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Old 08-03-2009   #41
Ken White
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Default I don't think it's that complex operationally.

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Legally, all of this "stuff" is complex.
Legally, yes, it is indeed -- but it's only complex operationally if you try to do more than is necessary for operations appropriate to the place and time out of your lane. When we start weaving in and out of lanes or take advantage of no lane markings to hog the road then life always becomes more complex. Unduly so...
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PS: and now we have a new COIN, Combat Operations In support of another Nation. That definition does translate readily into LOAC terms.
Yep. Also far more accurate for most cases than the other meaning which has become stigprostioverregulized.
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Old 02-11-2010   #42
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that this thread has died off.

-The distinction beween COIN & FID will continue to come up. I was involved in discussions in two separate commands regarding the ambiguity.

-My personal opinion is that the US hasn't been involved in COIN since the Philippine Insurrection(s). To me COIN is what a government/nation-state does to rid itself of an insurgency. And, frankly, given a literal interpretation of the Posse Comitatus Act it is quite possible that US uniformed services (less National Guard and Coast Guard) are legally barred from COIN. Yeah; I know that's a ridiculous extreme, but read the law.

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FID is NOT a combat unit mission, it is a national undertaking using various US agencies for their normal mission parameter purposes to assist the host nation. Support of COIN operations of the host nation is a combat unit mission -- and so is mentoring and pairing with host nation units to impart skills (and values...).
-I'll agree that FID is not an exclusively combat unit mission but combat units can do and have done FID. One of the elements of the Partnership for Peace program was mil-to-mil contact which included US/NATO units going to PfP nations and doing combined training. Isn't that FID?

-There is also a problem with FID and the Whole of Government Approach: besides the State Department, government departments are NOT chartered or funded to support foreign governments. They don't have the manpower either.

-I think the critical question is whether or not US troops can conduct unilateral combat operations in FID.

-Sampler's Taxonomy raises another question; that of the primacy of FID or IDAD. Years ago, when we had an IDAD course, it was taught as a part of FID. I suppose that could have been because the FID department already existed and IDAD was a new course, or it could have been because "we" saw FID as primarily military while IDAD was done by other guys. I don't know but I've always seen a large non-military component in FID and what we called IDAD certainly used quite a bit of the host nation's military with US Title 22 support.

-As has been noted elsewhere discussions about definitions are pretty much pointless. Maybe we don't really "do" COIN and maybe what we really do is FID but I don't think it makes any difference.
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Old 02-11-2010   #43
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-My personal opinion is that the US hasn't been involved in COIN since the Philippine Insurrection(s).
The US sent armed forces to the Philippines (in 1898), removed an existing government, installed a new government, and used armed force to crush all resistance to the new government. How exactly is that different from what we are doing (or trying to do) in Iraq and Afghanistan?
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Old 02-12-2010   #44
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The US sent armed forces to the Philippines (in 1898), removed an existing government, installed a new government, and used armed force to crush all resistance to the new government. How exactly is that different from what we are doing (or trying to do) in Iraq and Afghanistan?
We decided to keep the Philippines as a colony. I hope we don't decide to take such an approach in Iraq or Afg.; but the world will judge us by our history, not our promises.

If it looks like the Philippines option, than that is how we will be assessed.


As to last US COIN; as I have stated on other threads I have come to believe that it is most helpful to look at COIN as Governance. COIN is a condition between a governance and its own populace. When you travel to another country to intervene in the relationship between that governance and populace you are either conducting UW or FID (in US doctrinal terms), depending on which side you are there to assist.

Arguably, viewed in this manner, all governance and every populace in every country is at some level of COIN/Insurgency at all times. Most are bumping along in what I would call "Phase 0". It is only when the government loses the bubble on the populace, that some segment of discontent will rise up from the masses to compete with the government for the support of the populace through illegal and typically violent means. This is when one enters Phase I Insurgency and typically needs to bring in military assistance to help move the conditions back down into Phase 0, or within the Civil government's span of control.

The last time the US really was at risk of losing the bubble, was Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. Of note, the US opted not to employ the military to merely suppress the insurgent segment of the populace, but instead opted to enact bold and sweeping changes to the law and to enforce those changes so as to move that segment of the populace back down into Phase O by working to address their concerns and include them more fully in good governance. THAT is good COIN. At the same time we were busy in Vietnam, conducting FID with a much less savvy approach. Ironically, I am sure no one considered what we were doing at home COIN, and many considered what were were doing in Nam COIN.

