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Now The Focus Moves From Collection To Exploiting All That Data To Create Value For Small Units

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Many of you are telling me that you are seeing more and more focus on what we need to do with all the INT’s data we are collecting to make it available, useful and valuable for the deployed company-level units that are the key to succeeding in conflicts of the type we have been and will continue be involved.  I’ve seen lots of evidence of this, from the Pentagon, to the services, to the efforts to integrate multiple INT’s to produce even more meaningful context and insight that complements and supplements what the troops in the AO already know about their circumstances.

Even more importantly, many of you are seeing more focus on the training and preparation of company commanders and their intelligence assets to be more aware, inquisitive and thoughtful about their situations and surrounding phenomenon.  I’ve long been convinced hat we have just about all of the data we need, but it does not get utilized to full value due to the inability of the small units to understand what they know, to supplement that knowledge with bits of additional data that can “fill in the critical qualitative blanks.”  This is not to say the military’s task training is not up to par.  It does raise subjects like the unique combination of circumstances in each AO, the population-related differences between nations, the global nature of the conflict, and the need for creative and critical thinking, understanding how to use tasks in multiple different combinations that are appropriate for the many different situations, thinking through and sensemaking (David Moore’s wonderful paper)…….thoughtfulness in understanding, research, planning, and operations.

The article that follows is one of the many good discussions of tactical intelligence….succeeding in the AO based on better data, sure, but more importantly on better understanding and thoughtfulness in decision making, planning and operations.

Tactical-Level Intelligence During Counterinsurgency Campaigns


By LtCol Plauche J St. Romain III, USMCR


Published in The Officer, February-March 2010


The Department of the Army

publication Counterinsurgency

Operations states that during a

counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign

“the key to success is effective and actionable

intelligence at the local level.”1

By their very nature, asymmetric campaigns

move some aspects of combat

from the strategic level—the headquarters

of the general staff and the halls

of traditional political power—to the

tactical level of the streets. This shift,

amplified by the ability to conduct

distributed operations, creates the “strategic

corporal,” a concept that refers to

the disproportionate influence possessed

by a junior non-commissioned

officer on the modern battlefield. This

change in the threat environment also

demands better intelligence analysis at

the tactical level.

Military strategists developed the

notion that tactical-level intelligence

is critical to success during small wars

long before the most recent COIN

campaign in Iraq. During the anti-guerilla

campaign in Malaya (1948–1960),

military professionals identified that

in order for the government forces to

be effective, they needed to develop an

efficient intelligence program. Lt Col

Rowland S.N. Mans, a British commander

during the Malaya campaign,

said that success required that “a firstclass

intelligence organization was built

up.”2 To meet this need, the British

and their allies created an intelligence

apparatus that even incorporated close

coordination with the Malayan police

forces and eventually succeeded in

eradicating the communist guerillas.

In the 1940 Marine Corps classic

Small Wars, “intelligence service” is

listed as one of the four weapons at the

disposal of a force participating in a

small wars campaign.3 In fact, a member

of the U.S. Army Special Forces commented

that, when preparing for the

COIN fight in Iraq, he read the Marine

Small Wars publication.4 Clearly,

one could make the argument that a

historical body of knowledge strongly

supports the concept that intelligence

operations are critical to the successful

prosecution of a COIN campaign.


Within the Intelligence Cycle

Each Marine intelligence section

conducts a number of intelligence activities:

collection, analysis, dissemination,

and counterintelligence. However,

analysis is the discipline that forms the

foundation for all intelligence work.

The value of analysis increases dramatically

during a COIN campaign because

developing the end product, whether a

collection plan, an accurate assessment,

or a target package, is challenging. The

Marine Corps’ Intelligence Community

already maintains analytical

metrics, such as range fans for enemy

artillery and the capabilities of enemy

anti-air defense networks. However,

during a COIN campaign, insurgents

fight not only on the battlefield but

also within the hearts and minds of

the people, a place where exact range

fans do not exist. Thus, COIN requires

analysis that is measured more by

trends in local behaviors and practice

than enemy order of battle.

The RAND Corporation, in its

2008 study on COIN campaigns,

found that COIN is a “thinking-man’s

game.”5 The study goes on to say: “[O]f

all types of military operations, COIN

presents particularly severe cognitive

challenges, including ambivalence of

the population, the threat of terror, the

risks of making mistakes in the use of

force, and the need to reach out to and

work with the population even though

it may contain insurgents.”6

But the mere practice of thinking

is difficult enough. Both Richard

Heuer and Dr. Rob Johnston studied

the problems within the analytical

community and both came to similar

conclusions: that the cognitive biases

surrounding the practice of analysis

makes winning this thinking-man’s

game difficult. Mr. Heuer, a veteran

of nearly 45 years of service with the

CIA, not only studied the cognitive

aspects of analysis but also argued

for more structured processes within

departments responsible for analysis.

