Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Using Power or Prudence?
August 12, 2010
by Michael Leon
Psychological impact of terrorism on target population.
– Counter-insurgency (COIN) against the terrorists, whether Iraqis or Afghanis, who were essentially George Bush’s military targets, and one has reasons to believe that Obama is now contemplating targeting Iran to add special feather to his cap to earn the second term in the Presidential elections –
By Dr. S.M. Rahman
Terrorism abhors power. It tends to even multiply, contrary to the US predilection to eradicate every single Al-Qaeda-brand ‘terrorist’ besides the hard-core Taliban, who are considered potential threat to US security and dread, perhaps a replay of 9/11 type tragedy.
The limits of military power has been heroically demonstrated by the Afghans, even those who are not Taliban-followers. The Afghan mind is irrevocably tuned to keeping their territory free from foreign occupation, be they British Empire builders or the Soviet compulsive grabbers of foreign lands.
The neo-colonialists, conditioned by the neocon sensibility – USA – are not motivated to grab territory per se, but to swell its economy by controlling the oil wealth of the Gulf region, followed by Iraq and eventually the Central Asia – specially the Caspian basin, a rich reservoir of energy – oil as well as gas.
Afghanistan was to be softened through “shock and awe” modality to fiercest possible destruction through use of incessant carpet bombing and weapons like bunker-busters, to display how outrageously callous the Super Power could be. It was capable of turning mountains into pebbles and pebbles into dust. But human “Will” to preserve freedom is indomitable among nations like Afghanistan. But who knows it better than USA, that Afghan ‘Psyche” knows no compromise on its cherished ‘sovereignty’. Power is a red-rag to them and they will fight and continue fighting, as surrender is inherently repugnant to their existential predicament. These hard core ‘fighters’ were strategic assets of USA to be used against the Soviet forces when it invaded Afghanistan. But when USA turned ‘invader’, ‘resistance’ ironically became evil. The ISI was hand-in-glove with CIA against the Soviet invaders, but now ISI must prove instrumental in eliminating all Afghanis, indiscriminately, as they don’t favour USA’s occupation of their country.
Counter-insurgency (COIN) against the terrorists, whether Iraqis or Afghanis, who were essentially George Bush’s military targets, and one has reasons to believe that Obama is now contemplating targeting Iran to add special feather to his cap to earn the second term in the Presidential elections. If he can muster strength to attack Iran either directly or through its surrogate-Israel – both the options entail horrendous consequences.
Temptations do accentuate wishful thinking, but it cannot squarely face the hard realities. USA’s grandiose ideas of military invincibility got a terrible jolt at the hands of Afghan freedom fighters, no matter how much propaganda based attributes may be used to malign them as “terrorists”. These are semantic jugglery. Israeli myth was a similar casualty at the hands of Hezbollah who demonstrated the power of ‘men and missiles.’ Any misadventure against Hezbollah again by Israel would meet the same fate, perhaps even worse.
The US war doctrine envisages 3 Ps – prosperity, presence and partnership. (Edina Campbell, Eisenhower Moment: American strategic choice in Trans-atlantics Defence Relationship. ASPJ Africa & Francophonie pp 73-76). Prosperity is the ability to make desired investment in defence to be able to launch military assault on any country or group of countries, who are deemed to be recalcitrant to US hegemonic ambitions. Presence presupposes unbridled capability to deploy US forces overseas and to keep them stationed in countries of strategic interest. The same sensibility made US invade Afghanistan and Iraq, to be able to contain nations like Iran, China and the CARs (Central Asian Republics) and control their oil wealth as well as of Iraq. Attempt is being made to keep a sizeable US force in Azerbaijan as in Kyrgyzstan to deny Russia’s influence in its ‘near abroad’, besides of course denying China any leverage to meet its energy requirements.
Partnership is America’s cooperation with other countries in the pursuit of its defence objectives. Prosperity is seriously handicapped, as no US President except Rosewelt in 1933 faced the economic crisis due to great depression Obama is in the grip of acute recession. According to Campbell, “Obama will be faced with tough choices, akin to those that confronted the United Kingdom after World War I.. Like Britain then, the United States today has extensive global defence commitments, a shrinking domestic revenue base, indebtedness to foreign powers, and a competitors for global fiscal primacy with no such global commitments – the European Union” Obama’s wishful assumption that there would be greater European military role in counter-insurgency (COIN) as well as for SSTR – Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction, in Afghanistan will not meet the reality.
The entire (COIN) is a flawed strategy. Resistance after all is a well deliberated response to state terrorism. Insurgency is essentially anti-colonial in sprit and defiance against subjugation. Not to defend ‘freedom’ would be disgraceful servility and to become a vassal state of the militarily monstrous nations. The atrocities that have been committed by USA to the so called prisoners of war in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other places, outside the territory of USA are obnoxiously inhuman and devoid of decency, decorum and morality, which have surpassed what history, records as crimes against humanity – in ‘Gulags’ under the Soviets and Nazis’ holocaust against the Jews.
Mathew Alexander, in his article (Martyrdom Interrupted’, the National Internet March/April 2010 pp 10-16), advocates a strategy of deradicalization as the best option to deal with the so called extremists or fanatics. To turn away from the uncivilized method of interrogation, from torture to soft-velvet approach and turning the emotional, material, and spiritual allegiance of the detainees from radical misinterpretation of the Holy Quran to a realistic perception should be the objective of the interrogators. They essentially become facilitators “counterinsurgency and interrogators” as Alexander describes are conjoined twins. American military leaders must embrace the revolution in interrogation methods and incorporate them into their war-time strategy.” Brutality against prisoners was the notorious practice both in Iraq and Afghanistan and Gen Mc Chrystal finally got converted to the new approach.
Col. Karnavarian has pioneered an innovative approach of winning over the detainees in Indonesia, belonging to 88 Detachment. The interrogators, less than a dozen in number adopt the subculture of the detainees, pray with them, and use polite and dignified language. Money were paid to the family members of the detainees, so that they would not be concerned about their well-being. Those who were married, for them few nights we arranged in a hotel where their wives would be invited to join their husbands. The bachelor ones were provided opportunity of marrying girls of their choice and their relatives would be invited to attend the ceremony. Karnavarian method was one of establishing rapport with the detainees and then during interaction, Islam’s true essence, would be brought to light. This way, a good number of the detainees get converted into real Islam and despise killing of innocent civilians and suicide-bombing. A good number of the converted ones were employed into their police force.
The author of “Ugly American” Col Hillandale had advocated Americans to embrace the local culture of Philippino, insurgents in Manila which was betrayed by the ignorant diplomats. The same flaw is being perpetuated in Afghanistan. Had the American adopted what in the Psychological Operation techniques is called Consolidation Operation, i.e., building infrastructure for development, schools, hospitals, civic facilities besides creating job opportunities for the people, they would have won over the hearts and minds of the Afghans. Drone attacks, and killing civilians is a savage sensibility which only accentuates “ugly American” image.
Dr S.M. Rahman is Secretary General FRIENDS, a Think Tank established by General Mirza Aslam Beg in Rawalpindi. He has written several books with wide publication of his papers. Now he is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.