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Potential U.S. allies in counterinsurgencies linked to al-Qa'ida frequently suffer from four categories of structural problems: illegitimate (and often repressive) regimes; civil-military tension
manifested by fears of a coup; economic backwardness; and discriminatory societies. Because of these problems, allies often stray far from the counterinsurgency (COIN) ideal, both militarily
and politically. Their security service culture often is characterized by poor intelligence; a lack of initiative; little integration of forces
across units; soldiers who do not want to fight; bad leadership; and problems with training, learning, and creativity. In addition, the structural weaknesses have a direct political effect that can aid an insurgency by hindering the development and implementation of a national strategy, fostering poor relations with outside powers that might otherwise assist the COIN effort (such as the United States),encouraging widespread corruption, alienating the security forces from the overall population, and offering the insurgents opportunities
to penetrate the security forces.Washington must recognize that its allies, including those in the
security forces, are often the source of the problem as well as the heart of any solution. The author argues that the ally's structural problems and distinct interests have daunting implications for
successful U.S. counterinsurgency efforts. The nature of regimes and of societies feeds an insurgency, but the United States is often
hostage to its narrow goals with regard to counterinsurgency and thus becomes complicit in the host-nation's self-defeating behavior.
Unfortunately, U.S. influence often is limited as the allies recognize that America's vital interests with regard to fighting al-Qa'ida-linked
groups are likely to outweigh any temporary disgust or anger at an ally's brutality or failure to institute reforms. Training, military-tomilitary
contacts, education programs, and other efforts to shape their COIN capabilities are beneficial, but the effects are likely to be limited at best.
Throughout the 1980s, the United States poured money into El Salvador to check communist expansion in Central America. Although at that time the Salvador conflict was the costliest U.S. military effort since Vietnam, at the end of the decade the United
States found itself spinning its wheels. Despite almost a decade of training, aid, and high-level pushes for reform, the Salvadoran security forces still suffered basic flaws such as a mediocre and
disengaged officer corps, widespread corruption, a poor promotion system, and conscripts who did not want to fight. These weaknesses were only part of a broader problem. The security forces perpetrated
or supported blatant and brutal oppression such as the killing of moderate political opponents and human rights organization and church officials, including priests and nuns. The security forces also
were strong voices against much-needed economic, political, and social reforms that, had they been implemented, would have hindered the insurgents' ability to recruit and operate. Not surprisingly, as
the decade ended, U.S. military officials concluded that an outright military victory over the communist insurgents was unlikely and that a political settlement was required. In his landmark study of El Salvador, Benjamin Schwartz found that the problem was not that the United States was fighting the
wrong war or otherwise repeating Vietnam-era mistakes of using conventional military power to fight an unconventional war. Rather, Schwartz found the United States did not understand its own allies.
El Salvador's military mirrored the country as a whole, complete with the same fractures, weaknesses, and pathologies. Indeed, U.S. attempts to initiate reform often failed because they relied on the
Salvadoran military and government even though they had interests quite distinct from the U.S. agenda.the El Salvador experience should be of interest to policymakers today as well as to historians, since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States not only ushered in a new era of
counterterrorism, they also forced the return of the counterinsurgency era.The global effort against al-Qa'ida has meant, in part, invading Afghanistan and wrapping up cells around the globe. However, it
also has required closer ties with a number of governments involved in fighting Islamist insurgents that, to different degrees, have ties to al-Qa'ida. Since the attacks, the United States has forged closer relations with Algeria, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and other countries fighting insurgent groups that have relations with the global Sunni jihad that al-Qa'ida champions. This shift toward counterinsurgency is a concern, as the U.S. record on fighting insurgencies in a third country historically has
been poor. The Philippines appears to have been a real but difficult success, and operations in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban
have gone better than many anticipated. Nevertheless, the overall track record of the United States is better characterized by frustration
than by victory.Successful counterinsurgency (COIN) relies heavily on allies' paramilitary, military, intelligence, and other security forces.
In different countries these forces comprise a startling range of capabilities and sizes. The particular force-type mix varies by the
country in question, the level of the insurgency, and the regime's level of trust in the various bodies in question.
This monograph focuses heavily on military and paramilitary forces, as intelligence
and police units typically (though not always) take the lead before the insurgency is full-blown. The term "security forces" is used as a
broad term to encompass a range of units that fight insurgents. According to various works on counterinsurgency, in theory security forces play several key roles. First, they establish government
control and eliminate insurgent combatants. Second, they secure an area so political and other reforms can be carried out.Allies' security forces are also vital in part for political reasons at home. The American people naturally prefer that others fight and die in their stead, particularly when the conflict so obviously involves a third country's vital interests.6 Equally important, allies should be
better able to carry out most aspects of counterinsurgency. Their forces speak the language and know the culture, so they are better
able to gather intelligence and avoid actions that gratuitously offend
the population.Even the best-behaved foreigners may generate a nationalistic backlash among local citizens who otherwise feel little sympathy for the insurgents.Finally, perhaps the greatest factor
affecting the insurgents' success or failure is the response of a regime: a clumsy or foolish response can be the insurgents' greatest source of
recruits.Despite these advantages, thinking and scholarship on COIN tends to ignore the role of allies. Analyses are typically bifurcated
into two players: the insurgents on one hand, and the COIN forces on the other. Even the recently issued U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine
mentions the role of the host nation only in passing, without any serious discussion given to problems that may be encountered. In reality, even though both the ally and the United States want
to defeat the insurgents, their interests differ considerably. An ally's politics, society, and economy affect both the overall culture of its
security forces and the political profile they present to their people: effects that shape the ally's COIN strengths and weaknesses.The U.S. COIN allies (with regard to al-Qa'ida) reviewed in this monographÐ’â€”Algeria, Afghanistan, India, Chechnya, Pakistan,
Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and EgyptÐ’â€”have (to different degrees) four categories of structural problems: illegitimate (and often repressive) regimes; civil-military tension manifested by fears of a coup; economic backwardness; and discriminatory societies.
