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Old 12-10-2005   #1
SWJED
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Default France's war in Algeria: telling the story

10 Dec. London Times op-ed - A Lesson About Torture, Half Century On.

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...if Europeans who are worried about America’s treatment of Muslims wish to assess the true worth of mass torture in a time of terror, the atrocities committed by the French in Algeria between 1954 and the country’s independence in 1962 bear close examination.

France had far grander aims in Algeria than the United States has in Iraq. She intended to stay indefinitely in a country she maintained was actually part of France. In Algiers, French pieds noirs constituted the majority. Furthermore, the eight-year Algerian war was far bloodier. At least a third of a million died in it.

Yet, the ultimate French defeat did not appear inevitable when the insurgency began. In 1957, the so-called Battle of Algiers was decisively won and the insurgent FLN terrorist campaign was severely curtailed. This was achieved by a variety of tough measures directed at seizing control of the Casbah. Thousands of Arab youths were taken away for interrogation. Around 3,000 never re-emerged...
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Old 12-13-2005   #2
esbelch32
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I don't know if I am breaking some protocol by posting a link, but I figured since it pertained to the article above it might be useful.

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...In Morocco in 1942, an air force officer, Captain Delmas, had warned Paul Aussaresses: "Do you know what you risk in entering the special services?"

"Yes, my captain, I risk being killed."

"My poor sir, when you are killed, you are relieved, because you may be tortured before you are blown away. Torture, you see, is less merciful than death."

Captain Paul Aussaresses subsequently was briefed by the Chief of Police of Algiers, in 1955.

"Imagine for an instant that you are opposed to the concept of torture and you arrest someone who is clearly implicated in the preparation of a terrorist attack. The suspect refuses to talk. You do not insist. A particularly murderous attack is launched. What will you say to the parents of the victims, to the parents of an infant, for example, mutilated by the bomb to justify the fact that you did not utilize all means to make the suspect talk?"

"I would not like to find myself in such a situation,” Aussaresses responded.

"Yes, but conduct yourself always as if you will, and you will see which is the most difficult: to torture a confirmed terrorist or explain to the parents of the victims that it is better to allow dozens of innocents to die, than to make one who is culpable suffer."

After a moment of meditation, Aussaresses cast aside his last reservations, concluding that no one had the right to judge him, even if his responsibilities forced him to conduct disagreeable actions, and he would never have any regrets.

Aussaresses, then 35 years old, was the intelligence official in charge of liquidating the Front Liberation Nationale (FLN). The FLN was conducting a savage insurrection that targeted the French colonists (Pied Noir) in Algeria. Many Pied Noir had already been terrorized, assassinated, or mutilated. ...
http://www.military.com/NewContent/0...orture,00.html
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Old 12-13-2005   #3
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Ensure you get the full lesson, and not just selective aspects.

The issue of torture at that time caused huge fissures in the French Army. One general and several other senior officers resigned to protest methods they considered contrary to military ethics, disgraceful to the Army’s image, and, from the operational perspective, counterproductive because they drove Algerians to the FLN. The last point highlights the danger of this sort of "justification" for torture. In most cases, the tactical value of any info gained by torture - which has a high probability of being unreliable in the first place - is outweighed by the negative impact upon the strategic campaign and the resultant support it engenders for the bad guys.

A brief quote from Bernard Fall in an interview in '63: One of the by-products of revolutionary war - to come back to the question the gentleman asked me about the French officers - is that after awhile not only the front lines get fuzzy (because there aren't any front lines), but your higher front lines, of what is morally acceptable and what is not, also get fuzzy. This is really the permanent danger to anyone who has to fight that kind of war. This is what led those French colonels to practice the same tactics which they practiced on the Algerians and Vietnamese, on their own government and people in France. This is a real danger factor. An army which has to fight a revolutionary war changes in character--it changes very seriously in character. This has not yet been studied, but it must be clearly recognized and is certainly worth the study.

