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Strategy in Counter-Guerrilla Conflicts.

1. guerrilla, (from "little-war": irregular, insurgent -- (a member of an irregular armed force that fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment)

        "The pivot of war is nothing but name and righteousness. Secure a good name for yourself and give the enemy a bad name; proclaim your righteousness and reveal the unrighteousness of the enemy. Then your army can set forth with great momentum"
Tou Bi Fu Tan, A Scholar's Dilettante Remarks on War.

        "The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him."

        Sun Tzu and many other strategists have appreciated a facet of warfare that escapes many. This is that a conflict is won or lost in the hearts and minds of the opposing Generals. If we substitute “President” or “Population” for “General” this observation is even more pertinent. It is worth understanding that physical military force is only one of the means by which a nation's heart and mind can be influenced. War can also be conducted on moral, political, economic, social, psychological and diplomatic levels. On the battlefield a Soldier's sanity, integrity and will to fight can prove to be more effective targets to attack than his physical body. Demoralization has probably won far more campaigns than attrition.
        Most conflicts are ended because one side withdraws from continuing operations. It follows that determining what may cause an enemy to withdraw is an important priority.
        If we are to prevail in the conflicts of the next few decades we must realize that courage and strength will not be enough if we do not apply them with focus and guile.

        If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge, he must put forth more strength; but wisdom helps one to succeed.
Ecclesiastes 10:10

        We must fight hard, but also fight clever. Any amount of power is of little use unless it is aimed and wielded inteligently - if used wrongly power can be turned against us and contribute to our own defeat. It is important that neither policy makers or troops on the ground buy into some of the machioistic self-gratifying retoric that is bantered around about Counter-Guerrilla Conflicts. It is in the guerrilla's interests if conventional forces can be induced into acting heavy handed. Many guerilla actions such as the maltreatment or murder of prisoners and the shelling of civilian settlements are specifically designed to cause enemy forces to react with excessive force.
        The US military culture has the prevalent idea that its primary objective is the destruction of the enemy when it should be considering how to defeat the enemy, which is not the same thing. In Iraq this mindset has lead to a emphasis on glamorous "Hunter Killer" sweeps rather than the more important job of protecting the population and infra-structure.

        Both our armed services and the populations behind them must realize that preventing our own casualties and inflicting loses on the enemy have no relevance if they do not contribute to achieving a strategic goal.

        When formulating a counter-guerrilla strategy it is necessary to take into account local conditions and any unique cultural and psychological aspects. To be successful an insurgent movement needs an appealing program and popular support and must consider such factors as terrain; communications; the quality of the opposing leadership; the presence or absence of material help, technical aid, advisers, or “volunteers” from outside sources; the availability of a sanctuary; the relative military efficiency and the political flexibility of the incumbent government. All of these are relevant to the ability of a movement to survive and expand. Every nation is unique and measures taken need to be selected with this in mind rather than falling into the trap of resorting to “mechanical formulae” or inappropriate field manual dogma.
         It must be realized that the priority is not to create a democracy in a society that has never known such a form of government. What is wanted is to create a society that is safe for all and where fairness and justice are the rule.
        We must attempt to learn from the failures and successes of the past and also those of both our enemies and allies.

        The potential for an uprising or insurgency exists in any country where the government consistently fails in its obligation to ensure at least a minimally decent standard of life for the great majority of its citizens. As FMFRP 12-18 puts it so eloquently, “the cup of the popular patience overflows”.
        People who live at subsistence level want first things to be put first. They are not particularly interested in freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free enterprise as we understand it, or the secret ballot. Their needs are more basic: land, tools, fertilizers, something better than rags for their children, houses to replace their shacks, freedom from police oppression, medical attention, primary schools.
        Where governments neglect these desires there is potential for conflict between the people and the state. In the event of such popular uprisings radical groups will attempt to insert or associate themselves and supply doctrine and organization.

        We must correctly identify the enemy's Aims and the Means he will use in attempting to realise them. There will be Stated Aims and Practical Aims. Stated Aims are often some Political or Religeous retoric. In practice the enemy's aim may be to achieve status or control a resource. When identified such an aim can be hindered.

        The activity that we most associate with insurgency is guerrilla warfare. Conventional military forces tasked with guerrilla operations tend to think in terms of attacking military targets such as the enemy's lines of supply and communication. The terrorist is more catholic in his choice of targets since he understands that the ultimate objective is a political rather than a military victory. Mao Tse-Tung termed the stage of an insurgency that involves widespread guerrilla warfare as “Phase II” or “Strategic Stalemate” operations. The intention here is to bring the enemy to a stalemate. Phase II in fact involves both military and non-military action. The intention is to grind the regime's capabilities to a halt and this includes such actions as agitating the political, social, and economic grievances of the population and attempting to appear as the solution to these.