Because of these problems, allies often stray far from the COIN ideal, both militarily and politically. Their security service culture
often is characterized by poor intelligence; a lack of initiative; little integration of forces across units; soldiers who do not want to fight;
bad leadership; and problems with training, learning, and creativity. In addition, their structural weaknesses have a direct political effect
that can aid an insurgency by hindering the development and implementation of a national strategy, fostering poor relations with
outside powers that might otherwise assist the COIN effort (such as the United States), encouraging widespread corruption, alienating
the security forces from the overall population, and offering the insurgents opportunities to penetrate the security forces. The implications of these weaknesses go beyond the ability (or lack thereof) of local forces to fight the insurgents and shape the
relationship between the regime and the United States. Washington must recognize that its allies, including those in the security forces,
are often the source of the problem as well as the heart of any solution. The ally's structural problems and distinct interests have
daunting implications for successful U.S. counterinsurgency efforts. The nature of regimes and societies themselves feeds an insurgency,
but the United States is often hostage to its narrow goals with regard to counterinsurgency and thus becomes complicit in the hostnation's
self-defeating behavior. U.S. COIN doctrine, no matter how well thought out, cannot succeed without the appropriate political and other reforms from the host nation, but these regimes are likely
to subvert the reforms that threaten the existing power structure. Unfortunately, U.S. influence is often limited, as the allies recognize
that America's vital interests with regard to fighting al-Qa'ida-linked groups are likely to outweigh any temporary disgust or anger at an
ally's brutality or failure to institute reforms. Training, military-tomilitary contacts, education programs, and other efforts to shape
their COIN capabilities are beneficial, but the effects are likely to be limited at best.
This monograph has five remaining sections. In the second section, the overlap between counterinsurgency and counterterrorism
is discussed. Section three offers an "ideal type" COIN force and then assesses how allied militaries involved in the struggle against
al-Qa'ida fare by these criteria. In section four, several of the more structural causes that shape allies' security forces' cultures and their
political profiles as they are relevant to COIN are discussed. Section five details how these general structural problems affect the politics
of counterinsurgency and the military cultures of the countries in question. The final section examines the implications for the United
II. THE OVERLAP BETWEEN COUNTERTERRORISM
This monograph uses the definition of insurgencies provided in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pamphlet, Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency:
Insurgency is a protracted political-military activity directed toward completely or partially controlling the resources of a country through
the use of irregular military forces and illegal political organizations. Insurgent activityÐ’â€”including guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and political
mobilization, for example, propaganda, recruitment, front and covert party organization, and international activityÐ’â€”is designed to weaken
government control and legitimacy while increasing insurgent control and legitimacy. The common denominator of most insurgent groups
is their desire to control a particular area. This objective differentiates insurgent groups from purely terrorist organizations, whose objectives
do not include the creation of an alternative government capable of controlling a given area or country.As the above definition suggests, insurgents' primary methods involve three related activities: guerrilla war, political mobilization,
and terrorism, which I define as politically-motivated violence against noncombatants designed to influence a broader audience. Terrorism offers insurgents another method of weakening a state
beyond guerrilla warfare and political mobilization. For example, killing civilians may lead a rival ethnic group to flee a contested
area, demonstrate that the government cannot impose order and protect its people, and convince officials and the populace as a whole
to collaborate out of fear.Because the manpower needed to wage guerrilla war and create rival political organizations is greater than
that to use terrorist actions, insurgencies are larger than groups that only use terrorism.
The relationship between terrorism and insurgency is not newÐ’â€” there is no clear dividing line, and, in fact, tremendous overlap exists.
Although the exact percentage depends heavily on coding decisions, in my judgment approximately half of the groups listed by the U.S. Department of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 2004 are
insurgencies as well as terrorist groups. Even more importantly, the majority of the most worrisome terrorist groups in the world are also insurgencies. For example, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam; the Kurdish Workers' Party of Turkey; Lashkar-e-Taiba, an insurgent group fighting in Kashmir; the Lebanese Hizballah; and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia all use guerrilla war as
a major component in their struggles, just as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) attempted to do in the 1960s and 1970s. All of these groups rely heavily on guerrilla warfare and engage in
extensive political mobilization efforts, as well as conducting attacks on noncombatants.
Terrorism and insurgency overlap as concepts but are not identical. A group that can only use terrorism and not guerrilla warfare and political mobilization can rightly be called a terrorist group but not an insurgency. For example, the Red Army Faction did not engage in any guerrilla warfare and did, at most, limited political mobilization.