Effective interrogation supporting counterterrorism is far more complex and difficult than everyday law enforcement interrogation or military PW interrogation in a conventional conflict. But torture does absolutely nothing to facilitate the effective collection of intelligence information in support of the strategic effort. In that context, it is counterproductive. That is the real lesson of Algeria.
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Old 12-13-2005   #4
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I agree with the points you have brought up Jedburgh, and hope that by posting the above article I haven't made myself out as condoning such practises. I thought some might be interested in one of the participants comments on the fighting there.

Aussaress actually published a book fairly recently, detailing what he saw and did in his time in Algeria. As a consequence, he was put on trial and stripped of military honors (retired rank and pension) and fined.

edit to add-

In reading the link you posted, Mr Fall actually suggests reading Larteguy's "The Centurions". He states that all officers in the story are real with names changed, and I have read that Ausseress is the source for a composite of one specific character in the book. And since that book has been brought up. I can't resist posting one of my favorite quotes-

"Have you noticed that in military history no regular army has ever been able to deal with a properly organized guerrilla force? If we use the regular army in Algeria, it can only end in failure. I'd like France to have two armies: one for display, with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, fanfares, staffs, distinguished and doddering generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their general's bowel movements or their colonel's piles: an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country.
The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage battledress, who would not be put on display but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That's the army in which I should like to fight."

Last edited by esbelch32; 12-13-2005 at 07:15 PM.
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Old 12-16-2005   #5
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An interesting resource, regarding this topic, is the US Army's Vietnam Era interrogation field manual (published in 1969). It's available for download in two parts:

FM 30-15 Intelligence Interrogation

FM 30-15 Part II

In the second link, Chapter 4, Interrogation Support for Stability Operations is of particular interest - our current FM 2-22.3 HUMINT Collector Operations does not go into this subject in the same degree of detail. In light of the topic of this thread, I'd like to quote a bit from Section 4-7, Insurgent Vulnerability to Interrogation:
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Humane treatment of insurgent captives should extend far beyond compliance with Article 3, if for no other reason than to render them more susceptible to interrogation. The insurgent is trained to expect brutal treatment upon capture. If, contrary to what he has been led to believe, this mistreatment is not forthcoming, he is apt to become psychologically softened for interrogation. Furthermore, brutality by either capturing troops or friendly interrogators will reduce defections and serve as grist for the insurgent's propaganda mill.
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Old 12-17-2005   #6
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That is an interesting resource, thanks for posting the link.

It is clear that the torture of enemy prisoners is detrimental for multiple reasons. Creating the 'grist for the insurrgent's propaganda mill' is an effect that all of us have seen recently, over there (MidEast) and at home. This was true then (Algeria), as it is now. From the sidebar notes of the 'torture to prevent terrorism' article:

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The French military won the war on the ground but lost in the political circles in France. The public, which heard of the wide use of torture and summary executions, launched violent mass demonstrations. In the aftermath of Vietnam and Algeria, France was threatened with civil war. In 1959, French President Charles de Gaulle decided to allow Algeria to become sovereign. The French generals organized a coup in 1961, demanding that "Algeria must stay French." The coup failed. The violent reactions in France to the unpopular war signaled its end in 1962.
I'm not arguing that at all.

While serving as a squad leader, I never had a problem enforcing the standard. What I did have a problem with, was getting my troops to understand why it was necessary. In talking with squad leaders from multiple units in OIF 1 & 2, I noted that this was not a phenomena restricted to my squad/platoon alone...not restricted to 'Joe'.

That is not to say that our military is out of control, but this is a real issue. In order affect change, we must be honest with ourselves. I've seen a lot in the news about this very subject recently. In a way, I am surprised, as I thought that our stance on torture was always very clear. At least, that's what I always took away from the ROE briefs.
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Old 12-17-2005   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by esbelch32
In a way, I am surprised, as I thought that our stance on torture was always very clear.
I haven't been on the ground and haven't talked with enough people who has, to know how you/they think about this, but:

Would like to ask you though, and anyone else reading this: Do you think this has something to do with Soldiers associating these rules with the Geneva convention, which has pretty much only been upheld by the Allied forces, and that the convention was written in another time, for another type of conflict, and that the reality they meet on the ground does not resemble the rules written, at all? Then the Human Rights organizations that equate Guantanamo with the Gulags, while ignoring the dreadful acts of the terrorists and insurgents, all the while speaking for an agenda that is not really founded on the facts on the ground... dissoluting the moral they pledge to uphold. Of course, leaving no alternatives.

