Counterinsurgency Today: A Review of Eric T. Olson’s “Some of the Best Weapons for Counterinsurgents Do Not Shoot”

By Efe Sevin

The long-lasting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to increased inquiry into the concepts and practices of counterinsurgency (COIN). Eric T. Olson, in his work, focuses on the importance of reconstruction attempts in COIN operations and discusses the role of military. The author served in the U.S. Army for over three decades and retired as a Major General. Currently, Mr. Olson is an independent defense contractor and works with Army brigades and provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) who are preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. As the title suggests, his monograph considers such reconstruction attempts to have uttermost importance in successful military operations.

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Cartel Info Ops: Power and Counter-power in Mexico’s Drug War

By John P. Sullivan

Mexico’s cartels are increasingly using refined information operations (info ops) to wage their war against each other and the Mexican state, as noted in a recent post “Mexican narcos step up their information war” here at MountainRunner. These info ops include the calculated use of instrumental and symbolic violence to shape the conflict environment.  The result: attacks on media outlets, and kidnappings and assassinations of journalists by narco-cartels to obscure operations and silence critics.  Editors and journalists turn to self-censorship to protect themselves; others have become virtual mouthpieces for the gangs and cartels, only publishing materials the cartels approve.  Cartels are now beginning to issue press releases to control the information space–through censorship and cartel co-option of reportage. Finally, the public, government and even cartels are increasingly using new media (horizontal means of mass self-communication) to influence and understand the raging criminal insurgencies.

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Communicating Their Own Story: Progress in the Afghan National Security Force

NTM-A

By Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV

“The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander.” – T.E. Lawrence

Lawrence’s words continue to ring true. In conflicts from the First World War to Korea; from Vietnam to the Gulf War, the nation that wins the information battle tends to win the larger war. Today, America and her partners are engaged in a fight that is every bit as important as its earlier wars: ensuring that Afghanistan is secure, independent, and free of the forces that launched attacks on the people of the world on September 11, 2001. It is a contest that requires painful sacrifices of blood and treasure but one that, if the lessons of history hold, can only be won on the information battlefield.

NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) and its partners have been charged with assisting the Afghan government in building the capabilities and capacities necessary for the Afghan National Security Force to defend their homeland. While many of NTM-A’s efforts focus on enabling the Afghans to pursue the physical battle – improving skill with weapons, providing leadership and tactics training, and constructing logistics and intelligence systems – the organization has invested significant resources into assisting the Afghans in carrying the information fight to the Taliban and the nation’s other enemies.

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Event: 9th Annual Information Operations – Europe

The UK-based Defence IQ has announced the date and venue for the 9th annual Information Operations Europe conference. The event will take place June 29-30, 2010, at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London. The agenda is available.

Topics include:

  • Media in Modern Warfare, by Major General Gordon Messenger, Director of Strategic Communications, UK MoD
  • UK’s Influence Capability, by Air Commodore Robert Judson, Head of Targeting and Information Operations, UK MoD
  • Where Counterinsurgency meets Culture, by Eric Sutphin, Chief Target Audience Analyst, Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force, ISAF HQ, NATO
  • Audience Engagement in Afghanistan, by Maryann Maguire, Director of Communications (DCSU), Afghan Specialist Joint Implementation Team, UK MoD
  • Countering Violent Extremism, by James Barber, Information Operations Division, HQ US Africa Command
  • Influence and Intelligence Opportunities of Virtual Worlds, by Professor George Stein, Cyberspace & Info Ops Study Centre, Air War College, US Air Force
  • Future of Cultural Information Engagement, by Matt Bigge, CEO, Strategic Social

I will be there and will present on Now Media (tentatively 4p of Day 1) and participating on a panel (11.40a Day 1) with:

  • Air Commodore Robert Judson, Head of Targeting and Information Operations, UK MoD
  • Brigadier Mark Van der Lande, Head of Defence Public Relations, Directorate General and Media Communications, UK MoD
  • Sarah Nagelmann, Strategic Communications Advisor to US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO

Required Reading: 100 Years of COIN: What new have we Learned?

