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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON COUNTERING AN INSURGENCY (Part 1)

Insurgencies are nothing new. History is littered with examples of insurgencies and counter insurgency operations - some successful, some not. But have we learnt anything from this history?

A counter insurgency operation (COIN Op) differs vastly from a conventional or semi-conventional operation in that the enemy (insurgent) is usually not recognisable as he/she moves, as Mao Zedong put it, “like a fish in the water”.

Without a distinctive uniform to aid identification, security force troops are confused and unsure of whom exactly they are fighting. In turn, this can manifest itself as frustration, leading to the excessive use of force and firepower, thus simply strengthening the insurgents’ cause and turning the local population against the soldiers as they become the indiscriminate casualties of the conflict. This, along with the poor treatment and abuse of the local population, will result in a situation where anger and numbers will eventually count against the security forces.

An insurgency is not a stand-off between two armies opposing one another. It is an ideology opposing an army. It does not adhere to the classical principles of the advance, attack and so forth. Instead, it will resort to anything that will further its aims, including terrorism, crime, fear and violence. Inevitably, this leads to the belief that the insurgent has the initiative as he is able to choose the time and place and strike at will, and then blend into the population. Whereas this holds some truth, especially in the early stages of the insurgency, it does not imply that the security forces have to surrender the initiative and become reactive.

But there are several reasons why an insurgency may be viewed as “lost”. These reasons can trace their origins back to the failure of strategists and planners to recognise the potential for an insurgency and to consider or appreciate the worst or most dangerous case scenario that can result due to their strategy or plan. The end result is that the flawed operational concept or plan becomes a constantly changing plan without a clear focus. It is this lack of focus that throws the security forces off balance, leads to casualties and intoxicates the insurgent with success. In turn, this creates the perception amongst the local population that the insurgent is indeed the stronger power.

Security forces need to understand the importance of isolating the insurgent from the local population. Whereas this requires a dedicated and realistic “hearts-and-minds” policy, this policy is doomed to failure if the security forces do not understand the culture, traditions, values and beliefs of the local population. This requires that all members of the security forces are educated about the local population. Without this knowledge, the security forces will misread the insurgents’ political and military strategy and subsequently its aims and objectives.

Furthermore, if this education and understanding is lacking, it will be nigh impossible to recruit and train loyal local population members into a force that will willingly do battle with the insurgents. Instead, the security forces will simply be training and arming the future insurgents.

The operational concept needs to make provision for numerous factors that will most definitely influence its execution. But, in my opinion, the following factors ought to be near the top of the strategist’s list of factors for consideration:

1. Intelligence (historic and current and how this will influence the operational concept)
2. Understanding the local population’s beliefs, values, traditions and so forth
3. Educating the security forces prior to insertion or deployment.

The use of landmines and IEDs by insurgents is nothing new, either. The South African Defence Force, along with the Rhodesian Army, learnt how to counter and negate these insurgent weapons decades ago. These lessons, along with the adaption of tactics, seem to have been lost in the modern COIN ops arenas. Likewise, concepts such as “ink spot strategies”, “area domination”, “small team operations” and so on seem to have been grossly neglected.

Of great importance is also the political will of the government fighting the insurgency and how this political will manifests itself by equipping the security forces. Inadequately equipped forces or a lack of essential equipment will inevitably lead to a drop in security force morale and their will to counter the insurgents. Additionally, casualties will escalate and have a negative influence on the national will to fight or oppose the insurgency. Subsequently, this simply enhances insurgent intoxication.

Numerous windows of opportunity present themselves when fighting an insurgent force. Failure to identify these windows and exploit them can be detrimental to the overall strategy. Whereas the insurgent lacks the discipline, weapon systems and military strength to engage the security forces directly, an indirect approach to defeating the security forces becomes the order of the day. Part of this indirect approach involves the engagement of the media to help influence the political environment they are operating in.

As long as we continue to misdiagnose the environment and ignore or subject the local population to abuse humiliation, the insurgent will retain the initiative. The end result will be a constantly changing strategy with a lack of focus where the security forces are kept off balance by their own flawed strategy.

33 comments:

Aethyr said...

Dear Eeben,

your thoughts on COIN operations make sense to me, but how do you isolate the insurgency from the local population?