To me this is the criticality of such nuances. What you call something shapes what you do. By understanding that COIN is the continuous duty of Civil Government, they are far less likely to abandon their duties to the military or some foreign power when it goes violent on them, and the military is far less likely to say "this is war, so we are in charge now until it is Peace again." The Civil Governemt is also far more likely to be held accountable for it's failures, and less able to pawn the blame off on either the populace or some country (or now, non-state actor) that might be working among your dissatisfied segments of your populace to conduct UW. IF the Civil Governent was doing it's job for the entire populace, and the entire populace felt that they had trusted and legitimate means to legally address their concerns, you will have pretty much immunized your populace to being suceptible to such outside infections.

By understanding whenever you go to a foreign country, regardless of what brought you there, it is still NOT YOUR POPULACE, you are never conducting COIN, and you are far less likely to get into an inappropriate family of C2 or operations in general. Oh yeah, and it will never be perceived as "an exestential threat" to your nation. BL, you will have a healtier perspective that allows for better decisions.


Simply by calling our response to 9/11 "A War" has led to bad perspectives and decisions as to how to best resolve the problems that gave rise to the attack (military focus vice a policy focus). Similarly, by calling our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan COIN has led to roles usurping the HN authority.

Many say, "yes, but we destroyed their government and had to take over." True enough. See what bad naming will do for you? Gets you into all kinds of messy situations.
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Old 02-12-2010   #45
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The US sent armed forces to the Philippines (in 1898), removed an existing government, installed a new government, and used armed force to crush all resistance to the new government. How exactly is that different from what we are doing (or trying to do) in Iraq and Afghanistan?
In Manila, and also at a stop along the way to Manila in Guam, as the fleet sailed from San Francisco with hastily gathered volunteer militia from several Western states, it was a handful of Oregon Volunteers who went ashore and accepted the surrender of the Spanish Garrisons that were occupying those countries. We really wanted the excellent harbors as coaling stations and safe ports for our growing navy, but then we got greedy. Greed is bad.
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"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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Old 02-12-2010   #46
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As to last US COIN; as I have stated on other threads I have come to believe that it is most helpful to look at COIN as Governance. COIN is a condition between a governance and its own populace. When you travel to another country to intervene in the relationship between that governance and populace you are either conducting UW or FID (in US doctrinal terms), depending on which side you are there to assist...
In either case, we removed a government, created a new one, and branded all who failed to accept the new government as "insurgents". This rather begs the question of whose government it is in the first place. If it is "ours", our creation, our dependency, and has never been accepted as legitimate by much of the population... is it really a government at all? If not, are those who fight it really "insurgents"?

I would say that the "Philippine Insurrection" was not properly an insurrection at all, but an unsuccessful resistance against an invading power. Whether or not the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately be seen the same way depends on the degree to which those governments can stop being "ours" and become "theirs". I'm not convinced that this has happened yet.

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In Manila, and also at a stop along the way to Manila in Guam, as the fleet sailed from San Francisco with hastily gathered volunteer militia from several Western states, it was a handful of Oregon Volunteers who went ashore and accepted the surrender of the Spanish Garrisons that were occupying those countries. We really wanted the excellent harbors as coaling stations and safe ports for our growing navy, but then we got greedy. Greed is bad.
Some only wanted the harbors. Some wanted a good deal more, from the start. There was a significant faction in the US Government at the time who were plain and simple imperialists, believing that the US needed to break out of its shell and emerge as a great power in the European mold, complete with overseas possessions. Notable examples were Albert Beveridge in the Senate, Henry Cabot Lodge in the House, and Theodore Roosevelt. There were also economic interests. Manufacturers saw the rest of the world being divvied up and were keen to establish protected export markets; the Philippines were seen as a stepping stone to China. The Sugar Trust, one of the great industrial monopolies of the day, was keen to bring a source of cane sugar inside the tariff wall that had been established to protect beet sugar producers.

The fleet that Admiral Dewey sailed into Manila Bay for his famous victory against a rather decrepit Spanish squadron sailed from Hong Kong; Roosevelt had ordered Dewey there with specific instructions to prepare for action against Manila. Of course it had to be sold to the public as a fortuitous accident that brought with it the responsibility to "civilize, Christianize, and uplift" the Filipinos (which in point of fact meant appropriating them), but it wasn't nearly as accidental as was later suggested.

