Permissible Arms

Counterinsurgency: A Different Move (…yeah.)

Posted in isaf by Karaka on 27 August 2009

I’ve read through the new ISAF counterinsurgency document released earlier this month three times, and I’m trying to work out why my reaction to it was so strong. Specifically, why I got to the end with this feeling of incredulity, and immediately had to read through it again.

A little background: I did my undergratuate work in communication theory, and my postgraduate work in practical philosophy. The two subjects are quite close in terms of analysis and interpretation; where they differ is usually in subject matter.

The COMISAF document was clearly written, concise, providing practical examples to illustrate its more abstract points. It addresses the core challenge of counterinsurgency tactics–namely, preventing the hydra-like growth of insurgency members and cells–and supports a new methodology for meeting that challenge while indicating the problems of the previous strategy.

All this sounds like a good document, especially for the field command who would be implementing it. But it was still a struggle to read. I think this is why: isn’t this entire argument is almost painfully obvious?

I don’t want to frame this discussion in an overly simplistic fashion, but it was evident from the start that the war we entered into in 2001 in Afghanistan was not, could not, be a conventional war. Aside from the Bush administration’s rhetoric about “the war on terror” and the clear fallacy of combating an idea, basic knowledge of the Middle East politic and defenses indicated that it would never be a soldier-on-soldier combat, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the “enemy,” such as it was, melded into the general population as both a counter-strategy and a method for inciting more of the populace to the insurgent cause.

I suppose what I find so troubling is that this document has taken over seven years to become a ROE. Really? I have conflicting thoughts about the role of ISAF and the American military as policemen in this war rather than soldiers, which I’ll pick up in another post, but I find it difficult to believe that the knowledge that a conventional war strategy was ineffective was so obscure that it took until the later half of 2009 for a strategy to be developed and propagated that brought into account the necessity of working with the Afghani people as a deterrent to further combative action, and to achieve some measure of “success” in Afghanistan.

I have no desire to diminish the work done by ISAF in the last decade towards minimalizing violence in Afghanistan and trying to eradicate an enemy that poses a threat not only to the West but more importantly to Afghanistan itself. And I’m aware that there is a significant political component to effecting any change in the ROE or the overall strategy of ISAF’s presence in Afghanistan. But–come the fuck on. No one brought this up before?

Behind the jump is the embed of the COIN document. And now I read it again…

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  1. […] Posted in counterinsurgency, isaf by karakapend on August 28, 2009 Further to the post on the new ISAF COIN ROE (hello acronyms, how are you doing?), the Small Wars Journal has some insightful comments regarding […]


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