Considering the manner in which organised gangs and insurgents, be they political, criminal, religious or militant choose to conduct their terror and criminal actions, I believe that we need to adapt our operational approaches and begin laying greater emphasis on:
1. Intelligence, in particular HUMINT
2. Pseudo operations
3. Tactical ground and air support
Intelligence ought to act as the commander’s eyes and ears. If he has no current intelligence, he is both blind and deaf and a blind and deaf commander has no real value in today’s small wars and conflicts. Whereas it is good and well to have technical intelligence and satellite coverage, we also need to know “what” the enemy is thinking. We can only know what the enemy is thinking if we have someone within his ranks.
Infiltrating or penetrating the enemy’s ranks requires the ability to make intelligence predictions insofar as which organisations should be targeted. These predictions, although not always correct, do however given an indication of what to expect and where. It is better to have someone in a potential or real enemy’s ranks and not need him than to have no one in the enemy’s ranks and need him.
Intelligence is a critical essential but we often fail to recognise its value. Strategies are intelligence driven and the strategy can only fail if it is developed with no intelligence. At the tactical level, it is intelligence that enables us to locate, bind, strike, exploit and disrupt any threat. Indeed, it has an influence on the tactics, techniques and procedures we apply.
Well trained and led pseudo teams, operating off current intelligence can wreak havoc amongst the enemy and decimate its ranks. But to do that, we need to adjust our thinking and our approach. But it bears remembering that pseudo teams are not “special forces” – instead they are irregular troops operating under normal command and control.
The strategy of attrition applied by these gangs gives them an almost mythical status of invincibility. Added to that is the publicity they enjoy from their deeds in the mass media. Using low-tech equipment and improvisation, they are able to achieve high-value results and attain the initiative.
Pseudo teams, recruited from the areas they originate from are ideal trackers, interpreters and in most instances, know the terrain they operate in like the back of their hand. They are able to detect changes in the human environment incoming units cannot see. Furthermore, they are often highly-motivated as they have been the prime beneficiaries of the violence against them and they are driven by a desire for justice and revenge.
I do not advocate doing away with the traditional battalion, company and platoon formations when fighting these wars. I do, however, believe that especially in Africa, these formations do not always give the dividends one would expect. I furthermore believe that the time has come to incorporate a pseudo element into the motorised infantry battalion.
Once deployed into an area, this pseudo element should begin working with the local population, identifying potential candidates for pseudo work and training and equipping them to take the fight to the enemy. Such sub-units and sub-sub-units will enhance the reconnaissance and intelligence gathering capabilities of the motorised infantry battalion, be able to conduct snatch operations, disrupt enemy plans and actions and so forth.
A good pseudo team is able to sustain itself in the field although a system of caches to replenish food and ammunition is essential. But their true value lies in being able to fight the enemy with its own tactics and techniques and when necessary, call in tactical air support or heliborne combat troops to take over the engagement and exploit the fire-fight. This ground and air support is essential and adds a great degree of flexibility to pseudo operations.
To avoid “friendly fire”, areas where these teams operate need to be classified as restricted operations areas. Targeted tactical air support needs to be on call.
Fighting the enemy with overwhelming firepower does not always achieve the results we seek. Additionally, this mass of fire inevitable leads to collateral damage (people and infrastructure) thus driving the locals into the ranks of the enemy and reducing our chances of recruiting locals for our pseudo teams.
When we change our mindset and think outside of the box, we will be able to train, deploy and exploit pseudo teams, regain the initiative and reap the benefits of fighting fire with fire.