Does a "hearts and minds" strategy really have any chance against an Insurgency which is deeply rooted within the population. I mean if (in a worst case scenario) the insurgents are respected and/or supported because of THEIR approach to cultural and tradional means, isn't it futile in hoping to get the sympathy of the people?

It must be really hard to bring people on your side even if you have the necessary insight into the culture, tradition etc.

regards
David

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My belief is that there are insurgencies that should be left alone insofar as third-country intervention is concerned David, especially where it involves the sympathy and support of the majority of the population. In such an instance, one can only speed up the insurgency by getting involved in it. I believe that we have seen such examples in recent times.

I feel that some strategists have ignored the fact that the insurgency is usually ideology-based and to gain the support of the population, the insurgents are able to influence the population to support their cause. It is when the insurgents use terror as an influence mechanism that a security force can make a difference.

But, this goes back to the initial strategy and the failure to recognise the potential for an insurgency. In doing so, the political aims and objectives of the insurgents is neither identified nor recognised, thus preventing any pre-emptive actions on the part of the security forces/government.

A major problem security forces face is identifying the insurgent from the local population. It is only when the local population side against the insurgent that they can be truly identified. Unless they are identified, they cannot be kept away from the locals.

“Hearts-and-Minds” policies are essential as it is about changing perceptions and trying to combat an ideology – something that is incredibly difficult if the locals accept the aims of the insurgents. But, if it has got to that stage, then there has been a massive intelligence failure or a lack of understanding/homework on the part of the government/security forces.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Fail to plan, plan to fail. So true Eeben.

Here are some quotes again from Boyd, and Eeben has seen these before, but I thought for the readers, they would get a kick out of it. This is from Col. John Boyd's Patterns of Conflict slide show he presented.

On Guerilla Warfare, from Patterns of Conflict: 
Mao Tse-Tung synthesized Sun Tzu’s ideas, classic guerilla strategy and tactics, and Napoleonic style mobile operations under an umbrella of Soviet Revolutionary Ideas to create a powerful way for waging modern (guerilla) war.
Result: Modern guerilla warfare has become an overall political, economic, social and military framework for “total war”. Page 66

Break guerillas’ moral-mental-physical hold over the population, destroy their cohesion, and bring about their collapse via political initiative that demonstrates moral legitimacy and vitality of government and by relentless military operations that emphasize stealth/fast-tempo/fluidity-of-action and cohesion of overall effort.
*If you cannot realize such a political program, you might consider changing sides! Page 108


Without support of people the guerillas (or counter-guerillas) have neither a vast hidden intelligence network nor an invisible security apparatus that permits them to “see” into adversary operations yet “blinds” adversary to their own operations. Page 109

The last two quotes are pretty good if you ask me. And of course the whole isolating the enemy morally/mentally/physically was a part of his grand strategy, but you can see how he has applied it to this type of warfare.

Going back to Aethyr's question about how do you isolate the insurgency from the local population? In simple terms, you have to make the insurgency seem like a bad idea in the eyes of the people, and the rule of the government a good idea (or at least better than what the insurgency has to offer).
I think we bump up against this problem time and time again with these kinds of conflicts. And like Boyd said, 'if you can't realize such a political program, you might consider changing sides.'lol

And that is a big problem with extended conflicts like the ones we are involved with in Afghanistan and Iraq. The elections in Afghanistan are huge, and if people think it's a shame, and they don't trust the leaders, and the lives of people are not changing for the better, then of course they are going to support something else.

Our time is very limited as well, because it seems like finding a quality government to back, or finding a government that has a reasonable amount of support is very tough. Especially if there are term limits, and especially if the insurgency is doing all they can to mess with the political process.

Or that insurgency recognizes a window of opportunity, and inserts itself politically. Hamas could be considered an example of that in Gaza. Although they won an election(legitimate or not), they still turned to violence to clear out the opposition and seal the deal.
Cool discussion.

John said...

