23 December, 2012

India and Philippines: searching the common contours

Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Article No. 2281


On 15 December 2012, Reuters reported that the government of “Philippines declared an 18-day unilateral Christmas truce with its Maoist guerrillas, in part to focus on relief efforts in Mindanao (a southern island), devastated by a typhoon”. [1]

It has been around two years since the peace talks had commenced between the guerrillas and the government. But the talks were stalled over a rebel demand for the release of prisoners and the government's natural insistence that the rebels stop extortion – a crucial pillar for the economic sustenance of the ultras.

In a 14 February 2011 report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) did not dither to predict that in Philippines, neither the Communist insurgents nor the ruling regime will win the ongoing war “militarily”. ICG had and by reasonable probability still has certain fundamental reasons to stand firm on its argument.

The present political dispensation, headed by the President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, decided to revive negotiations with the Communist Party of Philippines [CPP] and its armed unit New People’s Army [NPA] in October 2010. In fact, that was not for the first time that a Filipino government decided to hold talks with the ultra left-wingers. About two decades back, in the 1990s, during the period of Valdez Ramos – the 12th President, talks were held with the rebels.

Interestingly, the CPP-NPA, under the colourful Jose Maria Sison based in Utrecht, Netherlands, believes that the party would be reaching Strategic Stalemate - the second phase of Guerrilla Warfare – by 2015. Similar thought came to the minds of the ultras in the 1980s and the resultant was that they were almost on the verge of being decimated through internal purges and external onslaught by the security forces.

The Beginnings

The present insurgency began in the historic year of 1967-8 – when not only the South Asian people were clamouring, but even Europe and Latin America were claiming ‘change’. An ambience of resistance swept all through the globe. As Che-guevara was being hunted down within the confines of land-locked Bolivia and Mao Tse-tung voiced his concerns (regarding revisionism creeping into the domain of Communism) through the controversial Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, guns were taken up by a section of the populace in erstwhile colonies of European countries. Philippines were one. India was another.

And interestingly, both the countries, are still witnessing the two movements which commenced almost in parallel – at the same time, only separated spatially.

The present scenario reads thus: the southern island of Mindanao in Philippines mirrors the central Indian district of Bastar in terms of the focal point of the communist insurgency. Both CPP and the Communist Party of India – Maoist [CPI-M] generate revenues through revolutionary taxes on business houses; be it the plantations or the mining corporations as the case and chance may be.

Modi Operandi

NPA operates from the border areas of the provinces, so as to attack in many directions – a pattern very similar to that adopted by the Indian Maoists. Both the outfits strongly believe in Mao’s theory of Protracted People’s War [PPW] with the peasantry spearheading the movement. Both adopt a centralised strategic leadership with decentralised operations – that is, considerable independence at the field levels.

The NPA too goes for agawarmas – that is, seizure of weapons through ambushes, something which is at times exceedingly daily-event like in the Maoist dominated areas of India. Both the groups consistently carry out Targeted Killing of tribal leaders and other “informants”. Pangayaw or tribal wars go on with impunity in the insurgency affected areas of Philippines. Similarly, in the state of Chattisgarh in India, till recently, Salwa Judum was a well-known term.

Even as one looks at the growth trajectory of these two insurgencies, lots of similarities emerge. NPA had undergone multitudes of ups and downs in its history of over four decades. Counterinsurgency campaigns by the Filipino government alongwith internal splits and purges were the chief reasons in the mid 1980s to handicap the CPP. The NPA, too, lost many of its armed cadres in the process and presently has an estimated 5,000 fighters. At the other end, the estimated strength of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army [PLGA] of the CPI-M is somewhere between 10,000 to 25,000.

The Commonalities

CPI-M and CPP have had strenuous periods of internal bickering, splits, mergers, further splits and re-mergers. The major ideological and contentious issues for the development of fissures in CPP were:

·         Difference in opinion in adopting the “correct” Strategy and Tactics
·         Which to start first – rural or urban guerrilla warfare?
·         What should be the party hierarchy like? Whether to focus on Top-Down centralisation or favour more decentralisation?

A peep into the history of the Naxalite-Maoist movement in India since 1967-8 till today clearly shows that the present CPI-M was formed in 2004 after innumerable splits and internecine gory battles through 1980s and 1990s [2]. And the basic reasons for those splits were the vacillation amongst the leadership in adopting the future course of action. There was even a stage when the Indian Maoists were divided into “pro and anti Lin Piao” factions. 

Interestingly, it was in 2004 itself, that the talks between the CPP and the Philippines government broke down and then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo decided to unleash the counter-insurgency campaign. Finally, in December 2010, the CPP-NPA declared to be in the phase of Strategic Defense and agreed to engage in ‘peace talks’ with the Aquino government, brokered by the Norwegians.

Most of the leaders of CPP and as well as CPI-M are in their 60s and 70s. Both Ganapathy and Sison might like to see an end to the decades old conflict in their lifetimes. Though Sison’s intention may be to see the end through peace talks, as of now, Ganapathy is yet to exhibit that intent. The ‘unexpected’ may happen if the olive branch is extended to the latter. It could as well be the fact that both Ganapathy and Sison would keep on using the instrument of “talks” as a tactical weapon in this ongoing PPW.

There is, nonetheless, a distinct difference between the two insurgencies in contention – as seen through the prism of the counterinsurgent.

Though the Filipino government has directly used the military in suppressing the rebellion, India has been coy in doing that. It may well be remembered that in Operation Steeplechase in the 1970s – unleashed to decimate the erstwhile Naxalite movement, the Army was indeed used. It needs to be noted, however, that the Army basically encircled the insurgent hotbeds while the actual search and destroy operations were carried out by the paramilitary and the police.

Even after 2004 – when the Maoist insurgency in India really shaped up with renewed vigour – and till date, the Army has not been deployed in direct combat operations. It is true that an Army training unit has been set up in the heart of the insurgency at Bastar, but that is more psychological than operational.

Perspective of the Counterinsurgent

The counterinsurgency [COIN] doctrine that the Filipino Army uses is an admixture of Winning Hearts and Minds [WHAM] policy plus civil militia approach to separate the insurgent from the populace and to gather knowledge of the local terrain. The Indian approach to COIN – though undeclared in explicit form – is based upon similar techniques. The Civil militia part is legitimised through the induction of local youth into the constabulary. Furthermore, a methodology of targeting the top brass has been put into effective use in the last couple of years.