The point in today's context is simply that what "we" want is never monochromatic. Different people want different things, and factions will readily try to adopt a noble (or at least salable) facade for intentions that might not be well received by the public. I'm not sure how much that has changed since 1898...

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Old 02-16-2010   #47
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The US sent armed forces to the Philippines (in 1898), removed an existing government, installed a new government, and used armed force to crush all resistance to the new government. How exactly is that different from what we are doing (or trying to do) in Iraq and Afghanistan?
I think the intent was different. Regarding the Spanish-American War, compare Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. We chased the Spanish out of Cuba, stuck around for a while, then left the Cubans pretty much to their own devices. We chased the Spanish out of Puerto Rico and claimed it as US territory. In the PI the US replaced a Spanish colonial government with an interim administration based on US laws and procedures but adapted to the environment and with the intent of pulling out and leaving a functioning Philippine government behind. Aguinaldo, et al, wanted independence immediately and philosophically equated the Spanish occupation with the US occupation; most of his countrymen disagreed.

I haven’t seen anyone designated as US governor of either Iraq or Afghanistan. I haven’t seen US laws and legal systems imposed. I haven’t seen any long range plans for US occupation of either country. On the other hand, I have seen US lawyers being trained in Iraqi and Afghan law and I have seen efforts to untangle the legal and administrative cesspools left behind by the Baathists, Taliban and co-conspirators. I’ve seen programs and policies designed to implement local through national governments and I’ve seen evidence of home grown representative governments. I’ve also seen constant clamoring to get US forces out of both countries.

I’m not sure of the intent of your riposte but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t to address the differences between FID and COIN.

Bob's World:

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COIN is a condition between a governance and its own populace. When you travel to another country to intervene in the relationship between that governance and populace you are either conducting UW or FID (in US doctrinal terms), depending on which side you are there to assist.
I think you are agreeing with me. I'd like to think, however, that governments don't always teeter on the edge of open, violent, insurgency.

There can be another factor, however, and that is a simple destabilization desire without any attempt to replace an ineffective government. That may be what we're seeing in Mexico and Colombia.
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Old 02-16-2010   #48
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Dayuhan:
I’m not sure of the intent of your riposte but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t to address the differences between FID and COIN.
Actually it was. Let me be more clear. The points:

1. These distinctions are largely a question of semantics and perception.

2. Our classification of a conflict may be driven by the desire to frame the conflict in terms favorable to us and acceptable to our populace, not by a desire to accurately describe the conflict.

3. Our perception of the conflict may be quite different from that of the populace of the conflicted nation, and where these differences occur, their perception matters more than ours.

The "Philippine Insurrection" was of course not an insurrection at all, but resistance to foreign invasion and occupation. It had to be publicly classified as "insurrection" because calling it what it was would have been politically unacceptable on the home front.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the distinction between FID and COIN revolves around the perception of whether the governments in question are "ours" or "theirs". If the governments are "theirs", then yes, we're "doing FID" in support of an autonomous but allied foreign government. If the government is perceived as "ours" - our creation, our tool, accountable primarily to us - then we're "doing COIN", or simply propping up a puppet.

Certainly we would like to see ourselves in the former position, but whether that is the position we are actually in is open to question. My own sense is that in Iraq the government has achieved a degree of "theirs-ness" and to that extent we might say that what we are doing is FID. In Afghanistan I suspect that claiming an FID role is a self-serving illusion, and a pretty threadbare one at that.

The potential for variance in perception is considerable. It may serve our politics to say that the Karzai government is an autonomous and legitimate ally that we are protecting from vile insurgents, but if a plurality of Afghans believe that Karzai is a puppet and they are fighting a foreign occupation, we will only be deceiving ourselves, and the deception isn't likely to hold up for long. It's their opinion, not ours, that will shape the future of the conflict.

At the end of the day, are we basing our classifications and policies on what we want to see or on what's really there? It's a question worth asking on a regular basis.