Mr. Heuer was a proponent of utilizing

the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses

as one of the primary methods for

improving the outputs of the analytical

process.7 Dr. Johnston began his

in-depth study on analysis, Analytic

Culture in the U.S. Intelligence Community:

An Ethnographic Study, only four

days after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Dr.

Johnston recognized that “intelligence

analysis is the socio-cognitive process

… by which a collection of methods

is used to reduce a complex issue to a

set of simpler issues.”8 In addition to

identifying the cognitive challenges,

Dr. Johnston identified as many as 160

different analytical methods during his

research leading up to the publication

of his study.9 Both men, well-respected

by members in the intelligence community,

identified opportunities for

improvement in the individual performance

of analysts and in system-level

training, organization, and standards.

Knowledge of the tribal society,

the customs, the language, and sociopolitical

details of the local area of

operations is critical if a counterinsurgency

force is to succeed. Collecting

the data is not enough; the data must

be transformed into knowledge. One

battalion intelligence officer remarked

that his men’s inability to create an

accurate social hierarchy making up

the tribal society in Iraq’s Al Anbar

Province actually led them to arrest the

tribal sheik, recognized by the majority

of the locals as the rightful sheik. This

blunder led the members of the tribe

to mistrust coalition forces and the

Marines in particular and made intelligence

collection, civil affairs operations,

and combat operations more difficult.10

This example clarifies the degree of

difficulty faced by tactical-level intelligence

sections conducting COIN

operations in a foreign culture.


Analysis before 2006

Clearly, the existing body of knowledge

and recent experience confirm

the necessity for a robust analytical

capability at the tactical level. Any

organization requiring this process

needs a program to support it. But

when discussing the Marine Corps

analysis program with members of the

Marine Corps intelligence community,

Maj Drew Cukor, Middle East Section

intelligence officer at the Marine Corps

Intelligence Activity, was blunt: “The

Marine Corps doesn’t have an analysis

program.”11 Marine Corps training

deficiencies and organizational structure

prior to 2006 contributed to this



Training Deficiencies

The comprehensive RAND study

found that during a COIN campaign,

cognitive skill sets are “as crucial as

physical capabilities, organizational

structures, and territorial controls,

especially against shrewd, distributed

insurgents.”12 Consequently, developing

these cognitive skill sets is paramount

for a Marine intelligence section to

conduct successful intelligence operations.

However, recent studies show

that the Marine Corps does not invest

in the type of training necessary for

Marine analysts. For example, the

Marine Corps offers initial intelligence

training for analysts of all ranks and

professional follow-on intelligence

training for senior enlisted analysts.

Unfortunately, only about 4 percent

of senior enlisted intelligence Marines

took advantage of this follow-on training

over the past 13 years.13

Training philosophy at the Marine

infantry battalions before Operation

Iraqi Freedom minimized the effectiveness

of the battalion-level analysis.

Marine infantry battalions often assigned

their understaffed intelligence

sections to create reasonable scenarios

for field training exercises.14 The Marine

infantry battalions also ordered these

same intelligence sections to provide

intelligence personnel to act as the

opposition forces for the Marine

maneuver elements to train against.

On the surface, this sounds logical. The

intelligence personnel are supposed to

be the experts on the enemy and their

tactics, techniques, and procedures,

and, as such, should be capable of

creating a plausible enemy scenario for

the Marine field units to train against.

The problem is that when the Marines

from the intelligence section are playing

the enemy and writing the scripts, they

are not developing their individual

and collective analytical skills. In real

combat, the enemy writes the script and

the intelligence section is supposed to

figure out what is happening, preferably

before it happens. The cognitive

difference between these two skills sets

is significant.

A focus on maneuver warfare versus

guerilla warfare immediately before

Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring

Freedom also weakened the Marine

Corps’ analytical abilities in a COIN

environment. In 2002, while serving asSecurity Report

the intelligence officer for a regimentsize

combined arms exercise (CAX),

sponsored by the Tactical Training and

Exercise Control Group (TTECG),

I suggested that the Marine Corps

add elements of asymmetric warfare

to the training schedule, specifically

intelligence-gathering among civilians,

refugees, and counterguerrilla operations.

The commanding officer of the

TTECG command brushed aside the

suggestion, stating that he did not have

the personnel to conduct the training

and that such training was not his

focus.15 Counterinsurgency operations

were not a significant training goal in

the years leading up to Operations Iraqi

Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

In defense of the TTECG commanding

officer, the Marine Corps

CAX program produced the kind

of military prowess that won Desert

Storm and Iraqi Freedom, the initial

blitzkrieg portion of the campaign in

Iraq. Once it became clear that the

nature of the fighting changed in Iraq,

the TTECG incorporated all of these

suggested elements into its training

schedule. It is important to point out,

however, that this training took place

after the Marine Corps was already

engaged in a COIN campaign.


