COIN Questionnaire Part 2

Randomly-selected COIN-themed pic

5.a.  The current FM lists eight “Historical Principles for Counterinsurgency,” five “Contemporary Imperatives of Counterinsurgency,” and nine “Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency Operations.” Table 1-1 lists successful and unsuccessful operational practices. Is this construct a useful means for categorizing the concepts?

The construct is useful but must be focussed on those items specific to counterinsurgency i.e. that are not general military principles. Table 1-1 is probably counterproductive as what may or may not be successful in one environment may create an entirely different effect in another. It may be better portrayed as simply a list of practices or considerations, and some of the practices should be redrafted to be more objective e.g. ‘overemphasize’ in the first ‘unsuccessful’ practice would be more objective replaced with ‘emphasis on’

5.b. Are the principles, etc., that are listed applicable globally?

Some are also a little too global and should apply generally to all military operations e.g.:

Manage information and expectations. In today’s information-centric society, this applies across the board.

Intelligence drives operations. Correct – why would counterinsurgency be any different?

Use the appropriate level of force. The principle of proportionality applies across all types of conflict.

Learn and adapt. This applies in all forms of conflict.

Some of the best weapons do not shoot. Even more applicable as information and cyber operations evolve.

Tactical success guarantees nothing. This is a lesson as hard-learned in conventional operations across history as it ever may be in a counterinsurgency environment.

These principles may be reinforced in the text of the publication but they cannot be accurately described as principles purely of counterinsurgency. The same desired effect might also be created by describing the principles of war against a counterinsurgency context.

If a tactic works this week, it might not work next week… . Adaptive adversaries and changing environment are features of all conflicts.

5.c. What would you add, delete, or modify?

5.c.1. Legitimacy is the main objective. Stability is the main objective. Focussing on legitimacy presupposes the solution as legitimacy and this invariably leans towards that of the existing host nation government where the final solution might actually be recognising the legitimacy of shadow or de facto government. Examples of this might be:

The creation of the state of Israel, although long term this may not have been great for regional stability.

The creation of the state of Singapore which, while not a direct result of the Malayan insurgency, did address the dissatisfaction of the large portion of the Chinese population with the Malaysian administration. In the long term, Singapore has become a powerful force for regional stability.

The creation of the state of Timor Leste is an interesting study as the Sep 99 ANZAC intervention force was actually in support of those developing an insurgency against Indonesian occupiers but became a counterinsurgency almost on lodgement to counter Indonesian-supported militias seeking to destabilise the new nation.

The establishment of the Karzai government in Afghanistan essentially recognised an insurgent element that had been violently seeking change against the Taliban regime in 2001-02.

The evolution of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe in 1979-80 where ZIPRA/ZANLA leaders essentially became the new government. A similar process also occurred in South Africa in the early 1990s.

Although yet to develop into insurgency, the series of coups in Fiji since 1987 resulted in 2006 with the Fijian dissidents becoming the government. Six years on, this government is tacitly recognised by all the other Pacific nations as the de facto government and the one most likely to foster ongoing stability within that nation – despite having evicted the majority (in terms of votes and population) Indian-led government.

The creation of independent states from the nation formerly known as Yugoslavia is another example where the legitimate government in Belgrade has lost out to its de facto competition and this solution seems more successful at fostering national and regional stability.

The misunderstanding between Great Britain and thirteen of its colonies in the late 18th Century was also resolved by recognising the insurgent government. Again this has generally been a force for stability.

The content of paragraph 1-115 applies loosely to Western styles of government but does not translate well to anywhere else including most of the locations where one might expect to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign. The text on ‘illegitimate states’ implies that not only was the Soviet Union illegitimate but so are other states that rely on coercive philosophies to retain control – that is a very subjective statement that is probably no supportable and which probably belongs more in an essay or discussion paper than doctrine at this level.

There is massive risk in perceiving Western norms as the only ‘right’ way and attempting to inflict these upon cultures to which they are alien. This is not uncommon and supports directly Kilcullen’s theory of the accidental guerrilla. A classic example of this is the question during last week’s 3-24 Revision webcast on whether any content on ‘counter-corruption‘ would be included in the updated publication – out western popular understanding of corruption as something criminal is not actually a widespread nor upheld belief in large parts of the rest of the world and, to be brutally honest, before we go on any anti-corruption crusades elsewhere we might want to get our own (western hemispheric) moral house in order.

