Major General Doug Stone and practicing the struggle for minds and wills

Recommended read: Andrew Woods’ The business end.

I’ve posted several times about MG Doug Stone and his Task Force 134, so it’s good to see an interview by MR friend Andrew Woods find a home.  Andrew traveled to Iraq several months ago for this interview and now it finally comes out in the Financial Times

This is a well researched and thought out piece that gets into what made Doug’s tactics work.  For anybody looking into the root causes of insurgency and wanting to go deeper than the superficiality of Huntington’s thesis, read Andrew’s article. 

Clipping from the piece doesn’t do it justice, but I’ll do it anyway.

Stone launched several programmes to quell the detainees’ anger and, according to the military’s data, 2007 was a good year for Detainee Ops. Since Stone took charge, the number of significant acts of violence between detainees or against guards is down 80 per cent, in spite of a prison population that has doubled since “the surge” of US troops. Detainee recidivism rates from 2003 to 2006 ranged from 7 to 9 per cent. By contrast, since September 2007, coalition forces have released almost 8,000 men (just 14 of all coalition detainees are women), of whom, Stone says, only 24 have been recaptured – a recidivism rate of less than a quarter of 1 per cent.

Stone says the best way to find out who is an extremist – or Takfir, as he calls them – is the religious discussion group. “It allows us to determine the guys that don’t really give a shit about the Koran in the first place – they’re using it as a discipline. Those guys are beginning to fall into the category of irreconcilables, and that’s helpful to me. I want to know who they are. They’re like rotten eggs, you know, hiding in the Easter basket. So we scoop them out,” he says, his hands raking through the air, “and what we see is a flattening” – a calm in the behaviour of the remaining detainees.

Stone remains the optimist: “Remember, I came out of Silicon Valley, where if you had a six-month lead on your competition, you win. You deprive them of cash, you have more cash … you get an installed base that’s bigger, you take their installed base away,” he says, using the financial term for operating system users.

“That’s thematically what I’m thinking about, you know,” he says, now jabbing his fingers at Pakistanis screaming on the cover of a news magazine. “How do I get this installed base to turn?”