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I think the intent was different. Regarding the Spanish-American War, compare Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. We chased the Spanish out of Cuba, stuck around for a while, then left the Cubans pretty much to their own devices. We chased the Spanish out of Puerto Rico and claimed it as US territory. In the PI the US replaced a Spanish colonial government with an interim administration based on US laws and procedures but adapted to the environment and with the intent of pulling out and leaving a functioning Philippine government behind. Aguinaldo, et al, wanted independence immediately and philosophically equated the Spanish occupation with the US occupation; most of his countrymen disagreed.
This is a subject on which I'm inclined to run on a bit, and I suspect strongly that this is not the place for that particular historical digression. I would, however, suggest revisiting that particular bit of history in detail before arriving at conclusions of this nature. There's a good deal more to it than that, to put it mildly.

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Old 02-16-2010   #49
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As to last US COIN; as I have stated on other threads I have come to believe that it is most helpful to look at COIN as Governance. COIN is a condition between a governance and its own populace. When you travel to another country to intervene in the relationship between that governance and populace you are either conducting UW or FID (in US doctrinal terms), depending on which side you are there to assist.
What if you travel to another country to destroy and remove a government you don't like? Isn't that just plain war? Then if you "win" - successfully remove the government you dont like - what do you call what you do next? It used to be called occupation, but that's not a word we like to use now. That may, however, be the word that the locals use for it, and they don't like it either. Just because we choose to call it something else doesn't necessarily make it something else.

If COIN is "a condition between a governance and its own populace", we have to ask ourselves a simple question: what, in reality, is the "governance" of Afghanistan? Is it really the Karzai government, or is it us? How would Afghans in various areas answer that same question? If we say it's the Karzai government and the Afghans say it's us, whose opinion matters?

If we go to a foreign country, knock down a government, install another, and call our support of that government "FID" we may be able to fool ourselves - for a little while at least - but we're not likely to fool anyone else. As long as that government is perceived by those who matter - the people it governs - as our tool and not their government, we are not "doing FID".

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Arguably, viewed in this manner, all governance and every populace in every country is at some level of COIN/Insurgency at all times. Most are bumping along in what I would call "Phase 0". It is only when the government loses the bubble on the populace, that some segment of discontent will rise up from the masses to compete with the government for the support of the populace through illegal and typically violent means. This is when one enters Phase I Insurgency and typically needs to bring in military assistance to help move the conditions back down into Phase 0, or within the Civil government's span of control.

The last time the US really was at risk of losing the bubble, was Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. Of note, the US opted not to employ the military to merely suppress the insurgent segment of the populace, but instead opted to enact bold and sweeping changes to the law and to enforce those changes so as to move that segment of the populace back down into Phase O by working to address their concerns and include them more fully in good governance. THAT is good COIN. At the same time we were busy in Vietnam, conducting FID with a much less savvy approach. Ironically, I am sure no one considered what we were doing at home COIN, and many considered what were were doing in Nam COIN.
An interesting construct, but I suspect that there has to be some line of distinction between domestic dissent (an ever-present condition) and insurgency, both on a quantitative and a qualitative basis. Expand a definition far enough and it tends to lose its usefulness.
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Old 02-17-2010   #50
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The distintive line is when the level of violence exceeds the capacity of the civil governance, requiring them to bring in the military (much like our MSCA construct for all other forms of civil emergencies) as last in, first out, and always under civil control as a crucial augmentation. I have posted a chart that shows this construct. Key is that it recognizes that the goal is both to reduce violence AND improves the aspects of poor governance giving rise to the insurgency.

As to what we do when we deploy, that is like going to the neighbor's house to help him with a domestic dispute. Start thinking of it as your problem to solve, and you are in for a world of bad higher order effects. We'd never do it in our neighborhoods at home, yet we do it every time when we go to our global neighbors as a country. Problem is because we think of these things as "foreign wars" and not "foreign domestic/civil disputes."

LTC Brian Petit's article on "Think COIN, but do FID" is a great supplement to this line of thinking. links to it are posted here on the SWJ.
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"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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Old 02-17-2010   #51
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The distintive line is when the level of violence exceeds the capacity of the civil governance, requiring them to bring in the military (much like our MSCA construct for all other forms of civil emergencies) as last in, first out, and always under civil control as a crucial augmentation.
Reasonable, but this does set the bar at very different levels depending on the capacity of civil governance. France, for example, can manage its periodic urban riots without military support (e.g. not insurgency) while a nation with less advanced police capabilities might have to call out troops (e.g. insurgency) for the same level of disorder. It may not be possible to establish an absolute line of demarcation that is relevant in all cases, but it's a distinction we have to be aware of. I'd say we also have to be more aware of the distinction between insurgency and armed competition for control of an ungoverned space or to fill a governance vacuum. You can't have an insurgency without a government, and calling something "a government" or "the government" doesn't necessarily make it that. If it does not or cannot govern, it's not a government, regardless of what we call it.