5.c.2. Political factors are primary. This promotes the semantic hair-splitting between counterinsurgency and other forms of irregular warfare. It would be more correct to state that ‘a comprehensive or all-of-government approach is vital’ – depending upon the circumstances of a particular environment, political factors may or may not be primary. E.g. in northern Mexico today, credible law enforcement may be more important than politics because the adversary forces are not interested in politics other than as a means to the end of criminal profits.

5.c.3. Insurgents must be isolated from their cause and support. This a truism of ‘classic’ COIN but if the ultimate aim is stability, then this aim might be achieved by actually supporting the insurgent cause or, more accurately, the root/underlying cause of the insurgency which is not quite the same thing. Stating the principle as written in paragraphs 1-128 to 1-130 offers it as ‘the’ way ahead instead of ‘a’ way ahead.

5.c.4. Security under the rule of law is essential. Security for follow-on non-military operations is vital and essential however there is risk attendant is linking this directly to the host nation government which may not be that popular or recognised nor able to actually offer let along guarantee the degree of security necessary. The actual principle is probably the opening sentence in paragraph 1-131 ‘The cornerstone of any COIN effort is establishing security for the population’. The same could be said for almost all or stability or irregular warfare ‘efforts’.

5.c.5. Counterinsurgents should prepare for a long-term commitment. While this is good advice, to be consistent with the broader i.e. beyond a solely military, approach to counterinsurgency, it should be reworded to ‘Counterinsurgency campaigns require a long-term commitment’ to focus upon the campaign which may not always require counterinsurgents than fixing the focus on the counterinsurgents (which are generally perceived to be military in nature). The current wording also draws attention to the counterinsurgent as an individual instead of as a force. This is part of the conventionalist v COINdinista argument whether specialised forces are necessary for counterinsurgency or whether the counterinsurgency role can be borne by any well-trained conventional force. If the latter, then the actually engagement time for ‘counterinsurgents’ may not be accumulatively that long.

5.c.6. Manage information and expectation. The last sentence of paragraph 1-138 could be removed without adversely affecting the content or tone of the imperative under discussion. It is a statement that was directly relevant in the Iraq focus of the inaugural 2006 FM 3-24 but which does not necessarily apply in a broader context. If the sentence remains in the publication, it could be preferred by deleting the term ‘U.S.’ in order to be more applicable to a broader counterinsurgency audience – specifically, the less national references in a publication like FM 3-24 that is intended in an environment that is almost by definition JIM; possibly even more so, if various findings on the need for coalition ‘theatre entry standards/levels’ as prerequisites for entering a coalition are validated.

The first two sentences of paragraph 1-139 relating to US ‘reputation for accomplishment, the ‘man on the moon syndrome ’may represent a US belief but these statements would be a tough sell in the rest of the world. Such sentiments may have held sway and been true in the immediate post-WW2 decades but are not widely held beliefs in the past two to three decades. This paragraph would start as effectively with ‘agencies trying to’ in the third sentence – see the point above with reference to minimal use of national referents in a  publication intended for broad application.

Paragraph 1-140 could be enhanced with the example in Australian MAJGEN Jim Molan’s account in Running the War in Iraq of only have one hour to verify or refute insurgent claims during the final battle for Fallujah. This is one of the keys of stability, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare campaigns and deserving for a section in its own right over the current single paragraph.

5.c.7. Empower the Lowest Levels. Everything in this section is correct however should also recognise the potential in this environment of what Josh Wineera refers to as the ‘tactical general‘. This recognises that there are more likely to be times in this environment (over a conventional MCO environment) that a more senior commander may have to reach down and issue more specific guidance or direction to mitigate ‘other’ factors that may not be apparent at lower levels. In this context, ‘other’ may include political, diplomatic cultural or informational issues or considerations. The same comment applies to paragraph 1-157.

5.c.8. Support the Host Nation. As discussed above, and still noting US ownership of this publication, this section would be enhanced with the US-specific reference removed. The distinction between the host nation government identified in first sentence of paragraph 1-147 and the ‘local forces and institutions’ mentioned in fifth sentence should be amplified: supporting the host nation is not necessarily the same as supporting the host nation government.

