Friday, December 14, 2007

Counter-insurgency and credible security bubbles

I'm getting some pushback on my post this morning on the degree of victory and what should be read into the fact that a multi-brigade US/UK/Afghan army force retook a medium size town from Taliban after the Taliban had controlled it for most of the year. On the tactical level, it is a victory, but on a strategic level, the occupation of the town by the Taliban is a massive counterinsurgency failure. During the summer of 2006, the Taliban initiated a series of raids that were able to seize control of multiple towns that they then later had to withdraw from. At my old blog I wrote the following:

the vast majority of the Taliban force followed the first tactical rule of being guerrillas --- don't fight set piece battles against vastly superior firepower, instead run away and snipe next week....

However this tactical success of reclaiming a town is an operational setback in a counterinsurgency campaign because the counter-insurgent task is a very complex task of seperating the population from the insurgent, and creating credible guarantees of security from any retaliation from the insurgent force.

The insurgent force needs the population for resupply, recruits, intelligence and concealment. Some of these objectives can be gained by an appeal to primary loyalties, but other times, intimidation and violence are used to achieve these ends. The counterinsurgent force has to generate a bubble of security that negates the ability of the insurgent force to target informers, cooperators and neutrals. This bubble must be very strong for if the insurgent force can routinely penetrate the bubble, the promises of reward for cooperation with the counter-insurgent force become meaningless, for cooperation credibly means death.

The news that the Taliban took two towns reduces the credibility of the counter-insurgent promise that it is the only force that can provide protection. [emphasis added on 12/14/07]

This is the logic and thought process I was applying this morning. The long term occupation of a town by Taliban forces is a strong argument against the counterinsurgent forces' credible promises of support, security and succor for local cooperators. Local cooperation is the only way to beat an insurgency, and cooperation will not happen on a consistent basis if there is a very high projected cost to cooperate versus seeing nothing or doing nothing about an insurgent force.

No comments: