December 20, 2006

Counterinsurgency Manual: Lessons Learned?

Counterinsurgency Manual: Lessons Learned?

Checkpoint diagram

FMI 3-07.22 military checkpoint diagram

During our show on The Classroom Lessons of Iraq, Chris mentioned that we’re reading the Counterinsurgency Manual, officially titled Field Manual No. 3-24 (pdf). In FM 3-24 the Department of the Army has compiled the written record of lessons from previous wars, now updated for Iraq. I started out reading Field Manual-Interim 3-07.22 (pdf), a shorter (182-page) draft of the Counterinsurgency Manual, published in 2004. A passage about the role of the host nation’s security forces jumped out:

Tactically, security forces eliminate insurgent leadership, cadre, and combatants, through death and capture, by co-opting individual members, or by forcing insurgents to leave the area. This is analogous to separating the fish from the sea. The local populations (that also provide the insurgent mass base) are then secure and able to engage in normal activities.

FMI 3-07.22 (pdf) section 1-36, October 1, 2004.

I then cracked open the 241-page final draft of the FM 3-24 (pdf). The paragraph doesn’t appear. Instead, the first chapter is twice as long, covering such points as “Legitimacy is the Main Objective,” “Unity of Effort is Essential,” “Political Factors are Primary,” and “Isolate Insurgents from Their Cause and Support.”

It is easier to cut an insurgency off and let it die than to kill every insurgent. Attempting to kill every insurgent is normally impossible. It can also be counterproductive, generating popular resentment, creating martyrs that motivate new recruits, and producing cycles of revenge. Dynamic insurgencies also replace losses quickly. A skillful counterinsurgent cuts off the sources of that recuperative power. Some can be reduced by redressing the social, political, and economic grievances that fuel the insurgency. Physical support can be cut off by population control or border security. International or local legal action might be required to limit financial support. As the host government increases its own legitimacy, the people begin to more actively assist it, eventually marginalizing and stigmatizing insurgents to the point where their legitimacy is destroyed. Victory is gained not when this isolation is achieved, but when it is permanently maintained by and with the active support of the populace.

FM 3-24 (Final Draft) section 1-105, June 2006.

Lesson learned?

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