Defense, diplomatic agencies collaborate on counterinsurgency guide

The Defense and State departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development have collaborated on an interim counterinsurgency guide that calls for a "whole-of-government" approach to battling these complex conflicts.

Based on an analysis of six years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, Counterinsurgency for U.S. Government Policy Makers: A Work in Progress, is intended to serve as a foundation for a final guide for policy-makers and as an operational handbook. A group with representatives from nine agencies developed the guide over nine months.

State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs led the effort, which was informed in part by the counterinsurgency experiences of Australia and the United Kingdom. Former Australian Army officer David Kilcullen, who recently served as an adviser to U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, is overseeing an interagency effort to produce a civilian counterinsurgency doctrine, which is due out in early 2008.

The guide is the first serious governmentwide effort to create a national counterinsurgency framework since the Kennedy administration tried to stem the spread of communism in Vietnam in 1962. At that time, there was extensive interagency involvement in rural development and security efforts, particularly by USAID, which at one point had nearly 15,000 officers serving in Vietnam.

The manual combines current counterinsurgency theory with lessons learned by personnel from State, USAID, the military and other agencies. Drafters emphasized that it is not an academic document, but aims to fill a hole that exists because there is no civilian agency publication on counterinsurgency to complement the new Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual.

According to the guide, insurgency is "armed politics," and while military action is essential to establishing security, only political resolution will lead to ultimate success. The guide recommends that civilian and military efforts join in an integrated "clear, hold and build" strategy that focuses on first on securing the populace, then on long-term economic development assistance -- a clear reference to the counterinsurgency strategy being applied in Iraq under Petraeus.

The guide also emphasizes the importance of providing information in counterinsurgency operations to create a narrative enhancing an embattled government's legitimacy. Such a narrative, it says, "must resonate with the population and be based upon verifiable facts and measurable progress rather than promises." The primary effort must be seen by the local population as indigenous, because only a local government can mobilize the support of its people against an insurgent movement, the drafters wrote.

The writing group stressed the importance of a unified civilian-military authority, saying that successful counterinsurgency operations "can often be directly attributed to capable, imaginative individuals in key leadership positions."

Military officers in Iraq have complained that the American government frequently is absent from efforts there. They say officers often lack vital governance and economic development skills. Effective counterinsurgency requires "deep and detailed context and culture-specific understanding of local and regional conditions," the guide says.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has emphasized the need to bolster the "soft power" elements of government that he said were vital to the successful outcome of the Cold War. Speaking at Kansas State University on Nov. 26, he said future conflicts will be more political in nature than strictly military confrontation and that "success will be less a matter of imposing one's will and more a function of shaping behavior."

Gates said funding for soft power elements remains disproportionately small compared to what is spent on the military. He called for dramatically increased spending on the civilian instruments of national security.

He noted that the total State Department budget is $36 billion, less than the amount the Pentagon spends on health care in a given year. In addition, there are only 6,600 Foreign Service officers, less than the personnel in one carrier strike group. Up to 30 percent of Foreign Service officers soon will be eligible for retirement, which could cause a loss of vital expertise that cannot be contracted out.

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