5.c.9. Paradoxes of counterinsurgency operations. With the exception of two of the listed ‘paradoxes’, this section could be removed as the remaining items apply across the broader spectrum of operations and are not solely applicable to counterinsurgency. Both remaining ‘paradoxes’ could actually be portrayed as ‘principles’ of counterinsurgency, stability operations and irregular warfare.

The first of these is paragraph 1-149 which emphasises that traditional military styles of operation may be counter-productive in this environment. The second is paragraph 1-154 which is a necessary reminder that the ultimate aim is to empower hoist nation agencies (without labouring the point, these may not always be representative of the host nation government) and that often a lesser performance from a host nation has a greater longer-term effect than if the task had been conducted by the (usually) more capable intervention force.

5.c.10. The enduring ‘principles’ or truisms of COIN/IW are:

Take the time to identify the core issues.

Take an equal amount of time to define your own national objectives.

Be prepared for a long haul – there are rarely quick enduring solutions.

Defeating the adversary militarily is not the strategic outcome – it is to create a security environment where other agencies can address the root/core issues.

COIN/IW is not about not using force – this was covered well in the original FM especially in comparison with contemporary doctrine which tended towards force-adversity. The military brings two things to the missionspace: the ability to apply force and the ability to go in harm’s way. Equally it is not about NOT using force: if there is no potential for the application of force, then there is probably a limited military role in the campaign.

Come prepared for Three Block War at all levels (strategic, operational, tactical) – the twist on the original Three Block War model is that it now may be the same force element operating across that spectrum instead of separate force elements in the same or adjoining geographic spaces i.e. the Three Block War might be equally fought in geographic and temporal proximity.

Intelligence in COIN/IW is less predictive than in MCO and more akin to the responsive intelligence employed in law enforcement. There is a distinction between reactive and responsive.

Junior leader need to be empowered in COIN/IW. Conversely senior leaders need to be more prepared to reach down to shape tactical actions. The Strategic Corporal (who is generally more influential making a screw-up than seizing opportunity) meets the Tactical General (who may need to apply more influence to avoid said screw-ups especially under the spotlight of modern media and forces of public opinion).

Stability and normalcy are the ultimate objectives but only in the content of the regional environment – there is no more an appetite for Mayfield in Afghanistan than there an appetite for Mogadishu (on a good day) in the US or any other first world nation. Attempts to meddle in the regional status quo generally foster than mitigate instability, not the longer term effects of food aid programmes in Africa or the emergence of consumer cultures in the South Pacific where economies can just not support them.

Command and control with other coalition partners and host nation forces may be more by liaison than direction (does a COIN campaign = ‘war’ by committee?). Having said this, there must a clear and consistent command structure across the coalition and (somehow) this must also be able to influence if not direct the activities of host nation and independent OGA and NGO in the operating environment.

The solution in COIN is NOT to just accede to insurgent demands. This is not what addressing the core issues means.

A busy chap

…that’s how I’d describe Curzon @ Coming Anarchy this week…in fact, I wonder if he was late getting his spring break leave app in and the other members of the team have bailed on him for a few weeks…? In Anyone Care For  A Burger?, he flags the decreasing public confidence and interest in global warming after a number of Climategate incidents that have called into question the science and method behind so much of the global warming literature and ‘studies’. I guess that ‘Be First With The Truth’ applies as much in the scientific community as it does elsewhere…

I saw the same STRATFOR article on Mexico as a failed state that Curzon comments in STRATFOR GOES CLINTONIAN ON MEXICO and had intended to make similar comments today (great minds…?). Like democracy and normalcy, failure is also in the eye of the beholder and totally subject to local conditions, expectations and cultures. One can actually sympathise with and even appreciate the Mexican Government’s pragmatic approach to a problem totally beyond its capacity to oppose, and one in which it is really on a way station between source and market. If the US is really that committed to the w(W)ar on drugs, then maybe it needs to look at turning off the tap at its end i.e. kill the market and thus the demand. Then the domestic and international distribution networks lose their raison d’etre – drugs is a business like any other and when the profits drop, the business dies…

If the US really is waging a War on drugs, then maybe someone in the Pentagon needs to reread Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger for some tips on military means to stifle the flow of drugs. If we have little compunction about Predator and Reaper raids into various Middle East nations with varying levels of apparently acceptable collateral damage, then slipping a few extra lines into the ATO might give the cartels some food for thought…

