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Old 04-23-2010   #1
Jedburgh
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Default How Insurgencies End

RAND, 22 Apr 10: How Insurgencies End
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Insurgencies have dominated the focus of the U.S. military for the past seven years, but they have a much longer history than that and are likely to figure prominently in future U.S. military operations. Thus, the general characteristics of insurgencies and, more important, how they end are of great interest to U.S. policymakers.

This study constitutes the unclassified portion of a two-part study that examines insurgencies in great detail. The research documented in this monograph focuses on insurgency endings generally. Its findings are based on a quantitative examination of 89 cases.....
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Old 04-23-2010   #2
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I have just begun to review this. What I find immediately interesting is page 8 footnote #6 in their discussion of the historiography of insurgency.

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Notably absent from this list are modern Islamic philosopher/practitioners, such as Osama bin laden. In an effort to separate terrorism from insurgency, we chose to omit them.
While I have only scratched the surface of this, it seems to me that since OBL and others are working, in many cases, in conjunction with insurgent groups I wonder how much of this will actually be valid in Afghanistan.

Gues I have some more reading to do!
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Old 04-24-2010   #3
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What strikes me after 40 pages or so is that there's no apparent effort to distinguish between insurgency and resistance to foreign occupation. The US role in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be treated as that of an "external sponsor of COIN"; in fact if I read this and didn't know better I'd get the impression that the US had entered both conflicts to defend pre-existing governments threatened by insurgency.

I'll have to read the rest of it before reaching any conclusions, but that seems a quite strikingly bizarre way to start.
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Old 04-24-2010   #4
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Default Insurgency takes many forms

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Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
What strikes me after 40 pages or so is that there's no apparent effort to distinguish between insurgency and resistance to foreign occupation. The US role in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be treated as that of an "external sponsor of COIN"; in fact if I read this and didn't know better I'd get the impression that the US had entered both conflicts to defend pre-existing governments threatened by insurgency.

I'll have to read the rest of it before reaching any conclusions, but that seems a quite strikingly bizarre way to start.
Reasonable minds differ, but to me three broad categories makes sense:

Revolutionary: Overthrow one's own government

Resistance: Throw out an occupying government

Separatist: Break a region off from one's country to form a new country.

Or some combination of the three. All three were going on in Iraq at the same time.
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Old 04-24-2010   #5
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These are reasonable distinctions, but it seems odd to me that an analysis as detailed as that presented by Rand would fail to acknowledge those distinctions and and examine their impact on the success or failure of insurgency.

Looking at the list of insurgencies studied, I don't see any case analogous to the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan: an insurgency triggered by an actual invasion and replacement of government. The anti-colonial insurgencies (or wars of independence, depending on the terminology you prefer) opposed a prolonged foreign presence and actual foreign government. Even the Soviet entry into Afghanistan was at least nominally in support of a threatened allied Government. That suggests that some caution is required in applying the lessons of other insurgencies, as those lessons arise from extremely different circumstances.

One of the first things I do when reading broad-spectrum documents like this is to us the "find" function and see how they deal with the situations I'm most familiar with, which seems a quick way of assessing credibility. I note, again with some surprise, that the insurgency in the Southern Philippines is treated as concluded and listed in the "Government win" column, which might come as a surprise to anyone on the scene. That certainly doesn't invalidate the conclusions, but it's a bit of a yellow flag, for me at least.
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Old 04-25-2010   #6
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The RAND study looks at something similar, buried in the appendices (at pp.195-199 of pdf, mixed charts and graphs):

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Formulation

The outcome of any given insurgency has a lot to do with the goals sought by the insurgents. Insurgents who fought for independence or for majority rule have been almost always successful once they get going (the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya being the notable exception) (see Figure B.5 and Table B.5). They won, in no small measure, because their campaign was consistent with the postwar zeitgeist. Conversely, insurgencies fighting for secession (or autonomy) have failed more often than they have succeeded, comporting to the principle that holds today’s national borders, however arbitrarily determined, to be largely inviolable. Otherwise, the won-lost record is mixed whether the goal is establishing a Marxist or Islamic state or overthrowing the government (that is, changing the regime without necessarily changing the governing ideology).

Of note is which goals permit mixed outcomes and which do not. Such goals as independence, majority rule, Marxism, or Islamicism tend to be either-or propositions, and only four of the 34 insurgencies with such goals have resulted in a mixed outcome. Conversely, when secession/autonomy or power arrangements are at issue, the difference can often be split, and mixed outcomes have characterized 15 cases, or nearly 30 percent of such insurgencies.