From David Betz at Kings College:

…2006 may represent something of a watershed; it’s probably too soon to tell but my hunch is that the stuff which John Mackinlay and David Kilcullen are writing about global insurgency is significant. Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla has garnered a ton of deserved praise. And having seen several chapters of Mackinlay’s book The Insurgent Archipelago which is about to be published, I think he pushes the envelope further still. He reckons that there has been a sea change from Maoist to ‘Post-Maoist’ insurgency: Maoist insurgent objectives were national whereas Post-Maoist objectives are global; the population involved in Maoist insurgency was manageable (albeit with difficulty) whereas the populations (note the plural) involved in Post-Maoist insurgency are dispersed and unmanageable; the centre of gravity in Maoist insurgency was local or national whereas in Post-Maoist insurgency it is multiple and possibly irrelevant; the all important subversion process in Maoist insurgency was top-down whereas in Post-Maoist insurgency it is bottom-up; Maoist insurgent organization was vertical and structured whereas in Post-Maoism it is an unstructured network; and whereas Maoist insurgency took place in a real and territorial context the Post-Maoist variant’s vital operational environment is virtual. My question is whether this is still insurgency or has it evolved into something else sufficiently different as to be actually something else?

Read the whole thing here. As the excerpt above indicates, Effective COIN is more, much more, than bullets and bombs, it is about influence.

See also:

Merging Public Affairs, PSYOP, IO

Briefly and without comment,

Press, "Psy Ops" to merge at NATO Afghan HQ-sources

29 Nov 2008 06:56:49 GMT

Source: Reuters

By Jon Hemming

KABUL, Nov 29 (Reuters) – The U.S. general commanding NATO forces in Afghanistan has ordered a merger of the office that releases news with "Psy Ops", which deals with propaganda, a move that goes against the alliance’s policy, three officials said.

The move has worried Washington’s European NATO allies — Germany has already threatened to pull out of media operations in Afghanistan — and the officials said it could undermine the credibility of information released to the public.

Seven years into the war against the Taliban, insurgent influence is spreading closer to the capital and Afghans are becoming increasingly disenchanted at the presence of some 65,000 foreign troops and the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Taliban militants, through their website, telephone text messages and frequent calls to reporters, are also gaining ground in the information war, analysts say.

U.S. General David McKiernan, the commander of 50,000 troops from more than 40 nations in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), ordered the combination of the Public Affairs Office (PAO), Information Operations and Psy Ops (Psychological Operations) from Dec. 1, said a NATO official with detailed knowledge of the move.

The friction in the second paragraph is perhaps the most interesting. There is pressure to align the fences between the practices of PA, IO, and PSYOP. General McKiernan is doing what many want, and I know McKiernan’s PAO “gets it” as well.

Read the whole thing here.

Al-Qaeda is not the only threat

John Sullivan, the co-founder of the Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning group and lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, focusing on emerging threats, reminds us that Al-Qaeda is not the only threat. As such, public diplomacy and strategic communication planning that focuses only on Al-Qaeda is too limiting.

From Danger Room:

While the public and media are occupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential conflict with Iran, the downward spiral in Pakistan, and a global economic meltdown, a new, rapidly-evolving danger — narco-cartels and gangs — has been developing in Mexico and Latin America. And it has the potential to trump global terrorism as a threat to the United States.

Read the rest at Danger Room and a longer article on Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency at Defense and the National Interest.

Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-Makers

It’s not surprising that books about the wars we are in are so popular, but who would have thought some of the most popular readings would be U.S. Army doctrine? The purpose of doctrine is to provide guidance on how – and often why – to conduct operations. They used to be dry reads but now they are written to be accessible by those both inside and outside the military.

The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, also known as FM 3-24, did remarkably well. The Army’s recently revised Operations Manual, or FM 3-0, is also popular. However, while FM 3-24 still does reasonably well on Amazon (over a year old and it’s in the top 5,000), the latest addition to the public library is the Stability Operations Manual, or FM 3-07. This is doing very well with apparently more then 250,000 downloads in the last three weeks. The growing popularity of official U.S. military instruction manuals is fascinating. It is likely a factor of both the militarization of our foreign policy and the transition of our Armed Forces to a learning organization that has the wherewithal and desire to understand and adapt to changing conditions.