And on the topic of ‘Truth’…

I stumbled across a link to the official report into the ‘accidental’ deaths of two Reuters reporters and a number of civilians in the Apache gunship attack discussed in Be First With The Truth the other day…it is an interesting read but one which ultimately reeks of whitewash. It notes that “…details that are readily apparent when viewed on a large video monitor are not necessarily apparent to the Apache pilots during a  live-fire engagement.  First of all, the pilots are viewing the scene on a much smaller screen…Secondly, a pilot’s primary concern is with flying his helicopter and the safety of his aircraft. Third, the pilots are continuously tracking the movements of friendly forces in order to prevent fratricide. Fourth, since Bravo Company had been in continuous contact since dawn, the pilots were looking primarily for armed insurgents. Lastly, there was no information leading anyone to believe or even suspect that non-combatants were in the area…” Taking each of those points in sequence…

Yes, the pilots were viewing the sensor imagery on a much smaller monitor in the Apache cockpit…but…the report also states that they were able to identify at least two other members of the group armed with AKMs and a RPG – detail that is not that discernible or obvious when the footage is viewed on a much larger monitor. Nitpicking but how does one discern between a AK-47 and AKM through graining gun camera footage?

Correct, a pilot’s primary concern is with flying his helicopter – that’s why the Apache and most other helicopter gunships since the damn things were invented carry a personality known as a gunner, or copilot/gunner (CPG), whose primary tasks is to manage the sensors, targeting and weapon systems.

OK, so the Apache crew is continuously tracking the movements of friendly forces. So what? That’s has nothing to do with the manner in which this incident played out other than in the avoid of fratricide which never seems to have been an issue here.

If the Apache crew was primarily looking for armed insurgents, then maybe they were only seeing what they expected and/or wanted to see – not what actually was there.

Why, after four years of fighting insurgency in Iraq would anyone not suspect let alone EXPECT the presence of non-combatants e.g. civilians, media, NGOs, etc in a large urban area. According to Chief of Operations at the time, MAJGEN Jim Molan in Running The War in Iraq, even during the final battle for Fallujah in 2005, US forces went out of their way to confirm the combatancy of targets before engaging them.

I’m sorry but this report reads as one where the objective from the start was clearly to butt-cover the Apache crew and not, in fact anything but, be first with the truth…

What was it all for?

Neptunus Lex provokes thought in Losing It…maybe America should just batten down and let the world go to hell in the proverbial hand-basket…? Somewhere down the track we need to objectively look at Iraq and Afghanistan, specifically the conduct of the wars there and LEARN for the next round – has anything really been achieved with these two long drawn-out campaigns or should the approach have more simplistically been “…just as soon as the invasion was done, we should have killed Hussein (and his sons), hand the reins over to the next guy, then said ‘don’t make us come back’….“?

Zombies Rule

I keep forgetting to post this link to a great show that Dean @ Travels with Shiloh put me onto…We’re Alive…that he has been following and that I have been downloading as my next big listen once I get through A Just Determination in a week or so…there’s at least twelve chapters to We’re Alive, each in three parts @20-30Mb, so you can only imagine fun I am having getting the parts – over the last fortnight I have so far managed to squeeze the first six parts through the dial-up straw…

So do Zulus…

Peter @ The Strategist has a top review of Washing of the Spears, one of the best tellings of the Anglo-Zulu Wars of the late 19th Century that is well worth reading. One of the points that comes out in the comments regards the value of popular movies on historical events – regardless of the accuracy or even quality of the movie, it can often serve a useful secondary purpose in encouraging viewers to find out more about the back story. One example of this would be the 1969 movie Mosquito Squadron, a blatant rip-off of 633 Squadron (without even a rousing theme track), and not a good movie at all but one which has inspired many people, myself included to find out more about the real exploits of the Kiwi Mosquito squadrons in WW2 that pulled off precision strikes like the Amiens prison raid

 

Target Amiens Prison (c) Robert Taylor

…and here’s a list of links to the first six parts of Peter’s novel, The Doomsday Machine

Hitting the target

Dartboard

Ironically, the Intentional Development website (edit 4 Feb 13: removed the link as it was dead and the proverbial door nail – managed to recover the image via the power of the Wayback Machine) from which I took this image specialises in…

Freeing the embedded wisdom of an organization’s most valuable assets (human resources) currently constrained by titles, roles, politics and procedures.