In this respect, the Special Task Force [STF] and the Special Intelligence Branch [SIB] have worked efficiently. This approach has in fact, crippled the Indian Maoists as they have lost “eminent” members of their Politburo and Central Military Commission; viz. Cherukuri Rajkumar, Koteswar Rao and Sande Rajamouli. As South Asia Terrorism Portal [SATP] informs, presently 13 Politburo and Central Committee members are behind the bars. [3]

Another palpable difference between the two insurgencies is the obvious – the Filipino movement is relatively at rest as on-off “talks” keep on going whereas the Indian Maoist movement is reported to have bloody skirmishes almost regularly. In the period of 2005 – 2012, the total number of casualties is close to 6,000 [4]. The CPI-M is reluctant to put down arms till the Indian counterinsurgents declare a unilateral ceasefire – a highly asymmetrical demand in this irregular war!

At this juncture, what could be the trajectories of solutions for the Indian counterinsurgent? Is the Filipino counterinsurgent proceeding in the right track by negotiating with the rebels?

There is no denial of the basic fact that the support of the population has to be with the counterinsurgent. If not, then at least the “sea” of population should not supply nutrients to the rebel “fish”. This is a maxim not only relevant from Mao’s perspective, but is also reflected through David Galula’s writings. For that, WHAM-based approach appears to be most feasible. Thus a ‘Clear’ operation must not be accompanied with only the ‘Hold’ follow-up, but the ‘Build’ phase with credible governance must be pumped into the rural heartlands without delay.

On a tactical level, the Targeted Imprisonment of the top leadership may go on unabated – gaining credible intelligence which can be further corroborated from the local level spy network established in the villages – which can only be created if the WHAM approach is carried on. In this connection of the ancillary Targeted approach, Superintendent of Police of the Koria district in Chattisgarh, Dhruv Gupta, has an interesting argument. His paper in the 2011 April-June edition of the Indian Police Journal clearly profess “nabbing the top leaders and plugging the supply routes from the urban areas” for the Maoists as an alternative to pumping more and more paramilitary forces to win the rural hinterlands. He advises the police to concentrate on their ‘strong points’ rather than unnecessarily trying to mend their weaker areas.

At the operational level, small-unit fast paced precision strikes could be implemented instead of the company level area domination searches. In fact, small-unit operations were highly successful in the counterinsurgency operations in Malaysia in the 1950s under the command of Harold Briggs. The concept ultimately tipped the war in favour of the British. Initially, the British counterinsurgents were relying on massed attacks on the fluid insurgents without discernible success.

Nothing happens without on-ground preparedness. “Cloning” Greyhounds and Cobras, as advocated by John D M Mitra [5], could be vital in the ongoing campaign against the CPI-M. However, the joint forces need to be led by the state police as it is only the latter which possesses the local knowledge.


For the above to fructify, a well-documented Counter-insurgency Manual by the Police would be a firm step in the right direction. Gone would be the days of ad-hocism. Standard Operating Procedures would be embedded into the manual – not a be all “dogmatic text”, but at least a strategic space to think and act decisively.

As far as India’s eastern counterpart is concerned, Manila is probably throwing its weight behind the peace talks not only just for the sake of it or for historical reasons. Manila has very recently come to an agreement with the Moro separatist insurgency and hence desires an equivalent outcome with the leftist ultras.

Two things, however, Manila may do well to remember. It is always better to talk to communist insurgents from a position of strength. Moreover, ‘third’ party interference in talks is better avoided. One may never know though, with the Moro insurgency subsiding, Manila can also take a cue from Colombo and go all out against the communist guerrillas.

A close watch on both these insurgencies in India and Philippines is thus specially warranted. And with the reports of Filipino Maoists aiding their Indian counterparts surfacing [6], such microscopic monitoring becomes more than relevant.


1: “Philippines declares unilateral Christmas truce with Maoists”, Reuters, Dec 15, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/15/us-philippines-maoists-idUSBRE8BE03Q20121215

2: Jairus Banaji , “The ironies of Indian Maoism”, International Socialism, Issue 128, 14 Oct 2010, http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=684

5: Aman Sharma, “Home Ministry proposes to replicate Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh in five Maoist-hit states”, India Today, July 16 2012, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/home-ministry-greyhounds-andhra-pradesh-maoist-hit-states/1/208420.html

6: Al Labita, “Philippine reds export armed struggle”, Asia Times, April 22, 2010, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/LD22Ae01.html


20 November, 2012

License to Kill?

edited version in Geopolitics, October 2012, pp 64 - 66


Courtesy: http://www.conservativecotton.com/political_t-shirts/pro_gun_t-shirts/guns_dont_kill_people_people_kill_people_t-shirt.html

Summary: Is Targeted Killing an acceptable format in counterinsurgency? Is it synonymous with 'murder' and 'assassination'? Could it likely be used in the operations against the Maoists in India? This article delves into the historical, theoretical and legal aspects of the said doctrine and essays a possible outcome in the Indian scenario. 

License to Kill?

On 5th July this year, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) issued a 7 page pamphlet on the occasion of its ensuing Martyr’s Week which was to be observed from 28th July to 3rd August. No wonder, it is their routine activity – which they meticulously follow every year. The interesting feature of the present document, however, was the admission of the Central Committee that the recent elimination of their top-rung leaders have stung – and that too, quite venomously.

At the end of the 5th page, the document [symptomatic of its inelegant English] reads:

preventing losses to top leadership is one of the most important tasks faced by our party. It is true....” and progresses into the next page:
“.....that people give birth to revolutionary leaders in the course of revolution. But it is equally true that once we lose such leaders, leaders who had gained decades of vast experience and have been guiding the party with unwavering confidence on the people and the revolution, it is not so easy to give birth to such leaders again.

We must take the preservation of our leadership........”

One thing the Maoist leadership failed to appreciate or rather nonchalantly ignored in the circular was the series of abductions which they carried out against bureaucrats, politicos and tradesmen in the last couple of years as a tactical means of furthering their agenda of dismantling the bourgeoisie political framework of India. In the process, they probably forgot the age-old adage of ‘tit for tat’.

Searching in History

Some three decades back in history, sometimes in the mid 1970s, Brigate Rosse – a communist insurgent group, relying on its core principles of kidnapping and assassinations – rose into prominence in Italy. David Johnson, a former senior lecturer in the department of War Studies and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst – writes cogently about the Italian left-wing ultras:

“they indulged in kidnapping of magistrates and the assassination of important legal figures to try to force the release of prisoners.”
Initially, then Italian government was a bit phlegmatic in its counterterrorism moves. However, the high-profile abduction of Aldo Moro – ex Prime Minister of Italy, shook the authorities up from slumber. Moro had a driver and a bodyguard in his car, followed by another car casing two more bodyguards – a near dramatisation of the recent kidnapping of the District Magistrate of Sukma in India’s central state of Chattisgarh. Nevertheless, the Italian reds were smart enough to overpower the bodyguards – their demand was simple – take Moro, and return Renato Curcio – their top leader. The Chattisgrah government too was served with a similar ultimatum in the case of Alex Paul Menon – the executive magistrate in contention.