Basically, if the problem is, partially, who says torture is wrong, and how they motivate it?

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Old 12-17-2005   #8
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Justifying the use of torture because terrorists are criminal scum and not a conventional enemy only brings us down to their level. To put this in context, think about how law enforcement deals with child molesters and serial killers all too often - just as great a blight upon the earth as any terrorist - yet they do not stoop to torture to wring out the details of their crimes.

Bluntly put, torture is both morally wrong and operationally ineffective. No matter the context. And it is very important for those who are not trained and experienced interrogators to get it into their heads that torture does not result in the collection of reliable intelligence information. There are certainly exceptions to this, but as a general rule it holds true.

Essentially, a source untrained in counter-interrogation techniques will say whatever you want when you reach a certain pain threshold - physical, psychological, or a combination. Not a reliable source. A source trained in counter-interrogation techniques (to include those who refuse to spout so much as a monosyllable under normal questioning methods) will state what he wants to when a believable threshold is reached. Disinformation or misdirection delivered in a believable manner, under significant duress is far more dangerous to us when integrated into current ops than than the information from the untrained source simply spitting out what you want to hear.

Of course, as we've been discussing, the use of torture detracts significantly from the legitimacy of the counterterrorism and/or counterinsurgency effort. The strategic effects of that cannot be overstated.

As I've already stated, effective interrogation supporting counterterrorism is far more complex and difficult than everyday LE interrogation or military PW interrogation in a conventional conflict/war of maneuver. To repeat myself yet again, torture does absolutely nothing to facilitate the effective collection of intelligence information in support of that effort. In the long-term, it is counterproductive.

The use of torture is indicative of poor supervision and poor training of interrogators - both of which boil down to a leadership failure. Without going into specifics, I'll just say that it takes a while to train an effective interrogator. Graduation from one of the LE or military courses available, or attending the Reid or any other contract courses on the market, does not produce an effective interrogator right off the bat. There is no substitute for experience - getting live feedback in working with real sources tempered with professional mentoring. Manipulative human communications takes time to refine to the point where an individual can deal effectively with the hard cases. Some people, no matter how much training they receive, or how hard they try, will never become effective interrogators. Its not something that is in everyone's nature to apply effectively.

Torture, on the other hand, is easy. In this context, torture is an act of desperation and an admission of failure on the part of the interrogator. Besides being a crime, that is....

From Joint Forces Quarterly: Guantanamo Bay: Undermining the Global War on Terrorism
Quote:
In addition to undermining the rule of law, the consequence of the policy at Guantanamo has been to fuel global anti-Americanism, which undermines U.S. influence and effectiveness, degrades the domestic support base, and denies the United States the moral high ground it needs to promote international human rights. It appears that these costs have far outweighed the operational benefits that the detainee operations have generated.
From Parameters: Six Floors of Detainee Operations in the Post 9/11 World
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There is good reason for the international community to agree upon more understandable and more stringent measures against unlawful combatants and terrorists in order to deter hostile forces from adopting such tactics. But we must not legitimize inhumane measures and debase ourselves by adopting anything like the tactics of the common enemies of mankind.
From Military Review: Defining Success at Guantanamo Bay: By What Measure?
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Success in the struggle against terrorism will be measured in generations. When future strategists look back on the early years of this decade, they will not judge Camp Delta on the relative value of intelligence reports but on humanitarian issues, how detainees were treated, the legitimacy of the trial process, whether laws reflected evolving definitions of “combatants”, and how detainees were ultimately dealt with when America dismantled terrorist groups. As we discover what the law will not allow, serious action to define what is permissible will follow. Justice—evidenced by whether criminal defendants were successfully defended or prosecuted, acquitted or convicted, fairly sentenced and safely incarcerated or repatriated—will be the enduring legacy of America’s actions at Guantanamo.
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Old 12-17-2005   #9
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(in case it was directed at me... otherwise, nevermind, and thanks for a good post)
Jedburgh, I did not mean to advocate the use of torture and am sorry if it appeared like that. It was no more than an inquiry to gain a bit more understanding for why torture has occured, and to ask if my thoughts might be on the right track. Which you answered well.