The difficulties that secessionist groups have of winning against an established government are made even clearer when viewed on a case-by-case basis. Of the six insurgent losses, three were in or near the Horn of Africa, and, in two of these, Somalia and Ethiopia, a region acquired its independent (Eritrea) or quasi-independent (Somaliland) status in the wake of a multi-insurgent overthrow of the central government. [3] [3] Sudan conceded an independence referendum to its southern provinces, but whether it carries through and actually allows its oil-bearing provinces to leave remains to be determined.

The other three secessionists were clearly the beneficiaries of some major power help: Kosovo had the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on its side; Dnistria fended off Moldova because of the support of Russia (or at least Russia’s 14th Army); and Bangladesh had India to thank.[4] [4] East Timor, which was classified as a mixed outcome, was clearly helped by the international community, which was never reconciled to the 1975 absorption of Portuguese Timor into Indonesia.

Among the seven mixed outcomes, three (Bosnia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Georgia-Abkhazia) were achieved against governments that had not yet established themselves when challenged.

Finally, except for insurgencies seeking independence/majority rule, most of which started prior to 1980, almost a fifth of all other insurgencies, irrespective of goal, are still ongoing.
The only extensive discussion is re: secessionist insurgencies (most of the paras above quoted).

The graph and table relevant to the goals are at p.198 of pdf.

Agree that distinctions have to be made between (1) resistence to colonial situations (now pretty much a dinosaur relic); (2) resistence to foreign occupier pursuant to its recent war against an indigenous incumbant government; and (3) resistence to substantial foreign presence in aid of an indigenous incumbant government.

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Old 04-25-2010   #7
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Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
What strikes me after 40 pages or so is that there's no apparent effort to distinguish between insurgency and resistance to foreign occupation.
War and warfare tend to resist being fitted into neat boxes. For 3,000 years there has been basically:

Regular Warfare, between states, nations and societies.
Irregular Warfare, rebellions, revolts and revolutions.

so two broad categories of Big Wars and Small Wars. Does that help?
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Old 04-25-2010   #8
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
War and warfare tend to resist being fitted into neat boxes. For 3,000 years there has been basically:

Regular Warfare, between states, nations and societies.
Irregular Warfare, rebellions, revolts and revolutions.

so two broad categories of Big Wars and Small Wars. Does that help?
Into which of those categories would you place the current conflict in Afghanistan? As you break it down above, it would seem to be regular warfare (more than one state involved) but the tactics seem those most would call "irregular". Regular warfare by irregular means?

State A invades State B; this is regular warfare by any standard. The Government of State B collapses, but organized resistance continues... is this still regular warfare, or does it become irregular?
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Old 04-25-2010   #9
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Into which of those categories would you place the current conflict in Afghanistan? As you break it down above, it would seem to be regular warfare (more than one state involved) but the tactics seem those most would call "irregular". Regular warfare by irregular means?
Currently, A'Stan is classic irregular warfare. Warfare! NOT War. There is only one kind of War.
Yes, people who have never really thought about tactics do seem to differentiate between regular and irregular. I have never worked out why.

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State A invades State B; this is regular warfare by any standard. The Government of State B collapses, but organized resistance continues... is this still regular warfare, or does it become irregular?
It becomes irregular and if a regular party becomes involved it will be both, like Vietnam.
The point really is that eventually the distinction can be irrelevant. WHO fights is very often HOW the fighting is done. In the end the job is still to kill capture and destroy enough to break the enemies will. That will never change.
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Old 04-25-2010   #10
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Hi Wilf,

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
War and warfare tend to resist being fitted into neat boxes. For 3,000 years there has been basically:
Hmm, closer to 5500 years if Algaze and his crew are to be believed (there's an argument with some decent archaeological data for a very long war in ~3450 bce ranging from modern Kuwait up into eastern Turkey and covering all of Iraq).

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Regular Warfare, between states, nations and societies.
Irregular Warfare, rebellions, revolts and revolutions.

so two broad categories of Big Wars and Small Wars. Does that help?
I've never much liked the terms "regular" and "irregular", as you know . There is an implication of some type of absolute yardstick that can be used to "measure" how "regular" a war is. I far prefer the terms "conventional" and "unconventional", since conventions are much more flexible and changeable. Besides that, it also allows one to look at situations where warfare exists between two "states" that use different conventions: Japan vs. the UN in WW II is a good example of this.