A month later – the communists declared that Moro had to be condemned to death – as that was the decision delivered by a People’s Court. Was it the unyielding position of the Italian government that paved the way for the brutal death of Moro? Or was it the inherent insanity of the terrorists? In whichever way the answer goes – as it is surely to depend on perspectives – one thing remains factually correct; the Red Brigades lost their mass appeal through this wanton act of terror and it became easy for the Italian government to demolish it in relatively less time. The casualty in the process, nonetheless, was Moro.

It is not only for academic interest that another page from the history of guerrilla warfare may be extracted. On 13th October 1977, a Lufthansa Boeing
737 was high-jacked to Mogadishu, Somalia. The act was carried out by the activists of the Baader-Meinhof  gang. This time too, the demands were naturally obvious – the release of the captives of the gang in lieu of the hapless passengers.

The West German government did not kowtow to the demands of the gang. Rather, it sent the efficient antiterrorist squad GSG9 to storm the high-jacked aircraft. The results were strikingly emphatic for the government – all the terrorists were obliterated with no casualty on the civilian side. What precipitated thereafter was the rapid decay of the Baader-Meinhof gang, with its leaders being eliminated in a surgical fashion by the West German authorities.

The hallmark of the counterterrorist strategies of both Italy and then West Germany was simply put, boldness. And it paid – not always without a loss – but nevertheless mostly with an overall gain.

If one compounds such a firm attitude of counterinsurgency with the targeted approach adopted by many states later on down the time-lane, it discernibly bottles the ingredients of ‘rule of law’ and ‘the moral-humanitarian angle’; on the debit side – with ‘effective counterinsurgency measures by the state’ for the ‘overall benefit of the populace at large’; on the credit side.

In November 2000, Israel was the first state to overtly proclaim that it operated a policy of Targeted Killing in its confrontation with Palestinian militants – informs Nils Melzer in his analytical doctoral dissertation. It was in the midst of the Second Intifada that the Israeli authorities started to bulldoze the Palestinian separatists with their Targeted Killing methodology.  

Since 11th September, 2001, however, the United States has consistently conducted Targeted Killing operations against Al Qaeda and its associated members.

Colonel Peter M. Cullen asserts that in spite of the genuine controversy surrounding this subject of Targeted Killing, a carefully orchestrated policy of such a focused approach can be a legal, moral, as well as effective tool in the campaign against insurgency and terrorism.

The Legal [T]angle

Melzer continues,

“The dramatic events of 11th September 2001 led the United States, and soon after also Pakistan and Russia, to openly induct the method of Targeted Killing in their repertoire of counter terrorism and insurgency. At the same time, Targeted Killing also became increasingly accepted in Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Switzerland as a means of last resort in domestic law enforcement, particularly in situations of hostage-taking and against suspected suicide bombers.”

From the juridical point of view, Melzer concludes thus: “.......the international lex lata [present scheme of law] provides a clear, and satisfactory, regulatory framework for State-sponsored targeted killings, which requires careful and coherent interpretation....”

Coming back to Cullen, he tersely states that the concept of Targeted Killing is a new paradigm with which international law is yet to come to terms. And probably he is justified in saying so as Nils Melzer’s thesis also speaks in a somewhat similar language.  Melzer continually insists on devising a lex ferenda [what the law should be] so as to properly deal with the subject of Targeted Killing.

Blum and Heymann of the Harvard Law School opine that the rights of democratically elected governments to use deadly force against its citizens is constrained by both domestic criminal law and international human rights norms which attempts to protect the individual’s right to life and liberty.
At the other end, Dr Tal Tovy in a 2009 paper published in the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies; while attempting to theorise Targeted Killing, nicely articulates:

Targeted killings have become an effective operational tool, albeit a controversial one, within the complex of activities that a state carries out in the battle against terrorists or guerrilla fighters.”

Brian M. Jenkins, in New Modes of Conflict – a 1983 RAND publication, states that guerrilla warfare became terrorism at the end of the 1960s when the guerrilla organizations renounced their parental format of warfare and also understood that they may not succeed in their futuristic aims of converting their guerrilla focos or bands into conventional contingents.  And we have categorically seen how anarchic acts of terror were curbed by some European governments in the late 1970s – by being firm and resilient.

Tovy lists some credible counterinsurgency programmes in the post-WW II era to substantiate his arguments. Mainly, the author quotes the suppression of the communist insurgency in Malaya and the effectively implemented Phoenix programme against the Viet Cong communist guerrillas by the US. In both these concepts, especially, in Phoenix – the counterinsurgents relied on targeting the leadership.

Interestingly and quite logically, Tovy consistently mentions in his article that the targeted approach in the Phoenix programme never actually always meant ‘Targeted Killing’. It in fact, denoted targeted imprisonment of the top leaders and extracting credible ground intelligence from them.

Theoretically Speaking

In a Spring 2012 paper published in the journal of International Security, Patrick Johnston of the RAND Corporation presents a mathematical modelling of suitable case studies “which challenges the extant notion that high-value targeting is ineffective....” Specifically, Johnston’s results showed “that removing insurgent leaders increases governments’ chances of defeating insurgencies, reduces insurgent attacks, and diminishes overall levels of violence”.

However, Johnston cautions us against a bind adherence to cent per cent efficacy of the targeted approach when he writes that “a variety of different empirical tests consistently demonstrated that governments were more likely to defeat insurgencies following the successful removal of top insurgent leaders, but this probability was consistently estimated at around 25 to 30 percent”.

Interestingly, in a master’s thesis submitted at the Naval Postgraduate School in December 2009, the scholarly triumvirate of Boyden, Menard and Ramirez raise suspicion about the efficacy of the Targeted Killing paradigm. In a crisp thesis, they propose a six-step methodology with an embedded robust analytic framework for determining the effectiveness of Targeted Killing. And by analyzing Israel’s program during the Second Intifada, they ultimately conclude that Targeted Killing was not effective – a viewpoint which would be contrary to Johnston and Tovy’s.

The Indian Way

It seems to be a significant feature that Indian authors on counterinsurgency have hardly discussed the targeted approach as a tactical methodology against insurgents.  It is nothing unnatural though in the Indian context – which culturally repudiates any form of “killing” – even it may be for the establishment of law and order in the long run.

Furthermore, the constitutional provisions debar such an approach on the plank of the ‘principle of natural justice’. To clarify further, in India, a Targeted Killing is invariably interpreted as an extra-judicial “assassination” where the accused is denied audi alteram partem or the ‘right to be heard’. Even any counterinsurgency operation which eventually leads to the elimination of a key leader; viz. Maoist spokesperson Azad or the dreaded Kishenji, is lambasted on unequivocal terms as ‘fake encounters’ by the rights activists.

