Crisis in Syria and Iraq: All-in or all-out?

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Josh Wineera is having a busy week…a successful engagement at the New Zealand Association for Training and Development Conference, followed by this op-ed for Fairfax. For me, a most refreshing change from the ‘usual suspect;’ domestic talking heads that are being trotted out to ‘comment’ on the developing situation in the Middle East. Read on…

To use the Texas Hold’em poker analogy, Islamic State (ISIS) is ‘all-in’ to seize the major cities on the Syrian-Turkish border as well as swathes of regional areas in western and central Iraq. The actions are clinical, calculated and surprisingly conventional. The approach is one of simple arithmetic and follows an important principle of war – mass, or more plainly ISIS has the numbers. Unlike poker however, the stakes are not casino chips but rather millions of innocent victims caught up in yet another cycle of Middle Eastern violence.

While the much-vaunted precision-guided munitions continue to be dropped by U.S.-led coalition aircraft, the unrelenting nature of ISIS ‘boots on the ground’ is the decisive factor. Attrition of its fighters is not a concern. Thousands are ready and better positioned to be ordered into the fray. To coin the phrase, ISIS is currently the side that is the fastest with the mostest and many battles throughout history have been won this way.

So, if the tactic is to seize and hold the likes of Kobani or Anbar province on the other front in Iraq, how then might this contribute to the ISIS strategy? First and foremost a narrative is likely being developed to expose the limits and ultimate failure of the ‘West’ to effectively support the likes of the Kurds and even the Government of Iraq. This is certainly being helped along with media commentators such as Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn asserting the ‘U.S. strategy is in tatters as ISIS marches on’.

Second, and more chilling, is the perception that there is no safe place in the region to escape the onslaught. While some fight, the vast majority living under threat of mortal danger are not soldiers nor capable of putting up meaningful resistance. Capitulation and being resigned to the fate that awaits them under a barbarous regime appears inevitable.

But even with air power and small contingents of international land forces can anything really be done to roll back ISIS? At one end of the spectrum there are those that still believe this is not a fight for the West. Continued intervention is not the answer they decry.

Taken further, supporters of Edward Luttwak’s ‘Give War a Chance’ proposition argue that sitting on the sidelines and waiting until all belligerents become exhausted is a better plan. Standing by while foes battle each other is one thing, however giving a free hand for systematic cruelty and genocide is quite a different argument.

On this issue, if widespread butchery and carnage is the trigger for international reaction then according to Canadian journalist Neil MacDonald intervention in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo is more warranted.”ISIS’s acolytes are just apprentices at atrocity compared to some in the Congo”.

The other end of the spectrum leads to an all-in approach by countries that have the tenacity and dedication to endure what would be another long and frustrating campaign. The 2014 all-in version should include the familiar political, economic and military assistance. The time frame for favourable conditions would need to be measured in years not months. So how will these be different, have better outcomes, than the 2003-2011 version applied in Iraq? Politically, positive change has already occurred with Haider al-Abadi confirmed as Iraq’s Prime Minister. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed al-Abadi’s formation of a new inclusive Government in Iraq.

Oversight of political reform is paramount to ensure balance and avoid marginalising the Sunni population in particular. Economically the impact of change will be less disruptive as Iraq’s southern oil fields maintain productivity and buttress the financial markets. Inter-Governmental Organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are not expected to have to significantly intervene.

Which leaves the lingering question of military assistance. Right now the prime means of international intervention is air strikes and combat advisors. At best these immediate efforts will help the Kurds and the Iraqi Government stem the ISIS advances. Wishful thinking might even result in a stalemate. There is no quick fix. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby has said “people need to understand we need a little strategic patience here…it is going to take a bit of time”.

While western governments continue to debate the merits and risks of deploying ground troops, a ready-made force is already being brought into action. A U.S. Government contract issued in August called for interested vendors to provide security assistance mentors and advisors. The private security community is naturally abuzz with new possibilities.