You make sense in your post(s).

Martin

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Old 12-17-2005   #10
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I cannot speak for interrogators. I have dropped many apprehended off at the BDE cell, but I have never engaged in interrogation. I have never allowed my men to engage in interrogation. As Jedburgh states, we were not trained to do such, and left it to those who were.

That said, I would like to expound on the troops views, and again I am only speaking of my own experinces within my own unit. Before we ever crossed the berm from Kuwait into Iraq, we received ROE briefs ad nauseum. More ROE briefs than you could shake a stick at. The point driven home: EPW's were to be treated humanely. Marked, separated, secured, all the stdff normally taught, but the emphasis...humanely. I fielded many questions from within the squad after such briefs- mainly concerning what would be expected of them in specific scenarios. You can imagine the expounding of ideas and situations that took place, but know that like any 8 men, they came up with all manner of questionable situations. I gave them the unwavering stance of 'mistreatment will not be tolerated'. I gave all the good reasons, many cited in above posts, for why such behavior could and would not be tolerated. This was accepted by the men, and as is said, we drove on.

6 months later, I had a squad that was reduced in size significantly (PCS and ETS if you can believe it) as well as an increased AOR. I do not flinch in writing such, as it is common knowledge now and available open source as 'history'...no longer an operational snapshot. Anyways, as violence escalated around us, my men became frustrated with what they perceived to be complacency on the part of the local civilians. The question of treatment of those apprehended, and truthfully, those neighboring and surely knowledgable of enemy activity, came up from within the squad again and again. I continued to emphasize all the answers already provided above. The lowering of our own morals, the strategic implications, the impetus to create new enemies...I hit all the major points and I am sure that I would have made many proud if they had cared to be there and listen.

As my men, and truthfully, myself, watched one of our squad go home missing a leg....as we watched the remains of 2 members of our unit get policed into an FLA...it became much more difficult to keep the men focused. It became difficult for me to remain focused. I did stay focused...but not without great soul searching. If this seems unprofessional, I can only say, it is the truth. As for my men, I am not certain that they all remained convinced of the basics we are discussing. I can say that while I was their squad leader, the standard was enforced.

You ask a hard question Martin and am glad you have asked it. Jedburgh, I honor your belief in the principles, and am truly on your side.

Last edited by esbelch32; 12-17-2005 at 10:50 PM. Reason: spelling and grammar
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Old 12-18-2005   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by esbelch32
...as violence escalated around us, my men became frustrated with what they perceived to be complacency on the part of the local civilians. The question of treatment of those apprehended, and truthfully, those neighboring and surely knowledgable of enemy activity, came up from within the squad again and again. I continued to emphasize all the answers already provided above. The lowering of our own morals, the strategic implications, the impetus to create new enemies...I hit all the major points and I am sure that I would have made many proud if they had cared to be there and listen.

As my men, and truthfully, myself, watched one of our squad go home missing a leg....as we watched the remains of 2 members of our unit get policed into an FLA...it became much more difficult to keep the men focused. It became difficult for me to remain focused. I did stay focused...but not without great soul searching. If this seems unprofessional, I can only say, it is the truth. As for my men, I am not certain that they all remained convinced of the basics we are discussing. I can say that while I was their squad leader, the standard was enforced.
That you clearly recognized this effect and did your best to address it within your lane demonstrates your professionalism. You paint an excellent picture of the difficulties of counterinsurgency from the squad level. Only a soldier who has been on the ground and experienced it can appreciate it - someone else could read a dozen volumes on counterinsurgency that essentially boil down to what you just stated, but still not really appreciate the tactical leadership challenge it presents.