Hi Eeben
Very interesting article and very fitting for the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and probably Somalia right now.
I think it’s a very difficult war to fight, as mentioned in a nutshell, your opponent isn’t recognizable.
Although on the other hand, the “insurgent” might clearly recognize his opponent whom he might also view as an “insurgent” for example the Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as seen as occupational forces by the “insurgents”.
I also believe that some insurgent wars are best left alone, especially when driven by religious views and beliefs.
As an example, South Africa did well in their fight against the various insurgent groups inside their borders, so did the then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Actually, they nearly wiped their insurgencies out, had it not for the political interference from the West (USA and UK) who basically changed the situation completely around. These insurgencies were fought over political issues with communism as the end result, and no religious connection.
I can’t agree with you more on the fact that you need to win the hearts and minds of the civilians in order for the security forces/politicians to deny the insurgent group their water to swim in. I think it’s fair to say that an insurgency war probably has 80 % effort towards politics, i.e. hearts and minds, and 20% towards military/police action.
I believe that in any insurgency among the population there is a minority group who becomes the insurgents. Then there is a minority group amongst the civilians who will oppose the insurgents, and then there is a majority group amongst the civilians who is neutral.
The best way for the security forces and politicians to fight an insurgency that is winnable (not based on religious fanaticism) is to target the majority group of civilians who is neutral, and assist the minority who openly opposes the insurgents.
The insurgent group will also be targeting this group of civilians. Most part of the success on both sides will depend greatly on who can convince the big neutral group of civilians.
This is more or less what happened in South Africa’s insurgency. As wrongly believed by the outside world, as spread by foreign media, not every single black person in SA or Rhodesia for that matter believed in the insurgency of the time.
This was evident by the mass killings of black civilians in the townships and other rural areas. The insurgents were fighting to control the majority of the neutral civilians by threatening them though violence, burning down of schools, homes and universities etc.
In South Africa the necklace murders started in an effort to make the majority of neutrals think alike.
Winnie Mandela spoke her (Nelson Mandela’s wife) notorious words of “with matches and tires we will liberate this country.” This in fact meant that they will kill innocent black civilians who do not believe in their cause.
Violence is usually the insurgent’s way to get the majority of people on their side. This is also evident in places like Iraq and Afghanistan now. If the insurgents in Iraq stayed focused on fighting the coalition and not involving themselves in fighting ethnic differences the war in Iraq might have had a much different outcome by now.

Sorry for posting another part after this, this one was a bit long!

John said...

Hi Eeben
Second part of my posting..

This also brings me to another point, already discussed earlier this year on your blog. When is an insurgent an insurgent and when is he a freedom fighter?
The West saw the South African and Rhodesian terrorists as freedom fighters in the same way they see their struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fight against terrorists and terrorism. The terrorists in return see themselves as freedom fighters fighting an occupational force on their territory.

The following hit the news a few weeks ago.
“David Miliband: "Terrorism is OK - if I Support the Cause"
http://thelambethwalk.blogspot.com/2009/08/david-miliband-terrorism-is-ok-if-i.html
I also agree with you on how insurgencies are supposed to be fought. I think the mindset of using conventional tactics is far off the mark. Focusing on hearts and minds, human intelligence, and small team tactics and elimination of insurgent leadership will get you better results than indiscriminate airstrikes.

This is where a lot of equipment as discussed previously on your blog will be of great benefit. I can think of the Puma MPV and the 20 mm PAW for example.
Add a few helicopters for trooping and air support and you will meet most of your needs.
The need for super high technology equipment is of no need in fighting an insurgency.
What is needed more is common sense in dealing with the hearts and minds of the local population, understanding their cultural beliefs and denying the insurgent the initiative on those terms.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the quotes from Col Boyd, Matt. They are always good to refresh one’s memory.

One point he mentions is the legitimacy of the conflict. Without legitimacy, we fall down. It therefore becomes imperative that the security forces “win” over the locals and thus create the legitimacy by their actions. This will lead to the legitimacy becoming international as well.

As Col Boyd points out, if you cannot achieve success (fail to realise a political programme…), rather stay away from the conflict. Of course, if the insurgency is being waged within your own country, the insurgency needs to be tackled if you do not support the insurgents.

But in isolating the insurgents, we need to remember that if we do not plan correctly and focus effort, we will achieve nothing. Ultimately, anger and numbers will count against us.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You raise some very pertinent points in your comments, John. Seen in conjunction with Col John Boyd’s comments as posted by Matt, we can read in a lot of different actions that can be followed.