Eric Prince, founder of controversial security contractor Blackwater, has waded into the conversation. Calling the Iraqi Army inept after billions spent on training and equipping them, Prince suggests, “if the old Blackwater team were together, I have high confidence that a multi-brigade size unit of veteran American contractors or multinational force could be rapidly assembled and deployed to be the necessary ground combat team”. He goes on stating, “a competent professional force of volunteers would serve as the pointy end of the spear and would strengthen friendly but skittish indigenous forces”.

There is much irony in calling for private security companies to fill the void of trainers and mentors to the Iraqi security forces. A number still stand accused of delivering poor training last decade.

Whatever arrangements are put in place by international military forces or private security companies, the processes and methods of training Iraqi’s and even the Kurds must be transformed. Doing the same thing and expecting different results cannot be allowed to prevail. While a focus on technical skills is expected, installing a sense of duty and ingraining societal values to repulse the long-term intentions of ISIS will be essential.
What is clear is this is a poker hand that nobody except ISIS wants to play. Folding and forfeiting interest in the situation does not appear to be an option for those governments already committed. It’s time to ante up or move on. In the meantime millions across the region continue to bleed and live in fear.


Josh Wineera is a member of the New Zealand National Forum for the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. He is also a PhD candidate with the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago. His doctoral research is on training foreign security forces.

Training the Iraqi Army: The Sequel

Manawatu Standard 1 Jul 14

A sequel often fails to live up to the success of the original movie. A rehashed storyline, tired characters and predictable dialogue often make for painful viewing. Some things are simply best left as they are.

So what then to make of the recent announcement by U.S. President Barak Obama to send some 300 military advisors to help train the Iraqi Army to defeat the forces of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Certainly the light footprint, rather than deploying tens of thousands of American combat troops, represents a more pragmatic approach from a nation still battle-weary from Afghanistan and Iraq Part 1 (though some could argue this new commitment is Part 3 when considering the Gulf War of 1990-1991). During the past seven days many western media and security experts have had to resort to hourly news cycles, such is the speed of this fast-moving crisis.

While there is no stated intention for U.S. troops to engage in combat, the rapid advances by Islamic militants and the chaotic environment of this intensified and new insurgency may, in some circumstances, make that very difficult. No doubt once on the ground the advisors will be careful to keep out of the battle but as all veterans know, when you’re caught in a fire-fight everybody fights.

Within the United States, there are furious accusations and blame concerning the training and resources dedicated to raising the Iraqi Army. As reported in the New York Times, “training the Iraqi Army and other security forces was a seminal mission for United States forces before the last American troops left in 2011”. $25 billion has been spent training and equipping Iraq’s security forces, according to a report by the special inspector general on Iraq.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and Lieutenant General James Dubik, both former senior U.S. commanders who served in Iraq, defend the training of the local security forces despite the recent losses. Blame appears to be directed at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s, with claims of purging some of the most talented commanders and using the military to target political rivals. Dubik is reported to have panned the political interference of the military, simply stating “they are crumbling”.

Questions will now be asked of the training of foreign security forces and undoubtedly the preparation of the trainers themselves. Was cultural awareness and language proficiency sufficient to teach indigenous forces? Did it matter that ones teaching style might be different to the learners learning style, especially if the skills such as firing a rifle are more akin to rote learning? Certainly ‘mechanical’ skills are taught quite quickly, and remaining competent is more about repetition than critical thinking.

But, what then of developing such things as morale, esprit de corps, and defending both the state and the individuals of the state – regardless of ethnicity? What about ingraining an understanding of the rule of law and subordination of the security force to its civilian leaders? Leaders, that scholar Marina Ottaway reasons “should not try to impose common identities on deeply divided peoples but to organise a state that can administer their territories and allow people to live together despite differences”.When conditions such as these are met, meaningful reform and increased and enduring capability of the indigenous security sector has a chance for success.

