tactically unfeasible to render a strategic end state.

    The UK is not being operationally effective because it simply is not allocating the resources it needs to get the desired strategic end state.

    If the UK is screwing up, it's far more likely to be a problem with Commanders, than Doctrine - as no one actually seems to read the doctrine anyway - because it is mostly rubbish... with the exception of Theatre Specific guidance like the CATOM - which I could find no reference to?

    Yes the UK has lost it's way, because they gave up being good, not because the problem has changed.
    Last edited by William F. Owen; 02-23-2010 at 07:11 AM.
    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 Bob's World's Avatar
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    I wouldn't be too hard on the Brits. The fact is, I can't really think of any example of effective military COIN.

    The problem with applying the military to COIN is that they tend to think of it as warfare; when in fact, COIN is just internal politics gone very bad.

    When the military is applied simply as additional resources and capacity to assist the civil government in regaining a handle on the situation and that same civil government takes to heart that the populace is in an uproar for a reason and seeks to address those failures, you have good COIN.

    If you are a foreign army in a foreign land, you are not doing COIN.

    If you are an army foreign or domestic, and you believe you have the lead for resolving an insurgency, you are not conducting smart COIN.

    British "COIN", like American "COIN" are and were far more about maintaining national interests in foreign lands which creates a natural bias of perspective going in that is virually an "intellectual force field" to getting to "Good COIN."

    So whether one is "threat centric" and out to kill all the insurgents to neutralize the threats to ones national interests abroad, of if one is "Populationc-centric" and out to put so much sugar on the government that you have carefully crafted to protect your interests so that the populace does not compain too much or too violently; you are still not conducting COIN in either case.

    No, I just can't think of any examples of good military COIN. I can find plenty of examples of military forces being employed against foreign populaces either in support of, or opposition to, their sitting governments in order to either preserve or create opportnities for the national interests of the nations that provided that force. But that is not COIN.

    At least not in Bob's World.
    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)

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    Well.

    The slides for one are more or less incomprehensible, but as for the overall content I really think this 'if only we could do what we did in Northern Ireland' implication is very unhelpful. Between Northern Ireland and Helmand Province there are scant significant parallels which ought to be guiding our practices.

    No-one reads the doctrine. If my official capacity I have never even seen the doctrine, and would make a tentative estimate that no-one on the ground has either, or if they have, they've dismissed it as overly complicated, completely unreadable and largely irrelevant at the ground level in a Helmand village. It is hardly revelatory that a fundamental part of a COIN campaign is good J2, but perhaps another complicated Powerpoint presentation could set about explaining the UK's J2 shortfalls.

    The whole implication of the slides is that the doctrine is sound but the carrying out of it is not. But there is nothing to say why not - bugger the doctrine, why are we not as good at it as we used to be? Resources? Complicated command structures? Bureaucracy? Poor use of J2? Inadequate funding or CIVMIL relations? Inadequate traning in the first place? Too kinetically minded? Mission creep? Poor quality commanders? All of the above and more, most likely. Yet identifying these things is not at the crux of this presentation. It more looks at what mistakes have been made, rather than a proper introspective look at why. I very much doubt that the answer is in the official doctrine.

  10. #50
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I wouldn't be too hard on the Brits. The fact is, I can't really think of any example of effective military COIN.
    So why say COIN? Thanks to incredibly sloppy thinking the word has lost any merit it may have ever once had.
    Irregular Warfare works in exactly the same way as regular does. Defeating the enemy's armed wing denies him the ability to set forth policy using violence and returns to issue to politics and diplomacy. That is what force does. You use it against their force.
    The problem with applying the military to COIN is that they tend to think of it as warfare; when in fact, COIN is just internal politics gone very bad.
    If it's not Warfare then why is the US Army involved?
    But that is not COIN.
    At least not in Bob's World.
    OK, so how in "Bob's World" are people using violence to set forth "political ideas" countered?
    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

  11. #51
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I assure you, "the answer" is indeed not in official doctrine.

    That said, there is a great deal of tremendous concepts, TTPs, thoughts, etc in official doctrine. The problem is one of context. Military doctrine on COIN is written in the context of how military forces conduct COIN warfare.

    Change the context, and re-read the same doctrine, and you find that 70% of it is definitely worth hanging onto, it just needs to be rearranged into a new context regarding how military forces properly engage to shape and support foreign policy abroad in lands consumed in insurgency.
    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)

  12. #52
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woland View Post
    It is hardly revelatory that a fundamental part of a COIN campaign is good J2, but perhaps another complicated Powerpoint presentation could set about explaining the UK's J2 shortfalls.
    Concur.
    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

  13. #53
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Great questions that deserve great answers.

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    So why say COIN? Thanks to incredibly sloppy thinking the word has lost any merit it may have ever once had.
    Irregular Warfare works in exactly the same way as regular does. Defeating the enemy's armed wing denies him the ability to set forth policy using violence and returns to issue to politics and diplomacy. That is what force does. You use it against their force.

    If it's not Warfare then why is the US Army involved?