Mobilizing personnel at all levels to truly participate, become involved, and internalize objectives as their own so they willingly and eagerly contribute to solving their organization’s challenges.

Creating the circumstances and the environment to facilitate change.

Possibly there’s a job for them in Kandahar…?

The Canadian National Post has published Canadian Forces comment in response to Michael Yon’s criticism this week of security arrangements around an important bridge that was damaged in an attack near Kandahar this week. Interestingly, it is Michael Yon who disseminated the link to this article via his Facebook Page.

The release points out that “…all the land surrounding the airport has long been the responsibility of the Royal Air Force Regiment, a British infantry unit that specializes in protecting airports from attack. Most road checks in the area are carried out by Afghan National Police while sweeps for improvised explosive devices on the major highways in Kandahar are done by a U.S. army Stryker brigade or by U.S. combat engineers attached to them...”

Although a whole three people have commented on the National Post Article, hundreds have offered comment on Yon’s items on his Facebook page, including this one on the RAF regiment in Kandahar…

Never seen this bridge Michael, but as a lowly British Inf NCO, am I making a fair assumption that as a natural/man-made choke point, this should have been identified as a weak point, in oh I don’t know…2 seconds? Therefore reinforced/defended accordingly?

On a slightly related note, there was some talk of the RAF Regt and their role. I personally have no love for them, being Infantry, but they do carry out a role that frees up our Army reservists who can get out and do their jobs. The RAF Regt’s mission is base/airfield protection and security up to 8km from the airfield. I believe this bridge was 10 miles out or something? Far from passing the buck, it should be asked then why this was not identified as an issue, and who was responsible for providing the security for a known high value choke point?

The article then goes on to link the Yon items with “…a growing frustration on the part of some Americans that NATO has put four U.S. battalions under Canadian command in Kandahar…the Americans answer to a Canadian who answers to a British major-general who in turn answers to an American. This is coalition warfare at its best…” At its best, huh? Sounds like an overly-complex recipe for buck-passing and gaps you could drive a LAV (or a VBIED) through…one mother’s comment on Yon’s Facebook page “…This was coalition warfare at its worst…a bridge was blown up! They should have to place the calls to us mothers…

Funnily enough, after presenting the current command and control  environment around Kandahar as hunky-dory, the National Post concludes “…the issue of who commands what in Kandahar is particularly sensitive at the moment, with NATO planning a major offensive in the province later this spring…

Meanwhile back in Kandahar…Michael Yon remains on the offensive… submitting two questions yesterday to Task Force Kandahar regarding the Monday bridge attack:

1) When will the bridge become fully operational?

2) What measures are being taken to prevent such attacks in the future?

A few hours later…Task Force Kandahar just answered the two questions I submitted yesterday. The TF-K answers beg for follow-up, which has just been submitted. Will publish in full when this is over. Something fishy going on.

And about an hour ago (all times are pretty lose as the Facebook clock leaves a lot to be desired)…

Bridge Update: Much information flowing. Just went through long conversations with key people. BLUF: the bridge has become an Orphan. TF-Kandahar says TF-K is not the father. We are waiting for U.S. Brigadier General Ben Hodges to say who is responsible for the bridge. BG Hodges is the Deputy Commander for RC-South. The British command RC-South. The Commanding General is Nick Carter.

My gut, based on what am seeing all over, is that this is between RC-South and TF-Kandahar. TF-K clearly has responsibility, as does their parent command RC-South. While the British command RC-South, the Canadians TF-K. The US is just sort of here under an obtuse command structure that can’t guard a strategic bridge ten minutes from the front gate of one of the biggest bases in Afghanistan.

Bridge situation — This smells like rotten fish. At a bare minimum, someone(s) at General Officer level dropped the ball. Going to take more time to sort this out and get the facts straight. One certainty: it’s not pretty.

A few minutes later…

Menard vs. Carter

Bridge failure heating up: TF-K has, for all intents and purposes, blamed RC-South for allowing the bridge to be attacked on Monday, resulting in the death of a US soldier and serious damage to a vital bridge. The controversy has reached the respective Generals at TF-K and RC-South. For those who understand the dynamics here, Brigadier General Daniel Menard (TF-K boss) has shifted the blame to Major General Nick Carter (RC-South boss).