Ironically, many commentators seem to have forgotten Obama’s speech at the West Point Military Academy just five weeks ago. “I am calling on Congress to support a new counterterrorism partnership fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity and facilitate partner countries on the front lines”, said the President. His speech was either prescient or coincidental. Irrespective, from a foreign policy standpoint, the training of foreign security forces will be a long-term objective. American historians will no doubt hear echoes of President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech at West Point, “In the years ahead, some of you will serve as advisors to foreign missions or even to foreign governments”. Kennedy further impressed on his audience the need to understand the utility of military power and also the limits of military power.

The intervention of American advisors, even in concert with airstrikes requested by the government of Iraq, will not bring closure to this current crisis. For the U.S. or even the U.N. the dilemma remains familiar. Do something, which could turn out to be counter-productive, or do nothing which might seem counter intuitive. Regardless, as the intervention of advisors has already occurred the focus must be on helping arrest the threat of total civil war and establishing the necessary space for political dialogue, negotiation and ultimately reform.

If this is the outcome achieved, then perhaps this whole situation is not so much a sequel but rather an epilogue that is desperately needed by all the people of Iraq.

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Josh Wineera is a former irregular warfare lecturer with Massey University. He is a PhD candidate with the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago. His doctoral research is on training foreign security forces. 


The Resurgency of Insurgency

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© Chris Hondros/Getty Images News

The Resurgency of Insurgency

Intervening to support an insurgency – not fight it

Josh Wineera

After 10 years of fighting two major insurgencies, many western nations can feel comfortable that they have advanced their thinking and practice of counterinsurgency operations. The intellectual and policy effort brought to bear on countering the Iraqi and Afghan insurgencies has been quite staggering, perhaps even greater than the proliferation of deterrence and containment theories promoted during the Cold War.

The establishment of new think-tanks in Washington D.C. such as the Center for New American Security, aside more traditional institutions such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has helped cultivate and revitalise military counterinsurgency strategies and doctrine. The language of counterinsurgency is ubiquitous, to the point that politicians, academics, generals and soldiers can quite easily converse about “protecting the population” and “building the capacity of the host nation”. In the 21st century, counterinsurgency has been codified, systemised and established as ‘must-do training’ for land forces in particular. “Insurgents are bad” and “we must support the weak or fledging host government” is not just a catch-cry but is firmly embedded in the military psyche. But this is not good, not good at all.

In becoming proficient, maybe even obsessed with counterinsurgency training, the dangerous assumption is that military forces will only be used to counter insurgents and establish or re-establish a host government’s right to govern. What then if the government or the state elites are actually the problem? That either through corruption, disregard for the international system or most likely an oppressive and brutal approach to its citizenry – surely that type of government, with any preceding military intervention calls for a 180-degree turnaround from countering an insurgency to actively encouraging and supporting an insurgency to remove it. What then if the insurgents are the “good guys” and the government is the “bad guy”?

The resurgency of insurgency has been a feature of the Arab Spring. Libya, Egypt and Syria are classic examples of governments being re-characterised as ‘regimes’, with many in the international community willing to encourage insurgents to depose the regime. This of course is nothing new, aiding the weak to vanquish the strong. Military intervention in these cases has been primarily the use of strategic stand-off capabilities, such as attack aircraft, and Special Forces. Provision of weapons to the insurgents, such as lifting of the embargo in Syria, is a case in point of trying to equalise the conflict.

So what then of the counterinsurgency training of the general purpose military force? How hard or easy is it to change, or even balance the training to be prepared to support and fight with insurgents to depose recalcitrant governments and their state forces? If in a counterinsurgency sense, working with the fledging security forces of governments we like is hard, how about then in a pro-insurgency sense, the greater difficulties of fighting alongside a less structured and less organised mish-mash of rebels who seek to oust their political leaders? Where is the manual for that, where is the Field Manual FM 3-34 Counterinsurgency for supporting insurgencies?

For sure, there are doctrines that relate to associated operations such as guerrilla warfare and subversion. By and large however, these remain the purview of Special Forces. The thought that general purpose forces would re-orientate to irregular warfare, towards counterinsurgency in particular, was considered fanciful prior to 9/11. But look where we are today. There would hardly be a land forces training exercise that doesn’t incorporate some kind of insurgent activity – insurgents equals bad, host government equals good.