The other problem I have with the "regular / irregular" dichotomy is that it is based on a post-Westphalian ideal type of states that attempts to regularize that ideal type as the only "true" form of warfare.
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Old 04-25-2010   #11
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Hmm, closer to 5500 years if Algaze and his crew are to be believed (there's an argument with some decent archaeological data for a very long war in ~3450 bce ranging from modern Kuwait up into eastern Turkey and covering all of Iraq).
Well I just deal with 3,000 years, covered by the books I own!
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I've never much liked the terms "regular" and "irregular", as you know . There is an implication of some type of absolute yardstick that can be used to "measure" how "regular" a war is. I far prefer the terms "conventional" and "unconventional", since conventions are much more flexible and changeable. Besides that, it also allows one to look at situations where warfare exists between two "states" that use different conventions: Japan vs. the UN in WW II is a good example of this.

The other problem I have with the "regular / irregular" dichotomy is that it is based on a post-Westphalian ideal type of states that attempts to regularize that ideal type as the only "true" form of warfare.
You can call it "Hamsters" and "Rats." - Type 1 and Type 2. I would be very happy with Big Wars and Smalls, or Wars and Rebellions.
The issue for me is that WHO fights has implications for HOW they fight. Irregular Warfare is different from Regular Warfare. The exact distinctions are very much a product of context.
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Old 04-25-2010   #12
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Ok, we have some varied ways of looking at this picture. We have Bob's World's three types of insurgency, we have Wilf's regular/irregular, which seems to focus on who is fighting, and Marc's conventional/unconventional, which seems to revolve more around how the fighting is done.

Now back to the Rand study. Three excerpts from the introduction:

Quote:
Insurgencies have dominated the focus of the U.S. military for the past seven years, but they have a much longer history than that and are likely to figure prominently in future U.S. military operations. Thus, the general characteristics of insurgencies and, more important, how they end are of great interest to U.S. policymakers. This study constitutes the unclassified portion of a two-part study that examines insurgencies in great detail.
Quote:
“How Insurgencies End” has produced several findings, some of which reinforce or explain conventional wisdom regarding insurgency and COIN. Others present a new range of dilemmas and opportunities to policymakers and planners. We derived additional findings primarily from the quantitative research. These findings reveal some useful insights into the relative success or failure of various methods employed by each side as they apply to insurgency endings. A few of these additional findings describe the impact of existing operational and environmental factors on COIN operations, thereby informing policy decisionmaking.
Quote:
Recent U.S. experience in COIN has been especially tangled. Vietnam speaks for itself, as do Iraq and Afghanistan.
What I find fascinating and a bit confusing about all this is that nowhere that I can see in the document is there any attempt to define what an insurgency is. From the excerpts above it seems clear that the authors believe that the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are insurgencies and that the conclusions of the study have relevance to those conflicts. In the body of the study, however, insurgency is treated as a conflict between a government and its populace or some part or parts of that populace, hence the categorization of "government win" or "insurgent win". I'm not sure how relevant any of this is to a situation in which some part of the populace is fighting against an occupying invader, and the government is perceived as a largely extraneous subset or representative of the occupying power.

If we're going to survey insurgencies and apply the conclusions of the survey to the conflict in Afghanistan, we have to do two things at a bare minimum. We have to define what insurgency is, because until we do any discussion of insurgency is going to be too nebulous to be useful. Then we have to decide whether the conflict in Afghanistan is in fact insurgency.

The distinction seems relevant to me because I see a trend in American discourse toward treating the conflict in Afghanistan as a case where we are defending an allied government against insurgency, hence the "are we doing COIN or doing FID" debate. This seems to me to be at best disingenuous and at worst outright self-deception, and I suspect that one part of pursuing the war effectively is to be honest with ourselves about what we are doing.
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Old 04-26-2010   #13
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Ok, we have some varied ways of looking at this picture. We have Bob's World's three types of insurgency, we have Wilf's regular/irregular, which seems to focus on who is fighting, and Marc's conventional/unconventional, which seems to revolve more around how the fighting is done.

Now back to the Rand study. Three excerpts from the introduction:


What I find fascinating and a bit confusing about all this is that nowhere that I can see in the document is there any attempt to define what an insurgency is. From the excerpts above it seems clear that the authors believe that the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are insurgencies and that the conclusions of the study have relevance to those conflicts. In the body of the study, however, insurgency is treated as a conflict between a government and its populace or some part or parts of that populace, hence the categorization of "government win" or "insurgent win". I'm not sure how relevant any of this is to a situation in which some part of the populace is fighting against an occupying invader, and the government is perceived as a largely extraneous subset or representative of the occupying power.

