Friday, April 24, 2015

COIN Strategy Doesn't Work?

James F. Jeffrey explains in the March/April 2015 issue of Foreign Policy "Why Counterinsurgency Doesn't Work". He says the problem is in the strategy, not the execution. Huh. I thought that the execution was faulty but the strategy was good. The author explores the counterinsurgency wars of the United States in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He says our military can get the "Clear, Hold" parts of "Clear, Hold, Build" counterinsurgency done; but that the civilian agencies (DoS, DoJ, DEA, USAID, etc.) of the United States government always seem to fall short in the 'nation building' arena of the conflict.

Jeffrey concludes the article with this:
"What, then, should U.S. policymakers do when faced with an insurgency? If possible, Washington should respond by backing friendly local forces. If not, it should accept the consequences of a victorious insurgency, contain its spread, and protect critical allies. But to embark on another U.S.-troop-centric counterinsurgency mission would do an injustice to the fine men and women who serve in the U.S. military".
Ah. So now I get it. COIN strategy can be broken into two different approaches.

One approach is the use of massive amounts of U.S. troops on the ground in a foreign nation attaining a sufficient force to population ratio conducting counterinsurgency (and doing the lion's share of the fighting - as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam). This type of COIN was endorsed in FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency,  2006. Some call this 'population-centric COIN."

A second approach is in the "By, With, and Through" methodology favored by U.S. Army Special Forces. This is where highly-trained Combat Foreign Internal Defense teams (C-FID) of twelve advisors are embedded with the indigenous host nation forces (at battalion and brigade level) to train, advise, and assist. In other words, let the host nation forces do the fighting (clear and hold) and the host nation (assisted by Civil Affairs teams and U.S. agencies) do the building. In a more hostile environment there may be the need for conventional FID teams (as in the SFAATs used in Afghanistan or the MiTTs in Iraq) to work in conjunction with SOF advisory teams.

So, in my view, it isn't the counterinsurgency strategy that is wrong - it is the approach and execution of that strategy.

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