    OK, so how in "Bob's World" are people using violence to set forth "political ideas" countered?
    ...but I was just doing a quick scan of SWJ as I got back into uniform after a little PT. I currently am extremely fortunate to be supporting US SOF in a British led NATO HQ that is armpit deep at the moment in these very matters, so while I am learning a great deal from my front row seat, it is a seat I need to get back to! As my current boss is apt to say ""in a dull moment" I will get back to you!
    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)

  14. #54
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default "Puncturing the Counterinsurgency Myth: ...

    Britain and Irregular Warfare in the Past, Present and Future" by Andrew Mumford, University of Nottingham. Published by the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

    LINK

    Do not believe this has been posted or discussed here. I note that, like some here including me, he believes mostly bad lessons derive from the Malayan experience.

    I don't think he discussed one area of deficiency by the British that is not to some extent shared by the US. The problem in both nations is, I suspect, a combination of a risk averse political establishment (in total but party dependent with respect to bellicosity as the 'out' party will generally object to anything the government of the day decides... ) and an also risk averse and very bureaucratic military and Defence / Defense establishments (important distinction there, both the military folks and their civilian masters are at fault)...

    Pity.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Ken,

    A good catch this paper. On my first reading the arguments appear to be similar to Frank Ledwidge's, in his book 'Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan', which has been discussed on 'The UK In Afghanistan' thread (post 816 is first, debate 840-850).

    It would be interesting if the traditional place for military discussion and learning, RUSI, invited both authors to present their arguments in Whitehall. Alas I fear such is the strength of inertia and fear no-one serving would publicly say anything.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-03-2011 at 09:51 PM.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    It would be interesting if the traditional place for military discussion and learning, RUSI, invited both authors to present their arguments in Whitehall. Alas I fear such is the strength of inertia and fear no-one serving would publicly say anything.
    Ooh I don't know; I can think of several serving officers who would love to have a pop, even if only from our cheap seats!
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    [I]
    very bureaucratic military and Defence / Defense establishments
    Extremely bureacratic. The UK has just formed up a Joint Force Command that at first glance looks like adding another stovepiped staffing chain to an already complex structure. Every time that I mention the increasingly bureacratic nature of the Army I am told that it is because things are more complex now. My riposte is that ultimately the problems are not more complex but the structures we use to solve them are. In the UK Army we have gone from a profession of generalists with a few specialists, to a profession of specialists with a few generalists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    (important distinction there, both the military folks and their civilian masters are at fault)...

    Pity.
    Definitely. Although in the chattering classes there is a feeling that our Generals got many things wrong in Iraq and Afganistan but we see no public acknowledgement from uniformed chiefs that mistakes were made by the military; and certainly not mistakes at the operational and strategic levels. It is a line that is wearing increasingly thin with politicans, pundits and junior officers alike.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    Ooh I don't know; I can think of several serving officers who would love to have a pop, even if only from our cheap seats!
    and what would they say?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    Definitely. Although in the chattering classes there is a feeling that our Generals got many things wrong in Iraq and Afganistan but we see no public acknowledgement from uniformed chiefs that mistakes were made by the military; and certainly not mistakes at the operational and strategic levels. It is a line that is wearing increasingly thin with politicans, pundits and junior officers alike.
    Its not as if the junior officers have been operationally savvy down at the sharp end. Watch the videos, read the books (Dead Men Risen etc etc) and note that not all the problems can be laid at the door of the generals.

    Part of the problem is that 'six month wonders' have now become experts because so few have any real experience of how the war has and is evolving. This is not good for the military as a whole. But... it must be said that six months in Helmand is better overall experience than a few hours at the Iranian Embassy or on Op Barras (in Sierra Leone).

    Now given the fact (as reported by you a while ago) that the Brit troops have no problem with the rules of engagement then even more so those down at the sharp end have less to blame on outside factors.

    The question must be asked why do the Brits put their best troops into Afghanistan if there is no intention to close with and kill the enemy. Time for a major rethink I suggest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Its not as if the junior officers have been operationally savvy down at the sharp end. Watch the videos, read the books (Dead Men Risen etc etc) and note that not all the problems can be laid at the door of the generals.
    Quite right, but the operational and strategic level mistakes can be laid at the Generals' door. At the tactical level there are examples of good and bad practice, like every other army iin every other conflict.
    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Part of the problem is that 'six month wonders' have now become experts because so few have any real experience of how the war has and is evolving.
    But the army as a whole has a very sophisticated and nuanced feel for how the conflict is evolving.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Now given the fact (as reported by you a while ago) that the Brit troops have no problem with the rules of engagement then even more so those down at the sharp end have less to blame on outside factors.
    The ROE are robust. Some will always want more leeway and some less, but the consensus (not just British) is that the ROE are good and workable.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    The question must be asked why do the Brits put their best troops into Afghanistan if there is no intention to close with and kill the enemy. Time for a major rethink I suggest.
    Some would say it is a flawed policy and a flawed strategy. The army still seeks to close with and kill the enemy but only in so far as this will further the aims of the strategy. Of course if the strategy is flawed...

    The view among senior officers at the moment appears to be that:


    Decisive engagement in maritime, land or air environments is no longer an
    effective means of achieving desired political outcomes.

    The ascendancy of non-traditional domains of warfare: particulary cyber,
    information and perception. The view that the outcome of most operations
    is as much a matter of perception as fact.

    I do not necessarily agree with the prevailing view.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

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