If we're going to survey insurgencies and apply the conclusions of the survey to the conflict in Afghanistan, we have to do two things at a bare minimum. We have to define what insurgency is, because until we do any discussion of insurgency is going to be too nebulous to be useful. Then we have to decide whether the conflict in Afghanistan is in fact insurgency.
I did my grad thesis using an earlier version of the dataset in their report. (I was studying impact of external support and sanctuary on insurgency outcome and duration).

Rather than throw stones at their analysis, perhaps we ought to take a harder look at what they did include.

The dataset was of insurgencies 1945-2006.

Look, it's damn near impossible to separate insurgency from civil war from terrorist groups with any precision. The best I could come up with is below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by me
Distinguishing Insurgency as a Subset of Civil War

The characteristics of civil wars and insurgencies overlap, but insurgency is a unique subset of conflict encompassing a wide range of political, military, social, and economic factors that distinguish it from civil wars and terrorism. The United States Military defines insurgency as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict. This definition is perhaps overly simplistic given the diverse objectives of insurgent groups, which may include secession, independence, or regime change. The recently published US Government definition is much more comprehensive, describing insurgency as “a protracted political-military campaign conducted by an organized movement seeking to subvert or displace the government and completely or partially control the resources and/or population of a country through the use of force and alternative political organizations.” Insurgency is inherently political in nature, waged against a constituted government with an objective of regime change or secession. Insurgences often occur against the influence of a foreign occupying power or for regional/local autonomy.

From a military perspective, insurgency is guerrilla in character, generally involving small bands of partisans operating within the population against the existing regime, but occasionally resembling conventional war in later stages. It places a high value on political mobilization, drawing its fighters, supplies, intelligence, and refuge from the population of the involved state. Most insurgencies receive support from outside sources, whether nation-states or non-state organizations. Owing to conventional military weakness and lack of heavy equipment, insurgencies generally revert to tactics of “hit and run” and target regime vulnerabilities to conserve resources. Victory is often achieved through “wearing the enemy down” rather than through military conquest, or through coup-like action. Particularly popular insurgencies manage to field organized military forces in the later stages, escalating the conflict to full civil war.

Insurgency is distinct from civil war in several ways. US Army Field Manual 100-20 provides the definition of civil war accepted by the United States military. Five criteria exist for a conflict meet the standard of civil war – control of territory, functioning government, foreign recognition, regular armed forces, and capability to engage in major military operations. The standard academic definition focuses less on land control than on battle deaths, with a standard definition of 1000 battle deaths between the warring parties. Both definitions emphasize conflict internal to a state conducted largely with organized military forces. Insurgents normally organize in irregular groups without clear chains of command, key criteria for status as a civil war. Insurgents usually do not completely control the terrain they operate in, and thus operate in a fluid against the established government. Therefore, insurgencies differ from civil wars in some aspects. Most insurgencies share significant commonalities with civil war, and therefore distinguishing between civil war and insurgency is an imperfect science.

Distinguishing terrorism from insurgencies is important because many insurgencies are conflated with terrorist groups, and vice versa. Terrorism as a descriptive term should be separated from the groups employing the tactic as it confuses the nature of the dispute. The term “terrorist group” is applied broadly to characterize organizations involved in civil wars, insurgencies, and standard political violence between factions not rising to the level of insurgency or civil war. Terrorism author and expert Bruce Hoffman defines terrorism as, “… the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence the pursuit of political change.” Thus terrorism is primarily a tactic employed for political ends, and can be used in almost any dispute context.

In the post-9/11 era, this generates the unintended consequence of branding many insurgencies and civil war parties as terrorists, which may prejudice the willingness of regimes to seek political settlements in intrastate wars. No regime or regime ally wishes to be perceived as “soft on terror”. Given that terrorism is political in nature, the “war on terror” may actually increase its duration by raising domestic and foreign costs to settlement of the political grievance. Terrorist groups in many cases may be insurgencies, or simply political organizations seeking recognition of their cause. Regardless of the objective, it is clear that while not all terrorist groups are insurgencies, most insurgencies use terrorism as a tactic against either the population or the government to achieve their political goals.

O'Neill, 107-108.
Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force. FM 100-20/AFP 3-20: Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict. Washington, DC: Government Priniting Service, 1990, A-1
Department of State. "U.S. Government Interagency Counterinsurgency Guide." http://www.state.gov. January 19, 2009. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/119629.pdf (accessed May 09, 2009), 12.
Trinquier, 19.
FM 100-20, A-1.
Henderson, Errol A., and David Singer. "Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92." Journal of Peace Research, 2000: 275-299.
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006, 3.
Ibid, 35.