This has become a dinosaur fight — Menard vs. Carter — wherein little people can get crushed.

If nothing else, ‘Bridgegate’ sends a clear message to ISAF that it needs to seriously up its Information and Influence Operations game…it is probably too broad a stretch to imagine that the Taliban planned or even anticipated this spatting between coalition partners but they must be loving it. It is a pretty simple question: who is responsible for the security of this bridge? Surely it must be in a clearly defined Area of Operations assigned to a specific formation or unit? That ISAF has resorted instead to bureaucratic tap-dancing and not released any comment on the issue is perhaps indicative of deeper rifts within the coalition. Jim Molan recounts in Running the War in Iraq that, prior to the final battle for Fallujah GEN Casey directed him “…in no uncertain terms to ensure that there was no more than a one-hour turnaround between an allegation appearing in the media and our response being fired back…the information fight required less physical courage and sacrifice, but was just as important as the combat on the ground…

Certainly from many of the comments on Yon’s Facebook posts, there is considerable anger in the US at Canada’s stated intention to withdraw from Afghanistan and at those NATO partners who do not pull their weight (which would probably be most of them). This latter issue was a theme in Yon’s posts last week before the bridge attack and I do wonder if the US, or some in it, are not running their own IO campaign to expose those who are not holding up their end of the stick…?

New word of the day

Thanks to Dean at Travels with Shiloh for today’s new word ‘fobbit’, replacing ‘poug’ and ‘REMF’ as a term of endearment for those personnel that spend the larger proportion of their deployment in camps and bases. This is not to say that these personnel do not perform valuable and vital functions in support of operations nor that it is their fault that higher minds decide to introduce as many home comforts as possible into these facilities. I do think however that it behooves such individuals to always remember where they are, why there are there and who they are supporting before bemoaning the quality of the GoatBurger at BK-Kandahar…

Edit: Oh, the joys of working in the information age!! Just as I was writing up ‘fobbits’ and hit the publish button, Michael Yon posted this link to a great description of the Life of a Fobbit in Afghanistan. Although humorous in nature, it is a reminder of the vital role that ‘fobbits’ play and I think that this blog, on the adventures of staff in a currently deployed Forward Surgical Team will be well worth watching…

Acronym of the day

From Michael Yon’s posts, BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front, not to be confused with that ultimate hearts and minds tool, the BUFF:

BUFF

Scooped

But in a good way.

Like 14,691 others, I have been following Michael Yon’s Facebook page as he reports from Afghanistan and had intended to promote him again yesterday as a great example of the Information Militia in operation – Tom Ricks beat me to it with Learn how to be a war correspondent. His website is Michael Yon Online. I’ve commented on him a couple of times before in Doing the Business, following an item on Neptunus Lex on pararescue teams operating in Afghanistan; and slightly later when I thought he was a well-intentioned meddler pressuring US DOD to release a Haitian-born Army officer from service in Afghanistan to deploy to assist in Haiti.

So who is this guy, Michael Yon?

Michael Yon was born in Florida in 1964 (a good year for writers) and joined the US Army when he was 19. He remains one of the youngest soldiers to pass the Special Forces selection process. He left the Army in 1987, after only four years. This is not that unusual and is somewhat typical of what many young men were doing at the time in joining the Army and leaving once they had gotten it out of their system, and/or to take advantage of other opportunities, many of which may have resulted from that military service. I saw many good soldiers in the same period who joined up, completed basis recruit and infantry corps training, spent 6-12 months in 2/1 RNZIR before deploying to 1 RNZIR in Singapore for two years. Many of them left the service at the conclusion of that posting, older, more mature and with much broader horizons.

He drifted through various activities until he began writing in the mid-90s. However it was not until the War in Iraq began that his name came to the fore as a correspondent in December 2004. from that point he has gone from strength to strength as an embedded reporter although his relationship with the military has not always been that smooth. He “…supports embedded journalism over traditional reporting, believing that the closer writers are to events the less likely they are to repeat military public relations spin” and this one of two common themes in his writing today. The other is an extremely strong compassion for soldiers and this comes through very strongly and effectively in his reports.