Such an overpowering intellectual matrix, combined with the existing cultural psyche submerges the cognition of the targeted approach – which in maximum possible theoretical arguments – finally seeks shelter in the semantics of ‘murder’ and ‘brutality’. In this backdrop, it is essential to point out that in the Indian case, the targeted approach must connote Targeted Incarcerations, compounded with Killings of the insurgent leadership, as and when situation demands it. The latter, however, needs to be followed not as a matter of practice. At the same time, there is no need to shun it altogether.

It may be remembered that elimination of key leaders in the early 1970s actually derailed the erstwhile Naxal insurgency – forcing the movement to run out of steam. A repetition of that approach may yet be tested – and that too against the successors of the same enemy. Nevertheless, two paths may well be traversed. One, a national level legislative debate is warranted to arrive at any feasible constitutional adjustments so far as this controversial subject is concerned. And second, profound objective research must be conducted in the theoretical sphere in order to test the hypothesis of the targeted approach in the Indian scenario. 
It must, however, be construed that the tactical weaponry of targeted approach as a measure of counterinsurgency is in no way a license to kill. It is by fair calculations, a tactical doctrine within an overall ambit of strategy. Equivalently, it must be borne in mind that the insurgent too possesses no license to kill.

22 August, 2012

Forthcoming Publications

First, a paper in the CDSRD Journal 

Maoists, Negotiations and Beyond

Dr Uddipan Mukherjee

Are negotiations with the Indian Maoists worthwhile? After a series of abductions of foreign tourists, bureaucrats and politicians in the recent past, such questions may not be impertinent in academic, media as well as political circles. The booming ‘abduction trade’ being carried out by the Maoists deserves an in-depth analysis.

The fundamental ideology of Maoism rests on Protracted Peoples’ War (PPW) in order to topple the so-called ‘reactionary bourgeoisie regime’. Similar movements, launched in Cuba under Castro-Guevara combo, in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas or in Peru under Guzman have all done exactly the same: followed the prototype model of the Chinese Revolution of Mao Zedong. Whether all these movements have been fully successful or not is not the point of debate, but the fact of the matter remains is that these insurgencies followed a set, well-planned model of “peoples’ war” under the umbrella of ‘guerilla tactics’.

‘Holding talks’ was never in their agenda............................


Second, a research article accepted in Geopolitics

License to Kill?
On 5th July this year, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) issued a 7 page pamphlet on the occasion of its ensuing Martyr’s Week which was to be observed from 28th July to 3rd August. No wonder, it is their routine activity – which they meticulously follow every year. The interesting feature of the present document, however, was the admission of the Central Committee that the recent elimination of their top-rung leaders have stung – and that too, quite venomously.
At the end of the 5th page, the document [symptomatic of its inelegant English] reads:

preventing losses to top leadership is one of the most important tasks faced by our party. It is true....” and progresses into the next page............................


19 June, 2012

The End of Counterinsurgency and the Scalable Force

By George Friedman

The U.S. military for years has debated the utility of counterinsurgency operations. Drawing from a sentiment that harkens back to the Vietnam War, many within the military have long opposed counterinsurgency operations. Others see counterinsurgency as the unavoidable future of U.S. warfare. 

The debate is between those who believe the purpose of a conventional military force is to defeat another conventional military force and those who believe conventional military conflicts increasingly will be replaced by conflicts more akin to recent counterinsurgency operations. In such conflicts, the purpose of a counterinsurgency is to transform an occupied society in order to undermine the insurgents.

Understanding this debate requires the understanding that counterinsurgency is not a type of warfare; it is one strategy by which a disproportionately powerful conventional force approaches asymmetric warfare. As its name implies, it is a response to an insurgency, a type of asymmetric conflict undertaken by small units with close links to the occupied population to defeat a larger conventional force. 

Insurgents typically are highly motivated -- otherwise they collapse easily -- and usually possess superior intelligence to a foreign occupational force. Small units operating with superior intelligence are able to evade more powerful conventional forces and can strike such forces at their own discretion. Insurgents are not expected to defeat the occupying force through direct military force. Rather, the assumption is that the occupying force has less interest in the outcome of the war than the insurgents and that over time, the inability to defeat the insurgency will compel the occupying force to withdraw.

According to counterinsurgency theory, the strength of an insurgency lies in the relationship between insurgents and the general population. The relationship provides a logistical base and an intelligence apparatus. It also provides sanctuary by allowing the insurgents to blend into the population and disappear under pressure. Counterinsurgency argues that severing this relationship is essential. 

The means for this consist of offering the population economic incentives, making deals with the traditional leadership and protecting the population from the insurgents, who might conduct retributive attacks for collaborating with the occupying force.

The weakness of counterinsurgency is the assumption that the population would turn against the insurgents for economic incentives or that the counterinsurgents can protect the population from the insurgents. Some values, such as nationalism and religion, are very real among many populations, and the occupying force's ability to alter these values is dubious, no matter how helpful, sincere and sympathetic the occupying force is. 

Moreover, protecting the population from insurgents is difficult. In many cases, insurgents are the husbands, brothers and sons of civilians. The population may want the economic benefits offered by the occupying force, but that does not mean citizens will betray or ostracize their friends and relatives. In the end, it is a specious assumption that a mass of foreigners can do more than intimidate a population. The degree to which they can intimidate them is doubtful as well.


An Alternative to Counterinsurgency?


There is of course another dimension of asymmetric warfare, which encapsulates guerrilla warfare and special operations warfare. This is warfare by which highly trained light infantry forces are deployed on a clearly defined mission but are not dependent on the local population. Instead, these forces avoid the general population, operating on their own supplies or supplies obtained with minimal contact with the population. 

Notably, either side could adopt these tactics. What is most important in considering guerrilla warfare from the perspective of the counterinsurgent is that it is not merely a tactic for the insurgent; it is also a potential alternative to counterinsurgency itself. 

Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the U.S. military is not very good at counterinsurgency. One could argue that the United States should improve its counterinsurgency capabilities, but there is little evidence that it could master such capabilities. There is, however, another form of light infantry warfare to consider, and it is a form of warfare the United States is good at. The alternative does not seek to win over the population but is designed to achieve very definable military objectives, from the destruction of facilities to harassing, engaging and possibly destroying enemy forces, including insurgents.

Special Operations Forces are highly useful for meeting these objectives, but we should also include other types of forces. The U.S. Marine Corps is one such example. Rather than occupying territory, and certainly rather than trying to change public opinion, these forces have a conventional mission carried out in relatively small unit operations. Their goal is to assert military force in highly defined if limited missions designed to bypass the population and strike at the opposition's capabilities. 