This type of operational environment is also extraordinarily difficult for the average HUMINT collector - whether working straightforward tactical interrogation, or the many varied missions of THTs in-country. They are your fellow soldiers, and they feel the same frustrations with the operational environment as the infantrymen. Not to mention that they also tend to receive far more pressure from above to produce while adhering to the standards of conduct we've been discussing.

However, effective mission focus for HUMINT collection requires putting aside those frustrations - even more so than it does for you and your soldiers. Because a HUMINTer deals with locals up close and personal across the spectrum from interrogation to elicitation, permitting personal emotions and frustrations to affect mission execution is death to effective collection. I remarked earlier that torture is a clear indicator of failure on the part of the interrogator. In this context, I am referring to a failure by the interrogator to keep his personal emotions and frustrations separate from execution of the task at hand. Sometimes its a damn difficult thing to do.

With HUMINT in the field, we also have the opposite problem of torture - the old "empathy vs sympathy" bit. Over the years I have seen many a HUMINTer, with "good people skills" slide across the line with a source from empathy to sympathy, losing that degree of separation and thus their effectiveness as a collector. Empathy, the understanding of an individual's perspective, is absolutely necessary in the effective application of manipulative human communications - sympathy, taking that emotional and psychological step towards a source, is also death to effective HUMINT. If an individual breaks down emotionally because a source has been murdered for speaking to the Americans, it may be human, but its not HUMINT. He needs a different job.
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Old 12-22-2005   #12
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"Demoralization of the enemy's forces is an important task. The most effective way to achieve it is by employing a policy of leniency toward the prisoners."
-Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,David Galula(Veteran of Algeria, China, Greece, Southeast Asia)
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Old 12-22-2005   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedburgh
someone else could read a dozen volumes on counterinsurgency that essentially boil down to what you just stated,
From what I noticed, you would recieve a more positive reaction by throwing the volumes at their head. Nobody wants to give a ####(or at least the ones around me didn't)

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Old 12-22-2005   #14
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In 1978, Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped by members of the Red Brigade. When Italian General Della Chiesa was asked by subordinates if they could torture a few suspects who might know the whereabouts of Aldo Moro, the General replied, "Italy can survive the loss of Aldo Moro. It would not survive the introduction of torture."

Aldo Moro was later executed by the Red Brigades. Italy is still here, the Red Brigades are not.
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Old 01-12-2006   #15
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Default minor footnotes

Reverence the comment on Larteguy's "The Centurions" (and "Praetoriens"). The characters in the book are all composites. Thus Raspeguy is based largely upon Marcel "Bruno" Bigeard, but likewise includes bits of Langlais, Brechignac, and several other colourful airborne commanders. Julien Boisferas, the fictional 10th Colonial Para's intelligence officer, was partly based on Aussaresses, who knew Bigeard from their WWII FFI service, but also on Roger Trinquier and Decorse. The real Aussaresses served in a totally different regiment in Algeria. (Bigeard commanded the 3rd RPC, Trinquier was on the 10th Abn Div staff, but followed Bigeard into the 3rd RPC/RPIMa whereas Aussaresses served with the 11th Para "Choc' Regiment.) What Larteguy's two most excellent novels fails to capture is the success of the 3rd RPC/RPIMa (renamed in 1958) in converting captured "fells" to their cause end enlisting them into a 5th parachute rifle company within the 3rd RPIMa. You don't enlist former enemy combattants to your cause by torturing them. And their loyalty to the 3rd Colonial/Marine Paras included participating what was to have been a combat jump into Tunisia in 1961 (changed to airlanding at the last minute).

