Friday, December 21, 2007

Winning ways

Clint Watts, a former US Army Infantry Officer, FBI Special Agent and Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point argues against slavishly reproducing the tactics that have been so successful in Anbar in Afghanistan.

The U.S. is correct to seize upon any opportunity to dislodge al-Qa’ida from Pakistan’s tribal regions, especially if it involves the use of surrogates. However, it should not use a blanket strategy of alliances with al-Qa’ida’s hosts if the social, cultural and geographic conditions make its chances of success unlikely. If it does, U.S. forces might be the ones entangled, stretched logistically, and in conflict with the local ideology. As al-Qa’ida in Somalia and Iraq has learned, this is a bad place to be.



From one point of view the "real" winning strategy in Anbar had nothing to do -- in the first instance -- with making alliances with tribes. It began first of all with understanding the situation on the ground from which the method of making alliances with tribes followed naturally. The medicine worked fine because it flowed from a correct diagnosis of the problem. But the diagnosis was the key. Had Anbar been misdiagnosed, the wrong "medicine" would have been prescribed and disaster would surely have followed.

This is so self-evident as to be trite. But on closer inspection it's easy to see why the one-size-fits-all strategy is so seductive. Diagnosing the roots of an insurgency take time:  it requires a vast investment in learning the language and the culture of the area and probably means making a lot of embarrassing mistakes early on -- mistakes which will be ruthlessly punished by press ridicule, committee investigations and combat loss. Accolades will go to those who, standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, apply the winning solution; but ignominy and ridicule are the most likely wages of the guys who show how not to do it, which is pretty important information in and of itself.

While pain unfortunately precedes gain a sound national leadership will have the patience to make the investment in the learning process. They will not promise instant, magic results to the public. They will candidly learn from mistakes. They will continuously identify successes.  And above all they will not turn a nation's war against a deadly enemy into a political football. There lies the irony: it may be far easier to learn how to defeat al-Qaeda in Anbar and the Taliban in Pakistan than it will be to learn how to beat politics in Washington.

18 Comments:

Blogger buck smith said...

This fellow is right. A campaign in the tribal regions of Pakistan should be modeled more on Sherman's march to the sea and through Carolina or Lemay's over Japan.

12/21/2007 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger Francine said...

Sherman marched through the heart of the agricultural South at harvest time. The only thing they grow in Waziristan these days is poppies.

12/21/2007 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger herb said...

Insurgencies are all alike in that they are dependant on the local population. An insurgency cannot be defeated without the cooperation of the locals or at least their neutrality. Cultural differences are the greatest obstacle to our beating these people. I think we knew that going into Iraq but failed to admit it.
The political problems with the Iraqi Gov’t are related to the idea that the minimum governing unit is a location. Its not. It’s the clan then the tribe.
Soon as that sinks in they’ll be ok.

12/21/2007 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Francine said...

In the news today:

Al-Qaida targets Pakistan nukes...Bin Laden eyes his best shot at seizing power, grabbing weapons, says West Point publication

Our best hole card in this scenario is India. If New Delhi suspects the Paki military is losing control of their nukes they may start waving their own nukes around (perhaps with an underground test, or cross-border incursions of fighter-bomber aircraft) to refocus Musharraf's mind on securing his ordinance.

Pakistan suicide blast kills 38

The leaders of the Islamic Death Cult continue to find proselytes. Funny how none of these religious leaders volunteer for "martyrdom" by slaying fellow Muslims.

Former US Intelligence official: Israel will attack Iran

Israel has no "smoking gun" to justify the attack. The NIE ensures that the smoking gun will be a smoking Tel Aviv.

Iran ex-president slams Ahmadinejad on economy

Making thousands of rockets to replenish Hezbollah's supply costs billions of dollars. Ahmedinejad knows best. The Iranian people must be willing to sacrifice their daily bread in order for the chance to kill another 44 Jewish civilians with rockets in a repeat of the 2006 war.

US delays troop drawdown in Europe

Putin wants the Cold War back to justify his abortion of the Russian democracy. Well two can play that game.

North Korea resists Dec 31 declaration deadline

I'm shocked. Shocked that Kim Il Jong is not a man of his word.

The Vatican and Beijing warm up

Revelation 13:4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

12/21/2007 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

herb: An insurgency cannot be defeated without the cooperation of the locals or at least their neutrality.

I beg to differ. It's difficult to be an insurgent when you're dead. The tribal regions of Pakistan have nothing to offer this world but more madrassas, more terrorists, more jirga sanctioned gang rapes, more sodomized students and more fundamentalist Islam. None of this serves any function in a civilized world. All of them are things that this globe is better off without. That Pakistan even exists is a disturbing notion in and of itself. It is no conincidence that "The Land of the Pure" is one of murderous violence, nuclear proliferation, barbaric cruelty and religious intolerance. Few better examples exist of what to expect from an Islamic state.

12/21/2007 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

It's difficult to be an insurgent when you're dead.

Yes, but insurgents are hard to identify, so unless you're prepared to try genocide, you do need the locals help.