At some point it becomes pedantic and just doesn't matter and clouds the issue at hand over the meaning of the word "is". It becomes like the Supreme Court's definition of porn - you know it when you see it. So you make a definition and do your best to include and exclude cases based on criteria. Unfortunately, the criteria will almost always be subjective to some degree. So is data set coding. Much information about insurgency (such as source and amount of support, precise numbers of fighters by year, size of auxiliaries and supporters, etc.) are hidden or unreliable at best. So you do your best to code. When evidence conflicts, you use your best judgment and pick a value. In a Small-N study this can have huge effects statistically, it starts to matter less on a Large-N.

Calling outcomes is similarly difficult. RAND used three - regime victory, settlement, or insurgent win. Highly subjective to code. A lot of settlement cases look more like a victory for one side or another. If insurgents achieve most of their aims in a political settlement - is it a loss for the government? You can go on and on.

BLUF, RAND has a pretty good data set. Perfect - no. Is it rigorous enough to provide insight? Yes. I looked hard before my thesis for a better one than RAND, the only alternatives are worse.
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Old 04-26-2010   #14
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I agree that the Rand data set is not at all bad, within obvious limitations. What I'm questioning is the applicability of conclusions drawn from that data set to a conflict that lies largely outside the parameters of that data set.

Treating insurgency as a subset of civil war muddies the issue even further, because whatever the conflict in Afghanistan is, it is definitely not civil war.

I'm not comfortable with calling this fight an insurgency or a counterinsurgency because I think that designation conditions us to see the core of the fight as the insurgents seeking to overthrow a constituted Government and the US intervening in support of that Government. I don't think that's an accurate perception at all. To me the core of the fight is our perceived need to determine who rules Afghanistan and to impose certain conditions on the way Afghanistan is ruled. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, but I don't see how we can accomplish a purpose if we aren't clear with ourselves about what that purpose is.
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Old 04-26-2010   #15
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Treating insurgency as a subset of civil war muddies the issue even further, because whatever the conflict in Afghanistan is, it is definitely not civil war.
Okay, if a long standing conflict (centuries) for overall power between several competing factions (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Pashtun groups, Taliban, etc.) isn't a version of civil war than what is? It's certainly the case 1989-2001.

You think that if ISAF withdrew the insurgency would end?
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Old 04-26-2010   #16
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The other interesting definition of insurgency comes from Mackinlay's recent book The Insurgent Archipelago, where he cites Phil Wilkerson's definition that the split between terrorism and insurgency is the nature of response required (police vs. military), not the group's aims or structure.
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Old 04-26-2010   #17
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Okay, if a long standing conflict (centuries) for overall power between several competing factions (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Pashtun groups, Taliban, etc.) isn't a version of civil war than what is? It's certainly the case 1989-2001.

You think that if ISAF withdrew the insurgency would end?
There was a civil war before 2001, and there would almost certainly be another if ISAF withdrew. Once the existing Government fell (probably not long) it would no longer be an insurgency, as an insurgency requires a government.

I don't see how ISAF vs Taliban can be called civil war, since ISAF is an external force pursuing its own objectives.

I'm not sure how useful a distinction between terrorism and insurgency is. Terrorism is a tactic; it can be used by an insurgent, by a counter-insurgent, or in pursuit of inter-state objectives that have nothing to do with insurgency.

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Old 04-26-2010   #18
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The other interesting definition of insurgency comes from Mackinlay's recent book The Insurgent Archipelago, where he cites Phil Wilkerson's definition that the split between terrorism and insurgency is the nature of response required (police vs. military), not the group's aims or structure.
I have huge issues with Mackinlay's work in general, but Phil Wilkerson's differentiation is very useful, and largely, IMO , correct.

While the difference between a Civil War and an "Insurgency," is imperfect, I would note the scale and frequency of action does play its part. The Chinese Communists gained power in 1949 via conventional military action that ended the "Civil War."

BUT, the issue in A'Stan is to my mind, back the Karzai Govt against the the Taliban. We pick a side and we back it with all possible means.
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Old 04-26-2010   #19
Dayuhan
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BUT, the issue in A'Stan is to my mind, back the Karzai Govt against the the Taliban. We pick a side and we back it with all possible means.
Pick a side, or create one?

May not make much difference, but I suspect that we're deceiving ourselves if we think that a "side" that we conjured up to advance our own interests is going to be perceived as anything other than an extension of our presence.
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Old 04-26-2010   #20
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Pick a side, or create one?

May not make much difference, but I suspect that we're deceiving ourselves if we think that a "side" that we conjured up to advance our own interests is going to be perceived as anything other than an extension of our presence.
Maybe. That's a policy decision. Policy decisions are political.
Given the current policy - support the Karzai Government, what are the options?
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- 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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