Looking at terrorism in SE Asia I have put together the following posts:
These articles are predicated on understanding both Counter Insurgency (COIN) and Mountain Warfare (MW) and, of the two, MW is the more essential one as it is the regional and cultural base that we have to work with. Today our view of COIN is one based on semi-successful campaigns (France in Algeria) which were a short term success and a longer term mixed bag, our hard work in Colombia with the local governments against FARC, and in the Philippines against the Moro-Islamic Liberation Front. Iraq has many deep teaching points for us and we should not squander that learning experience when approaching COIN in Afghanistan. Indeed the failure of Saddam and Turkey to crush the Kurds in the border region between Iraq and Turkey tells us much about Afghanistan and COIN, and what NOT to do.
From the Algerian experience the one salient lesson is: anyone who was once an insurgent who goes back to their old ways should be immediately confronted. By not doing that, by not requiring local groups to permanently abide by peace, the doorway to a new insurgency was opened. If your foes cannot enforce their settlement, then do not make one with them. The forces confronting the Tamil Tigers have learned this hard lesson and that is why it is down to the 'last man' which looks to be the last Tamil Tiger. Forces that factionate and cannot enforce peace upon those factions are not negotiating from any viable position. It is possible to siphon off those who have just grown tired of fighting, but they are to be watched and not trusted so long as their old comrades continue to fight. You can get a 'separate peace' in Private War but you cannot get a return of the trust that was abdicated by the individual who decided to leave civilization to fight it. Similarly the cohesive society of the Kurds means that much lip service is given to not harboring the PKK from Turkey (and Iran), and yet individual fighters can and do get that refuge. Turkey and Iran have both utilized attempts to dissolve the Kurdish culture, Kurdish language and Kurdish traditions and only by having those upheld by secular government has Iraq earned peace. It is unfortunate that those other bordering Nations do not afford tolerance to multiple cultures in their own borders.
From the Kurdish experience, anti-FARC COIN, and work in the Philippines we can garner one major lesson: hard terrain makes for long COIN campaigns. Decades long in some cases. Serious work against FARC started in the mid-1990's and still has not completely eradicated it, as it now has support from the tyrant in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. In that part of South America there is jungle and mountainous terrain, both, that make finding and removing insurgents a difficult task. The terrain works to the benefit of the insurgents who are few and can attack anywhere to terrorize. Similarly the Moros in the Philippines restarted their proto-independence movement after WWII (after failing in the Philippine-American War, a successful COIN campaign led by the US Army) that then gained strength in the 1990's with the addition of al Qaeda funds and operatives, often from their Indonesian affiliate. Again terrain tells the tale, and being able to root out an insurgency in jungle conditions is a non-trivial task. In the area that was demarcated as Kurdistan after WWI, the Kurds have seen their territory sliced up and have waged an insurgency, in turn, against the Turks, Iranians, Syrians, Iraqis with each having faced the problem of some of the best fighters in the region fighting to proclaim their cultural identity and solidarity. Mountain warfare against insurgents is one of the most difficult to achieve as the mountains, when used with strong local knowledge, become a palpable enemy to COIN forces. That is cultural heritage the Kurds retain from before they migrated out of the area we now call Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan along the Pashtun regions we face a foe similar in background to the Kurds in that it is a warrior based culture and tribal on that basis, although even more primitive in that individuals can raise Family and Clan and Tribal forces on their own without any government oversight. These personal units are generally referred to as 'Lashkar', although multi-group affiliates do arise using that term (ex. Lashkar e-Toiba) to show some personal fighting affiliation to a group or belief it is understood that these are not the personal fighting units of the region but agglomerated groups. In staging a 'surge' in Afghanistan the areas being 'surged' into are those on the border regions influenced by the Pashtuns who live, by and large, in Pakistan but, like the Kurds in the Middle East, cross borders into other countries due to tribal affiliations and cultural identity.
Can such a group be successfully integrated into civil society?
Yes. With that said, when such cultural groups cross borders it is understood that their kinsmen across those borders are not, of necessity, influenced by a Nation State peace agreement with the tribal society in that region of that Nation State. If you live elsewhere you do not become peaceful in another Nation merely because a peace was reached elsewhere with your kin. As the use of Lashkars indicate, the societal basis for the Pashtun region of Pakistan and Afghanistan is different than that of the Kurdish areas in the Middle East and must be taken into account. Thus the history of that society must be a paramount concern when staging COIN to see if there is any basis for a 'separate peace' in Afghanistan with the Pashtuns.
From my refresher article above, comes the discouraging news that the Pashtuns have outwaited the British Empire which put in place a 100 year agreement for recognition of borders between British held territories and Afghanistan. Thus from that we can draw the following: an imposed peace or settlement by an outside Nation is not going to be the terms of a long-term and successful peace. Temporary while the outside force is present, yes. And when Afghanistan rejected that border agreement as permanent, due to that ethnic pressure, it can be assumed that no current 'successful' surge will remain in place for long on the ground without a larger consensus agreement amongst all Pashtuns.
To put it bluntly: to get a long-term peace agreement and recognition of borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Pashtuns will need to not only sign-on to that agreement but abide by it and be a full player in the negotiations. That puts on the table one of the nastiest yet most interesting prospects of all: the Pashtuns declaring a Nation State homeland separate from Pakistan and Afghanistan, both. This has been a minority position in the Pashtun regions for decades, but independence is one of the starting fuels of bloodshed against governments in that region and to end that source those voices must be heard, reasoned with and their consent given at the tribal level for any larger multi-Nation consensus.