        Phase I, “Strategic Defensive” or the “Latent and Incipient” phase involves activities such as establishing funding and external support mechanisms, infiltrating government and key organizations and psychologically preparing the population. Regional base areas situated in isolated and difficult terrain may be created where training and indoctrination can take place. A network of sympathizers willing to supply food, recruits, and information will be created. What little military activity that does occur during Phase I will be defensive or intended to procure arms, ammunition, and other essential material such as medical supplies and radios. If such activities can be countered early enough the insurgency can be “nipped in the bud”. This requires vigilant internal Security and Intelligence services and a government that does not oppress or otherwise act in a way that gives the population legitimate reasons for grievance. It is worth remembering that Phase I operations do not cease once Phase II has begun. Both will need to be countered.

        Phase III Mao called “Strategic Offensive” and describes when the government is so weakened that insurgents can conduct conventional military operations and have established an effective shadow government. Mao considered guerrilla forces to be a secondary (though important) compliment to orthodox forces and that orthodox armies were the fundamental and principle power and alone were capable of producing a decision (although it is possible that he was talking specifically about anti-Japanese operations in China) . The reader can no doubt think of instances when regimes have been changed despite non-decisive orthodox military action. Zimbabwean insurgents achieved little militarily against the Rhodesians, the country eventually succumbing to pressure and sanctions by the International community. Likewise Vietnam was lost not by any military defeat but by erosion of domestic support. Although the 1968 Tet offensive was a military defeat for the North Vietnamese it was immediately after this action that support for the war began to turn. Some academics identify the turning point as Walter Cronkite's broadcast from Vietnam. (Apparently grenades exploding near their luxury hotels and having to step over dead bodies on the way to the brothel upsets journalists).
        These examples suggest that political development into Phase III is more significant than an evolution of military capability. War is politics by other means but many military men fail to grasp that the ultimate objective of a military action is often a political aim.

         One of the most common objectives of a guerrilla is to attack the nation's lines of communication. If the guerrilla is working in conjunction with a conventional force such actions will hinder the enemy's ability to engage in conventional combat. Guerrilla action will prevent men and materials reaching the front lines or force the enemy to divert resources from the front to strengthen internal security. A good example of this strategy can be seen in the activation of European resistance movements immediately after D-day. When there is no external military force to assist guerrilla activity to disrupt the national infra-structure can be used to harass and embarrass the dominant power. Vietnam and Rhodesian both provide examples of wars that were lost despite the losing side being militarily dominant. While the losers were successful on the battlefield they failed to operate sufficiently in other fields such as propaganda and diplomacy.

Appropriate Weapons and Tactics.
Basic Strategy to defeat Phase I and Phase II
        A conventional force has considerable advantages in firepower, being able to utilize air strikes, artillery and heavy armour. Guerrilla strategy will often be to make the force fight in areas where such assets cannot be used :- difficult terrain or areas with a large number of non-combatants. Artillery and Airpower will only be of limited use. What will be needed is plenty of competent infantry, skilled in small unit operations and the realization that some problems must be solved by tactics not technology.

        Carlton Meyer writes:-

        "Something I learned from the Philippine Army: don't attach artillery to counterinsurgency units. Those units will use them when they make contact, and kill and enrage the locals. Yes heavy firepower may save American lives in the short run, but when you destroy a village in order to save it from "terrorists I guess", then you've helped recruit dozens of new terrorists who will kill even more Americans.
        While Rules of Engagements are disliked, the Army should impose a no airstrike or indirect fire (artillery and mortars) near any buildings unless a unit is about to be overrun. The Army has adopted the "bombard and occupy" method of warfare, which cannot be used in peacekeeping. You can't destroy several houses just because someone inside is firing an AK-47 at you. Infantrymen must fire and maneuver, just like SWAT teams".

        As in all endeavors good Intelligence is vital. Operations such as the Malayan Emergency have proven that acquiring and using good Inteligence is far more important in achieving victory than firepower or large quantities of troops. In a counter-insurgency operation a significant part of the Intelligence will not be from military sources but from the nation's police and security services. Most offensive operations in Malaya originated as a result of Inteligence gathered and processed by Special Branch, part of the Malaysian Police Force. Special Branch in Malaya became the primary processor of all Intelligence and there is obvious merit if all field reports are fed to a single agency rather than being filtered through needless layers of hierarchy.
        In a guerrilla area every person without exception must be considered to be potentially an intelligence source for the enemy. Such a situation can be used to feed false information or plant disruptive rumours. A strategic priority is the disruption of interchange between guerrilla and population.