When the targets are primarily military and the means employed is guerrilla war, the group in question can better be characterized as an
insurgency that may at times use terrorism. On the other hand, if the targets are primarily civilian and the methods include assassinations,
car bombs, or other indiscriminate means, the group is better characterized as a terrorist group. A second distinction is the size of
the group (small terrorist groups are at best proto-insurgencies).Al-Qa'ida recognizes the importance of insurgencies. Guerrilla war and political mobilization are at the core of the organization,
dwarfing the amount of money and energy the organization's leadership spends on terrorist activities. One leading counterterrorism
expert argues Bin Ladin has promoted (and at times directed) a "worldwide, religiously inspired, and professionally-guided Islamist insurgency." Support for insurgencies in Chechnya, Afghanistan,
Iraq, and elsewhere has long been a priority in terms of rhetoric, recruitment, and spending.16
Insurgencies serve several vital organizational functions for al- Qa'ida. Insurgent veterans are often at the core of the organization.
The long struggle against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, of course,was a uniting experience for much of the al-Qa'ida leadership. Many members also came together and were vetted in struggles in the
Balkans, Chechnya, Kashmir, and now Iraq.17 Because al-Qa'ida can tap into these insurgency networks for recruits and its logistics network, it is able to conduct operations far beyond where its narrow
core is located and can replenish cadre as they are lost.18 Insurgencies also add legitimacy to al-Qa'ida. Muslims around the world also
endorse many of these struggles, even though they might otherwise oppose al-Qa'ida's ideological agenda and use of terrorism. Al-Qa'ida has maintained links to several insurgencies and
proto-insurgencies worldwide. Insurgent fighters in Algeria (the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat [GSPC]), Iraq (the Zarqawi network), Afghanistan (ex-Taliban), India (groups fighting in Kashmir
such as Lashkar-e Tayyiba), Chechnya, Pakistan (ex-Taliban and their sympathizers among Pakistani domestic groups), and Uzbekistan
(the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan [IMU]) all have or had varying degrees of links to al-Qa'ida. As noted above, size is a key criteria for
an insurgency, and several groups examined in this monograph are not yet strong enough to be truly deemed insurgencies (they rarely control territory, have dozens or low hundreds of members, and
do not use guerrilla warfare or use it rarely compared with attacks on civilians), but they are examined because they may move in that direction. These groups include the anti-Saudi al-Qa'ida on the
Arabian Peninsula (QAP), the Jemaah Islamiyya in Southeast Asia, the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines, and the Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad in Egypt.For purposes of this monograph, all of these countries are
examined as it is conceivable that they could become U.S. partners should their terrorism groups become full-blown insurgencies. Because this monograph is not focused on al-Qa'ida per se, but rather
on the strengths and weaknesses of potential partners for the U.S. military, it takes a broad look to identify a more comprehensive list
of issues the U.S. Army may face. Thus it includes countries where the insurgency has not yet developed, as well as some where the
insurgency appears in retreat or even defeated at this time. To be clear, none of these insurgencies are "caused" by al-Qa'ida, and in almost all the cases the insurgents have their own agendas that
are in many ways distinct from al-Qa'ida. Nevertheless, individuals affiliated with these groups are often members of al-Qa'ida, and the
terrorist organization in turn exploits these groups' networks and personnel for its own purposes. It is thus plausible that a "war on terrorism" might lead to greater involvement with these countries,
and in most cases it already has.20 As Steven Metz and Raymond Millen note, "the United States is more likely to assist regimes threatened by insurgents linked to al Qaeda or its affiliates."
III. COUNTERINSURGENCY IDEALS AND REALITIES
Counterinsurgency is difficult for even the best security forces. It requires not only remarkable military skill, but also a deft political
touch. The soldier on patrol must be a fighter, a policeman, an intelligence officer, a diplomat, and an aid worker. Not surprisingly, even well-trained, well-led, and well-funded security forces such as
the Americans, the British, and the Israelis have foundered when confronting insurgent movements.
The problems for many security forces facing al-Qa'ida fall into two categories. First, at a tactical and organizational level, they
often are not prepared for counterinsurgency operations. Second, as political entities, the security forces often contribute to popular
anger or other problems that aid the insurgent cause.
Tactical and Organizational Concerns.
The characteristics of ideal COIN forces at a tactical and organizational level are vast,22 but several of the most important
include: a high level of initiative, excellent intelligence, integration
across units and services, leadership, motivated soldiers, and learning
and creativity. The reality for many forces involved in fighting al- Qa'ida-linked insurgencies, however, is often far from the ideal.
Initiative. Counterinsurgency fighting rarely involves a set-piece battle,
which outgunned and outmanned insurgents typically shun. In the countryside, soldiers and paramilitary often take the lead in trying
to flush out hidden insurgents and defeat them through aggressive patrolling and ambushes; while police, intelligence, and select
paramilitary units seek them out in urban environments. Fighting occurs either because the insurgents choose to engage or ideally when
government forces leave them no choice. In either case, planning is difficult: the terrain can vary, the number of forces involved is
hard to predict, and so on. Much of the effort is done at the small unit level, as larger units are far easier for insurgents to avoid. To
be successful, COIN forces also must operate out of garrison and at nighttime. Insurgents will exploit the absence of COIN forces to
intimidate locals and sow fear. Thus, part of the job of security forces is to convince the population they will be protected.Many developing world security forces, particularly the
militaries, however, are garrison forces that fight, when they do, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. They often operate poorly as small units, with junior officers and NCOs reluctant to exercise initiative. In
Uzbekistan, insurgents "own the night." In Algeria, units often feared to leave their garrison and patrol in dangerous parts of cities
where insurgents enjoyed sympathy. The Egyptian and Saudi armed forces historically exercised little initiative, a problem that is more
profound as you work down the command chain. Even the smallest details had to be spelled out in advance.25 COIN suffered as a result
in all these cases. Intelligence.