Even if you are prepared to shoot anyone who isn't you, it's still easy for a force to hide in mountainous terrain, especially one with lots of caves.

Israel has no "smoking gun" to justify the attack. The NIE ensures that the smoking gun will be a smoking Tel Aviv.

The NIE is being slammed by a lot of foreign countries, including France and Israel. I don't think Israel will wait for a "smoking gun". The NIE may make it harder for the US to take action, the perception that it has is making it more likely that others will.

12/21/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

An insurgency cannot be defeated without the cooperation of the locals or at least their neutrality.

It's hard not to give up on the "innocent" civilian population when they actively *know* there's an AQ torture room set up in their midst (such as was just discovered in Iraq), and they decline to tell the American soldiers about it to stop it from happening. Makes an observer start to believe they must like being tortured.

I don't know that Afghanistan and Iraq have the same tribal/clan culture, or if there are any significant differences between the two countries, but it sure does seem like the civilians in both countries have an active liking for being tortured, raped, and beheaded.

12/21/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/21/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

12/21/2007 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"The NIE may make it harder for the US to take action, the perception that it has is making it more likely that others will."

Oh, but I hope you're right. It would be a novel and wonderful thing if just one other country outside of the US and Israel made a strong, PHYSICAL stand against barbarity. However, I don't think I'll be holding my breath waiting for it.

12/21/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I would interpret the comment to mean that "others" like Libya, Syria and Iran are more likely to take action now as a result of the NIE report.

Other than Sarkozy speaking out, it's very very unlikely that Yurp, China or Russia will do a diddly-damned thing.

12/21/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Very true! And all the more important to recognize because the normal military way of doing business is indeed One Size Fits All.

Since the earliest beginning, “Do It Like This and Shaddup!” has been the “normal” military way. Even when the technological challenges of seapower presented itself, the Normal Military Way still was present. The Royal Navy’s Admiral Nelson was known as an innovator – won Trafalgar that way – but one of his most valued captains summed it up this way “When I see an man that looks like he is thinking I consider that mutiny.”

In my career I looked on with horror – and finally with extreme weariness – as “we have to do it this way because this is the way it is done in the Air Force” moved from being a common attitude to an enshrined principle. I could write a book about it – and in fact I am.

12/21/2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Beating politics in Washington demands that we figure out how to defeat AlQ and radical strains of Islam in every critical environment. In Afghanistan, the instincts for survival are stronger than in Al Anbar, even after decades of Saddam. The religious, social and economic structures of Afghanistan and Iraq are also very distinct and different. While a tactical overlay may point to a starting point, the identical solution cannot be expected to work.

Somewhere there is a point which can peel Afghanis, both Pashtun and Peshmerga, as well as Pakistani's, away from both the Taliban and AlQ.
Just finding that item is tough enough, Exploiting it will be more difficult. Exploiting the fact that we don't intend to stay, just as we are displaying our intent not to stay in Iraq as a non radical Iraq grows, is one item that can be turned to our favor. But of course that must be followed up by some very detailed and culturally sensitive understandings and agreements. Getting the Tribal leaders to give up on the now nearly ritual switching of sides requires finding a big item to promote. One that simply cannot be refused.

12/21/2007 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger BetaCygni said...

My question is why has is taken so long to build up the Afghan army? We should be using them as a force mutilplier instead of begging NATO for more troops which are unlikely to come.

We have helped stand up over 100 thousand Iraqi troops. That is what I'd look to replicate in Afghanistan.

12/21/2007 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Because American (and British and Australian) troops have been doing the heavy lifting and training and leading the Iraqi army and cops, while NATO has been in charge in Afghanistan. It's stupid to think that either NATO or UN forces, or any other army in the world, is going to be as good, as motivated, as well equipped or as competent as the Americans.

NATO is made up of a bunch of countries who want to act as a counterweight to America and it's now obvious to anyone who looks that they simply are not. Without American support, the Brits in AFghanistan have even performed in wht could only be described as a desultory way.

12/21/2007 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

larryd: Yes, but insurgents are hard to identify, so unless you're prepared to try genocide, you do need the locals help.

Extinguishing an entire race of people is genocide.

Main Entry: geno·cide
Function: noun
Date: 1944
: the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group

---------------------------

Saturation bombing a region that has consistently produced and indoctrinated new terrorist recruits while providing shelter and material support for both them and the very top leadership of our enemies is called "war".

Main Entry: war
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English werre, from Anglo-French werre, guerre, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German werra strife; akin to Old High German werran to confuse
Date: 12th century
1 a (1): a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations (2): a period of such armed conflict (3): state of war b: the art or science of warfare c (1)obsolete : weapons and equipment for war (2)archaic : soldiers armed and equipped for war
2 a: a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism b: a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end

---------------------------

In case you had not noticed, the frontier regions are not on our side. They are home to some of the most brutal, barbaric fundamentalist Muslims and are the Taliban's birthplace. Their concerted efforts have lead to the deaths of HUNDREDS of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. Few other conflicts in history have not imposed a severe penalty for such hostile actions.