         The main Strategic objectives in the field are Protection, Location, Isolation, and Eradication. Aspects of location include gathering of good intelligence, the use of patrols and observation posts and the setting of traps. Isolation has sometimes required movement and resettlement of entire communities. It also involves active patroling of areas where guerrillas wish to operate and the creation of communities that can resist guerrillas. Helicopter-borne troops can be very useful if used correctly since they can surpass the mobility of guerrillas. The tactics of guerrillas must be used against the guerrillas themselves. They must be constantly harried and constantly attacked. Every effort must be made to induce defections and take prisoners. The best source of information of the enemy is men who know the enemy situation.

        The presence of large numbers of foreign troops within a nation can often be counter-productive. Often they will be seen as a high profile target for any faction wishing to make a name for itself and therefore encourage guerrilla activity. Where possible the role of a third party should be restricted to advice, materials, and technical training with the bulk of combat and patrol duties being undertaken by indigenous forces. When third party ground troops are used they should mainly be used in less populated areas.

Difficult terrain.
        Many guerrilla activities will take place in rural or wilderness areas. These will include ambushes, attacks on isolated habitations and mortar or rocket attacks against built up areas. Resupply columns to guerrillas may also try to travel through non-urban areas.
        For these reasons an essential strategy is to deny the guerrilla free movement. This is done by constant and active patrolling by ground troops. Patrolling by aircraft may also be used but this is supplementary to ground elements. As well as vehicle-mounted patrols there must be numerous dismounted units since tracking or “cutting sign” with be a primary method for locating guerrillas. Soldiers with appitude and experiance in this skill will prove to be very valuable. So too will Dog teams. Indigenous trackers may also be employed in this role and the injection of currency that accompanies this will often earn goodwill. The establishment of OPs and surveillance posts will also be prudent. The pressure that patrolling places on the guerrilla must be maintained. There should be no withdrawal to bases at nighttime, allowing the guerrilla to establish a "night government" and move freely. Although many of these patrols will never see a guerrilla this does not mean that they are unsuccessful. The knowledge that there is a likelihood of meeting such a patrol will curtail guerrilla activities.
        Units will have to substitute skill for firepower and operate tactically in a manner similar to the guerrilla - as small independent units using their initiative.

        Guerrilla hostilities have been described as the “University of War.” Guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare is not the sole province of Special forces. Understanding and familiarity with guerrilla warfare should be a fundamental requirement for the infantry and armoured forces.

Guerrilla Small unit initiative
Regular guerrilla force
Lessons from Vietnam

        Chairman Mao may have urged the terrorist to move through the population like “a fish through water”, but in reality he cannot achieve this. Unlike a fish a terrorist needs ammunition, food and a safe place to sleep and operate from. The nature of this area will vary, ranging from a bedsit room in a town or village hut to an entire district.
         It is a myth that the guerrilla can operate with neither a base or a tail. One of the objectives of Phase I is to create such bases. In the past we have seen such terrorist strongholds located in forests, jungles, urban neighborhoods, tunnel complexes, neighboring countries and mountainous regions. Many of these regions are deliberately selected to make the operation of heavily mechanized conventional forces difficult. Sometimes the base will be a large area where the exact location of the terrorist will be difficult to ascertain or can be varied. In other cases it will be in locations were the presence of civilians will deter the use of aerial or artillery bombardment. Deep excavations and cave systems have also been commonly used to counter the firepower advantage.

        It is not uncommon for terrorists to locate their training camps and bases in other countries and across borders. Obviously such borders should be vigorously patrolled to intercept infiltration. Any nation that has such camps on its soil must be diplomatically encouraged to rectify this situation. If the host nation will not take action then there may be legitimate justification for direct action to be taken against positively identified targets on foreign soil. Attention must be paid to the propaganda aspects of such operations. The Rhodesians eliminated several training camps in Mozambique only to have their actions successfully misrepresented as aggression against refugee camps.

        A trend we will possibly see increasing in the future is the use of jamming and countermeasure systems that will counter many of the high-tech weapon systems that the US is currently investing in. GPS jamming systems already in existence can affect an area of several hundred square kilometers and render the guidance of JDAMs useless. Smoke systems and beacons can have similar effects on Laser guided munitions. A bomb that can be induced to miss and destroy a civilian target is a propaganda victory.

OPFOR Warfare Techniques.