Intelligence is the sina qua non of counterinsurgency. The insurgents' primary advantage is their stealth: if they can be
found, they can usually be killed or captured. A corollary is that the insurgents' advantage is their superior knowledge of the local
population and conditions: denying or minimizing this advantage is also vital.To be useful, intelligence must not only be collected
but also analyzed, disseminated, and integrated into the overall strategy.Unfortunately, many U.S. allies collect, analyze, and disseminate
information poorly. Intelligence analysis benefits from superb information sharing and from the proper storage and dissemination of dataÐ’â€”general weaknesses in developing societies. Interviews
with U.S. Government officials indicate that, while many allied intelligence services do a fine job collecting information, they often
do not integrate it well and have, at best, a limited picture of their adversary.The major intelligence operations in the Philippines
often do not share information and do not coordinate their activities. Indeed, intelligence money often is paid directly to officials as a
form of graft.In Egypt, key information is compartmented, and failures are not brought to the attention of senior officials.Often,
information is not shared because commanders and units do not trust each other. In the Punjab insurgency, Indian units often did
not share information with local security units because they were perceived as sympathetic to (and penetrated by) Sikh insurgents.31
The International Crisis Group reports that Indonesian intelligence is "marked by blurred lines of authority, interagency rivalry, lack of
coordination, unnecessary duplication, lack of adequate oversight, and the legacy of an authoritarian past.Integration across Units and Services. All operations benefit from synergies, and this holds true for counterinsurgency as well. At a most basic level, units must work
together to ensure proper coverage of a territory and that insurgents simply do not slip between the seams of different units. Also, if
unexpectedly heavy resistance is found, units must reinforce their beleaguered comrades, particularly when forces operate as small units as many paramilitary and police units do.
Information-sharing and coordination across services and bureaucracies often are exceptionally poor for allies fighting al-Qa'ida-linked insurgencies. In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, commanders
of different services and units often do not talk to each other. In Afghanistan, the United States has worked not only with the Afghan
National Army, but also with numerous regional warlords, several of whom owe little loyalty to the central government.At times,
security forces may have multiple groups within them vying for power. In Algeria, the army has numerous divisions based on region and tribe.34 The division of labor between the police and military
is not clear in Indonesia, and the military's own coordination with regard to counterterrorism and counterinsurgency is poor. Leadership at All Levels.
Senior officials must be creative, take the initiative, inspire the soldiers who follow them, and perform other essential functions.
In addition, officers doing COIN must also play a major role in ensuring intelligence gathering and reassuring the populationÐ’â€” both difficult tasks and ones that go beyond traditional training for
conventional military operations or standard police duties. Because much counterinsurgency is done by small units, having strong noncommissioned officers (NCOs) or junior officials is also vital.
Leadership in many countries fighting al-Qa'ida and its affiliates, however, is quite poor. In most Arab militaries and paramilitaries, junior officers and NCOs are given little responsibility. In Egypt, for
example, colonels do what U.S. captains would do.36 In Uzbekistan, officers often have performed poorly when facing insurgents.Afghan army leaders appear better than most of those discussed in
this monograph, but even here the NCOs are not given appropriate responsibility.Motivated Soldiers and Low-ranking Personnel. Soldiers and police officers who believe in their government and
their officers are more likely to brave the hazards of COIN warfare. They will confront rather than flee from the enemy and take the necessary initiative to ensure victory. Many developing world countries facing al-Qa'ida, however, have poorly motivated soldiers and low-ranking personnel. Afghan
recruits in both the police and army often prefer to work for local warlords than for the national government, and many trainees and recent recruits desert. As one Afghan sergeant commented,
"Everyone wants to run away."39 Uzbek soldiers suffer from low morale, and mass desertions are common.40 In Egypt, many soldiers
do not embrace their profession.41 In India, the emphasis on caste creates problems for cohesion as soldiers often speak different languages, and the caste system creates a hierarchy among them.42
Training, Learning, and Creativity.
