Friday, December 4, 2009

The Insurgent's Choice: Build, Hold, Clear

The Insurgent’s Choice: Build, Hold, Clear.

Rummy’s incantation was the other way around: Clear, Hold, Build. Unfortunately the implied sequence of clearing first is appropriate to your ranch in Crawford, or to Omaha Beach, but not when the terrain objective is people (hearts and minds).

The Five Logical Lines of Operation: Combat operations, security, economy, basic services and governance as presented in FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, and related publications regarding Full Spectrum Operations suggest a parallel progression from left to right. Certain actions are presumed to precede others in each line. Perhaps it is time to look at Full Spectrum Operations from the other side.

The Insurgent’s game plan starts with building an infrastructure that provide a modicum of basic services (clinics, schools, etc) with a form of governance which gives the people offers they cannot refuse. The comprehensive use of assassination and torture dissuades collaboration with the opposition. Once ensconced, there exists a network of spies, counter-spies (theirs), and a critical mass of activists.

The more comprehensive the process of building the revolutionary base, the less safe it is for the counterinsurgent to move with impunity about town. This equates to holding a piece of terrain by increasing the pucker factor. Eventually, the counterinsurgent is cleared from an area leaving the insurgent in de facto control and unhindered in consolidating power into the hands of those who held the strings.

The sequence of build, hold, and clear is the same sequence as found in “protracted, peoples, revolutionary war (論持久戰), as described by Mao Zedong and Vo Nguyen Giap and continually adapted to insurgencies up to today by such as Shining Path in Peru, Maoists in Nepal, as in the Dirty War in Argentina and the IRA off and on since Cromwell.

The essential difference between the two approaches is building a system that provides basic services and governance, plus maybe economics sub rosa, or hidden in plain sight. At the end of the process, the counterinsurgent is building something without a base of support of the locals, unless an effort was made to build a foundation in step one.

Sound familiar?

The type of force needed to build clandestine institutions within the people (the local inhabitants) doesn’t exist in the expeditionary, modular, transformational force structure. The components needed to set up a counterinsurgency insurgency force. Civil Affairs, PSYOP, Special Forces, Intelligence, Special Ops, Human Terrain Teams, and Counter-intelligence assets backed by precision munitions on call, and a supply network operating at a distance from the target area. This would include a clandestine capability comparable to the PRT’s (Provincial Reconstruction Teams).

The tactics, techniques, and procedures for such a force are likely already written down, and well understood by the Special Operations community. The SF concept of building clandestine combat forces indigenously goes to the beginning of SF for use in the Soviet rear areas.

No counter insurgency war in the past succeeded without a substantial indigenous combat force. The usual gig was to hire the best fighters an enemy had, and add a few qualified officers and noncoms. Such was the Indian Army of the British Raj, the French led Spahis of Africa, and the Askaris led by German Lt Col, Lettow-Vorbeck in German East Africa.

The principal obstacle to some really sneaky war is from the un-sneaky narcissistic rotational modular expeditionary establishment. The burning question would be how to credit command and staff time in such a force. Should it hold a higher status than commanding Regular units, or training units, or Reserve units?

The odds of build, hold, and clear succeeding has been more successful than naught.

OBTW: The difference between and Insurgency and a Counterinsurgency is the latter has air superiority.