Happy news for the Left was that U.S. soldiers were demoralized and the war was being lost… Happy news for the Right was that there was no insurgency, then no civil war; we always had enough troops, and we were winning hands-down, except for the left-wing lunatics who were trying to unravel it all. They say heroin addicts are happy, too, when they are out of touch with reality.” Moment of Truth in Iraq, Michael Yon, 2008.

The War in Afghanistan has truly begun. This will be a long, difficult fight that is set to eclipse anything we’ve seen in Iraq. As 2010 unfolds, my 6th year of war coverage will unfold with it. There is relatively little interest in Afghanistan by comparison to previous interest in Iraq, and so reader interest is low. Afghanistan is serious, very deadly business. Like Iraq, however, it gets pushed around as a political brawling pit while the people fighting the war are mostly forgotten. The arguments at home seem more likely to revolve around a few words from the President than the ground realities of combat here. ~ Michael Yon Online

His 2006 article in The Weekly Standard, Censoring Iraq summarises his views well although it led to a major falling out with the US military. He has been criticised often for an apparent naivety in some of his releases, which I think could be attributed to his short period of personal military service, his habit of launching into text-based upon misleading or incorrect information (hence my comments re Haiti), and releasing the names of casualties before next of kin have been properly notified. This last point is interesting as Michael Yon has been accused of doing this during the current operations in Afghanistan however has come back strongly, supported by others, stating that the in-theatre information has been that notifications had been completed.

There is some confusion within the military regarding timing of releasability of names of the fallen. This confusion stems from apparently contradictory sentences within the embed guidelines. The guidelines are being clarified to avert misunderstandings with media, and within the military…Yes. This stems from the Garcia episode. The PAOs, through no fault of their own (other than Garcia blowing a gasket and talking publicly), have some confusion about the embed papers. CPT Adam Weece showed me the sentences and I agreed that the sentences are confusing and seem contradictory. Insofar as my release, I was completely cleared and broke no rules. Was well within the guidelines and what’s right, but the episode revealed some rough spots that need to be ironed out. And so the military is on it and will get it fixed. Should be good soon. ~ Michael Yon Facebook, Feb 10.

This latter point is interesting as it may have uncovered a lag between what happens in the theatre and the actual notifications in the US. While casualty notification is not an easy nor a pleasant task, it has to be sharp – quite simply there can be no fumbles or ball drops – and possibly this is an area that could be put under the Lessons Learned spotlight to make sure we have got it right. One would like to think that the process has come a long way from the Western Union telegrams in We Were Soldiers….Like so many things in the military, this is a function that must be regularly wargamed to ensure that we have it right – and it IS one of those areas where metrics CAN be set to define the standard e.g. family notification in XX hours by XX means by XX individual(s), media release(s) in XX time (relative to family notification) by XX individuals, etc etc.

In Running the War in Iraq, MAJGEN Jim Molan discusses how he and his staff had to meet very tight times lines to be ‘first with the truth’ or, if not, counter dis- and mis-information from any source. I think that the same onus rests with the public affairs staffs everywhere. Embedded media like Michael Yon offer great potential to conduct our own information operations – a function we have historically be very weak in – but they come with risk. Michael Yon’s great attraction is that he comes across as ‘the truth’ and not as PA-spin – if you try to take away the ‘on the edge’ ‘right here, right now’ pulse of his work, you defeat the whole purpose of having an embed. Yeah, sure, there’s this OPSEC thing but I’m not sure how far you can go down that path when the official mouthpieces are telegraphing pinches a week ahead of time. One of the strongest criticisms of the current wars is that ‘truth has become the first casualty’ again – pragmatic shepherding of embeds like Michael Yon can go a long way to mitigating this perception…

A crew from the United States Air Force spent Saturday night and Sunday morning airlifting different groups of wounded soldiers from Kandahar to Camp Bastion to Bagram, back to Kandahar, then back to Bagram, and back to Kandahar. These patients were from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Here, an Air Force nurse caresses the head of a wounded, unconscious Canadian soldier while whispering into his ear. (c) Michael Yon Online 2010

Accidental Guerrilla Part 2

Well, that did get better as it progressed…I found the first two chapters close to interminable, loved Chapter 3 on Iraq and the last Chapter on the way ahead; I didn’t like the chapter of allegedly supporting case studies: nothing annoys me more than someone flogging a dead horse of a model when the evidence in the case studies simply doesn’t supply the model, in this case, that of the Accidental Guerrilla.