        On the other hand, since such a safe area has a definite (if sometimes vague or fluid) geographical location it is appropriate for the application of conventional “front-line” military ground forces.
        Such regions of enemy influence must be contained and if necessary pacified. Consideration needs to be given to whether incursions into the area are necessary. If supplies can be prevented from entering the area and raiding parties from leaving it, it may be possible the enemy can simply be starved out. Being defeated in such a manner is not particularly heroic, so has advantages from the aspects of psychological and propaganda considerations. If there are civilians in the area the guerilla may be able to use any hardships caused by a blockade for his own propaganda purposes. If a direct attack is to be made it must be preceded by extensive reconnaissance and rehearsal. It is common for guerillas to have several bases in an area and to move between them frequently and randomly. It is therefore essential that the presence of guerillas is confirmed before any military action that is taken.
        If a terrorist stronghold is situated in difficult terrain operations against it will fall mainly upon the shoulders of infantry units, supported by helicopter, CAS and direct-fire ground assets as appropriate. This requires units that are both competent and flexible. Difficult terrain can be taken to mean that which precludes the easy use of large vehicles. For this a reason the infantry must have available alternate systems. Such systems include Mules, Pack-dogs, handcarts, bicycles, bicycle-porters, motorized-quads, ATVs and light tracked vehicles. Where carrying heavy loads on the back cannot be avoided, consideration needs to be given to the Korean A-frame pack. If a heavy load can be carried more comfortably then Soldiers acting as scouts or point of flank security can go more lightly encumbered.
        There will be less need for heavy burdens if the Soldier can be more confident of support and resupply. Carlton Meyer's concept of using attack planes to accurately deliver supply canisters needs consideration. The feasibility of establishing supply caches in the area of operations also needs to be investigated.

G2mil Letters on "Cargo Bombs"
Dropmaster Copterbox
Use of Austrailian "Heliboxes" saves life of Yachtsman.
Helibox image

        Containment and success against the rural guerrilla will be the product of assertive and comprehensive patrolling. This was the key to victory in Malaya. Constant patrolling hindered the movement of guerrillas and their supply columns. Likewise, this policy and the establishment of civil defence initiatives such as embedded units and fortified kampongs prevented hungry guerrillas exploiting villagers.

        Due to the nature of the terrain in Malaya patrolling away from the road network was undertaken on foot. There is a good argument for this to be standard practice in most other theatres. Even vehicles with Hybrid Electric drives are relatively noisy. They are easily seen or heard giving the guerrilla ample time to hide or stage an ambush. It is probably more effective for vehicles to move to a location then act as the base area for small dismounted patrols. If a contact is made the mechanized component of the force can be used to reinforce or block the enemy's escape.

        Helicopters can also be used to insert small patrol forces and heli-borne forces used to respond to contacts ground troops encounter. While dedicated gunships such as the Apache AH-64 have their uses in counter-guerilla operations more useful are aircraft such as the OH-58, AH-6 and Westland Lynx which not only have a ground attack capability but can land small teams of trackers or scouts or rescue civilains etc. The main role of the helicopter in counter guerrilla operations is to transport ground troops but it should have the capability to defend itself and engage targets of opportunity.

Rhodesian Fire Force part one
Rhodesian Fire Force part two

        Guerrillas and their informants will probably note where helicopters land so the strategy of making numerous faux-insertions should be used. It may occur to the reader that by making several false landings in an area and not landing any troops the enemy can be fooled into thinking there is an infantry presence in an area when there is not. For this reason it may be prudent for helicopters involved in other duties such as reconnaissance to also behave as though they are making landings. Hopping across the terrain in this way rather than constant level flight may also make the helicopter less vulnerable to ground to air fire.

        Dismounted patrols should include trained dogs where possible. These will be useful for the tracking and detection of both guerrillas and booby traps.

        It is also worth noting that horse-mounted patrols have proved to be very effective for anti-guerrrilla operations.

Urban terrain.
        One of the terrorist's major weapons is to create fear and feelings of impotence and vulnerability in the population. One of the ways to counter this is for the presence of the counter-guerrilla forces to dominate the populated areas. Not only must action be taken against guerrillas but it must be seen to be being taken. The idea that COIN forces should patrol in “non-aggressive” looking vehicles is quite simply flawed. The presence of well armed armoured vehicles produces a very clear message of who is stronger and has the upper hand and ultimately reassures the general population.

        As this extract from the Urban warfare instructions for the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) clearly states, guerrillas will use urban conditions and the presence of civilians to neutralise the superior firepower of more conventional forces. If this is not possible they will encourage the conventional force to use their heavy weapons as indiscriminately as possible so they destroy the infrastructure they are trying to defend and the alienate the population they are trying to help. Even if the local population is “unfriendly” and supports the guerrillas excessive civilian casualities can still be used for propaganda purposes.