Counterinsurgency requires a high degree of skill and constant refinement of practices. In addition, successful security forces must
learn from their mistakes and be able to go beyond their standard procedures when confronted with a new situation. Moreover, both successful and unsuccessful insurgencies go through stages, and
the mix of conventional and unconventional operations needed to defeat them will vary as a result.43 COIN is also more art than science:
creativity is vital. Helping this process is the free flow of information and an institutional culture of honest criticism.Many countries do not emphasize COIN training for a variety
of reasons. Most important, training for regular military forces still focuses on conventional military operations: the traditional focus
of most militaries. In Uzbekistan, the military was structured from Soviet-era forces intended to fight conventional wars. Although Uzbek leaders have initiated some reforms, Roger McDermott notes
these are only a "modest beginning" and are focused on a few elite forces.(Indeed, as a sign of how bad training is, an individual who was picked to lead Uzbek Special Forces teams had not had basic
infantry training.)Some of the paramilitary forces involved in COIN are expected to only be around temporarily, leaving officials
reluctant to invest in long-term training.47 In Egypt, the size of the
military forces is huge, making it hard to do more than rudimentary training for many of the forces. Live-fire exercises or other forms of
realistic training often are rare.48
Many of these countries' security forces do not learn from mistakes. The Egyptian security forces have institutionalized some practices that U.S. trainers see as disastrous, in part because changing
them would require an embarrassing admission of failure.49 U.S. trainers spent years working with the Saudi air force, only to watch it steadily decline. In part, this problem occurs because professional education is weak for military services and often nonexistent for other security forces, and what institutions that do exist focus on
perpetuating existing doctrine rather than actively seeking to correct mistakes in current operations.
Political Concerns. In counterinsurgency, the security forces are political actors as well as fighting units. Thus, they must be judged by more than simply how they perform in combat against insurgents. Several other more political criteria include proper civil-military integration,
a good rapport with outside patrons, a lack of corruption, a lack of insurgent penetration, and a sense that the army can win over the population.
Civil-Military Integration. Defeating an insurgent movement is as much, if not more, a political effort than a military one. A national approach that
incorporates all dimensions of power is essential. If political and military leaders are in harmony, political and military measures to defeat the insurgents are more likely to be as well.50 The two cannot be done in isolation: the security methods used affect the overall perception of the government, and the perception of the regime affects the ability of the security forces to operate.
In many of the countries in question, however, relations between civilian officials and security forces are poor. In India, civilian leaders historically saw the military as a vestige of the British imperial mentality and at odds with their nationalistic (and more socialist) vision of the country. In Algeria and Pakistan, military leaders have seized power from civilian officials; while in the Philippines and Indonesia, civilian leaders have feared military and security force interference in their control of the country. In Egypt, the government has long been unsure of the reliability of the security forces to protect the regime: a well-founded perception, given that Islamist militants
penetrated the military to kill Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and there were mass riots involving 17,000 conscripts in 1986.In some countries, the government is divided on issues related to counterinsurgency, making it exceptionally difficult to produce a coherent strategy. The Algerian regime was long split between the "conciliators" and the "eradicators," leading to a policy that was at times incoherent, with olive branches suddenly withdrawn and attempts to intimidate offset by surprising concessions.52
Rapport with Outside Patrons. If the security forces have a favorable view of the foreign powers
trying to aid them, they will be far more amenable to the foreigners' suggestions, advice, and so on. In putting down the insurgency in the Philippines in the early 1950s, for example, the United States
worked exceptionally closely with the local government, and this did not spark widespread hostility from the public at large. Such closeness is often lacking in counterinsurgency.53 The Philippines recently canceled an operation with the United States against the Abu Sayyaf Group after a public outcry.In Egypt, the government works closely with the United States, but anti-U.S. sentiment is widespread well beyond Islamist circles and is growing among nationalists, including secular nationalists in the Egyptian security forces. U.S. efforts tied to counterterrorism, in particular,
are suspect.55 The security forces of Algeria, Indonesia, and India also have many officers who are suspicious of the United States.Honesty and Corruption. The security forces are more likely to gain the respect of the population if they are not corrupt or otherwise engaged in illicit activities. A lack of corruption sends the message that the security forces are indeed fighting for the country, not just for the personal interests of a few individuals. This, in turn, inspires soldiers to fight harder and makes it more difficult for the insurgents to penetrate the COIN forces. Corruption is rampant in many of the countries in question, and
the security forces are no exception. Of the countries surveyed in this report, all are in the lower half of Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index," with the exception of Saudi Arabia which scored in the middle. Indonesia and Pakistan were among the most corrupt countries in the world.57 Uzbekistan's military leaders
often will exempt an individual from military service for the right price.The Abu Sayyaf Group buys weapons and immunity freely from government officials, and several leading terrorists simply
walked out of the heavy "secured" national police headquarters in Manila with the aid of local officers.59 In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it
is assumed that senior military and intelligence leaders will have a "take" from many contracts: an assumption that is duplicated in lesser ways down the chain of command. In Algeria, the different
paramilitary and military leaders often do not cooperate because of business rivalries.60 In Indonesia, corruption is rampant in the
buying of equipment and other supplies.61 All these examples only scratch the surface of the myriad ways corruption undermines COIN effectiveness.
Insurgent Penetration. Ensuring the security forces remain free from insurgent penetration is vital. Successful penetration allows the insurgents to
avoid regime attempts to arrest or kill insurgent cadre. In addition, it gives the insurgents inside information that greatly increases their ffectiveness in planning attacks. Many regimes fighting al-Qa'ida are penetrated by the insurgents.
