Academic journal article Parameters

The Long Small War: Indigenous Forces for Counterinsurgency

Academic journal article Parameters

The Long Small War: Indigenous Forces for Counterinsurgency

Article excerpt

"The [11] September attacks can be understood as the first battle in this new [epochal] war. If, as some historians argue, the twentieth century began in August 1914, it may be that the twenty-first century will be said to have begun in September 2001.... The alliance of which the United States is a part faces a long and bitter struggle." (1)

The United States and its partners are prosecuting a protracted war against insurgents and terrorists who are animated by an ideology stemming from a radical fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. As of early 2006, the American national security bureaucracy began to use the appellation the "long war" in place of the Global War on Terrorism. At least one document describes this long war as the defining struggle of our generation, one that shifts emphasis from large-scale conventional military operations to small-scale counterinsurgency operations. The long war may last for decades.

In distilled form, the corpus of current national strategic and military documents calls for American forces to leverage allies to help defeat insurgent and terrorist enemies in this perennial effort. For instance, the National Security Council's November 2005 National Strategy for Victory in Iraq calls for the development of Iraqi security forces while simultaneously carrying out a counterinsurgency campaign to defeat insurgents in Iraq. It identifies Iraq as a principal arena in the war against terror, stating that success there is an essential element in the long war. As another example, the February 2006 National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism, the American military-strategic framework for prosecuting the long war, tasks the American military both to enable partner nations to counter terrorism and to help counter international ideological support for terrorism. Most recently, the March 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States of America states that the United States must "strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism" and stresses the need to work with allies and to build indigenous security forces to defeat terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and elsewhere.

The US Army's interim field manual on counterinsurgency also underscored the requirement for leveraging indigenous security forces. The 2004 Field Manual Interim 3-07.22, Counterinsurgency Operations, highlighted the imperative to expand and employ capable native forces, which must be visibly involved in prosecuting the counterinsurgency to the fullest measure possible. This manual also explained how the use of indigenous forces can affect all three levels of war. Tactically, indigenous forces "eliminate insurgent leadership, cadre, and combatants, through death and capture by co-opting individual members, or by forcing insurgents to leave the area." Operationally such forces help restore government control and legitimacy. And strategically they "serve as the shield for carrying out reform." Most saliently, this doctrine prescribed that indigenous security forces operate in concert with American forces wherever practical and that they assume the major burden in military, paramilitary, and police functions, when capable of doing so. In sum, the exigencies of the political and strategic context in the foreseeable future, as codified in the corpus of cascading US national and military security doctrines, point to the imperative to create a credible capacity among our partners and indigenous allies to effectively counter insurgents and terrorists wherever they operate. (2)

The use of indigenous forces to prosecute counterinsurgency can provide a significant increase in the quantity of troops on the ground and yield an exponential improvement in actionable intelligence about the insurgency and its infrastructure. The US military has had some successful experiences in counterinsurgency. For the scope and purpose of this article, certain aspects of the Philippine and Vietnam wars provide some useful examples of how to employ indigenous forces--both regular and irregular--to effectively counter insurgents. …

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