As I’ll be going away again for a few days, I leave you with my final thoughts on the COIN conflict:
1. All wars are fought to be won. The COIN conflict, whether we chose to call it an unconventional war, a small war, an asymmetrical war or whatever – remains a war. At its conclusion, there will be only one victor. The victor will be the force that has the support of the local population.
2. The fight must be taken to the insurgent. This means hunting him down and attacking him in areas where he believes he is safe. This also includes conducting pre-emptive strikes across international borders if necessary.
3. To conduct effective hearts-and-minds campaigns, the area needs to be stabilised. That means it must be free of insurgents – and kept that way. Without security there can be no stability. Without stability, there can be no effective hearts-and-minds or development.
4. COIN forces are engaged in fighting an ideology – an ideology that is aimed at turning the local population to support their cause. This will be done by propaganda, fear, coercion and terror. Security forces need to realise that their actions, especially when construed as negative towards the local population, will be exploited by the insurgents to strengthen their ideology.
5. The night belongs to the one who chooses to use it. Use it and deny the insurgent sleep, freedom of movement and the ability to function.
6. Attack the insurgent’s source of income. Without income, the insurgent loses his power to purchase, recruit and ultimately wage war.
7. Human intelligence in the form of agents and turned insurgents is crucial as they will be more successful at gathering vital intelligence than “outside” agents that have been inserted into an area.
8. Ground coverage in the form of men who understand the locals, their customs, beliefs, traditions, can communicate with them and so forth is crucial to developing an understanding of – and winning the confidence of – the human terrain the security forces will be operating in. This is an aspect that needs to be addressed as soon as possible once security forces enter an area.
9. The locals need an undertaking that they will be supported – and very importantly protected - if they turn against the insurgents.
10. Different sections of the population will support either the insurgents or the security forces but this choice is usually decided on by political reasons, fear and resentment or by promises of help and improvement of their lot.
11. Promises made to the local population must never be broken. This will merely turn them against the security forces.
12. Good intelligence is not gained by using physical force against the locals. The resultant fallout will lead to resentment and aid in the recruitment drive of the insurgents.
13. Security forces must never treat the locals as though they have been conquered. This will lead to resentment and additionally, assist insurgent recruitment. Viewing locals as “lesser beings” will add to the insurgent propaganda and recruitment drive.
14. When the security forces lose the support of the local population, the insurgency will gain strength and escalate.
15. Security forces must hold territory and deny entry into that territory by the insurgents.
16. COIN conflicts are not purely military in nature. They include a large political- and social involvement and as such the military plans and the socio-political plans should work towards a common goal.
17. Mission diversion should be avoided at all costs as it will weaken the focus of the security forces and strengthen the focus of the insurgents.
18. Routine movement of vehicles and men must be avoided at all times.
19. Roads must be swept for landmines by sappers before being used and the security force vehicles using those roads must be MPVs/MRAPs being used within their design parameters.
20. The government and security forces must give autonomy to the local chiefs. By removing their autonomy, their status is removed, resentment is bred and control is lost.
21. Infrastructure development must be in line with what the local population want and not what the government/security forces think they want.
22. Security forces must be able to out-gun the insurgent and strike hard and ruthlessly when targets are located. This does not, however, imply that locals must suffer the cross-fire or collateral damage.
23. Junior leaders must be encouraged to think. The COIN conflict remains a small unit war and as such the small unit leaders must be given the freedom to use their initiative.
24. The Principles of War remain applicable to COIN conflicts and must not be discarded or denigrated.
25. The use of the air weapon/air support must be coordinated and planned to work in conjunction with ground forces.
26. The locals will not support – or understand why the security forces are supporting – corrupt government officials.
27. Local forces need to be integrated into the security forces, trained and equipped and be treated as “equals”.
Ultimately, the COIN conflict is a battle between ideologies. Whoever can convince the local population that their cause is the better route to follow, will ultimately win the conflict.