In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, al-Qa'ida has made a conscious effort to cultivate military and government officials.U.S. officials working with the Afghan National Army are prohibited from sharing
intelligence, as they fear it will fall into the hands of ex-Taliban.In Algeria, many of the early insurgent successes involved members of the security forces who collaborated with them, and the regime often hesitated to use the army because it feared that many soldiers would desert.Military Support from the Population. Famously, counterinsurgency involves winning the "hearts and minds" of the population at large and denying such support to the
guerrillas. As the security forces plan and conduct operations against insurgents, they must also think about how to win over the general population, as one of its most important roles is to "serve as the
shield for carrying out reform.The security forces need the active support of the population to gain informationÐ’â€”a disadvantage, as mere passivity often allows insurgents to operate effectively without
being vulnerable to government intelligence efforts.Beyond intelligence, popular support allows the guerrillas more access to recruits and "taxes." To gain active support, it is helpful if the security
forces are fighting for a system that offers political, economic, and other opportunities to all concerned: something that is often beyond
their control. In addition, security forces are more likely to win over the population in general if they are seen as fighting for more than just a political or social clique. If the security forces are viewed as representing all the diverse communities of any state, they are more likely to be viewed as trustworthy and will not provoke any negative
backlash. Finally, successful COIN is characterized by restraint as well as by violence. Too much destruction can alienate a population rather than reassure it and unwittingly create disincentives to fight for and cooperate with the government.Such benign characteristics often are lacking for security forces fighting al-Qa'ida-linked groups, making it harder for them to capture popular support. In India, for example, the army's outlook is
more akin to the British imperial army. As a result, it sees itself more as occupier than as part of the local population, with the result that relations often are poor.When suppressing the Punjab insurgency, the Indian security forces saw hemselves as protecting the local Hindu population from Sikh militants, and, as a result, it alienated local services that sought to balance Sikh and Hindu concerns.Indonesian soldiers often take sides in local disputes according to whether the soldiers are Muslim or Christian.Brutality is a particular problem. The Algerian security forces are notorious for atrocities against civilians. In Uzbekistan torture is widespread,and in June 2005, the military fired on a peaceful political opposition rally. The Indonesian military and intelligence services were linked to numerous human rights abuses in Aceh,
Papua, Central Sulawesi, and Maluku.Such actions create sympathy for the guerrillas, particularly when the government control is weak, and people have an option of siding against it with less risk.
Illegitimate and Repressive Regimes.
Many, if not most, of the regimes facing al-Qa'ida-linked
insurgencies have a legitimacy problem. Of the countries surveyed,
only India, the Philippines, and, to a lesser degree, Afghanistan
and Indonesia qualify as democracies. Freedom House reports that
Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan are "not
free," and these countries scored sixes and sevens on their scale,
with seven being the least free.76 Algeria's military government took
power in order to overturn elections that Islamists were poised to
win peacefully. President Musharraf of Pakistan also took power
in a military coup. The coup had considerable support at the time,
but he subsequently has alienated middle class Pakistanis, while
many Islamists view him with suspicion. Uzbekistan has a brutal
dictatorship, where all opposition political activity is banned.77
Egypt's leader has held power for a quarter-century, with only the
trapping of democracy. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy that has some
legitimacy, but the regime's corruption and exclusiveness have bred
An illegitimate and repressive regime has several pernicious
effects on tactical and organizational aspects of counterinsurgency.
The flow of information in authoritarian states is limited, particularly
if the information may be perceived as critical of the regime. In such
an environment, information is compartmented deliberately. Nor
are mistakes critically examined or even identified. In Uzbekistan,
the regime has resisted intelligence reform that would enhance the
information gained by the security forces, as it wants to ensure that
intelligence is concentrated in the hands of regime loyalists.79
Military regimes like those in Algeria and Pakistan face particular
problems. If militaries are accountable to their publics through
democratic officials, they are more likely to change their procedures
and methods in the event of problems.80 Military regimes, in
contrast, lack such a means of imposing change. Corruption is also
a problem, as military figures in power use their positions to enrich
themselves at the public's expense, even if it hinders overall military
The political problems dwarf the tactical and organizational
ones. At the most basic level, the lack of regime legitimacy makes
it difficult for the security forces to portray themselves as fighting
for a system that its citizens should embrace. The population is less
likely to provide intelligence, offer willing recruits or otherwise
support the security forces, and many soldiers or junior officials
may be sympathetic to the rebels. The regime may rely primarily
on repression to stay in power as it does in Uzbekistan, leading
the security forces to become involved in human rights abuses. In
Algeria, this process reached its acme, as the regime there regularly
used the security forces to commit atrocities. Security forces' leaders
may also oppose reforms because they are instruments of the regime
and thus they stand to lose power, opportunities for graft, or other
benefits. In Algeria, the military feared an Islamist victory at the
polls would lead them to lose their power in the country and their
financial influenceÐ’â€”a fear that led them to disrupt elections through
The lack of legitimacy also poses a difficulty for cooperation with
a foreign power. Close cooperation with a foreign government can
inflame nationalism and lead to questions about a government's
competence: a particular problem if the government lacks broad
support. The widespread unpopularity of the United States in the
world today worsens this problem.82
Suspicion of a Coup.
In many developing world countries, the security forces are viewed
as a threat as well as a pillar of a regime. As a result, governments
go to great lengths to "coup-proof" their regimes, emasculating the
military, paramilitary, and intelligence forces in a variety of ways
to ensure their political loyalty.83 Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan,
the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan have taken steps to
control their security forces, even at the cost of their effectiveness in
Coup-proofing shapes the culture of security forces in several
negative ways. Most important, the senior officers are chosen
primarily for their loyalty to the regime, not for their competence.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, many senior officers are royal family
members, while others have close ties by marriage and other
relationships. As a result, many important skills such as leadership,
creativity, and knowledge of military affairs are in short supply.
