COIN Questionnaire Part 4

Randomly-selected COIN-themed pic

I like this image because it starts to draw away from the purely physical operating environment in that where generally operate at a far lower level of operational competence i.e. the information domain…

Anyways, the next set of questions int he FM 3-24 revision project…

11. Does the current FM address adequately how to fight an insurgency based upon an ideological or religious foundation?

In general terms, yes, with the qualification that it was clearly written against the backdrop of Iraq in 2005/06; as a result the detail does not translate well into other theatres like Afghanistan, even less so when it is employed as a pre-templated solution which it is not. Just as much as MCO and even more so at all levels below battalion, COIN/IW requires personnel to think and keep thinking as the environment around them evolves: the ‘hit ‘em hard with HE’ template solution is no more applicable across the board than the ‘build more schools and wells’ school of thought.

12.a.  FM 3-24 and FM 3-24.2 discuss causes of insurgencies. How representative and accurate are the lists in the two manuals? 

I didn’t review FM 3-24-2 (actually I took one look when it first came out and hated it – how can a doctrinal publication include discussion papers? It read like ‘just go and figure it out for yourselves’.) however the section in FM 3-24 on Mobilisation Means and Causes, paragraphs 1-40 to 1-54 is sound, suitably generic for broader application beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, and does not require revision.

12.b. Should there be more analysis of possible causes and how to mitigate those causes?

This may become an exercise in tail-chasing due to the sheer range of possible causes and how they might be mitigated. It would probably be more useful to discuss methods and means by which causes, catalysts and contributing issues (C3I??) might be identified in a real or potential operational environment, and to also include the types of agencies and other sources which might be tapped or drawn upon to contribute to this analysis process. As these C3I will extend well beyond purely military issues (i.e. a total change from IPB for MCO), so these supporting agencies and sources will extend beyond the military into other areas of government and beyond – to define ‘beyond’ see ‘JIM’ and ‘the comprehensive approach’.

The strategy to mitigate those causes and achieve national objectives in a COIN/IW campaign should be derived in accordance with accepted campaign planning/operational design processes, guided to a certain extent by principles and truisms of COIN/IW (see Q5).

12.c. How should the manual address complex causes?

This question implies the existence of a ‘simple’ cause which is unlikely; even in the South West Pacific which is hardly a hotbed of terrorist, insurgents and international criminals, it is unlikely that there are any significant simple causes to any of the issues bubbling away under the surface of sand, sea and sunsets.

Refer back to Q12.b. – provide the tools for identifying C3I to combine with national objectives (strategic, operational, tactical) in extant planning and mission analysis processes.

13. Are there any other issues that we have not addressed related to understanding the operational environment/threat?  

Other than perhaps accepting that counterinsurgency, stability operations and irregular warfare all form parts of the same whole and exist on a common doctrinal foundation, no.

I would, however consider, shifting Appendix B from paragraph B-29 onwards to either FM 3-24-2 when it is revised, or to a relevant 2-series publication. It is very procedural and detailed coverage of what is quite a niche specialised topic to implement and probably does not belong in a publication at this level.

14. How/Should the revised FM to address armed groups such as criminal gangs, militias, and warlords that may “hitch their wagon” to an insurgency based on grievances against the host nation government?

The revised FM should not give special attention to such groups or any others that fall outside purist/theoretical definitions of  ‘insurgent’ although it may list them to illustrate the broader spectrum of actors in a COIN/IW environment.

This question illustrates the risk in an overly narrow definition of insurgent. If the ‘wagon-hitching’ grievances seek political change then these groups would probably fall into the narrow definition of insurgent anyway, regardless of whether that change may be sought only for criminal advantage or gain – not all insurgents are high-minded idealists thinking only of the people or ‘righting wrongs’.

It may be, however, that other elements, not just criminals may exploit the insurgency for their own ends and gains. If such affects the stability and security of the operating environment, then mitigating this threat should be a task/role that falls from campaign planning and design against the aforementioned clearly-articulated national objectives.

15. How or should the manual address what the United States government considers to be criminal activity that is ignored, sanctioned, or unable to be countered by the host nation government (e.g. growing poppies, pirating CDs)?

If stability is a key campaign objective, then the focus of the campaign should be on those factors that promote instability.

There should not be a kneejerk train of thought that ‘criminal’ automatically equals adversary or threat (we need to get our heads around the concept of ‘competitors‘.). It may be that temporary or permanent alliance/partnership with criminal elements is actually a practical pragmatic means of addressing core issues and achieving national objectives. It may be that a well-established criminal organisation already has structures for intelligence, operations and sustainment against the actual adversaries that enhance those of COIN forces.

It is dangerous to encourage moral standards over issues that do not directly support the campaign plan (both addressing C3I and national objectives): we cannot right every wrong and save every princess. The effects of targeting illegal operations like growing poppies and pirating CDs (which might not be all that illegal in the HN! It’s values and laws may NOT be the same as our own) as these may be key sources of individual and regional income, thus targeting them may actually increase support for the insurgents and undermine the COIN campaign and the HN government. Any alternative sources of income have to offer equivalent reward and not involve additional labour e.g. as that involved in switching from CD piracy to more manually-oriented agricultural pursuits.


One thought on “COIN Questionnaire Part 4

  1. Pingback: COIN questions | Travels with Shiloh

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