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As to what we do when we deploy, that is like going to the neighbor's house to help him with a domestic dispute. Start thinking of it as your problem to solve, and you are in for a world of bad higher order effects. We'd never do it in our neighborhoods at home, yet we do it every time when we go to our global neighbors as a country. Problem is because we think of these things as "foreign wars" and not "foreign domestic/civil disputes."
Certainly true in some cases, less so in others. I'm not convinced that our deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan can be reasonably characterized as intervention in someone else's domestic dispute. In both cases we went in for our own reasons in pursuit of our own policies. Our intention in both cases was not to settle a domestic dispute but to re-order the "households" in a manner that suited our interests. In both cases our actions generated a dispute, but that begs the question of whether a dispute that results from outside intervention is truly domestic.

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Old 02-17-2010   #52
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Agree on both points. Absolutely every government and every populace is unique in its dynamic in terms of conditions, cultures, capacities, etc. But that does not change the underlying human dynamic at work. What would be unacceptable violence or corruption in one, is no big deal in another. What can easily be handled by one civil government requries military or even foreign support in another. These are things that must be understood; but I find that they are also things that overwhelm and distract novices on insurgency from what the real mission at hand is that must be addressed. People start addressing the symptoms that are in their face, rather than seeking to understand those symptoms as to how they relate to the root causes and address those instead.

As to Iraq and Afg. True enough that we ripped out the old and put in the new. That changes the facts, but not the dynamics. It is still the government of those respective countries; but they were governments that both were horribly and accurately perceived as lacking legitimacy in the eyes of the governed. Goal number one should be, if you truly are just there to help and don't plan on staying, to target and address that legitmacy perception problem. Hard nut to crack when you are standing there with your army and your hand up the president's backside making his mouth move. But what you must do first all the same. This requires relinquishing CONTROL, and control is the cornerstone of 60 years of Cold War engagement, so the good Cold Warriors really choke on this one key point.

All the military can do is help shape conditions; the key to success is the political problem of governmental legitmacy and creating or enforcing structures recognized by that populace for giving them certain input and control on their standards for shaping and thereby legitimizing the government. It may not be a vote. It may by a Loya Jirga. Each populace is unique in how it bestows legitimacy. Not ours to quesiton or override.
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"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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Old 02-17-2010   #53
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It is still the government of those respective countries; but they were governments that both were horribly and accurately perceived as lacking legitimacy in the eyes of the governed.
I guess that's the key question: is it "the government" or is it not? To me government is that which governs, meaning that which actually carries out the functions of governance, not necessarily that which sits in the presidential palace or wears the presidential t-shirt. If we are the ones carrying out the core functions of governance, then like it or not, we're the government.

Another key factor in this equation is the prevailing perception of the conflict among our antagonists and among the various segments of the populace. When our antagonists in Afghanistan fire a rifle or plant an IED, do they perceive themselves as striking a blow against the Karzai government, or against the US? Do they recruit new followers to overthrow the Karzai government, or to expel the US? When Afghan civilians discuss the conflict, do they frame it as "the Taliban vs the Karzai government" or as "the Taliban vs the Americans"?

If we are to any appreciable degree doing the actual governing, if our antagonists perceive the conflict as primarily against us, and if the Afghan populaces see the conflict as primarily an engagement between us and the Taliban - and I suspect that all three conditions prevail to varying extents - I can't see how we can honestly tell ourselves, or anyone, that we are "doing FID". Of course we can call it that if we want. We can call it dancing the tarantella if we want... that won't make it anything other than what it is.

I guess I could agree that the Afghan conflict is a COIN operation conducted with the goal of eventual transition to an FID operation, but I don't know if we can honestly call it FID at this stage. Unless of course I have the acronyms all wrong, which is entirely possible.
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Old 02-17-2010   #54
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Well, as I told MG Carter this morning, we are really dealing with two insurgencies. The rank and file fighter is primarily fighting a resistance movement. They fight because we are here and because they can draw an honest wage for an honorable Pashtun profession to do so. I would like to think that I would be an insurgent if I were Afghan.