Ironically, when we were at war, we were told by the West that we are simply fighting “freedom fighters”. This despite the terrorism that was taking place on a daily basis and the indiscriminate killing of black people in the town ships of South Africa – to say nothing of the murders on the farms, the landmines and so forth. Yet now that the West has to contend with this, it is “terrorism”. But, terror is bit one tactic that is employed.

For the security forces to target the neutral civilians, they need to be forewarned of the insurgency. For that reason, failure to recognise the beginnings of the insurgency is the beginning of failing to curtail it. Again, it goes back to “intelligence” and how that intelligence is used.

But insurgents do not need to fight the coalition forces in Iraq/Afghanistan as they can use violence to coerce the locals into supporting them. It is this battle for the hearts and minds that matters and sometimes, the fear of retribution is enough to swing the locals to their side.

I saw David Miliband’s comment and how he believes it can be okay. I feel sorry for the British troops if that is the political view of terrorism. Soldiers need their government’s fullest support and this appears to not be the case.

I think the Puma and the PAW will most certainly be able to make an impact, especially when actual combat takes place. Insurgent wars do not require the level of sophistication we currently see on the battlefield. I also think that this high-tech gadgetry lulls troops into a false sense of security.

Wresting the initiative from the insurgent is not that difficult but it needs to be planned. As matt put it “fail to plan is a plan to fail”.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and friends:

Most excellent article indeed.

Your statement, "The use of landmines and IEDs by insurgents is nothing new, either. The South African Defence Force, along with the Rhodesian Army, learnt how to counter and negate these insurgent weapons decades ago. These lessons, along with the adaption of tactics, seem to have been lost in the modern COIN ops arenas."

Could it possibly be, the very capable 'Lessons Learned' folks at Leavenworth and elsewhere have forgotten about successful COIN opns conducted by the SADF and RLI? I think not. They certainly didn't forget who built the Buffel. I would rather propose that their reluctance in these areas is based more upon political expediency than professional knowledge and opinion. Quite difficult to sanction an intelligent discussion regarding the successful tactics, techniques, and procedures of so called "apartheid regimes." Someone might ask the rather obvious 'endgame' question.

The philosophy of political appeasement and surrender both have their price. We witnessed that priced being paid last week in Scotland. The witnessing continues in Salisbury. The feckless west remains silent.

Forgive my rant.

Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I don’t see your comment as a rant, Alan. Indeed, I sometimes need to bite my tongue lest it be cut off.

“Lessons learnt” are never learnt unless we use them and prevent unnecessary casualties to our soldiers. But, somehow I get the impression that a flawed strategy is being diverted to imply the troops are unable to achieve success. The obvious endgame is missed, at great personal and financial cost.

We have been down the road of “political appeasement and surrender” and the price to pay is very high. But, we have tried to get over it – something you know is very difficult to do.

Despite everything, we continue to soldier on albeit not in the mud of the line but by trying to give some thought and encouragement.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

An interesting bit from this morning's Wall Sreet Journal:

Afghanistan Contractors Outnumber Troops.

Despite Surge in U.S. Deployments, More Civilians Are Posted in War Zone; Reliance Echoes the Controversy.

Even as U.S. troops surge to new highs in Afghanistan they are outnumbered by military contractors working alongside them, according to a Defense Department census due to be distributed to Congress -- illustrating how hard it is for the U.S. to wean itself from the large numbers of war-zone contractors that proved controversial in Iraq.

The number of military contractors in Afghanistan rose to almost 74,000 by June 30, far outnumbering the roughly 58,000 U.S. soldiers on the ground at that point. As the military force in Afghanistan grows further, to a planned 68,000 by the end of the year, the Defense Department expects the ranks of contractors to increase more.

More at the link below:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125089638739950599.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very interesting comment – thanks for the link Alan.

Reading this made me wonder if the US will be able to sustain its image of the world’s policeman? It is obvious that there is a manpower shortage or troop shortage and that it is eating into reserve troops levels. I think it was only a matter of time before the US had to recognise the potential of PMCs.

But, I wonder what AFRICOM will do to ensure a sufficient troop level to continue to war on terror in Africa?