FM 90-8 on Urban guerrillas

        Urban terrain does allow the operation of large vehicles. However, line of sight is often obscured and there will be numerous avenues by which the enemy can get close to a vehicle. For this reason vehicles operating in urban combat conditions must be well protected and operate in close co-ordination with dismounted infantry.
        How vehicles are used will depend on the conditions they are used under. Urban terrain often allows a vehicle to be attacked simultaneously from several directions with RPGs, Molotovs and other weapons. In Grozny the Russians attempted to operate large columns of vehicles in narrow streets and with little infantry support. By disabling the lead and tail vehicles whole columns were immobilized and destroyed. Unless operating on very large roads such as freeways it is probably prudent that no street contains more than half a dozen vehicles to allow room for maneuver. At least one vehicle in each such group should be an APC with a large roof hatch which allows at least four pairs of eyes to watch the street. One man on each side watches the upper stories and roof while the other watches ground level.
        Multiple hits from RPGs have been known to destroy even vehicles as heavly armoured as the Abrams. Vehicles such as the Abrams, Bradley and M113 can at least carry a sufficient weigth of armour to given them a chance. A Bar and mesh roof for both tanks and APCs would protect from molotovs and RPGs fired from above while still allowing the crew to return fire. Tracked vehicles can slew on the spot, which makes them more maneuverable in narrow streets. Unarmoured trucks, any HMMWV or LAV Strykers should not be operated in urban conditions were there is a threat of attack. The Stryker is doubly vulnerable. Not only is it thinly armoured dispite its great bulk and weight but it is also the “Flagship” vehicle of the 21st century US Army. Not only is it an easy kill but one that gives the enemy extra propaganda and demoralization potential. The high monetary cost of these vehicles when lost may also rise the cost of operations to politically unacceptable levels.

        Operation in areas with a civilian population may require the application of “Less-Lethal Weapons” (LLW) and low collateral damage lethal systems. Aggression must be met by sober, measured response. Soldiering is about practicing restraint when needed as well as aggression. A primary objective is not just the killing of terrorists but erosion of their support in the local population. In short, create water that the fish can no longer swim freely in.

        While killing terrorists may be emotionally satisfying in the long run it is often more prudent to capture, interrogate, try and imprison them. This is another application for LLW. This creates less martyrs and heros and may reduce the danger of injury to nearby civilians.

        As well as acting as a screening force for the armour the infantrymen in urban conditions will also need to interact with non-combatants in the area. As we have frequently seen, many of our enemies have few qualms about deliberately placing civilians in harm's way. It is in fact one of the most effective counters to the free world's artillery and air-power.
        For urban operations we need precision weapons that can eliminate the target with minimal collateral damage or risk to civilians. The main system that will be used will be the rifle. Training must include plenty of practice firing at targets partially obscured by “hostages”. At least one man in a squad should have a weapon equipped with an optical sight such as the ACOG. Optics do not make a man a better shot but they do give a better view of what he is shooting at. In certain situations it may be prudent to reduce the number of SAWs and GPMGs in favour of more rifles.
        Other weapons also have potential for precision low-collateral damage kills. Tripod or vehicle mounted .50 HMGs have proven to be very effective sniping weapons when fired semi-automatically. A mediocre shot can easily hit a man-sized target at half a mile and with more practice this can be achieved at more than twice this range. This potential can be increased further by use of suitable optics for the HMG. Similar performance may be possible with some smaller calibre MGs.
        Another capability not widely appreciated is that training ammunition for 25mm and 30mm vehicle cannon can be used as low collateral damage rounds against individuals or soft-skinned vehicles. Rounds such as the M793 25mm and M788 30mm lack the blast, fragmentation and incendiary effects of HE rounds and the excessive penetration of armour-piercing rounds. Training munitions fired from 105mm or 120mm tank guns can be used for demolition with less risk of causing fires.

        The current restrictions
preventing military forces using tear gas need to be revoked. Such a restriction ultimately only helps the terrorist's aims. The military also needs to investigate safe means to rapidly deliver large quantities of riot agents by 120mm mortar or 105mm Howitzer. Multiple Rocket systems may prove a useful system for this.
        Small units operating in urban conditions may have to deal with hostile civilians so need less-lethal force options down to squad-level. Shotguns loaded with rubber projectiles or various types of OC/CS irritant rounds are a good option and with alternate loadings these weapons can be used for close combat or the remote breaching of doors or windows. “Pepper sprays” such as the British army's SPAD (Self Protection Aerosol Device) may prove useful and take up little room. Also useful are hand-catapults or “slingshots” which provide an “overmatch” to stone throwing youths.

Making a Catapult/Slingshot/Bean-shooter

        Another Less-lethal system for Urban operations is a vehicle such as the M113 mounting a water cannon. As well as being a useful system for dealing with riots it can also extinguish fires that start as a result of urban combat. Machine guns mounted on such a vehicle can also provide support fire for infantry and other vehicles.

        Dogs will prove useful in an urban environment too. They can detect the odour of explosives or gun-shot residue on a suspect, so are useful for sorting jackals from the herd.

        "You need some way of sorting out combatants from non-combatants. The days of uniformed and organized units are past - soldiers and civilians meld together. The days when battles are fought in empty cities are over. Local civilians have nowhere to go to and will stay in place. To find the combatants, Russians had to resort to searching the pockets of civilians and examining them. Soldiers would look for bruises on the shoulder from weapon recoil, for powder burns on forearms, or for a silver lining around cuffs (from mortar or artillery propellant bags). They also smelled clothing for gunpowder and gun oil and looked for traces of it under fingernails or on arms or legs. Trained sniffer dogs were used, but were not always effective.
        Nevertheless, dogs probably are the best way to determine if a person has been using explosives or firing a weapon recently."