It is time to consider weighting an equal amount of military thinking and training around intervening and supporting other government forces as well as opposing them and supporting anti-government forces. The intellectual and policy effort has already recognised this. Some governments we like and will support, some governments we don’t and may have to take action to remove them. The pressing challenge for military planners and trainers therefore, is to prepare for both.

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Josh Wineera lectures on joint, interagency and multinational operations and irregular warfare at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University. His research interests include international security, state-building and security sector reform.

Opinion: Training for war is not a precise science

…and Josh wrote another op-ed piece…

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Training for war is not a precise science.  By its very nature war is imprecise and unpredictable.  To make matters worse there tends to be an opponent who, in the words of American General George Patton, is trying his hardest to make you die for your country rather than him. Training therefore has to be relevant, intensive and invariably adaptive.

War since 9/11 has become increasingly characterised as being irregular in nature. Modern war has become less about the battles between states and their armies and more about defeating violent non-state groups. Terms and descriptions like peacekeeping missions or stability operations are often an attempt to re-categorise what are actually wars.

As military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz noted,  “The first, the supreme, most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its true nature.”

While the term war may sit uncomfortably with many citizens, the fact is when bullets and bombs start to fly your way those on the front line have more regard for their survival than concerns for what their mission has been labelled.

The recent media reports about the training and the attitude of New Zealand forces deploying to Afghanistan raises a number of important issues. The fact that a soldier has raised concerns while observing the training of a contingent is actually a good thing. That is exactly the purpose of observing and making expert judgment on training for the contemporary warfare environment.

No doubt there have been training concerns in the past and there will be more in the future. Some may have missed the point that such observations are designed to make the team better, not worse. The response so far has been to put the comments into a wider context of training for Afghanistan, and rightfully so. What will be interesting however, is to see if any follow up by the Defence Force focuses on the message or the messenger.

Training in the military is a system. Those who present themselves for deployment are at the pinnacle of that system. The full suite of training courses and on the job experience they have previously undertaken is ultimately designed for them to deploy and succeed on operations. If things manifest as problems during the final training for operations it is sometimes difficult to recognise or even isolate where in the total system it may have gone astray. 

Attitude is acknowledged as affecting performance. A positive attitude tends to increase performance while a negative attitude can reduce it. Inextricably linked to attitude is confidence. Preparing for a military deployment requires confidence in those being deployed, confidence in the leadership of those deploying, confidence in those charged with providing the training and confidence in the training system itself.

Accepting that war is imprecise, and more irregular these days, it is hardly surprising that the training and attitude for today’s military forces is under immense and constant pressure. Ideally, the force will depart for their mission confident that they are well prepared. To assume that they are ready for anything however, discounts the actuality of unpredictability. There is always a very fine line between sureness and an hubristic approach. 

Having a winning, positive attitude, and implicit trust and conviction in your comrades and the training you have received are what define the profession of arms. While it is good to hear that the training is going well, it is not always a bad thing to hear that it is not. 

Josh Wineera is a teaching fellow at Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies and is planning to teach a new 200-level paper “Irregular Warfare”in the second semester.

Indicative of the articles referred to above are these:

Training for Army fighters blasted

Officer was ‘too aggressive’

Unfortunately, today’s media has of course selected deliberately inflammatory headlines without either considering or even probably understanding the core underlying issues…

Reversing the Oil-spot

Possibly winding off the Thursday/Friday War for 2012, a short item from Josh Wineera wondering what the reverse side of the popular COIN theory of the inkspot might look like in 2014…

Reversing the Oil-spot:How does the concept apply when leaving Afghanistan?