12/21/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

by Zenster: "In case you had not noticed, the frontier regions are not on our side. They are home to some of the most brutal, barbaric fundamentalist Muslims and are the Taliban's birthplace."

The circumstance leads to a harsh outlook, but they have their own best interest in mind in what they do, religiosity has little to do with it except in that a harsh reality is reflected in the favored brand of religion. It is easy to switch sides when favorable, even short term and acceptable as a matter of course.
It may be that there is no tribal awakening to be had on the frontier, but the regions history tells us another tale.


"Their concerted efforts have lead to the deaths of HUNDREDS of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. Few other conflicts in history have not imposed a severe penalty for such hostile actions."

Except for AlQ and the Taliban, their efforts are not concerted. It may be that the Afghani Gov't needs to find and flex some muscle to get the attention of the elders.

12/21/2007 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

wadeusaf: Except for AlQ and the Taliban, their efforts are not concerted.

I tend to regard Islam as being more monolithic than others might. The overarching goals of a global caliphate and violent conversion make Muslims—especially the extremist fundamentalists—a single enemy that deserves to be treated as such.

It may be that the Afghani Gov't needs to find and flex some muscle to get the attention of the elders.

While that would be of great use, Afghanistan's installation of shari'a law makes any prospect for such intervention rather dim at best. There is simply too much common ground. It is why I would rather see sections of the frontier given some truly harsh treatment in order to discourage further assistance of al Qaeda or the Taliban.

12/22/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Exerpt from ITM post pertaining to this subject. Feeling a bit froggy today.


I invite Hameed, Marzouk, and other muslims to weigh in on this issue.
Batman | 12.19.07 - 9:09 am | #
Batman,
Sorry I took so long. Been without access to internet for past week I can only post on weekends.
I have stated several times in the past about a war within Islam between the despotic and democratic. you are correct in your statement about how long this will take. I have stated in the past it is generational.
While catching up on the posts of the past week I saw several items about American Muslims and Reformist Muslims. I am both.
One area of Islam Muslim scholars have explored is the connection of the Book, as in "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians), the Bible, Old and New Testaments. This is important because the Quran refers to Moses and Jesus (Peace be upon Them)many times as Muslim. This is why Muslim religious scholars must study these things. Muhammad (PBUH) must not have superceded these aforementioned prophets. Muhammad (PBUH) was known in his time as the Prophet of the Arabs by his Jewish and Christian contemporaries. He was considered an ally. Human nature and human failings messed it up over time. This has also been documented repeatedly in the Bible.
The problem, in short, is misunderstanding compounded by the fact that so many in the Muslim World are illiterate and can only take the word of extremist imams. Similar problems exist in the Christian World with false preachers taking advantage of the ignorant and illiterate.
Consider Michael Yon's example a few weeks back about the returning Christians and the repair of their church. Consider this model of community in the Arab World where this acceptance and multifaith community would be accepted all over the Muslim World based on common denominators instead of (IMHO) minor differences.
I believe the vast majorities of all faiths want peaceful, free and prosperous coexitence. The common denominator is a belief in a Most High the Creator of the universe and all in it.
It used to be said 1% messes up life for everyone else. I believe that percentage is up to 10%. If 10% of a neighborhood is a gang, it can control that neighborhood through low level violence and intimidation. This is and has been the case in neighborhoods in USA, especially poor neighborhoods. A parallel is the neighborhood of Gaza, West Bank and Lebanon. On a worldwide scale alQueda and it's ilk, criminals, consists approximately 10%. In essence, they are nothing but a criminal gang.
The common denominator is the poorness of neighborhoods due to lack of work and education. This can be seen in the small and large scales I presented.
Please note the comments about the civilian reserve and comments of commenters who had and posted similar ideas years prior. I have as well. On sites along with this one I have mentioned an "Armed Peace Corps". I mentioned how the "hippies" who yell and bitch on the campus could have a much better impact if they would join their military countrymen (who they say they support)in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. The armed component would be military protection of their lives and their efforts.
Could you imagine what a load this would take off the shoulders of our soldiers and what progress could be made if this could be organized? Civilians would have to live in austerity for a year, the logistics could be easy. Forget the UN. Let nations compete in doing good.
As a Muslim and former Christian I wonder sometimes that prophets over the span of human existence may have just been delusional charismatic people who thought they heard the voice of The Most High but really imagined it. Or they saw it as a tool to have power over others.
I am running out of time. Sorry if I rambled.
I wish all Y'all a merry Christmas (Happy birthday Jesus, peace be with you)! Hannukah is over now but I hope those of the Jewish persuasion had a happy one. And, of course, Salaam eleikum Y'all!
I am Marzouq the Redneck Muslim! Lover of Love, Hater of Hate, Seeker of Truth. Like a cruise missile I fly through the gaps, under the radar to deliver my payload of love and deeper understanding. I may be crazy, I may be a genius, I may be an idealistic fool, perhaps I am just a regular human trying to figure things out in a place where I get feedback like a group therapy session.

12/22/2007 02:15:00 PM  

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