Posted by: Christian | December 9, 2007

Unconventional Counter-Insurgency in Afghanistan

December 9, 2007.

It’s nice to see that the American military publishes master’s degree thesis papers online. Share, share, share. I’ve read a few thesis papers by officers in military post-graduate schools and they are quite decent. This one is next on my reading list:

Major John R. Dyke and Major John R. Crisafulli. “Unconventional Counter-Insurgency in Afghanistan,” Master’s of Science in Defense Analysis Thesis Paper. Naval Postgraduate School – Monterey, California. June 2006.

So what have the Army Majors John R. come up with? Here’s the abstract:

Immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, a small number of U.S. Army Special Forces (USSF) invaded the Al Qaeda safe haven of Afghanistan. USSF A-teams, operating with almost total independence, conducted highly successful Unconventional Warfare “through, with, and by” the indigenous Afghan militias of the Northern Alliance. The USSF and their indigenous Afghan armies rapidly deposed the Taliban regime and denied the Al Qaeda terrorists their training and support areas within Afghanistan. The momentum of the initial success achieved by USSF during 2001-2002, however, has been dramatically overshadowed by the inability of follow-on U.S. forces to establish long-term stability in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. Since 2002, the conventional U.S./Coalition forces, which replaced Army USSF as the main U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) forces, have thus far failed to defeat the re-emerging Taliban/Al Qaeda threat. In fact, 2005 has been the most violent year-to-date for U.S./Coalition forces serving in Afghanistan with 239 U.S. casualties, and President Hamid Karzai’s central Afghan government exhibiting little control outside its major cities. This trend continues in 2006. In this thesis, the authors question the current U.S./Coalition campaign plan, which places emphasis on conventional military forces, not USSF, as the main effort COIN force in Operation Enduring Freedom. They propose an alternative Unconventional COIN model that focuses on population control instead of “clear and sweep operations,” Afghan constabulary-style forces instead of conventional Afghan National Army troops, the importance of “grassroots” intelligence collection at the village level, and the employment of USSF advisors instead of conventional U.S. infantry troops. Their plan is based on three case studies (Malayan Emergency, CIDG in Vietnam, and USSF in Orgun, Afghanistan); a COIN literature review; and most relevantly, interviews with returning veterans of the Afghan war.

Well, gosh. I’m just a simple civilian. But I will read the whole thing and add my two cents worth (with the added benefit of 18 extra months of hindsight), especially regarding that constabulary thing. Also, the views expressed in the abstract about the ANA seem to be at odds with state-building. And perhaps they will address the use of SF and air power in settling long-simmering local rivalries over disputed chicken ownership and whatnot (i.e.; “Dear SF soldier man, I’m pretty sure that guy stole my number one rooster seven years ago and he’s most definitely a hard core AQ-Taliban supporter. So could you call in some ordinance on his house ASAP? Thanks bro.”) Quite often grassroots intel is about the the “simple” locals manipulating “sophisticated” outsiders for their own ends.

Alright, that’s enough said without actually reading the document. But in my defense, you wouldn’t believe the number of important people making important decisions based on executive summaries, abstracts and totally awesome powerpoint presentations.

New feature: Form your own opinions! Download the thesis paper here. Read it. Think.


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