Josh Wineera

November 2012

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For professional military planners, and even armchair strategist, the oil-spot concept for responding to an insurgency appears to be well understood. The counter insurgent objective of extending the security environment to establish and entrench a sustainable economic and political situation has been a particular feature of the latter stages of the War in Afghanistan. Conceived some 100 years ago by French Army Generals, Gallieni and Lyautey, the modern oil-spot concept is expressed in the form of a ‘Clear, Hold and Build’ strategy. Clear, Hold and Build has been the mainstay of ISAF coalition operations since the release of the 2006 US Army field manual, FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency Operations.

Afghanistan experts have fiercely debated the merits of fighting the enemy, aka the Taliban, verses focusing on protecting the population. Recent ISAF commanders, such as Generals McChrystal, Petraeus and Allen, all recognised the necessity to engage in both. Kill-capture missions sit aside missions such as training and mentoring Afghan security forces – such is the nature of contemporary counterinsurgency operations.

As the exit date rapidly approaches for coalition governments to withdraw their forces, plaudits for the successful application of the oil-spot approach still proliferate. Manifestly the surge of an additional 30,000 troops in early 2010 provided better force ratios and counterinsurgent density to implement the expansion in to previously held Taliban-strongholds. At this time however, with transition and withdrawal leading every major conversation about Afghanistan, a natural question arises.

Having applied the concept, moving forward has any thought been given to what happens when the oil-spot concept ceases, or rather the ISAF forces contract and concentrate to leave? Granted, a critical precondition to leaving has to be the successful training of the Afghan Army and Police forces to take full responsibility for their own community’s internal security. They after all, are the most important counter insurgent force in Afghanistan – a point often missed. Regardless, the degree of their success is still open for debate. One measure has been the quantity of Afghan security forces being trained. As to the quality, plainly numbers do not convey the whole story. Recent insider attacks, known colloquially as a ‘green on blue’ incident, have placed immense pressure on the trust and confidence within those partnered ISAF and Afghan units. It would be unfair to generalise these extreme tensions across the whole country. In many places, such as the Arghandab River Valley in the Kandahar Province, conditions are in place to enable the Afghans to take the lead. Certainly in his address to the US Army Irregular Warfare Centre last month, former ISAF battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Michael Simmering explained the rational for his unit’s achievements.

Having expanded the security environment, in many cases literally being the outlier force, ISAF strategists and even regionally based planners must surely be conceiving a plan to reverse the oil-spot concept? Ideally, the full extent of ISAF control of the environment is manageable for the Afghan forces but common sense would suggest they are in for a very tough time. The absence of ISAF will almost certainly be a cue for prospective power brokers to demonstrate their credentials for control. In some provinces this demonstration has already begun.

Drawing back to a concentration area, or a central hub, for departure might seem like a logical method to reduce the ISAF footprint in the provinces. For this to be achieved an assumption would need to be made in terms of the previously held (by ISAF) security zone remaining intact. That is an assumption that will hold up in some provinces, for others it will remain questionable – certainly a major risk consideration. Possibly some ISAF contingents might contemplate holding the outer security areas in place and hollowing out the main force from the rear first. The last element to withdraw would be the outer security forces having provided a ‘shield’. Military proponents would recognise these two options as merely tactical methods of withdrawing from a main defensive position, and so they are. Could they however, become the basis to start conceptualising and visualising what ISAFs oil spots could look like in reverse?

For those ISAF soldiers still patrolling their area of operations, the time for theoretical conceptions matters little. Familiar tactical tasks, such as the options to withdraw or allowing the Afghan security forces to relive them in place, may not be considered particularly elegant or intellectually innovative. But they, in some way, will feature in every planning consideration. So might a new metaphor be coined to explain reversing the oil-spot? In an age where anything can be rebranded and often is, where the old can be made new age again, the likelihood is high.

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Major Josh Wineera is a serving military officer on secondment to the Centre for Defence and Security Studies,Massey University. He can be contacted at j.wineera@massey.ac.nz

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies or the New Zealand Defence Force.

COIN Questionnaire Part 2

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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.

They’re reading my stuff there…

Colleague Josh Wineera is off on his travels again after being selector as the sole Kiwi to attend a US STAe Dept-sponsored Programme in the US. Details from Massey University

Massey University lecturer and soldier Major Josh Wineera has been invited by the United States State Department to participate in a high-profile study programme examining US national security policy and current threats facing the United States.