I agree that foreign fighters and Rupert Smith’s ‘franchisers of terror‘ are significant forces in the irregular activity world, however I simply do not accept that national guerrillas become such ‘by accident’. Opportunist, reactive or responsive would be better adjectives for national guerrillas in that they react to and/or seize an opportunity presented by the actions of national or international interventions (civil and/or military).

The other major factor that detracts from The Accidental Guerrilla is its over-fixation on Islamic terrorism, instead of upon more general terrorism and insurgency. By labouring the Islamic angle, the author may be going some way to further the rift between Islamic communities and the rest of the world.

Similarly, the whole concept of ‘hybrid warfare’ just grates…war is by definition is a complex activity that resists simple definitions – one which also tends to punish those who fail to respect this fact. To postulate that hybrid war is either new or different from any other form of war is illustrative of a concept inability to consider and learn from history. Another contribution to the global game of buzzword bingo…

David Kilcullen writes very well when recounting his own experiences, and considerably less well when trying to support his theoretical model. To get the most out of The Accidental Guerrilla, read the preface,  Chapter 3 The Twenty-First Day, and Chapter 5 Turning an Elephant into a Mouse in conjunction with Jim Molan’s Running the War in Iraq. It’s probably entirely coincidental that both books are written by Australian Army officers – or maybe not – maybe that slight aspect of distance from US and NATO issues provides an subtle but important difference of perspective. These readings will give a reader from most backgrounds a firm grounding in issues and approaches for the complex environment. I have a dozen or so pages of notes and will write a more detailed review in the next week or so…

The bottom line on The Accidental Guerrilla is that it is worth reading – the preface, Chapters 3 and 5 outweigh the slog through the other chapters…having said that, down here we have a beer company called Tui which sponsors a range of topical billboards across the country, using the Tui slogan “yeah right“…here’s some Tui moments from The Accidental Guerrilla (yes, I really do like it but these were too good to pass up):

Buy a crate on the way home tonight…

A slow day today….

…it’s raining again which would normally be a good excuse to spend the day inside modelling or exercising myself intellectually but the twins are overnighting so that’s meant putting everything breakable and valuable out of reach of little hands and then providing a one on one overwatch on both of them them all day as, man, they are fast now…

It’s also been a long day as I got up just before 4AM for a COIN Center online brief (we always get the short end of the time zone stick!) only  to find that when Adobe says that Connect will work over a dial-up connection, they don’t really mean it and you will be lucky to get a second of sound over the whole hour. Josh also missed it after a few too many vinos before bedtime on Friday night but there was a still a good turn out of some 60 staff from across the community. I suppose I will have to resign myself to nighting over and logging in from work for future activities until such time that Telecom or some other ISP can give us affordable (i.e. not $250/month!!) broadband here…

I have been chipping away at the Trumpeter B-4 203mm cannon most nights since getting home and it is progressing nicely. One of the beauties of this kit is that most of the major subassemblies can be completed prior to painting so construction is a. simple and b. relatively fast – be nice, though, if they could do a barrel without a ditch of a seam running down each side…Carmen picked me up some paint in Taupo on Friday on her way back from getting Little Red panel-beaten after her little faux pas in the driveway last month so I’m all good to go there – once the bloody rain stops as the humidity levels are still too high for smooth airbrushing…

It’s been quite nice taking a break to day but will be back in to the Thursday/Friday War tomorrow once the twins depart…I’d like to be outside chopping the rest of the wood and getting it under cover but it’s looking like MORE rain again tomorrow which precludes the use of an electric saw outside (we use a drop saw for dicing firewood that is less than 5-6 inches thick – Carmen scored it at a garage sale in 2005 and it has delivered sterling service since)…

Two blog entries that I have noted over the weekend have been this great one from Steven Pressfield on Resistance and Self-talk; and John Birmingham’s commitment to end each week on Cheeseburger by writing on writing which will be both enlightening and useful for struggling wannabes like myself…

I also finished Jim Molan’s Running the War in Iraq tonight and there are some great general insights on COIN and conflict generally (no pun intended) that I will try to distil down into a single post in the next few days…