Pop-Centric COIN Revisited

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

In Marines do not bleed I stated my opposition to the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency (as discussed in FM 3-24).  Not that I oppose engagement of the population, or reconstruction efforts, or jirgas with elders.  In fact, you won’t find any more robust advocacy for speaking the indigenous language and the necessity for pre-deployment and even long term language training than from me.  The conversation is more nuanced and complicated that simply buying into FM 3-24 or not.  The nuance can be seen in my opposition to withdrawal from the Pech Valley because of leaving safe haven for the insurgents.

But it occurs to me that it’s always good to remind the readers of prose that’s just so plain, clear and straightforward that it leaves you nodding whether you agree with it or not (and I happen to agree with what I am about to quote).  The best thing about the quote is that it doesn’t come from me, but from an Army field grade officer.

One thing that I think many people forget about Iraq (or maybe it wasn’t reported?) is that in 2007 and 2008 we were killing and capturing lots of people on a nightly basis. Protecting the populace was A priority. When speaking to the folks back home, in order to sell the war, perhaps we said that it was the priority. But on the ground, I do not recall a single Commander’s Update Brief spending any time at all discussing what we had done to protect anyone. We were focused on punching al-Qaeda in the nuts at every opportunity and dismantling their networks. The reconcilables got the message loud and clear that they could take money and jobs in return for cooperation, or they would die a swift death when we came knocking down their doors in the middle of the night. The rest of the populace made it clear to them that they should take the offer. The only protection that the population got from us was good fire discipline so that we did not kill non-combatants. We made it clear that the government intended to win this thing and we did not send that message by delivering governance or digging wells. We shot motherf******s in the face.  Pop-COIN blasphemers, your scripture is false teaching.

And that’s what I advocate for Afghanistan.

  • http://biophilic.blogspot.com Burk

    With all due respect, fire discipline seems a little lacking in Afghanistan. Or more to the point, good intelligence seems to be lacking, leading to rather horrific “incidents”. And the good intelligence is lacking because we still at this late date have not been let into the culture, do not understand it, or have so poisoned our relationships that we have been rejected from it. And because the culture is inherently so fissiparous that all our good intentions are drowned in double-dealing, local feuds, and all-around solid sympathy for the local Taliban over either the US or the Afghan government. So what goes around (bad coin) comes around (bad military conclusions). The Iraqis wanted a government. The Afghans, at least those with power, really don’t.


You are currently reading "Pop-Centric COIN Revisited", entry #6594 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Counterinsurgency and was published March 21st, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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