Rgds,

Eeben

Wilson said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Susan

http://3128proxy.com

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your visit and kind comment, Susan. We look forward to your future comments.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Hey Eeben, just to give you a heads up, EO was mentioned in the Policy Forum that UNWG was a part of, during the questioning of the panel. I posted the link and all on my blog, but for the most part there didn't seem to be anything to negative mentioned.
If anything, I think there should have been more mention of EO and the positive things it accomplished. They even had the former Ambassador to Sierra Leone there--Hirsch. So a discussion on the responsibility to protect, a discussion about the UN approaching EO during the Rwandan crisis, and the unnecessary and slanderous demonization of EO could have been in order there. You know, just to provide a little balance to the discussion.

But for the most part, it was a very interesting discussion, and I wrote a pretty long commentary about the thing. I kind of wish we were all at the party as well, but I didn't get an invitation.lol

Sorry to hijack the thread with this, but I thought Eeben would like to know.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for pointing this out to me, Matt. I had a look at this farce on your blog (www.feraljundi.com)

As you well know, I regard anything the UN/UNWG says with utmost suspicion. In fact, I don’t believe a word they say. Additionally, given how their Special Rapporteur lied about EO (by the way, if he was telling the truth, I am sure the he/the UN would want to sue me for falsely accusing him?) and how the UN accepted it as “truth” makes me wonder how such people can be allowed to have any say in conflicts across the world.

I would much rather the UN look at the actions of their so-called “peacekeeping forces” and start wondering how they are going to fix the disaster they have created. Unlike EO, they have been accused of rape, prostitution, weapons smuggling, illicit diamond dealing, theft, armed robbery, child prostitution, murder, siding with the rebels and the list goes on. If that is considered to be how it should be done then I am afraid I will never again be able to work as I cannot accept that as “correct”.

The UN never mention EO when they talk of Angola and Sierra Leone or how EO helped rescue people kidnapped in Irian Jaya. Not do they ever mention EO when they talk of Rwanda. But that doesn’t surprise me at all.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben & Matt:

While Shakespears could hardly have imagined the nocternal emission which brought us the modern day United Nations, his admonition concerning soliciters in Henry VI Part 2, is yet to see trump.

While not a frequent visitor to SAPA, I thought the following by Ben Holland of great interest and caution.

Regards, Alan

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601116&sid=aqyCmPJ8pLjk

TCO said...

Eeben,
This is a particularly cohesive explanation of a complex problem and one that the average American or European citizen seems unable to fully grasp.

As you rightly state the objective, indeed the primary success/failure crux of of the issue is separating (literally and ideologically) the insurgent from the general population.

It is in this regard that the U.S. foreign policy is painfully weak. There is little doubt about the superiority of the U.S. military capabilities on a tactical level to locate, close with and destroy insurgents. However, the collateral damage which is the hallmark of the U.S. methods often produce results which are counter to the initial action. In other words, killing a single 40-year old male terrorist is a good thing. But if, in the process, that action kills 10 women/children this will only create more active insurgents than the one you have removed.

The U.S.'s ability to effectively rebuild a society is equally as important, if not more so, than its ability to destroy one. And it is precisely that inability which plagues our foreign policy. The U.S. State Dept and their USAID arm are incapable of illustrating the way forward for the local populous. Thus we are left with those who hate us and will support the insurgency, and a larger group of people who are in a 'wait and see' mode with a tiny fraction of people who are in support of our efforts.

Finally, for anyone interested in great examples of this and just to reinforce Eeben's premise that insurgencies are nothing new I can highly recommend a site/podcast entitled The History of Rome. http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/ Each week the moderator chronicles the various phases of the Roman empire and though much of the Roman model was built on conquest you can be sure that they were met with both active and passive resistance to their advances. There are myriad of fascinating example of Roman leaders 'pacifying' various parts of the empire simply by understanding what the local population wanted/needed and then giving it to them. You want roads? You got it? You need a better port? OK. Fresh water lakes. Not a problem. When they positioned themselves in the role of assistance (in the way the locals wanted assistance, not in the way some Emperor back in the capitol wanted them to have it) they were successful.

OK, enough from me. Great post Eeben, I look forward to the subsequent portions of this series.

Semper fi,

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well said, Alan. Shakespeare was wise beyond his time and I somehow think he suspected that we would one day be saddled with the bloated, inefficient, incompetent organisation known collectively as the “United Nations”. Whereas there are no doubt well-meaning, hard-working people crewing on that ship, I am afraid the captain and his officers have become totally lost and beyond saving. By implication, the crew are doomed.

