Today we have a contribution from new contributor, Nonpartisan Pundit. Here’s a bit of his biography:
I served as an intelligence analyst with the US Navy and Air force for over 15 years. During that time I had a broad range of experience, mostly concentrated on the Persian-Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean littoral. My primary expertise was in support to military planning and conventional and unconventional threat analysis.
His post proposes what appears to me to be a creative combination of revised military strategy and political initiative. His “neighborhood containment” strategy suggests to me an urban adaptation of the “oil spot” strategy that the British employed in Malaysia.
This New Yorker article, “Knowing the Enemy” by George Packer, on David Kilcullen and his study of Indonesia’s successful campaign against the little-known Muslim separatist insurgency, Darul Islam, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, appears to me to be full of relevant insights. Here’s a sample:
The more Kilcullen travels to the various theatres of war, the less he thinks that the lessons of Malaya and Vietnam are useful guides in the current conflict. “Classical counterinsurgency is designed to defeat insurgency in one country,” he writes in his Strategic Studies article. “We need a new paradigm, capable of addressing globalised insurgency.” After a recent trip to Afghanistan, where Taliban forces have begun to mount large operations in the Pashto-speaking south of the country, he told me, “This ain’t your granddaddy’s counterinsurgency.” Many American units there, he said, are executing the new field manual’s tactics brilliantly. For example, before conducting operations in a given area, soldiers sit down over bread and tea with tribal leaders and find out what they need—Korans, cold-weather gear, a hydroelectric dynamo. In exchange for promises of local support, the Americans gather the supplies and then, within hours of the end of fighting, produce them, to show what can be gained from coöperating.
But the Taliban seem to be waging a different war, driven entirely by information operations. “They’re essentially armed propaganda organizations,” Kilcullen said. “They switch between guerrilla activity and terrorist activity as they need to, in order to maintain the political momentum, and it’s all about an information operation that generates the perception of an unstoppable, growing insurgency.” After travelling through southern Afghanistan, Kilcullen e-mailed me:
One good example of Taliban information strategy is their use of “night letters.” They have been pushing local farmers in several provinces (Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar) to grow poppy instead of regular crops, and using night-time threats and intimidation to punish those who don’t and convince others to convert to poppy. This is not because they need more opium—God knows they already have enough—but because they’re trying to detach the local people from the legal economy and the legally approved governance system of the provinces and districts, to weaken the hold of central and provincial government. Get the people doing something illegal, and they’re less likely to feel able to support the government, and more willing to do other illegal things (e.g. join the insurgency)—this is a classic old Bolshevik tactic from the early cold war, by the way. They are specifically trying to send the message: “The government can neither help you nor hurt us. We can hurt you, or protect you—the choice is yours.” They also use object lessons, making an example of people who don’t cooperate—for example, dozens of provincial-level officials have been assassinated this year, again as an “armed propaganda” tool—not because they want one official less but because they want to send the message “We can reach out and touch you if you cross us.” Classic armed information operation.
Hat tip: matoko-chan