Indeed, in some security forces, particularly militaries, charismatic
and capable leaders are viewed as a threat to the regime rather than
as an asset. Finally, governments also use corruption as a way to
placate leaders of the security forces.85
Coup-proofing also inhibits the flow of information. Some regimes
discourage leaders from communicating with one another, an
effective means of preventing anti-regime plotting, but one that also
inhibits coordination and learning best practices. Training can also
suffer. In Egypt, for example, troops are given little independence (or
ammunition!) when doing training, and exercises are unrealisticÐ’â€”in
part to prevent a training mission from turning into an attempt to
topple the regime.
Many of the countries fighting al-Qa'ida-linked insurgencies are
poor, while others are, at best, in the middle income range. Algeria,
Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia,
and Uzbekistan suffer a range of economic problems, including
relatively low per-capita gross domestic product (GDP), high
unemployment, poor infrastructure, and stagnant growth. Again,
such backwardness is not surprising: poorer countries are more
likely to suffer insurgencies than wealthy ones, and the insurgency
itself is a barrier to economic development.
The impact of a poor economy is relatively straightforward.
Corruption, of course, is more tempting when overall wages are
low (and, indeed, corruption may be particularly common as it
is often a source of poor economic growth). A poor economy can
also limit the budget of a country, making it difficult to pay recruits
well, buy better equipment for the force, and expand the size of
the security forces.86 At times, the army may be huge despite a
poor economy, placing particularly heavy strains on the budget. In
Egypt, the internal security forces have very low pay and recruiting
standardsÐ’â€”lower than the regular forces.87 One observer noted that
young Uzbeks joined former IMU leader Juma Namangani's forces
over the government's, "because at least he pays them."88
Not surprisingly, the quality of personnel may also suffer,
as the poor pay and limited resources make other opportunities
more attractive.89 In Egypt, for example, a large number of enlisted
personnel are illiterate, and even fewer have a technical education.90
In Uzbekistan, the armed forces have had difficulty assimilating U.S.
military aid because they lack the technical expertise to maintain and
repair the equipment.91
Even Saudi ArabiaÐ’â€”by reputation, a wealthy stateÐ’â€”has more
than its share of economic problems. Despite its oil riches, overall
economic development has been limited, and skyrocketing popu21
lation growth puts serious strains on the country. The quality
of education is poor by Western standards. Moreover, income
distribution is heavily skewed, favoring the royal family and those
connected to it.92
Social Exclusion and Divisions.
In many countries, power in all its forms is held by a relatively
small group of people, who in turn exclude or actively inhibit the
rise of other groups. In India, remnants of the caste system have
preserved a division between the "work of the hands" and "work
of the minds," while several ethnicities are particularly prevalent in
the military by tradition. Caste and subcaste often define regiments
and battalions.93 Even many Hindu-Muslim divisions are really
about caste differences.94 As a result, individuals are cut off from one
another. Clan and region also are important in Uzbekistan, while in
Pakistan there is a bias against the Shi'a minority in education and
state services.95 Saudi Arabia, of course, is dominated by the al Saud
family, and many of its security positions are in the hands of specific
tribes, particularly individuals from the Najd region. Some of its
paramilitary forces are drawn almost exclusively from particular
tribes and regions.
Such domination has several pernicious effects on the military
culture. The officer corps may actively disdain much of the rank-and-
file if soldiers are of a different, less-regarded, group. Promotions
and rewards may also be skewed with individuals from certain
groups receiving a preference, while others have a formal or informal
ceiling on their rise. In addition, the quality of personnel may suffer
as certain groups may deem the security forces to be unwelcoming.
Even without hostility, ethnic differences create more mundane
problems. In Afghanistan, training has suffered due to the problem
of coordinating across multiple languages.
The direct political consequences of exclusion and social divisions
relevant to counterinsurgency also are considerable. Politically, the
security forces may be seen as an agent of the ruling clique, not of
the nation as a whole. In addition, the security forces may oppose
political and social reforms that disadvantage their members'
V. THE IMPACT OF STRUCTURE
implications for counterinsurgency.
Structure and the Politics of Counterinsurgency.
The broader structural problems common to countries facing al-
Qa'ida-linked insurgencies create a host of problems for the security
forces in their role as a political actor. One of the most pernicious is
that the security forces lack popular support, either because they are
agents of a repressive and illegitimate regime or because they promote
a discriminatory society. In such cases, basic counterinsurgency
functions such as gathering intelligence and denying information to
the insurgents are more difficult. In addition, the lack of popular
support makes it easier for the insurgents to gain recruits and
Common problems for authoritarian regimes include security
forces that are easier to penetrate and are involved directly in human
rights abuses. Authoritarian regimes often encourage human rights
abuses as a way of intimidating the population. In addition, members
of the rank and file may be more sympathetic to insurgents if they
feel the government they are fighting is illegitimate.
Another difficult issue is that the security forces often are
opposed to reforms that would take the wind out of the insurgency's
sails, such as land reform, greater democracy and accountability, or
the ending of discriminatory policies. The security forces' leadership
may see such reforms as a threat to their political and social position
and thus not worth the potential benefits against the insurgents.
The Culture of the Security Forces
and Counterinsurgency Effectiveness.