This is the bulk of the insurgency, but it is not the aspect of the insurgency that the COIN effort must focus on to resolve. The COIN effort must go after the top of the insurgency, the senior leadership that are much more the Revolutionary insurgents; who believe they have a superior legitimacy than Karzai does. Once this is resolved, and no amount of population centric tactics nor killing of insurgent fighters will resolve it; you can then take a much more palatable position in support to the emergent, legitimate government, and reduce presence in a manner that takes the steam out of the larger, rank and file, resistance insurgency. Not "go after" as in KILL (though some may well just have to eat that bullet); but go after as in targeting the causal factors of illegitimacy and lack of mechanisms recognized and trusted by the populace for shaping government.

Just like the key to the problems in Southern Philippines lay in manila; the problems in Southern Afghanistan lay in Kabul. All of the outside parties in both who like or hate the conditions in those respective captitals (the FID and UW actors) conspire to shift focus to the manifestations of violence among the affected populaces. Smoke and Mirrors.
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"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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Old 02-18-2010   #55
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Well, as I told MG Carter this morning, we are really dealing with two insurgencies. The rank and file fighter is primarily fighting a resistance movement. They fight because we are here and because they can draw an honest wage for an honorable Pashtun profession to do so. I would like to think that I would be an insurgent if I were Afghan.
I suspect that most insurgencies bifurcate in this manner to some extent... how many of those who fought in “communist” insurgencies were actually communists?

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
This is the bulk of the insurgency, but it is not the aspect of the insurgency that the COIN effort must focus on to resolve. The COIN effort must go after the top of the insurgency, the senior leadership that are much more the Revolutionary insurgents; who believe they have a superior legitimacy than Karzai does. Once this is resolved, and no amount of population centric tactics nor killing of insurgent fighters will resolve it;
What will resolve it? Would any change in governance that we promote satisfy or de-motivate the core insurgent leadership? Might it not be more effective to try to de-motivate the rank and file and disaggregate them from the core ideologues, who are too heavily invested in the insurgency to back away?

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you can then take a much more palatable position in support to the emergent, legitimate government, and reduce presence in a manner that takes the steam out of the larger, rank and file, resistance insurgency. Not "go after" as in KILL (though some may well just have to eat that bullet); but go after as in targeting the causal factors of illegitimacy and lack of mechanisms recognized and trusted by the populace for shaping government.
Sounds great, I approve, but where do we find an “emergent, legitimate government”? Now that we’ve thrown our weight behind the Karzai government and the process that put it in power, how do we reverse that support without setting ourselves up as the arbiter of legitimacy? I like the idea of reducing presence; I’m sure we all do... but I’m not seeing how we get to that emergent, legitimate government that will allow us to do that.

If we had no stake in the matter, we could simply withdraw, let Karzai fall, and deal with whatever replaces him. In the real world, though, that will probably be the Taliban, which puts us right back where we were before, in a position that didn’t work out well last time around.

It would of course be lovely if Karzai would hold a real Loya Jirga and abide by the outcome... but I don’t see that happening. More than likely he’ll pack it with his people and try to manipulate it to put a stamp of approval on his rule; I doubt that he and his inner circle are going to stage anything that would undercut their own power. I wouldn’t bet a half a groat on us being able to outmaneuver him in that kind of scenario.

As far as FID vs COIN goes, I’d submit that we are doing neither. We’re doing regime change. It’s what we started out doing, and we’re still doing it.

Regime change has 3 fairly obvious stages:

First you have to remove the old regime, something we’ve proven we can do.

Second, you have to develop a new regime. This is a lot more complicated: any regime put in place by an outside power is going to face serious legitimacy issues, and if we wait for a new regime to emerge on its own we face a long period of instability and competition for power, with a strong possibility that whatever regime emerges will be unfriendly. We’ve chosen the former method, which is why we find ourselves backing regimes with massive legitimacy issues.

Third, we have to manage the transition by which the new regime becomes a government. This is a key distinction. Just because we’ve put a regime in place doesn’t make it a government, even if we call it that. It’s not a government until it can govern, and until the people it proposes to govern accept it as their government.