The resources available to permit the time and manpower to develop these manuals and to reinforce the iterative learning processes is one the rest of Government lacks – save perhaps for the USIP. As a result, there has been a paucity of equivalent material aimed at policy-makers.

However, there is a new book that’s due to hit the market next month that addresses this void: Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-Makers. At The Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman writes about the book:

There are lessons in the handbook that the U.S. government has clearly been reluctant to adopt. It explicitly instructs policy-makers to “co-opt” insurgents whenever possible — something that the Bush administration’s rhetoric about the “evils” of Iraqi and Afghan insurgents makes problematic.”The purpose of COIN,” the handbook says, “is to build popular support for a government while suppressing or co-opting an insurgent movement.”

Kilcullen added that negotiations are a two-way street in counterinsurgency. “A government that offers [insurgents] no concessions [will] usually lose,” he said, but “an insurgency that offers no concessions will usually lose.” Another piece of advice — one that resonates in the wake of the administration’s torture scandals — simply reads, “Respect People.”

Similarly, the handbook attempts to integrate civilian and military agencies into a concerted strategy — something the Bush administration has been unable to substantively accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan. “COIN planning should integrate civilian and military capabilities across each of the four COIN strategy functions of security, politics, economics and information,” it reads.

More to come here at MountainRunner.

Noteworthy

“The “militarization” of diplomacy exists and is accelerating.” – A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future: Fixing the Crisis in Diplomatic Readiness from the American Academy of Diplomacy. (see also this post)

“The trends across the board are not going in the right direction. And I would anticipate next year would be a tougher year.” – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, The New York Times.

“The announcement last week that the United States will relocate its London embassy from Grosvenor Square, in the heart of the British capital, to an out-of-the-way spot south of the River Thames may be good news for property developers, but should concern almost everyone else. The London move is the latest and most dramatic example of a worrying trend toward vastly scaling down American public diplomacy abroad, abandoning embassies that were once beacons of American culture and openness in favour of walled suburban fortresses.” – Globe and Mail, 6 October 2008 (h/t KAE)

“The New York Times’ Web site is getting more global, and IHT.com is going bye-bye.” – Forbes, 7 October 2008 (h/t KAE)

“There was no single silver bullet, but rather a multifaceted strategy crafted and carried out by those in Baghdad — not, despite recent claims, in Washington.” – Linda Robinson in the Washington Post (see also Tom Barnett)

“Whatever the final form it takes, the establishment of Africom is a good idea whose time has come — finally. The command’s emphasis on civil-military integration and a low-key operational profile is appropriate and well suited to its mission. We should wish it well.” – Bob Killebrew, Africom Stands-Up. (see also this post)

Others discuss the “Phallo-Fascism of a Vainglorious Anthropologist”

Briefly, if you read Sharon Weinberger’s Do Pentagon Studs Make You Want to Bite Your Fist? last week, you may be interested in the following:

From Max Forte at Open Anthropology is the post “Me so horny, me love you long time”: The Phallo-Fascism of a Vainglorious Anthropologist in the Academilitary (2.7)

This post could have been titled, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”  …

McFate has apparently learned enough from her gender and sexuality courses in anthropology — and let me stop to thank Yale University once again for unleashing this little darling onto the world — to know how to turn them inside out. Indeed, I myself often “joke” with students that, “If you want to learn the arts of dictatorship, repression, and control, you can find all the answers in anthropology, especially in the more radical courses.”

And this from friend Marc Tyrrell, Of joking relationships:

I do agree with Max in that I seriously doubt anything on the I LUV A MAN IN A UNIFORM! blog should be taken with any more than a grain of salt. It is an ongoing joke. But, having talked with her, I seriously doubt that it is a either about “laughing all the way to the bank” or “get[ting] fired”. Having had her scholarship attacked as “shoddy“, and being accused of being a spy both for the military and corporations, I would suggest that she is certainly under a large amount of pressure not only from the Pentagon but, also, from her fellow Anthropologists (and with friends like this, who needs enemies?).

That’s it.  Read ’em yourself.