In addition to the grave political impact, the culture produced
by these structural factors has many negative effects on counterinsurgency.
Bad Promotion System.
The structural problems create a promotion system that rewards
officers and senior officials who are not skilled in fighting insurgents
or military affairs: a problem particularly common due to coupproofing
and societal discrimination. In India, promotion in some
units depends on preserving caste ratios: if a particular regiment
that is home to one caste has no vacancies for more senior positions,
soldiers from that unit will not be promoted.97 As a result, basic
military tasks are more likely to be performed poorly. Initiative will
suffer, and a garrison mentality is more likely as officers will not
motivate the soldiers. In such a system, one of the hardest tasksÐ’â€”
integration across units and among servicesÐ’â€”is less likely to be
rewarded. More generally, loyalty to the regime or membership
in the right group will count for more than creativity and military
Officer Contempt for NCOs, Soldiers, and Other Junior Officials.
Some officers or senior leaders may even hold their subordinates
in contempt, a particularly common problem when the officers are
from a particular clique that looks down on rival groups. In such
circumstances, lower levels of the security forces are less likely to
take the initiative, as their officers often believe they are not capable
of acting on their own. This contempt may also inhibit creative
solutions developed at the lowest levels from making their way up
the chain of command. Soldiers, not surprisingly, are less inspired
by officers who do not respect them.
Low Quality Personnel.
The overall quality of personnel in the security forces under
examination may be low, which has a detrimental impact on COIN
in a variety of ways. Perhaps 70 percent of the trainees in the Afghan
army are illiterate,98 and illiteracy is also a problem in India as the
emphasis on caste for recruitment means that there are not enough
literate recruits to fill out some regiments.99 Intelligence officials often
are far better educated than are military forces, but paramilitaries are
at times drawn from tribes or groups chosen for their loyalty, with
some regimes being particularly suspicious of social groups that are
better educated. Personnel who are less educated and less motivated
are less able to gather and process intelligence effectively. The
challenge of integration often is particularly difficult. If the overall
quality of personnel is low, both the officers and their subordinates
will suffer accordingly.
Corruption stemming from a high level of poverty, deliberate
regime attempts to buy off security force leaders, and the officers'
use of their political clout to enrich themselves also has numerous
negative effects on military culture. Corruption, of course, makes it
more likely that bad officers will rise through the ranks, and that
officers in general will neglect the military arts. Insurgents are better
able to penetrate the security forces, both because they can bribe their
way into key positions and because overall disaffection in the ranks
makes penetration easier. Training may even be inhibited, as officers
are reluctant to have subordinates leave their control because they
are skimming off their pay and supply requisitions.
Corrupt security forces also are less popular. Subordinates will
not be inspired by their officers, and the people in general will see
the security forces more as a parasite than as a savior. Uzbekistan's
soldiers oppose service, in part because corruption is widespread
which enables many to buy their way out of serving.100 Not
surprisingly, officers enriching themselves through their military
positions are likely to resist any reforms that increase accountability
and oversight or otherwise hinder opportunities for graft.
Poor Training and Learning.
The poor training and learning structures that can stem from
coup-proofing measures and a political system where information
is guarded have a severe impact on COIN effectiveness. Integration
will suffer if units cannot train for it. Without training for COIN
in particular, it may prove particularly hard for soldiers given
standard training for conventional operations to operate in small
groups, exercise low-level initiative, be discriminate in their use of
firepower, or otherwise carry out tasks that differ from conventional
operations. Many officers and NCOs will lack the skills they need
to fight insurgents properly. Without institutions to disseminate
knowledge on the best techniques (and to appraise critically what is
going wrong), the security forces will be less likely to adapt new and
creative solutions to the problems that are encountered.
Security forces that are not accountable to elected leaders and
the public in general are less likely to correct mistakes or undertake
bureaucratically painful changes. Particular problems may include
poor integration across units and services, and a lack of creativity
when standard procedures fail or when new situations arrive.
Politically, such security forces may be more prone to human rights
abuses, as they can cover up any problems and not risk broader
The effects of a low budget are relatively straightforward. Soldiers
often are poorly paid, and as a result are not eager to make sacrifices.
Training may also suffer, as a sophisticated training program is
expensive and requires more troops, as some must remain actively
engaged while others are being trained. In Uzbekistan, the regime
cannot afford to modernize its old equipment, making many reform
proposals dead on arrival.101
Deliberately Compartmented Information.
Fears of a coup and a political system that relies on repression often
lead to the stifling of information flows and a lack of communication
in general. As a result, the overall quality of intelligence is poor,
either because intelligence officers lack all the necessary information
or because many plausible findings (e.g., that people are rebelling
because the regime is brutal and illegitimate) are suppressed
because they are unwelcome at senior levels. Without the flow of
information, integrating forces becomes far harder, as does designing
or redesigning procedures in a creative way to handle persistent
Figure 2 illustrates the linkages between structural problems, the
resulting security force culture, and COIN effectiveness.
VI. IMPLICATIONS FOR THE UNITED STATES.
The implications of these many problems and their underlying
sources are profound for U.S. counterinsurgency and counterterrorism
operations. At the most obvious level, solving many of the various
military problems requires changing the broader society, economy,
and political system: a daunting challenge that requires massive
resources to tackle.
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