Which brings me to this point. Many French units were able to distinguish between terrorists, who targeted civiians with bombs, and enemy combattants, who fought openly against the French. And many of these same French units often included commando and partisan units composed of captured ALN cadred by an officer and a few really good NCOs who led these former "fells" on operations against the FLN infrastructure and ALN units in the field. A far better view than that in Larteguy's very excellent fiction can be found in such accounts as Jean Pouget's "Bataillon RAS", Henry-Jean Loustau's memoirs on Algeria (my apologies, title forgotten). The battle of Algiers was fought against terrorists who were targeting civilians. While I greatly respect Gen. Paris de la Bollardiere's moral principles, I do not condemn Aussaresses or the others who engaged in torture to break their way into the cells. They were trying to save innocent civilian lives, both Colon and Arab. The fact that they broke those clandestine cells speaks for the efficiency of their methods. But a contemporary eyewitness account I read long ago notes in an aside that those who often volunteered for services that required the application of torture were not the better elements of their units. Such methods were likely not applied across the spectrum. Otherwise the French would have had little success in recruiting former FLN for their partisan and commando units. Pouget (the model for Philippe Esclavier, and to whom Larteguy dedicicated The Centurions) is emphatic that captured ALN must be treated as combattants, and not as criminals. To extrapolate that experience, I would suggest that those Iraqi insurgents using car bombs and other devices to target U.S. Forces are legitimate combattants, while those who do so to target mosques, polling places, and other civilian targets are terrorists, despite the similarity of their TTP.
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Old 01-13-2006   #16
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Default Bigeard's methods in Algiers

Just a follow-up to my previous. I ran through Erwan Bergot's bio of Bigeard last night for the battle of Algiers. Of interest, Bigeard emphasizes what an intelligence analyst would call the "pattern analysis" approach to cracking the cells. He lays out the problem that the police had in dealing with insurgents using the existing French legal code, and emphasizes that the Army was not going to be bound by rules of evidence or criminal procedure, and that they were not going to fail. Bigeard attributes his success in Algiers to the fact that his company commanders were given specific pieces of territory and challenged to ferret out the information needed to identify the FLN cells within his regimental area, which included the Casbah. Specifically, he had his intelligence officer prepare a briefing for the unit commanders which detailed all that was known about the FLN and its organization, and capturing that in an organizational diagram with blank spaces showing for persons unknown. The S-2 had gained his information from the Police records, but the individuals were at that time out on the street. At the briefing, Bigeard informed his commanders that it was their jobs to fill in the spaces on the chart, not the S-2's, and that they would be judged accordingly. He emphasized that all they had were the very lowest ranking members of the organization, and that the nature of the organization was that each man would know only the members of his cell, and with luck, perhaps a member of another cell. The cell leader would know the name only of his higher contact. But, with the information they had, they held the keys to filling in the blanks. The advantage of the Army over the police was that the Army, under martial law, could be far more flexible and much quicker to exploit intelligence. They did not need to go to a judge to get a search order, and the same commander who picked up reportable information was the same entity who would be reacting to it. The units subsequently fanned out through their assigned areas, and began bringing in suspects. Deprived of their access to a defense attorney, and in total ignorance of how long and under what conditions they would be held, many of the suspects began to drop snippets of information, which the units immediately followed up on. It was a laborious method, but it allowed his regiment to accumulate enough information to begin piecing a more comprehensive picture together, which in turn generated more operations, more suspects in custody,and more information. The end result was a picture accurate enough to allow a patterned analysis of the insurgents infrastructure, resulting in the arrest and neutralization of its leaders. In the short term, Massu's 10th Abn Div won the battle of Algiers, but Bigeard warned that the victory was only operational, and that enough of a structure had fled to allow the FLN to return and reconstitute their networks, thereby resuming operations. As I understand his take on torture, which he neither denies nor endorses, the issue of torture was greatly exaggerated by both the FLN and the government's enemies in order to discredit the Army and thus build the political consensus in French political circles necessary to prevent the Army from ever undertaking such operations again.
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Old 05-14-2006   #17
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Default Book Review: My Battle of Algiers

Commentary Magazine book review - My Battle of Algiers by Ted Morgan. Book Review by Roger Kaplan.