This is exemplified best in counterterrorist operations or the assault on specific facilities. These operations are cheap and do not require occupation. More important, these operations are designed to terminate without incurring political cost -- the bane of prolonged counterinsurgency operations. The alternative to counterinsurgency is to avoid occupational warfare by rigorously defining more limited missions.

To illustrate these operations, consider what we regard as a major emerging threat: Non-state actors potentially acquiring land-based anti-ship missiles. Globalism brings with it intensified maritime trade. Meanwhile, we have seen the dissemination of many weapons to non-state actors. It is easy to imagine that the next stage of diffusion would be mobile, land-based anti-ship missiles. A guerrilla group or insurgency, armed with such weapons, could take advantage of land cover for mobility but strike at naval vessels. 

In fact, we have already seen several instances where groups employ this strategy. Hezbollah did so in operations against Israel in 2006. Pirates off the coast of Africa are a non-state threat to maritime shipping, though they have yet to use such weapons. Likewise, we see this potential in suicide boat bombs launched from the coast of Yemen.

The world is filled with chokepoints, where the ocean narrows and constricts the flow of ships into corridors within range of land-based anti-ship systems. Some chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Gibraltar, are natural, while others, such as the Panama and Suez canals, are man-made, and they are vulnerable to weapons far less sophisticated than anti-ship missiles. These chokepoints, as well as other critical coastal waters, represent the vulnerabilities of the global economic system to state and non-state actors. Occupying them is the logical next step up from piracy.

Providing naval escorts to protect commercial vessels would not solve the problem. The escorts would not be in a position to attack the land-based attackers, whose location would be unknown. Airstrikes are possible, but as we have learned in places like Kosovo, camouflage is an effective counter to airstrikes despite its shortcomings.

These are the circumstances under which scalable, self-contained units would be needed. U.S. Marines, who have forces of sufficient scale to engage attackers in relatively larger areas, are particularly well suited for such missions. Special operations teams would be useful against identified and static hard targets, but amphibious light infantry in various sized units would provide the ability to search, identify and destroy attackers who are constantly moving or redeploying. Because these would be land-sea operations, cooperation between naval forces and ground forces would be critical. These clearly are Marine missions, and potentially urgent ones.

This is one mission among many that can be imagined for smaller-unit operations against non-state actors in a hybrid war scenario, which would avoid the obvious pitfalls of counterinsurgency. Most of all, it would provide boots on the ground distinguishing between targets, camouflage and innocent victims and still be able to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles and other assets.
The issue is not between peer-to-peer conflict and counterinsurgency. While increasingly rare, peer-to-peer conflict still represents the existential threat to any country. But the real problem is matching the force to the mission without committing to occupation -- or worse still, the social transformation of the country.


Scale and Mission


The type of government that Afghanistan has is not a matter of national interest to the United States. What is of national interest is that terrorist attacks are not planned, practiced or launched from Afghanistan. Neither occupation nor transformation of the social structure is necessary to achieve this mission. What is necessary will vary in every conflict, but the key in each conflict is to contain the commitment to the smallest level possible. There are three reasons for this. First, doing so defines the mission in such a way that it can be attained. This imposes realism on the mission. 

Moreover, minimizing commitment avoids the scenario in which prudent withdrawal is deemed politically unacceptable. Last, it avoids the consequences of attempting to transform an entire country.

Military intervention should be a rare occurrence; when it does occur, it should be scaled to the size of the mission. In the chokepoint scenario addressed above, the goal is not to defeat an insurgency; an insurgency cannot be defeated without occupying and transforming the occupied society. The goal is to prevent the use of land-based missiles against ships. Missions to destroy capabilities are politically defensible and avoid occupational warfare. They are effective counters to insurgents without turning into counterinsurgencies.

These missions require a light force readily transportable by multiple means to a target area. They should be capable of using force from the squad level to larger levels if necessary. Forces deployed must be able to return as needed and remain in theater without needing to be on the ground, taking casualties and engaging in warfare against non-essential targets and inevitably against civilians. In other words, the mission should not incur unnecessary political costs.

The key is to recognize the failure of counterinsurgency, that warfare is conducted on varying scales of size and that any force must be able to adapt to the mission, ideally operating without large onshore facilities and without moving to occupation.

The current debate over counterinsurgency opens the door to a careful consideration of not only the scalability of forces but also the imperative that the mission includes occupation only in the most extreme cases. Occupation leads to resistance, resistance leads to counterattacks and counterattacks lead to counterinsurgencies. Agile insertion of forces, normally from the sea, could beget disciplined strategic and operational planning and war termination strategies. Wars are easier to end when all that is required is for ships to sail away.

Not all wars can be handled this way, but wars that can't need to be considered very carefully. The record for these wars does not instill optimism. 

Courtesy: Stratfor

21 May, 2012

On Counterinsurgency: Evaluating the role of Civil Militias

           Pic Courtesy: http://www.coha.org/from-cradle-to-conflict-latin-americas-child-soldiers-new-direction-to-drug-wars/

as accepted in the journal Scholar Warrior (CLAWS)


This article explores the various theoretical arguments regarding the role of
civil militias as put forward by scholars of counter-insurgency. In the process,
the article consummates the arrangement of civil militias with standard
counter-insurgency warfare. Instead of wholly rejecting the militias as an
exploitative mechanism of authoritative state structures, the author posits
examples from across the globe which indicates the efficacy of such militias.
However, the paper also discusses the realistic limitations on the rampant use of civil militias. The option of using such decentralised security apparatus in India – especially against the ongoing Maoist rebellion – remains an open

"A poem need not have a meaning and like most things in nature often
does not have."

- Wallace Stevens

However, strategy and tactics in counterinsurgency warfare must be
meaningful and provide the necessary thrust to carry out successful
operations so as to bolster state structures, if at all they remain as
meaningful connotations in post-modern deconstructive narrations.
The population emerges as ‘the’ factor in insurgency and its counterpoise.
Seen through the panoptic structures of both insurgents as well as
counterinsurgents – seeking the support of the population or at least
neutralizing their effect appears as the significant breakthrough in a
counterinsurgency war.

Insurgencies abound since the Spanish Rebellion of the Napoleonic days.
Nevertheless, the praxis of counterinsurgency warfare still seems to lack a
perfectly unidirectional guideline. The central tendency however, is to rotate
about the British-American-French axis of ‘population-centric’

Most democracies, India included, adhere to such a doctrinaire; punctuated
with minor adjustments suitable to their local specificities. And with Edward
Luttwak’s prescription of ‘out-terrorising’ the insurgents[1] so as to deter them
from being ‘born’ out of the multitude appearing as insensibly brutal and
barbaric to modern democracies; the other option of ‘soft’ counterinsurgency
remains as the logical one.

On the contrary, deriving logic from Zambernardi’s trilemma[2] of
counterinsurgency – the very moment the counterinsurgent attempts for the
protection of its security personnel - it loses the war against the insurgents.
Indeterminacy hence creeps into the strategy of the counterinsurgent, and in
modern democracies – the counterinsurgent is in a quagmire – torn apart in
a contestation between winning the ‘unwinnable’ irregular war as well as
‘losing’, in the process, as few personnel as desirable under political
compulsions. Withstanding pressures from the civil society and media is
another hurdle.

Here comes the [Un] Civil Militia (?)

Very famously, German sociologist Max Weber defined the state as
“a human community that claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of
physical force within a given territory”.

However, as Ariel I. Ahram notes in Proxy Warriors: The Rise and Fall of
State-sponsored militias, that few states have ever actually sought a
complete monopoly over military force, “much less possessed it.”
Ahram’s study actually contends that the devolution of state control over
violence to non-state actors; that is military decentralization is not a new
phenomenon of the post-modern world, and does not, according to the
author, necessarily presage a descent into chaos. Rather, as per Ahram, the
international community must learn to live with civil militias and not try,
somewhat in vain, to displace and uproot them.

Macartan Humphreys and Jeremy M. Weinstein have put forth some
alarming statistics[3]. Since 1945, civil wars have engulfed 73 countries and
caused deaths of more than 16 million people, combatants and noncombatants included. 

In fact, 25 per cent of civil wars since 1945 have lasted at least 12 years (Fearon 2004). Humphreys and Weinstein further argue that strategies of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction predict participation of combatants in defense of the state. 

To quote:

“……. the empirical results challenge standard interpretations of grievance-based accounts of participation, as poverty, a lack of access to education, and political alienation predict participation in both rebellion and counterrebellion.”

The authors analyse that individuals are more likely to participate in
rebellions if some or all of the following factors are satisfied:

1. They expect to receive selective incentives from the fighting groups

2. They believe that they could be safer inside a fighting faction than
outside it.

3. Members of their community are active in the movement.

4. Their community is characterized by strong social structures.

5. They are economically deprived

6. They are marginalized from political decision-making

7. They are alienated from mainstream political processes

Factually speaking, the necessity and effectiveness of irregular civilian
defence forces have been demonstrated numerous times in history. In that
regard, the following list may not be exhaustive[4]:

1. Civic guards in 16th century Europe

2. In American War of Independence

3. Home guards of the Kenyan state Vs the Mau Mau guerrillas

4. Peru’s self defence committees (peasant groups) during the
Communist insurgency

5. Sons of Iraq programme as raised by the American forces

6. In Phillipines at the turn of the 20th century by the Americans

7. In the Indian Wars in America

8. During the Vietnam War

9. In North Caucasus (especially Chechnya) by Russia

10. Ghaziya raids in Sudan by the French Army

11. By Israel in Lebanon

12. By Indonesia in East Timor

13. By Nazi Germany in Greece

14. By NATO-ISAF in Afghanistan

The example of using the local Afghans against the Taliban insurgency may
be termed to be the latest addition in the list. Joe Quinn and Mario A.
Fumerton reports that the local populace stood up to the Taliban at Kamani-
Kalan, a town in the Kunduz province in March 2009.

Defining ‘counterinsurgency’ as a protracted political-military struggle to
deny the insurgent actor the opportunity to establish control over the
population. Quinn and Fumerton argue that ‘securing and protecting’ the
population is the key to winning the coveted prize of popular support.
However, counterinsurgents will find it difficult to gain the trust, confidence
and collaboration of the population if they are unable to sustain a constant
presence among the people. Moreover, the authors say that:

“although protecting civilians may seem intuitive to many of us who embrace a population-centric approach to counter-insurgency, putting the principle into practice has historically proven to be extremely challenging”.

The main reason cited by Quinn and Fumerton for this difficulty is because
counterinsurgent forces are almost never able to maintain a presence in all places at all times where the population might be in need of protection. They refer to this as the ‘ubiquity problem’.

The Sons of Iraq (SoI) programme was another local, bottom-up approach.
SoIs were paid with a three-months’ contract. The programme employed
former insurgents to provide local security. This process of reintegrating
former insurgents generally serves two purposes:

1. To discover moles in the insurgent ranks

2. Strengthening of the population-centric counterinsurgency.

Putting forth their arguments in this direction, the researchers posit
the following factors in favour of setting up a local-militia in

1. Locals resolve the identification problem – of how to separate the
Taliban guerrilla from the Pashtun villager (one of the factors of
Zambernardi’s trilemma)

2. Denies the insurgent his social sphere

3. Helps the counterinsurgent to get acquainted with the local culture

The ‘perfect’ counterinsurgent, if any, is to be found within the Afghan
population itself. And therein lie the logic of applying the Afghan Local
Police (ALP) programme.

Ethnicity in a Civil War

Stathis N. Kalyvas of the Yale University boldly asserts[5]:

“I hypothesize that a key determinant of the variation of the behavioural potential of ethnicity, is the willingness of incumbent states facing ethnic rebellions to recruit ethnic defectors……”

According to him, ‘ethnic defection’ is a key process to explain that ethnic
identity and civil war are consistent with constructivist approaches.
Three major observations crystallize out of Kalyvas’ theoretical perspective
toward civil wars. Those are enunciated as under:

1. Ethnic boundaries are cemented as the civil war progresses

2. In so far as civil wars shape ethnic identities, they do so by hardening

3. Actors such as strong states and foreign occupiers should be, with
other parameters being equal, more likely to seek out ethnic defection
compared to weaker actors, including poor post-colonial states.

In the paper, Kalyvas predicts a rise in ethnic defection in the latter
stages of the irregular war. He says that a mix of coercion and
financial inducement is needed to usher in insurgent defection.
Furthermore, revenge by former insurgents could be skillfully
maximized in the counterinsurgency warfare. 

He thus articluates:

“It is worth stressing that the process of ethnic defection is extremely consequential even when the numbers of defectors remain relatively small. This is so, because ethnic identity ceases to be a reliable indicator of pro-ethnic rebel behavior.”

Now, who represents the ‘will’ of the ethnic community? Kalyvas
presents an interesting analysis.

Ethnic rebels are forced to resort to violence against members of their own
ethnic group, so as to ‘deter’ further defection. The resulting intra-ethnic
violence against members of the same group, according to Kalyvas,
liquidates their claims to usurp the ‘actual will’ of the entire group.

In fact, ethnic defection destroys those elements that make ethnic identity
so important for collective action. As a result, many ethnic civil wars, namely
those where ethnic defection takes place, turn into contests for the loyalty of
the population and resemble non-ethnic civil wars.

In a micro-comparative test of the determinants of ethnic defection,
Kalyvas concentrates on a study conducted in southern Greece under the
occupation of Nazi Germany. And the results of the data analysis could be
outlined as under:

1. Localities that experienced insurgent violence supplied recruits to the
civil defence militia which fought alongside the Nazis

2. More recruits flowed from regions where there was more rigid control
of the occupation [Nazi] forces

3. Incidentally, there appeared to be a geographical factor embedded in
the counterinsurgency; viz, there was a positive correlation between
recruitment in the German-backed militia and higher elevations from the
sea level

Once a conflict begins, military action has the potential of generating new
political dynamics; including ethnic defection. Ethnic boundaries are fluid,
as Kalyvas shows through his piercing analysis.

The ‘Other’ side of the coin

Irregular war could be delineated as some sort of a social process. And
many individuals enter the war long after it has started – driven by
incentives and constraints. A particularly strong incentive is revenge;
which may be ‘deftly’ used by the state actor to bolster civil militias.
Matthew P Dearing writes along similar lines:

“Historical and exogenous lessons abound of state-led initiatives to devolve security to the local level.”

He cites the additional examples of the counterinsurgency initiatives of
Japan, Thailand and Sudan. The Janjaweed militia in Sudan is described
to be ‘rapacious’ and ‘brutal’. Combining these ‘lesser known examples’,
as the author terms them, the following lessons seem to have been learnt
as far as civil militias in counterinsurgency warfare is concerned [6]:

1. The ends of counterinsurgency justifies the means. The state acted as
a supervisor and supporter of local capacity-building initiatives.

2. Placing ‘inciters’ of violence under institutional state structures serves
to build social capital as citizens begin to trust the capability of the state
to secure them.

For instance, rural Afghans historically have sought the protection of
tanzim and other political or military alliances.

Usman A. Tar, however, is quite critical of the Janjaweed. In the paper, “The
perverse manifestations of civil militias in Africa: Evidence from Western
Sudan”, Tar investigated whether the Janjaweed militia in western Sudan
acted as informal units of the regular Sudanese Army or were ‘merely’
ethnically-motivated with no connection with the state whatsoever.
In the process, he argues with evidences that Janjaweed militias were
formidably entwined with the state structures.
In fact, Tar is extremely apt as he writes[7]:

“The dilemmas posed to Africa by such phenomena as civil wars, civil militias,
‘warlordism’, (counter)insurgencies, child soldiers, and violence against noncombatants – especially vulnerable social categories (elderly, children, disabled and women) – are perhaps comparable to the on-going ‘global’ war on terror”

However, like most state authorities, the Sudanese government denies
links to the Janjaweed.

Treading along the expected path, Will Clegg says that effective
counterinsurgency requires a strategy aimed at securing control of civilian
populations. Historically, irregular forces recruited from local communities
have helped generate, sustain and manage collaboration between
civilians and counterinsurgent forces.

However, according to Clegg, irregular forces do not necessarily promote
the success of the counterinsurgent[8]. For instance, if the civil militias are
poorly managed, then private interests may be pursued using the means
of violence at their disposal, thereby undermining the broader campaign
of counterinsurgency. Hence, man-management has to be done skillfully
by the state actors.

Due to the ratio of hard-core insurgents to local recruits, the threat to state
survival posed by an insurgency can be dramatically reduced by severing an
insurgency’s hard-core members from civilian populations [viz. the ‘good’
Taliban and ‘bad’ Taliban theorization]. Even if a residual terrorist threat
remains, the survival of the state will not be threatened unless the hard-core
militants gather a large number of people.

When the number of insurgents goes down, and the strength of the
incumbent government is made clear to local communities, insurgents are
often compelled to rely on dramatic acts of indiscriminate violence.
Nevertheless, such an act could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
However, more the insurgents rely on terror; the deeper it undermines their
attempts to gain popular support.

Thus, in general terms an insurgency can be said to be defeated if and when
it is largely separated from civilian populations.

The ‘logic of violence’ in counterinsurgency war is such that the prospects of
the counterinsurgents to separate insurgent cadres from civilians are low
unless they can first impose control the communities in which civilians live.
Furthermore, gathering intelligence is crucial.

Divide and Rule

Sometimes, irregularity could be a source of strength. It may so happen
persuading an insurgent to defect and support the government is more
effective than killing him[her], as it contributes to the size of government
forces while depleting the enemies’ material strength and morale.

It has to be kept in mind that counterinsurgency belongs to fourth
generation warfare. Hence, psychological warfare is a critical component of

Clegg’s view-points were grossly similar to the above, while analyzing the
counterinsurgency operations of the Sultan of Oman between 1970 and

Not along very dissimilar lines, Humphreys and Weinstein tested the existing
theories pertaining to the determinants of participation in armed
insurgencies. As micro-level survey data, they focused on the civil war in
Sierra Leone (from 1991 to 2002). Their findings regarding the behaviour of
the combatants in defense of the state could be enumerated as under:

1. Those in a relatively better economic position will have a stake in
defending the political status quo [the dreaded caste-based militia called
Ranvir Sena in erstwhile Bihar, India against the Naxalites is an example of
this order]

2. Members of ethnic groups that benefit from political power have stronger
incentives to prevent a successful rebellion.

3. Individuals active and engaged in mainstream political processes will
mobilize to defend the existing political system. [the tussle of the Marxist
and conservative party cadres with the ultra-left wingers in the erstwhile
Naxalite movement and present Maoist movement in India, is a pertinent
case in point]

In sum, it could be said that as state structures melt away, local defense
militias become a major bulwark against brutal insurgent attacks in rural
[urban] areas

This policy of inserting militias into the populace is certainly the [in]famous
‘Divide and Rule’. Howsoever unethical it may sound in modern democratic
parlance; the policy still remains as a convenient instrument in weakening
the camp of the belligerent rebels. In this regard, Alexander B. Downes of
the Duke University may be quoted at length[9]:

“States in today’s world that are beset by civil conflict face conflicting pressures: the international community favors negotiations and power sharing, but governments also want to make as few concessions as possible to rebels. Using negotiations to create spoilers provides one way out of this dilemma: the government can co-opt certain groups into signing a superficial peace accord and then tar those who refuse to agree as intransigent dead-enders. 

The trick is to offer just enough in the way of concessions to peel away opportunistic or moderate rebel factions. In exchange for
perks and material rewards, these groups can be enlisted to provide intelligence or additional combat power against their former comrades.”