Major Wineera was chosen by the United States Embassy in Wellington as the sole New Zealand nomination from a very competitive national pool. He went on to be selected by the State Department in Washington from a range of worldwide candidates whose areas of expertise included foreign affairs and international relations. 

The intensive post-graduate level programme begins later this month in Amherst, Massachusetts, and brings together around 20 international participants. It includes study sessions at Harvard University as well as study tours to the University of California in San Diego and Washington D.C. 

The six-week programme will examine such issues as energy policy, economic stability, cyber-security, chemical and biological weapons, nuclear weapons and infectious diseases. The United States Government will meet all costs of the programme. 

Major Wineera says he feels humbled to be representing New Zealand, the Defence Force, and Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies. 

“This will be an excellent opportunity to deepen our understanding of the way the US formulates its national security policy,” he says. “I think this is especially relevant for us in New Zealand given the recent announcement by President Barack Obama that America will renew its focus in the Asia Pacific region.”

In addition to lecturing at Massey University, Major Wineera speaks to many Defence Force contingents preparing for overseas deployments, particularly to Afghanistan. His extensive operational experience includes missions to Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor and more recently Iraq. He is also a member of the New Zealand forum of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.

“2012 will be a big year for me,” Major Wineera says. “I start with this incredible invitation to deepen my understanding of US national security policy and it will continue as I embark on a PhD. By total coincidence my doctorate will examine New Zealand’s approach to international security and will compare it to other nations, including the US.”

And also covered in the Manawatu Standard.

Good luck to Josh on his latest excursion – a real coup for a local lad and for Massey’s Centre for Defence Studies – expect to see a new face on the domestic commentator scene on his return to New Zealand…

Josh and I attended the Irregular Warfare Summit is Washington last year to come up to speed on contemporary thinking on the irregular environment. It was a long way to go from the quiet (but windy) Manawatu and we weren’t too sure what we were getting ourselves into. I think that many of the other participants probably felt the same but once the ice was broken, engagement at all levels was frank and honest. There weren’t any great epiphanies for either of us and the main lesson that we brought home was probably that everyone is facing the same essential problems and that no one has the monopoly of solutions for the way ahead.

Lunch was provided for the main days of the Summit. The first day was funny: there was no seating plan (probably part of the mix and mingle ice-breaking strategy) and so people just sat where they could find a seat. As the Kiwi delegation (all both of us) approached a table, we could see two guys on the other side eyeing us up with some quite animated conversation. Uh-oh, maybe we shouldn’t have taken the last of the coffee from the urn! One says “Are you THE Josh Wineera?” Josh looks at me, turns back “Well, the only one I know…” “The one who briefed at the COIN Centre a couple of years ago? Wow, we’re using some of your stuff in out school…!” Turns out these guys are contractors providing training on the COE to the US Army. Just like Steinlager: They’re drinking our beer reading my stuff there…

Josh with Colonel Dan Roper

....and with Dr Rich Kiper...

Col Roper (who had just retired as Director of the COIN Center at Fort Leavenworth, KS) and Rich (who’s on the staff at the Centre) were staying at the Marriott as well – While they weren’t in Kansas any more, these guys were great hosts to two Kiwis a long way from home and we had some significant post-dinner networking sessions…

Do you ever wonder…

…how things come about?

If you’ve ever wondered how all twelve colonies in Battlestar Galactica squeeze into a single system, here’s an explanation…

…or…

…how hard work and dedication might pay off? I’ve just seen a quick note welcoming Massey University’s Josh Wineera (Interbella et al) to membership of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP). The CSCAP website hasn’t been updated yet with the new membership but I imagine there may be some Rommel?  Gunner Who? moments coming up the first time Josh takes a seat at the (pretty high-powered) table…always nice to see a mate doing well…

I’m back in the office this week and because I haven’t had remote access in to the network, have a mountain of issues to clear before I head home tomorrow – this has eaten into blog productivity time quite a bit but I have a couple of items on the boil for next week. in the meantime, I found this in an interesting discussion over at Small Wars Council on battlespace ‘ownership’. Inter-service jabs and rivalries aside, there are some interesting insights here:

Rules of Combat

USMC

1. Bring a weapon. Preferably, bring at least two. Bring all of your friends who have weapons. Bring their friends who have weapons.

