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Counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan, A look back and a look forward

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´╗┐Counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan Counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan, A look back and a look forward. MSG Steve Grewell, USA Norwich University Afghanistan is a land of rebellion. Ever since it was first settled, it has been an impossible dream to try and govern it as a whole. The terrain does not favor central control of a federal central government, since travel is so incredibly difficult. The people are fiercely independent, the direct result of the history of the region. One cannot look at current events in Afghanistan without having some idea of the great history that has crashed upon the mountains throughout the centuries. The empires that have dared tread upon Afghan soil have left their mark as well. As tribal battles have evolved into rebellions, as rebellions have evolved into insurgencies, the inspired student must look at the various tactics, techniques, and procedures that have been utilized by those very same empires. This paper will study the similarities and differences in the British, Soviet, and American interventions in Afghanistan, specifically looking at their different approaches to counter insurgency. Before one can start to define different counter insurgency strategies, a standard must be set as to the definition of an insurgency itself: ?Definition of insurgency- The organized use of subversion and violence by a group or movement that seeks to overthrow or force change of a governing authority. Insurgency can also refer to the group itself? (JP 1-02, P. 154). Next, logically, a standard definition of what is considered a counter insurgency: ?Definition of counter insurgency- Comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to defeat an insurgency and to address any core grievances? (JP 1-02, P. 73). Now, with the standards set on the definitions, one has to take a long look back into the history of Afghanistan to understand where it is today. Along this path we look counter insurgency strategies during the First/ Second/ Third Anglo-Afghan Wars, The Soviet Invasion and occupation, and Operation Enduring Freedom/ Global War on Terrorism. ...read more.


Small Wars, first published in 1896, was his most famous work, and is one of the most substantial treatises that espouse an enemyâcentric approach to counterinsurgency. An officer in the British Army with experience combating insurgents in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Callwell does not express the sensitivity for the population so carefully detailed in other manuals for counterinsurgency. Changes in press coverage and geopolitics explain some of these differences; nevertheless, many principles that he sets forth were still supported after his death in 1928 and in the current day” (Calwell, 1990). Sher Ali's son and successor, Yaqub, signed the Treaty of Gandamak in May 1879 (Blood, 2001) The British Contingent leaves as a whole in 1880 after leaving Abdur Rahman Khan, "The Iron Amir" in power (LOC, 1997). He was later part of the delineation of the “Durand Line” through Pashtunistan. Spark for future conflict. The Third Anglo-Afghan War was from May to August 19, 1919, which is seen now as Afghan Independence day. This was actually started by Afghan offensive operations into India. King Amanullah orders the Afghan Army to invade India (LOC, 1997). Pashto tribes quickly joined in the fight against the British. The combined British and Indian Army pushed back the Afghan advance and the fight ended in a draw. The punitive campaign that followed carried out by British troops was definitely enemy-centric and bordered on terrorism.. “British tactics included what was colloquially referred to as “butcher and bolt” operations, in which villages would be destroyed, their inhabitants killed, and troops would immediately return to their base, making no attempt to occupy any territory” (Proctor, 2012). Even though Afghanistan lost the fight for territory, it did gain trued independence and its own international entity. The formalization of the “Durand Line” (current border between Afghnistan and Pakistan) permanently separates the Pashto tribes on both sides of an international border. (NAM, 2012) This splitting of the Pashto tribes is meant to weaken them, but it provides sanctuary across an international border, foreshadowing of things to come. ...read more.


-Most of the population will be neutral in the conflict; support of the masses can be obtained with the help of an active friendly minority. -Support of the population may be lost. The population must be efficiently protected to allow it to cooperate without fear of retribution by the opposite party. -Order enforcement should be done progressively by removing or driving away armed opponents, then gaining support of the population, and eventually strengthening positions by building infrastructure and setting long-term relationships with the population. This must be done area by area, using a pacified territory as a basis of operation to conquer a neighbouring area.? (Galula, 1964). Galula?s laws are reflected in the US Army?s latest manual Field Manual 3-24 Counterinsurgency. This is hardly surprising when one looks at some of the architects of that manual David Killcullen and John Nagl, both proponents of Galula?s population centric focus of counter insurgency. It encapsulates current strategy of American forces in Afghanistan to Clear, Hold, and Build. The idea is that COIN forces should move into an area and ?Clear? it of insurgent forces. Those same forces should ?Hold? the same area as local forces can be manned, trained and equipped to secure the area. Then the next step is to ?Build? local infrastructure and governance in order to successfully severe the ties between the insurgent and the population. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan are doing this at the village level in what is known as Village Stability Operations. In these operations, villages are selected for their strategic or operational value and their willingness to work alongside coalition forces. (Connett, 2011). Over the centuries, the truth has been told of how great forces break upon the mountains of Afghanistan like waves upon the rocks. It is known as ?the graveyard of empires? (Mahmud Tarzi, 1919). The Achaemenid Empire, Alexander the Great, the Timiruds, Ghengis Kahn, the Durannis, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union all met with defeat and disaster in the mountains of Afghanistan. Maybe this time will be different. ...read more.

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