Quote:
A well-known journalist and biographer, Ted Morgan, born Sanche de Gramont, was as a young man a reluctant conscript in France’s last colonial war. Morgan arrived in Algeria in September 1956, two years into the gruesome and complex struggle that would put an end to France’s 130-year North African empire. Now, five decades later, he writes that the guerre d’Algérie, which Algerians call their revolution, is worth recalling because of its role in the invention of modern Arab terrorism. But he also means to come to terms with an experience that in his own eyes left him morally compromised, and that remains a subject of sharp political controversy.

Military historians and moral philosophers may quarrel about just what constitutes modern terrorism, Arab or otherwise. But the terrorism of the Algerian nationalist insurgents, which was deliberately aimed at civilians, seemed at the time unprecedented—more cruel and immoral, Albert Camus wrote, than anything envisioned, let alone carried out, by such earlier proponents of terrorism as the Russian nihilists or the Spanish anarchists.

The French response, too, was unprecedented. Torture is no doubt as old as warfare, but this was probably the first time a liberal-democratic regime permitted its own soldiers to apply such methods systematically. To restore security in the capital city of Algiers, French forces rounded up and tortured thousands of Muslims and a few score of their European allies, mostly members of the Algerian Communist party, often killing them in the process or afterward. For recalling this—without regret—in a memoir published five years ago, a retired French general officer named Paul Aussaresses was taken to court and found guilty of justifying torture, a crime in today’s France...
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Old 07-01-2006   #18
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Default A Review of Algerian War of National Liberation

A Review of Algerian War of National Liberation Using the U.S. Army's Current Counterinsurgency Doctrine - Colonel Karl Goetzke, US Army. US Army War College Strategy Research Project, 2005.

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The Algerian War of National Liberation is a classic counter-insurgency operation. A rebellion arising from within the Algerian population was transformed into an insurgency by the incorporation of an armed political campaign. Underlying this rebellion were socio-economic factors that typically galvanize any political campaign (e.g., distribution of wealth, participation in political intercourse). The catalyst for rebellion and resistance was a popular desire to end the French occupation of Algeria. While the indigenous population of Algeria was overwhelmingly Islamic, religious ideology was not a primary mobilizing factor behind the rebellion, unlike the current insurgencies faced in the War on Terrorism.

This paper reviews the French Army experience during the Algerian War of National Liberation (“War of National Liberation”) in the context of the most recent U.S. Army doctrine on counterinsurgency. This review will focus on the French Army’s counterinsurgency techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) using a framework that is drawn from the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine established in Field Manual (Interim) 3-07.22, adopted in October 2004.

THESIS

Among the counterinsurgencies of the last 50 years, the French experience in Algeria is highly relevant to evaluation of current U.S. Army counterinsurgency doctrine to be followed in the War on Terrorism (WOT). Immediate similarities can be found between the counterinsurgency in Algeria and the counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Similarities include terrain, the TTPs of the current insurgents, and their underlying motivations and ideologies. Additionally, this was a major counterinsurgency involving a Western suppression of a rebellion arising in an Islamic population.

ROADMAP

Because many readers will have limited familiarity with the War of National Liberation, the paper provides a brief overview of the conflict. Subsequently, current U.S. Army doctrine on counterinsurgency is introduced. Using this doctrine as a framework, the TTPs used by the French Army are reviewed and then analyzed. This analysis seeks to establish two critical points: (1) Whether the current Army doctrine is validated by the French Army’s experience in Algeria; and (2) Whether the French Army’s experience can be applied to the current campaigns in the WOT.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-06-2017 at 07:16 AM. Reason: Was in a stand alone thread till id'd and merged.
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Old 07-02-2006   #19
Mike in Hilo
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Thanks for a useful paper. It does seem, though, that we've come full circle. Sure looks as if Fench TTPs were in accordance with FM 3-07.22 because the FM's drafter(s)--to their credit--likely included among their sources the venerable Modern Warfare, by Roger Trinquier, a detailed manual based on the Algerian experience....See especially references to appointment of local "block wardens" and discussion about census-based family ID cards, etc. (Col. Trinquier's nod to internal security practices then common in "Block" countries)--in the FM's Chapter 3, section on CM Ops, paras 3-27 and 3-31 and Appendix C, apparently echoing Col. Trinquier's Chapter 6.....

So what's my point?--To reiterate that Trinquier's classical work, once regularly mentioned in the same breath as "the Brits," also retains the capability to contribute in the current environment, and deserves to be read. I'm not alone in having suggested Modern Warfare for your reading list in the relevant thread, and point out again that the link to the book--in its entirety---can be found in the SWJ Reference Library by scrolling down in the section on Counterinsurgency-Insurgency.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-06-2017 at 07:16 AM. Reason: Was in a stand alone thread till id'd and merged.
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Old 11-28-2006   #20
Menning
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Default French Paratrooper Shares Experience in COIN

Two months ago I traveled to Paris and spent three hours interviewing a former French paratrooper who participated in the Battle of Algiers. Here is a part of my interview with him. I hope it is valuable.

On Oct. 4, 2006, Robert Rocher, now retired and living in Paris, discussed his role in the Battle of Algiers and the use of interrogation in counterinsurgency operations.

Question: “What unit were you assigned to during the Battle of Algiers and what was your rank?”
Answer: “I was assigned to the 2nd Regiment Parachute Colonial (RPC) as a lieutenant.”
Q: “What were your duties with the 2nd RCP?”
A: “We were in charge of intelligence work—gathering information. There was an intelligence officer who directed our actions. We arrested terrorism suspects and conducted interrogations. Intelligence is like fish, you have to use it when it is fresh.”
Q: “What was the size of the unit you commanded in Algiers?”
A: “I typically commanded 25-30 paratroopers. The paras were very flexible; sometimes I controlled as many as 50 soldiers.”
Q: “When you arrested someone, what happened to him?”
A: “When the person was still in good health, we took them to our headquarters and interrogated him. If the person was not well, we interrogated him directly on the spot.”
Q: “What interrogation methods did you use?”
A: “The interrogations were conducted verbally and sometimes a certain brutality was used. We used electric shock when necessary. All the interrogations happened as fast as possible, within 24 hours. We were trying to prevent acts of terrorism”
Q: “How often would people talk during interrogation without physical abuse?”
A: “Four out of five talked right away. In some cases we gained good intelligence immediately. Many of the people were very scared and had been forced to cooperate with the terrorists.”
Q: “Were these interrogation techniques used by other units in Algiers?”
A: “All the other units used similar techniques.”
Q: “What happened to the prisoners after they were interrogated?”
A: “We sent them to prison camps in the south of Algeria. It was often for their protection. If the FLN knew someone had been interrogated, the FLN would assume he talked to us and would kill him.”
Q: “Did you ever release anyone on purpose, knowing he would be killed for talking to you?”
A: “It happened.”
Q: “Could you have defeated the insurgency without using inhumane interrogation techniques?”
A: “No, for two reasons. We had to show the native Algerians we were stronger than the insurgents. The fanatical terrorists had the information we needed. They would not talk without brutality.”
Q: “If you used the information you gained from interrogating suspects who talked freely, without the use of torture, could you eventually have beaten the insurgents?”
A: “Those who spoke freely did not have good quality information. The ones who did not want to talk had the useful information. There are two levels of information and we needed the information from the fanatics.”
Q: “How did you arrest people for interrogation?”
A: “We always acted on intelligence. We never simply swept an area and detained all the residents.”
Q: “What else can you share about your counterinsurgency experience in Algeria?”
A: “Counterinsurgency is about creating confidence in the population. Obtaining information is key. Protecting the local population is important to make their life less difficult. When insurgencies prevail, civilization disappears. People are put into slavery by insurgent forces.”
Q: “What was the long-term impact of losing the Algerian War for the French military?”
A: “The army lost its morale after the war. Many officers resigned from the service and the loss fostered a corrosive attitude at the national level of government.”
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