Thanks for the link. I believe this is blowing wind as they would then need to prosecute soldiers in the US and Brit armed forces as well.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Jake. Whereas it is easy to speak of separating the insurgent from the population, it is not that difficult when the troops are prepared correctly for their mission. I think that this is where things fall down. As you correctly point out, collateral damage merely creates a large insurgent population.

I often wonder why “lessons learnt” are even documented if they are not put into practise. Whether we like to admit it or not, the old “ink-spot strategy” still holds water. This allows one to rebuild the infrastructure if necessary, re-establish basic essential services and so on and show the locals that you are truly on their side – before moving to the next ink drop. One can never assume that by taking the main HQ of an insurgent force that the insurgency has been destroyed. Additionally, we open up logistical lines as targets to the insurgents. That strategy is a folly and will remain so. What ever happened from moving form a firm base to the next firm base – ie one secured and “happy” area to the next?

Of course, then comes the question of “legitimacy” – who holds the moral high ground - something I will discuss in my next posting.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben & friends:

Finally some reasoned thinking. From BG H.R. McMaster. An excerpt from his briefing follows:

Army Capstone Concept balances winning today's wars with preparing for future conflict

"The first thing the Army needs to do is understand what the demands on it will be," said McMaster. "The key thing is to have flexibility. No matter how hard we think about it, you're never going to get it quite right. The key is to not be so far off the mark that you can't adjust once the demands of future armed conflict are revealed to you."

There are many aspects that go into the problem and many different solutions:

• Conducting operations under the condition of transparency;
• Conducting operations with partners and among diverse populations;
• Overcoming anti-access in the context of a Joint operations;
• Conducting and sustaining operations from and across extended distances;
• Fighting for information (physical reconnaissance and human intelligence);
• Employing the manpower, mobility, firepower and protection to close with the enemy;
• Conducting area security operations over large areas (including population security and precision fires to limit collateral damage);
• Developing partner capabilities (for example, security force assistance);
• Protecting the network and routinely fighting in degraded mode;
• Overcoming hybrid threats/complex web defenses in complex urban terrain;
• Ensuring tactical mobility in complex terrain and overcoming enemy countermobility efforts; and
• Reshaping logistics and the demand side of sustainment to ensure operations without pause and freedom of movement in non-contiguous areas of operations.

Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster briefed the TRADOC Senior Leader Conference members on the new Army Capstone Concept. The concept is intended to be a guide of how to prepare for the possibility of future conflict.

http://www.army.mil/-news/2009/08/24/26508-army-capstone-concept-balances-winning-todays-wars-with-preparing-for-future-conflict/?ref=home-headline-title2

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Finally someone has made some sense, Alan. Many thanks for the link.

Reading the Brig Genl’s remarks re the aspects and problems underlines the great importance of the National Strategy and the subsequent Military Strategy as these points will be highlighted if the strategy was well thought-out, future-based and dissected to the bone.

It does however appear to me that the national strategy is somewhat flawed or very short sighted resulting in the military having to “fix” what is essentially a political problem. The Brig Genl also alludes to this in his comment that “the Army needs to do is understand what the demands on it will be”… these demands are a direct consequence of the National Strategy and Policy, both local and foreign.

Flexibility is one of those aspects that should become second-nature as we can never be precise in our planning. He points this out. Even the smallest tactical plan remains a basis for change and without flexibility, that change can never be implemented. This is especially true in a counter insurgency operation as we can never second-guess the insurgent while he still has some initiative and support from the locals.

Rgds,

Eeben

charles said...

Hi Eeben,hope I find you well.
charles mitchell edgeofgorge@telkomsa.net

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Now that is a name from the past, Charles. Are you the one from the 1974 intake at SoE?

Rgds,

Eeben

charles said...

Hi Eeben, it is I from SoE.What is your e-mail address? Reading your book at present..extremely interesting.See Bert s regularly.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A most welcome “voice” from the past, Charles. Bert S is a good man who did great work for EO. I will contact you shortly on mail.

Rgds,

Eeben

Christian said...

Mr Barlow,

Within the last year I completed an independent study on the private military industry for the school that I attend. Needless to say I am absolutely fascinated by its proliferation and the Western military's dependence upon it for their operations.