2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.

3. Only hits count. Close doesn’t count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.

4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough, nor using cover correctly.

5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)

6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a big weapon and a friend with a big weapon.

7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of calibre, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived and who didn’t.

8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.

9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting is more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the weapon.

10. Use a weapon that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket.”

11. Someday someone may kill you with your own weapon, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

12. In combat, there are no rules, always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

13. Have a plan.

14. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work.

15. Use cover or concealment as much as possible. The visible target should be in FRONT of YOUR weapon.

16. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.

17. Don’t drop your guard.

18. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.

19. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them).

20. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.

21. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

22. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.

23. Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

24. Your number one Option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

25. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a “.4.”

Army

1. See USMC Rules for combat

2. Add 60 to 90 days

3. Hope the Marines already destroyed all meaningful resistance

Navy

1. Spend three weeks getting somewhere

2. Adopt an aggressive offshore posture

3. Send in the Marines

4. Drink Coffee

5. Bring back the Marines

Air Force

1. Kiss the spouse good-bye

2. Drive to the flight line

3. Fly to target area, drop bombs, fly back.

4. Pop in at the club for a couple with the guys

5. Go home, BBQ some burgers and drink some more beer

Do Orders Really Matter?

Still in vogue: the mud model (c) Josh Wineera 2010

Fresh off the presses…a paper that discusses that traditional orders process, the ‘O group…

This article highlights the essential combat communication, mission orders,and the commander’s intent. It describes the means and methods by which a vertical-slice of commanders interpreted and analysed their orders; how they formulated and communicated their plan, and how the company commander monitored and adjusted the plan during its execution. The article is written primarily for junior leaders but also has utility for training staff, particularly practical lessons regarding the orders process.

Recently Josh Wineera, currently a Fellow at Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies (CDSS), observed the orders process from CO to section commander in a NZLAV company in the field. His observations form the basis of this paper. Josh presented his Interbella construct for the complex environment at the COIN Center VBB in September last year and has also released a paper considering domestic methamphetamine issues through a military lens…

His consideration of the orders process concludes…

The importance of the battle-brief. There is merit in considering some sort of similar brief at the beginning of the orders. Everything else that follows would therefore be put in better context.

In the age of high tech command and control systems, mud models  still serve a purpose. Some of the quantitative data from the orders process however, could provide useful metrics for those charged with acquiring future command and control and decision-support tools.

The threshold between higher conceptual military constructs and plainer, clear, mechanistic detail appears to occur at the platoon level.

Offensive operations, that is close combat, still necessitates an infantry soldier to be prepared to ‘seek out and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him.’ These are ‘classic war-fighting skills’ and should not be degraded or regarded as obsolete.

Warfare in the 21st Century entails kinetic and non-kinetic missions; they are not mutually exclusive. The challenge will be to try and create a training activity that simultaneously tests soldiers in the application of both missions, being reflective of the character of war as we know it today.

New Zealand’s recent assessment as the most peaceful country in the world reaffirms the relevance of offensive operation’s training – a reminder from Vegetius’s maxim “Let him who desires peace prepare for war”.

The orders data captured from Exercise Absolute is but one source. This in itself would need to be validated against similar evaluations in order to confirm trends and recurring themes. Therefore, given the infrequency of combined-arms live-firing exercises it would be prudent to view all data and analysis in this article as an initial ‘yard-stick’.

The full text may be read here. The paper is also linked from a thread @ the Small Wars Journal should anyone wish to debate the content…

Today’s Question

Why do email systems persist in placing the ‘delete’ button right alongside the ‘reply’ button?