From "Lessons learned in Chechnya", MOUT Homepage and other sources

        Terrorists may establish bases or "safe houses" in urban areas and these must be dealt with appropriately. If it's a small terrorist cell in a rented room, shooting a TOW or Maverick through the window is not the appropriate option. Having them suddenly awoken in the early hours of the morning with guns in their faces, bags on their heads and cuffs on their wrists, is.
        A small cell is best dealt with by a surprise small unit raid although such an operation is just as likely to be made by a police unit or covert action team as an infantry squad. Such an operation needs to be preceded by good HUMINT and surveillance. It should be executed when the chance of success and acquisition of prisoners and intelligence is maximal and when the risk to local civilians is minimal. Regardless of the local population's affiliations, injury to non-combatants is to be avoided since this will grant the opposition considerable propaganda advantages. In certain areas the local population may try to hinder the extraction of prisoners by rioting or more lethal measures, as was seen in Mogadishu. For this reason the latter phases of a raid needs to be accompanied by a decisive show of force such as the arrival of a platoon of tracked APCs or other armour. Objective here is to look intimidating and deterring, not non-aggressive.

Winning Hearts and Minds.
        In the famous Swiss manual, "Total Resistance" by Major H. von Dach Bern it is commented that no guerrilla movement can ultimately succeed without the support of the population. Writers such as Mao stress how important the political indocrination of the guerrilla is and that Guerrilla leaders spend a great deal more time in organization, instruction, agitation, and propaganda work than they do fighting, for their most important job is to win over the people. The guerrilla must be able to “explain,” “persuade,” “discuss,” “convince''. A large proportion of his supplies and nearly all of the guerrilla's Intelligence will originate from the population. Logically, ultimate defeat of the guerrilla hinges on alienating the the guerrilla from the population. Organizations such as Hezbolah run numerous social programs. Mao observes that without a broad foundation in the people the guerrilla is easily destroyed.
        A conflict is won or lost in the hearts and minds of the participants. Therefore winning a population's hearts and minds is the key to victory and the resolution of a conflict. Support for the guerilla is usually based on religeous/patriotic duty, monetary reward and fear. A population needs to be convinced that their best interests do not lie in siding with the terrorists and that they will be protected.
        Perception rather than Truth is often more important. The transmission of information to the population cannot be left entirely in the hands of the commercial media (in this context “commercial” can be taken to include the BBC). These organizations ultimately have a motivation to entertain and attract viewers or readers, and “bad news sells papers”, regardless of if it is true or balanced. Suppression of the free press can be counter-productive so what is needed is an alternative in the form of objective and honest “Public Information” broadcasts and press inserts.
        For different motives both the terrorists and media will try to “dumb-down” the issues, so the conflict is seen as simply Moslem against Christian, Catholic against Protestant, Black against White, Rich against Poor or one nation against the other. In many parts of the world the poor are encouraged to blame America for their condition rather than their richer fellow countrymen.

Ralph Peters: The True Enemies.
Patrick J. Buchanan: Might the Arabs Have a Point?

        It is important to counteract such strategies both on the domestic and international level. Some apparently friendly factions at home need to be treated with caution also. Certain parties that are nominally supporting the war on terrorism are in fact more interested in an agenda of promoting their own ideological or religious beliefs and encouraging religious and cultural intolerance.

        It is worth stressing at this point that the ultimate objective of a Counter-Guerrilla campaign the restoration of peace and stability not the imposition of some new ideology on the population, even if this is democracy.

        Winning hearts and minds is not just the responsibility of Special Forces or Civil Affairs, it must be a priority of all Servicemen that come into contact with the local population. I've seen it claimed that heavy-mech Soldiers such as tankers are not temperamentally suited to low-intensity operations and lack restraint. If this were true such men would be incapable of being tender with their sweethearts or playing with their children.

        Pat downs, bag searches, road blocks and document inspections are an inevitable part of a counter-guerrilla operation. Support among the populace can be preserved or even improved if personnel conducting such duties strive to be civil but firm at all times.

        Victory in low-intensity conflicts will depend on the quality of our small units and their leaders. They must be given leeway to use their initiative and make decisions. This will not be practical unless ordinary Soldiers are given a grounding in the mission and strategic objectives. The job of higher echelon commanders is not to micro-manage firefights but to deploy other assets in support of an engaged unit and keep an eye on the bigger picture, to ensure the contact is not a feint for some other maneuver.