Latin America - like Africa and Asia - if not somewhat more, had
suffered and still suffers from chronic insurgencies. During the last two
decades of the twentieth century - in El Salvador, Columbia and
Mexico, the acting regimes faced growing opposition from leftwing
militant groups.

To decapitate the insurgencies, the state-actors sometimes relied on
the infamously termed ‘death squads’ – which at times did not remain
under the control of the military and the ruling elite. As Ralph Rozema
of the Utrecht University contends[10] that though the squads were
under authoritative control in El Salvador and Mexico, they operated
more independently in Colombia. In fact, in the former two countries,
the squads ceased to exist when the government reached a peace
agreement with the left ultras.

Whereas, in Colombia, as Rozema reports, the militias were heavily
involved in the illicit drug trade and developed into a powerful force
with whom the government had to negotiate to reach an agreement
for their demobilization. Interestingly and expectedly, at Chiapas
(Mexico), existence of death squads were denied by the state.
Nevertheless, in 1996, when the Mexican government could chart out
a peace agreement with the EZLN group or the Zapatistas, the death
squads disappeared.

In Columbia, on the other hand, as pointed out by Rozema,
paramilitary militias, seized the properties of peasants they had
evicted from their land, a development characterized as
contrarreforma agraria.

In 2003, the civil militias signed an agreement with the government
for their disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration. Since then,
many of them have successfully reintegrated in the society, but others
have resorted to criminal groups - mainly involved in drug trafficking.
Nevertheless, the role of civil militias in counterinsurgency warfare
tends to receive a fillip when even Usman A. Tar – a vehement critic of
the Janjaweed, posits the logic behind using them. Apart from the lone
factor that civil militias like Janjaweed obscures state violence, Tar is
razor-sharp to indicate that civil militias could be used as an advance
party to penetrate the rebel strongholds. Moreover, as per Tar, civil
militias are extremely useful in providing human intelligence to state

However, it is needless to mention that the viral offshoots of using civil
militias are:

1. Atrocities and human rights abuses committed by such irregular
armies stand to degrade the legitimacy of the state. Hence, for most of
the times, the state structures do not officially attest to the use of civil
militias [the case of Salwa Judum, which has been disgraced by India’s
Apex Court is evident here]

2. Demobilisation of these irregular forces in a post-insurgency clime
could be a formidable task [in the case of Colombia, as discussed by

3. Inconsiderate and rampant use of civil militias always have the
possibility of inflaming the insurgency

4. A projected environ of an ethnically-driven civil war could be
another fallout

In a ‘hot’ revolutionary war, as David Galula argues, the
counterinsurgent may delve on the following possibilities[11]:

1. Act directly against the insurgent leaders

2. Act indirectly on the conditions of insurgency

3. May ‘infiltrate’ the insurgent movement

4. Build up the political machine so as to politically defeat the

By ‘infiltration’, Galula meant intelligence operations which may
internally wreck the insurgent organisation. He cites the case of
Okhrama or Czar’s Police which had crept into the organisation of
the Bolshevik Party.

Interestingly, in his second law of counterinsurgency, Galula too,
seeks support through an active minority in the population on which
the insurgents base themselves.


Deriving on the theoretical literature about the usage of civil
militias, the following arguments seem to crystallize:

1. For modern democracies like India, it would be pragmatic enough if it
proceeds with the population-centric approach to counterinsurgency.

2. Human intelligence could be best gathered in environs where the state
could ‘secure’ the affected population.

3. Since democracies cannot altogether do away with the parameter of
‘force protection’, the option of erecting civil militias seem to be a
safer option.

4. However, legitimization of the civil militias is required. Hence, local
ethnic youths need to be provided jobs in the constabulary. It suffices
three purposes.

One, this reduces the ambience of unemployment. Thus it leads to a
better economy and consequent satiation of the belligerent population.

Two, it helps in gathering viable intelligence. And three, it sucks the
water for the guerrilla fish as one youth with job to 4 to 5 satisfied
locals; especially in densely populated territories.

Such a methodology has recently been applied by the state in the
provinces of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal after the Salwa Judum had
been struck down in India as illegal.

Definitely, a word of caution lies here. Vsevolod Gunitskiy in The National
Interest despises[12] the system of arbitrary terror imposed by state forces
in the name of counterinsurgency. He writes with literary impunity while
putting forth the example of Russian troops in Chechnya:

“One consequence of Russian conduct in Chechnya has been the radicalization of the population.”

It may be inferred that whether civil militias provide the necessary
succour to the counterinsurgent or not, the implementation of such an
instrument of state policy has to be rare and under careful analysis.
Further empirical and theoretical work needs to be done in so far as civil
militias are concerned. Case studies in active areas of insurgency –
especially in democracies which were former colonies [like India] – needs
to be taken up for obtaining incisive results.


1: Edward Luttwak, “Dead End: Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice”, Harper’s Magazine, February 2007, http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/0081384

2: Lorenzo Zambernardi, “Counterinsurgency’s Impossible Trilemma”, The
Washington Quarterly, July 2010,

3: Macartan Humphreys and Jeremy M. Weinstein, “Who Fights? The Determinants of Participation in Civil War”, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 52, No. 2, April 2008, Pp. 436–455

4: A part of the list may be gleaned in “Counterinsurgency from below: the Afghan local police in theoretical and comparative perspective” by Joe Quinn and Mario A. Fumerton (November 2010)

5: Stathis N. Kalyvas, “Ethnic Defection in Civil War”, Comparative Political Studies, Volume 41, Number 8, August 2008, pp. 1043-1068 © 2008 Sage Publications, 10.1177/0010414008317949 http://cps.sagepub.com, hosted at http://online.sagepub.com

6: Matthew P. Dearing, “Formalizing the Informal: Historical Lessons on Local
Defense in Counterinsurgency”

7: Usman A. Tar, Peace, Conflict and Development: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 7, July 2005

8: Will Clegg, “Irregular Forces in CounterinsurgencyWarfare”, Security Challenges, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Spring 2009), pp. 1-25

9: Alexander B. Downes, “MODERN INSURGENCY AND COUNTERINSURGENCY IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE”, Civil Wars 9, no. 4 (December 2007): 313-323

10: Ralph Rozema “Death Squads in Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico compared”, Vol. 7, No. 3, Spring 2010, 506-512 www.ncsu.edu/project/acontracorriente

11: David Galula, “Counter-insurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice”, FREDERICK A. PRAEGER, Publisher New York · London, 1964

12: Vsevolod Gunitskiy, “The Lessons of Chechnya in Iraq: A Realist Approach to Civilian Warfare”, The National Interest, November 19, 2003