Here is my question for you: Do you think that a fully privatized peace-keeping operation or military operation is just around the corner?

The scenario I could see for this would be for the UN or some other international body to use one company or a consortium of PMC's
(for logistics, boots on the ground etc, under an umbrella contract) to conduct a peace-peeking operation.

My thoughts are yes, the industry has proved its self fully capable of this. To top it off there is a lack of resolve for western armies to become involved in these "third world" brush fires. Which leaves the breach open, if you will, for PMC's to step in, under the auspices of of some UN mandate or something of that nature.

I can't wait to hear what you think, thanks for taking the time to read this.

-Chris

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is certainly an interesting topic to touch on, Chris.

The explosion of PMCs and PSCs has caught many off guard but their role will increase in future conflicts. However, as long as the UN remains in denial, it will continue to provide “peacekeeping forces” to conflicts. But, I believe, like you, that there is a dire need to PMCs in this conflict arena, especially insofar as peacemaking is concerned.

The problem I foresee is the selection of such a PMC to conduct a peacemaking or peace-enforcement operation. At the end of the day, their role will be to bring about an absolute end to hostilities because without this, there can be no effective peacekeeping. However, some PMCs have performed below-average in their areas of operations or brought about a mass of criticism at their conduct. Deploying such a PMC in places such as African conflicts will only add fuel to the fire.

I do think that Western armies are reluctant to involve their forces in these conflicts – besides, most of them are thinly stretched with actions/deployments in particularly the Middle east. Apart from that, Western governments need to consider if getting involved in such conflicts is to their national advantage.

If certain controls are put in place to ensure the selected PMC acts professionally, and has a track record that proves its ability and effectiveness, I think that it will serve a far better purpose than the UN’s blundering around. But, to give it absolute legitimacy in terms of action, it will need the full support of the government of the country it is operating in.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and Chris:

I suspect PMC's are up to some pretty stiff conpetition in the United Nations, peace mishandling, internal defense business sectors.

As most are aware, the UN utilizes member nation military forces for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the convenience of political cover and simple economics. For instance, a battalion of Fijian infantry is quite inexpensive and can be counted on to render unquestioning loyalty and service to the UN client. The long serving Fijian battalions, not unlike many others, serve free of political interference from Suva. As long as the UN dollars feed the coffers back home, no unpleasant inquiries are made. Bula, Bula, please sit back and enjoy the Kava.

Aside from the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program and a few other training efforts generally sanctioned, funded, and stringently overwatched by the US State Department, I doubt you'll be seeing much PMC security assistance activity or competition in Africa originating from the States.

In other news, Mafeking has been relieved.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are quite correct, Alan. If one looks at how often they establish special panels and appoint Rapporteurs to investigate PMCs, it does not require much to figure out they need to do their best to prevent a PMC from exposing them. But, as the UN, their lies carry more weight than a mere PMC. Hence my comment about their bumbling around…

Sadly, the UN draws on more than just the Fijians. The end result is not something any commander can be proud of. But, it all revolves around money – which the UN eats like some unstoppable machine.

Was it that man Baden-Powell?

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Those who no longer wear the khaki also serve en sterf. Hat tip to LTC North and a thanks to Matt. Follows is Matt's intro with link:

Bravo to Col. Oliver North for having the courage to say what is right. Contractors are an important part of this war effort, and there has been very little recognition of that fact. Semper Fi. -Matt

http://feraljundi.com/2009/08/28/industry-talk-no-respect-by-col-oliver-north/

Alan said...

Eeben:

Could there possibly be an awakening?

Alan

September 1, 2009
Afghanistan: Time to Stop Nation-Building
By George Will

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/09/01/in_afghanistan_knowing_when_to_stop_98109.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have to agree with the author, Alan.

A major predicament is that there are several different tribes, speaking different languages, living by their own beliefs and customs and by their own set of laws. This in itself should have called for a totally different strategy than simply placing troops in the firing line by trying to swamp the area with troops.

Whereas the bravery of the troops cannot be questioned, the stupidity of the strategy can.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Alan. Both Matt (www.feraljundi.com) and Jake (www.privatemilitaryherald.com) do very good reporting on topical issues such as this. It is time that credit was given to those who really work hard at lightening the burden. Good on Lt Col North.

Rgds,

Eeben