        It is necessary for forces to integrate into the local community not transform areas into small duplicates of America since this is likely to cause resentment and afford the enemy propaganda material. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is sound advice. Large bases also tend to impose a “Defensive Mindset” on troops, isolating them from the local population and making the guerilla's job easier. American servicemen would also be wise to take a greater interest in Soccer rather than appearing to be imposing their own culture by trying to teach baseball or gridiron.
        Engineering and medical personnel are always welcome and will win a lot of goodwill but a force must also demonstrate that it can protect a community.
        Embedding a small unit of troops into a community has proved very effective in the past. This has been done not just by Special Forces such as SAS and Green Berets but also by “line” units of Marines or Soldiers. Conventional units often bring explosives and heavy vehicles that can gain goodwill by leveling fields or pulling tree stumps. The constant presence of the troops allows familiarity and trust to develop between them and the locals. Such a presence of troops also offers a reassurance that a community that chooses to fight terrorists will be supported. It has also been found that an embedded unit can provide useful information about the grass roots concerns of a community and therefore be useful in defeating “Phase I” activities.

Cultural Aspects of COIN.

         The creation of local defence militias also helps provide a more useful outlet for young men who seek adventure and might otherwise be tempted to join the guerrillas. A bit of local knowlege is always an asset in military operations.

        Mao Tse-tung advocated that all prisoners should be well treated, which helped dispel rumours of barbarism and encouraged recruitment. Abusing prisoners just gives the enemy propaganda victories.
        In this age of personal mobile communications and internet boards the capture of a comrade with important information will soon be known and plans can be changed and bases moved. Information that is forcibly extracted from prisoners will usually be outdated by the time that it is surrendered.

        The winning of a war is not just the product of physical military action. It can involve many facets of human interaction. Perception and Image can be more important than actual facts. Sun Tzu comments that “If the enemy is proud, mock him”. One of the major differences between terrorists and Soldiers is that the terrorist will often hold very strong ideological, political or religeous convictions. These offer an avenue of attack if it can be done without offending the general population. Humiliation and ridicule can be very effective weapons against a guerrilla movement. Where you cannot gain support from a population you can at least introduce doubt about the enemy. Where there are various factions discord and suspicion can be sown. The enemy will also attempt to use the same methods, utilizing a foe's pride and vanity. Bin Laden's offer of a truce to the European Powers was an obvious attempt to divide and spread discord.

        Offers to negotiate must be treated with caution. Political or religious revolutionaries aspire to absolutes rather than compromises. The objective of negotiation may be to gain time and to wear down, frustrate, embarrass, discredit and harass the opponent.

Armouring the Arteries.
        Ironically, the Non-linear battlefield may have front lines but they will be circular and will be around pockets of strong enemy influence as has already been detailed. The real difference is that while there are front lines there no safe rear areas, since lines of communication and supply are often the guerrilla's preferred targets. Therefore one of the primary objectives of the counter-guerrilla forces is to prevent the guerrilla harassing the lines of supply and communication.
        Victory in a counter-guerrilla campaigns has often been a contest of keeping a nation's arteries open while denying the insurgent his ability to move or supply himself.
         The doctrine of the guerrilla is to flee from the strong and attack the weak. Small or poorly armed convoys are more likely to be attacked than large well armed forces. Civilian traffic and “soft” military units will be the targets of choice. The solution is for “non-front line” units to become stronger and harder.

Iraqi Ambush. Giving the enemy easy kills

        Roads exist for the easy movement of vehicles. In some places the road will be the only passable route through the terrain. Road traffic that must be protected will include civilian as well as military vehicles and most of these are only capable of road travel. The disadvantage of a road is that it makes a vehicle's course very predictable which favors ambushes and mine warfare. In conditions of non-linear warfare all roads should be treated as combat zones and personnel should behave accordingly. They should move with vigilance, with adequate armament, communications and defences and preferably in force.
        Logistics troops must re-configure to reflect they have a dual role of both transportation and convoy protection. Practice of Anti-ambush drills and similar tactics must become a priority and logistics units must receive a realistic allocation of body armour, communication gear and suitable armament. There must be sufficient personnel in the force to permit dismounted action should it be necessary. Guerrillas will attempt to jam or destroy the convoy's radio communications so protocols for alternative signaling methods must be in place and understood.
        Vehicles must be hardened for protection against mines and infantry weapons. Ideally a standard military truck should be created along the lines of the mine-resistant South African Biesbok. Logistic units should incorporate their own organic AFVs such as the M1117 ASV. Military trucks can move at 55-58mph where roads are suitable so escort vehicles should be capable of maintaining a similar speed.
        The importance of protecting convoys cannot be overstressed. It is not a “side show” to the more glamorous task of guerrilla hunting but a primary strategic objective.
        Soldiers in transportation companies have got to understand that they are the enemy/guerrilla's “main effort.” It's not an act of cowardice to attack a convoy, it's an intelligent strategy. If the MSR remains open a guerrilla force will start to feel the effects of successful commerce. It's not secret (or surprise) that attacking the MSR is the starting point of all insurgencies and their fall back position when the insurgency is not doing well.
         Each convoy must be treated as a mission and needs to be comprehensively planned. Possible ambush sites or choke-points need to be identified and appropriate actions planned. The location of such sites should be registered with support formations such as Aviation, Artillery and Quick Reaction Forces. Airborne surveillance from UAVs or preferably light aircraft needs to be allocated to convoys and their routes.

