ATbar What Comes After Counter-Insurgency?

What Comes After Counter-Insurgency?

28/12/2014 | by ICT Staff  

* The workshop was held in the memory of Major Eyal Ragonis z”l

This workshop focused on how to achieve positive results after the counter-insurgency is over, and what to do if counter-insurgencies are no longer viable. The speakers were divided on whether counter-insurgencies are still useful, but agreed that counterterrorism must be used as well in order to succeed. They discussed the benefits and costs of state-building, and debated the best methods to counter and reduce political violence. In an era where wars between states have largely been eradicated, armies and defense departments must adjust their tools and strategies to deal with insurgent groups and terrorist organizations most effectively. 

Chair: Dr. Amichai Magen
Marc & Anita Senior Researcher and Head of the Terrorism & Governance Desk, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) & Assistant Professor, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya, Israel

Prof. Timothy Hoyt
Professor of Strategy and Policy, US Naval War College & Co-Chair, Indian Ocean Regional Studies Group Strategy & Policy, United States of America

LTC John Kenkel
US Army War College Fellow, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), IDC Herzliya, Israel

Prof. Heidi Lane
Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy and Director of the Greater Middle East Research Study Group, US Naval War College, United States of America

Dr. Nicholas Rostow
Senior Director, Center for Strategic Research (CSR), National Defense University, United States of America

Dr. Eitan Shamir
Senior Researcher at the Begin -Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), Israel


Dr. Amichai Magen
According to Dr. Amichai Magen, Western countries should constantly think outside the box, and ensure that we are seeing the world as it is. Countries must learn from mistakes, and focus on improving in the future. The Global War on Terror (GWOT) that intensified after 9/11 made use of the new strategy of win, hold, build, transfer. Victory in this situation is leaving behind a self-sustaining government, not eliminating the enemy. After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a widespread belief that this counterinsurgency strategy has failed, and a new strategy is needed. State-building works in small places, and only when the majority of people are ready to move past the insurgency. 

Dr. Eitan Shamir
Counterinsurgency (COIN) is a situation, not a strategy. The four strategies to counter insurgencies are containment, exhaustion, attrition, and annihilation. Israel and the U.S. often fight similar enemies, but use different strategies. The U.S. focuses on state building, and uses the military sparingly to secure population centers and borders. Israel focuses less on winning hearts and minds, and utilizes intelligence for retaliation and deterrence. This is based on the idea that Israel's enemies will never accept its existence, so winning hearts and minds is not possible.

LTC John Kenkel
The U.S. Army Special Forces were originally formed to create an insurgency in Western Europe if the Soviet Union ever invaded, and were the first people to look at what happens after an insurgency. COIN is an operation, and the strategy is thinking about the end goal of that operation. Three case studies of COIN: The first study is El Salvador in 1993. There was widespread economic inequality and unrest, and a right-wing coup took over. There were 10-15 years of incredibly brutal rule. El Salvador's police and army successfully overthrew and reintegrated the right-wing FNLN back into society and ended the brutality. The second study is the Philippines in 2002. There was a Muslim revolt against the government, and the U.S. helped to train the army to contain it. Currently, there is a draw. The third study is Libya in 2011. The West was in a difficult situation to either accept genocide or actively stop it. Once the French stepped in, the path was drawn. However, the West didn't understand the complex tribal differences, and Libya became a big loss. 

Prof. Timothy Hoyt
There are big footprint COIN campaigns, and small footprint ones. The West is moving away from big footprint campaigns due to high economic costs, large casualties, and personnel strains. Big footprint campaigns also delegitimize the host country, playing into the hands of the insurgents – they are a band-aid, not a true solution. However, the benefits of big footprint campaigns include initial successes, initial reputation gains, quick prevention of state failure, greater military control, higher costs for the enemy, and fewer costs for the local host. Small footprint COIN campaigns occur when the outside force is restrained to small numbers. The costs include high costs for the local host, high moral costs, and the appearance of weakness. The benefits include lower economic costs, fewer casualties, and better host capacity and legitimacy. Small footprint campaigns look ineffective at the beginning, but provide results over time. Comparing current situations to WWII and Korea are bad analogies- there were no insurgencies in those situations. 

Prof. Heidi Lane
State-building happens after a war, allowing the winner to effectively govern the country. States that are currently experiencing insurgencies include Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. COIN should only be stopped when violence declines enough to allow for post-COIN management of the problem, but it is difficult to tell when this point has been reached. COIN and counter-terrorism (CT) are theoretically very different, but in practice are often used interchangeably. For example, in Algeria, following the COIN win, a CT strategy is needed. The results of a war are never final, which requires CT, but is also the natural process towards peace.

Dr. Nicholas Rostow
The real question is what to do about violence being used as a political instrument. A small enemy of the U.S. cannot face the army head-on, so it uses insurgency, and this is a huge challenge. In Afghanistan, the initial goal was to take out our enemies, but then we turned to state-building. In order to succeed, goals must be narrowly focused, and states must understand the goals and circumstances of their opponents. We have come to rely on the army and department of defense to fight as well as build, but that is not their job.