My objection to the “doing FID” approach is that it assumes that this step is complete, that there is an actual acknowledged functioning government in place, and that we are simply helping that government defend itself against insurgents. That may be what we want to see, but it may not accurately describe what’s going on. If the regime we’ve put in place does not govern and has never been accepted as legitimate by those it proposes to govern, it’s not a government. If there’s no real government, we certainly can’t be “doing FID”. We can’t be “doing COIN” either, because you can’t have COIN without an insurgency and you can’t have an insurgency without a government. Is this really an insurgency situation or is it a continuing armed competition to fill the vacuum left by the removal of the Taliban? I know we say that vacuum has been filled by the Karzai government... but is that claim realistic? If we’re not doing FID or COIN, what are we doing? As I said above, I think we’re still doing regime change... or trying to.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Just like the key to the problems in Southern Philippines lay in manila; the problems in Southern Afghanistan lay in Kabul. All of the outside parties in both who like or hate the conditions in those respective captitals (the FID and UW actors) conspire to shift focus to the manifestations of violence among the affected populaces. Smoke and Mirrors.
Possibly true, but not reassuring. If those in Manila or Kabul don’t have the will or capacity to solve their problems, and we have no means to replace them or to create that will and/or capacity, we’re left with few effective ways to pursue our objectives.

The only conclusion I can draw from all this is that we need to be a whole lot more careful when considering regime changes, and a whole lot more conscious of how difficult it is to fill the gap left by the removal of a regime with a credible and legitimate successor. We seemed to have overlooked that last time around, though I don’t see how.

Last edited by Dayuhan; 02-18-2010 at 04:10 AM.
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Old 02-18-2010   #56
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Bob:

I've been lost in a particular assignment for the last few weeks (and next month), but I just wanted to say that, while there are plenty of smart folks on this Board, including in issues way outside of my expertises, your inscrutible wisdoms always end up flowing to my lane.

MikeF has a link going on TRADOC education, and in the back of my mind, I was thinking about your comments on the Civil Rights movement, etc... Once you have truly immersed into a few deep blood-letting domestic policy issues, you really understand what you are talking about re:interfering in domestic conflicts with your next door neighbor.

Tom Ricks is still covering Iraq; The Unraveling against the growing perception that Iran is exercising increasing influence on Iraq. In fact, on so many levels, that is a difference without a distinction to many residents of much of these historically intertwined countries, which, like close relatives, can sometimes find themselves drunk after a big family dinner and with guns drawn in the driveway.

In so many of our conflict areas, these kinds of underlying conflict risks are not going to be resolved, just minimized or managed when they can be. And get out of the way (give up control) when the big waves come.

Like Iraq, our continued presence and influence, if unchecked by SOFA, would have been increasingly problematic if we were still there today, just being americans, but parked in the middle of their street.

Figuring this stuff out at the "street" level is an important viewpoint to grasp and plan what we are trying to do, and how to do it.

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Old 02-22-2010   #57
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Well, as I told MG Carter this morning, we are really dealing with two insurgencies. The rank and file fighter is primarily fighting a resistance movement. They fight because we are here and because they can draw an honest wage for an honorable Pashtun profession to do so. I would like to think that I would be an insurgent if I were Afghan.

This is the bulk of the insurgency, but it is not the aspect of the insurgency that the COIN effort must focus on to resolve. The COIN effort must go after the top of the insurgency, the senior leadership that are much more the Revolutionary insurgents; who believe they have a superior legitimacy than Karzai does. Once this is resolved, and no amount of population centric tactics nor killing of insurgent fighters will resolve it; you can then take a much more palatable position in support to the emergent, legitimate government, and reduce presence in a manner that takes the steam out of the larger, rank and file, resistance insurgency. Not "go after" as in KILL (though some may well just have to eat that bullet); but go after as in targeting the causal factors of illegitimacy and lack of mechanisms recognized and trusted by the populace for shaping government.
This makes sense to me sitting where I am. I regularly get fed stuff on TBSL this and HVI that which bears little relevence to what I watch unfold in and around the villages. Unlike a Bosnia or a Iraq, where a more base, intercine violence occured which required a strong security force presence to prevent revolutionary elements from exploiting or thriving, there is a much more "violence as usual" feel around here. No mass graves or targeted killings, just 100 little wars for 100 various reasons that we've stumbled into - despite being as friendly as hell, many of these folks simply don't want us clattering around their countryside and think it is logical and acceptable to take a whack at us.

To date, the best explanation of COIN is "a violent political campaign" and right now we're working with a fickle electorate.

Last edited by Infanteer; 02-22-2010 at 03:44 PM. Reason: flow
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