The need for Light Observation Aircraft.
The T-6 Texan as an Observation aircraft.

        Areas adjacent to MSRs need to be aggressively patrolled or occupied by both dismounted personnel and cross-country vehicles. This will deny the guerrilla easy movement. When a convoy is expected in an area such a force will make pre-emptive visits to likely trouble spots. At various locations parallel to the MSR will be small bases equipped with indirect fire weapons, distanced so they can fire in defence of each other and in support of convoys. The main guns of tanks can be used in such a role as well as mortars and artillery. Convoys should be preceded by their own reconnaissance units and have engineer support.
        As we have so recently seen in Madrid (March, 2004), a nation's rail system is also likely to be a target so measures for track and station security must be taken.
        In certain situations novel forms of transport such as cargo airships can be used to move bulk cargoes without the need for ground travel though terrorist held areas.

Getting Cunning.
        The roots of victory are often grounded in imagination and deception.
        Guerrillas fleeing from a unit may often be bait for an ambush. A convoy escort unit must not let itself be drawn away from a convoy by such a ruse. Wounded enemies limping back to their base after taking heavy casualties will demoralize the enemy so will often serve a more useful strategic purpose than those that are killed or captured.
        When A coy, 1/69th Armour was in Vietnam they often used their dozer tank to create ramps down to river fords. Viet Cong would attempt to mine these areas so in the dark hours of the night the tankers would shell the areas with indirect fire. This killed quite a few VC, and was even more effective if a sensor or LRRP team was placed near the crossing.
        Guerrillas attempt to be elusive so a very sound strategy is to make them come to you. Apparently vulnerable convoys can be packed with troops. Artillery bases that support MSRs can be used as bait. If one suspects that an area is being surveyed as a rocket launching site, register it with the artillery and place a sniper or machine gun team in an OP. Firing low to wound or an artillery CS round will often yield prisoners that can provide vital intelligence.
         In Grozny, "The Chechens fielded anti-tank hunter killer teams which moved toward the sound of engine noise to kill armored vehicles with volley RPG-7 antitank fire from above, the flanks and behind. The Russians learned to counter these teams by establishing ambushes on all approach routes and then running vehicles into selected areas as bait."
        Similar tactics have been seen in other parts of the world with numerous independent RPG teams homing onto any likely target like a swarm of wasps. Such teams could also be lured by smoke, mob noise or gunfire. A high output portable stereo might prove useful in baiting traps.

        For several years in Northern Ireland British Intelligence secretly ran a door to door laundry service. Unbeknown to its customers the service also included testing all items for traces of explosives, giving the security services a fair idea of households where terrorist activity may be occurring. This scheme worked well for several years until the terrorists were tipped off after a security leak. Up until that time considerable useful Intelligence was gathered and apparently the business also made a modest profit.

        Many thanks to David Tooker, Emery Nelson, Ralph Zumbro, William F Owen and Mike Sparks for the useful input.

        To my mind many of the official manuals written on Counter Guerrilla operations are overly academic. FMFRP 12-18 should be read for the excellent introduction if nothing else. Several of the topics I covered in the first draft of this article are phrased much better in FMFRP 12-18 so I have unashamedly lifted sentances from this work where it was clearer. Mao's work it relevent to all operations, not just those of chinese communists or against the Japanese.


        I could have easily filled this article with dozens of quotes from Sun Tzu, all of them relevent. His text is still relevant to the modern Soldier and unlike many military texts, has the virtue of being concise and not verbose.

An Article by Ralph Zumbro on LIC and Small unit operations.
Mini-manual of the Urban Guerrilla. Very relevant - well worth a read.

"On Guerrilla Warfare" by Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong)
Also see FMFRP 12-18 "Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla War" which has an excellent Introduction.

Operations in LIC Field manual.
Guerrilla/counter guerrilla FM90-8
A Doctrinal Template for Insurgencies Part I
Part II
Part III
Small Wars Journal

Changing the (US) Army for Counterinsurgency Operations. Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, British Army

USMC Terrorism Manuals
Che Guevarra on Guerrilla Warfare

You may have to go to https://www.doctrine.quantico.usmc.mil/htm/doc5.htm and Right click "Save Target as"

Phantom Soldier by H.John Poole
The Tiger's Way by H.John Poole
Both available from Amazon or Posterity Press, and recommended to all Scrapboard readers.

Tactics of the Cresent Moon by H.John Poole
        This book compliments Poole's other books and is particularly relevent to current conflicts. Essential Reading!

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