Because this is mountain warfare terrain, all other tribes must agree that any renegades who try to raise Lashkars for any reason beyond simple tribal defense needs to be hunted down and ended. There is a difference between militias for local defense that wear uniforms and have a chain of command and those who wear no uniforms, have no command and no greater sanction than THEIR LEADER or THEIR RELIGION to go to war. Those sanctions must be firmly implanted as illegitimate and lethal to any trying to do so.
In doing this we must come to understand the American COIN campaign that started in 1783 and ended in 1787: the uprising against high State taxes that put farmers in jail and confiscated their land brewed a rebellion against that rule that only ended when a new consensus was reached by the creation of the US Constitution. In that work local militias are of State concern and, so long as they are not given pay or made permanent by the State and held by the people, the Federal Government will only call upon them when the threat to all States is paramount. The United States experience with COIN and with State government becoming draconian is clear and crystal clear: you do not get a peace until the safety and security of the people is ensured and that those people are not oppressed by their government. In return local self-protection is respected while going to war on your own is prosecuted as illegal warfare or Private War or piracy, depending on the terminology used at the time.
Our modern military understanding is a hot house flower bred under the massive 20th century wars and continued on through the Cold War and is not representative of the normal condition of the military for mankind. We cannot apply our highly technical systems to primitive cultures in the realm of warfare, and must bring about the understanding of civilized use of warfare that is run by the Nation for Public War while outlawing Private War that has NO State sanction. The State can and Publicly sanction Private War groups to go after other Private War groups, then those fighters fall under Public War domains while executing their own understanding of war and accepting the consequences of it.
It is this understanding that must be found within the cultures of the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This will not be easily performed as witness the current state of the tribal systems of the region in regards to Private War groups. Any 'surge' that does not draw that deep, dark, red line between Private and Public War and that attempts to 'prosecute' Private War fighters in a civil court will fail as it is a demonstration of not understanding the difference between Public and Private War. By taking it into a civil law venue, then Private War is given recognition and ENHANCED no matter what the verdict is, because it is seen as a viable application of war by individuals since it is given a public trial venue. Yet these are not civil crimes being committed, but war crimes due to military justice. That justice has always been harsh as separating Private War and requiring it to get Public sanction enhances the peace WITHIN society by removing warfare FROM society that is not sanctioned BY society.
We do have statutes for those fighting Private War that are picked up for public offenses or otherwise turn themselves over to public authorities: they are the Piracy Statutes and are only applicable inside the territory of the United States and given to those that surrender to us after being pronounced as fighting Private War against us. This has been a stance of the United States since its Founding as executed by Jefferson, Jackson and, most notably, Lincoln. Those caught making war against us in the military venue get military justice. Those that submit to be tried for their crimes in a public venue get civil justice. When you are brought in making war against the United States or, indeed, any Nation you are to be put into the military justice system as that is what you were doing: performing military activities.
Terrorism, as those on the Left like to point out, is a tactic. They never, ever, not once want to state what is the form of war that has that as its main tactic as that then tells you what to do with those individuals performing it. It is a tactic of piracy, to terrify others with warfare so as to get your way. Pirates have taken lives, taken slaves, taken ships and have fought on land and at sea since the first City States arose and they have been seen and treated in one way, only, since the beginning of civil law and society. It is only when they surrender to civil justice, civil prosecution and willingly give themselves up to be judged for the accusation of piracy that they get a trial in civil court.
This is what needs to be brought to the Pashtuns: the understanding of the defense of civil society from those willing to wage war against it on their own. Currently the Pashtuns have little to recognize as they, themselves, are divided by two major Nations, terrain and yet are bonded by kinship, culture and custom. To do this and get this peace requires the understanding of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Pashtuns that they are going to be given time to work out an accord that is suitable to ALL of them by consensus with no hold-backs, no lprovisos and no 'well maybes'. If they cannot come to accord INSIDE their culture then no peace will ever be found OUTSIDE of it. To do this does not require great multi-culti, glib worded politicians, but good,hard on-the-ground tribal leaders from other cultures that have this and perhaps a number of military historians pointing out exactly how Lashkars are seen by civilized people and why being civilized has such a high value to it that it is worth killing off Lashkars and taking up the positive liberty of civil defense for defense ONLY.
Because, apparently, the British Empire couldn't teach this lesson. Nor could the Persian Empire before it.
Nor has Pakistan or Afghanistan or the USSR.
The only person who MIGHT have been able to teach that is the last Western leader that is STILL sung about by the bards of the region and how his passing changed the lives of everyone there. Unfortunately he is long dead.
A guy by the name of Alexander.
Often with 'the Great' appended to it.
And if we can't learn the teachings of mountain warfare, how to deal with local cultures and get them to cooperate from our history, then Alexander's name will probably outlive all of ours and our Nations as we let this cancer spread by creating the conditions for its spread at home and abroad. Getting rid of this Gordian Knot is not achieved by more rope. Too bad that is what we now have on order, with nary a sword to be seen, and with that rope we shall, assuredly, hang ourselves as being too civilized to be civilized and do the right thing.
We could learn a lot from Alexander.
If we dared to use the sword to cut out this cancer.
Good luck with that rope stuff.