Inadequate Organization

The pre-2006 Table of Organization

(T/O), which was wholly inadequate

for COIN Operations, exacerbated

the problems presented by the Marine

Corps intelligence training programs.

Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the

Marine Corps T/O for infantry battalion

intelligence sections called for

one officer and five enlisted personnel,

not including the scout-sniper platoon.

16 Intensifying this problem is the

fact that the Marine Corps intelligence

community currently fills only 85 percent

of its billet requirements.17

The extremely high level of activity

at the battalion level during a normal

infantry battalion tour of duty in Iraq

also hampered analytical performance.

This activity level, plus the inadequate

organization and manning levels,

compressed the amount of time available

to the battalion-level intelligence

personnel and forced them to expedite

every step within the intelligence cycle,

including analysis. Infantry battalions

in Iraq conduct round-the-clock

patrols, seven days a week throughout

their entire tours of duty in Iraq,

ultimately conducting thousands of

patrols. Added to these enduring tasks

are additional missions: raids of various

sizes, civil affairs missions, and seizing

key, physical terrain like certain urban

communities. In order to support

these missions, battalion intelligence

sections create and produce maps,

conduct thousands of patrol briefs and

debriefs, participate in combat missions,

develop target folders, and create

assessments, among dozens of other responsibilities.

The activity level forced

the Marine intelligence community to

accelerate the analysis process and led

to errors that minimized the ability

of the analyst to develop the current

situation, create hypotheses, identify

possible threats and targets, and wargame

the potential consequences of an


Unfortunately, the Marine Corps

cannot rely on a robust lessons-learned

program and combat experience to

overcome the deficiencies of its analysis

program because more than 50 percent

of the junior enlisted analysts leave

the Marine Corps after their first

enlistment term.18 These shortfalls in

personnel create pressure throughout

the Marine Corps intelligence community,

making the development of a

dedicated analysis program even more


Changes Related to Analysis

When it comes to investing in the

future, War by Other Means ranked

information and cognitive capabilities

number one in the cost, time, impact,

and return categories, ahead of local security

forces, civil, and U.S. forces capabilities.

19 The Marine Corps made several

changes to its intelligence training

and organization since 2006, including

the addition of a new military occupational

specialty (MOS) dedicated

to analysis; the creation of a companylevel

intelligence cell (CLIC); and an

increase in the battalion-level intelligence

section T/O.

FM 3-24 MCWP 3-33.5, a joint

publication between the Army and Marine

Corps on the topic of counterinsurgency

published in December 2006,

admits that “tactical units at brigade

and below require a lot of support for

both collection and analysis, as their

organic intelligence structure is often

inadequate.”20 These tactical units must

build an understanding of the entire society

in which they operate. The Marine

Corps intelligence community moved

forward by partnering with the Navy–

Marine Intelligence Training Command

in Dam Neck, Va., in order to develop

a course dedicated to analysis. The

Marine Corps designed the Marine Air

Ground Task Force Intelligence Analytic

Career Course primarily to train

“0205 All-Source Intelligence Warrant

Officers, and GySgt through Major that

hold a 02XX or 2629 MOS” in various

methods of analysis.21

Additionally, the lack of a standard

analysis process made incorporating

company-level combat reports into

battalion-level analysis more difficult.

Now the Marine Corps is experimenting

with CLICs. The introductory

statement to the Marine Corps

Warfighting Lab document on CLICs

states: “You will need a company intel

ligence section—including some analysts.”

22 Infantry battalions now deploy

with organized CLICs within their infantry

companies. The initial feedback

from units returning from Iraq claims

that organizing a CLIC improved the

efficiency and speed of all aspects of the

intelligence cycle, especially analysis.23

The Marine Corps also formally

changed the T/O for infantry battalion

intelligence sections. The official table

of organization approved by the Marine

Corps now stands at two officers and

nine enlisted, not including the scoutsniper

platoon.24 This formal change

increases the number of personnel

resources available to the infantry battalion

intelligence officer. More personnel

resources will enable the intelligence

section to devote more time to each task

within the intelligence cycle, including




Marines returning from combat

report that the changes enacted by the

Marine Corps since 2006 have improved

overall analytical performance

at the level of the strategic corporal. I

suggest that initiating a comprehensive

and formal study on the status of the

analysis program would further identify

areas for improvement, determine

measures of effectiveness, and build

upon the foundation laid by the Marine

Corps intelligence community.


LtCol Plauche J. St. Romain III

has 19 years of experience in the Marine

Corps. He served with the 31st

MEU(SOC) as a detachment executive

officer, the intelligence officer for Marine

Forces, U.S. Strategic Command,

the S-2 for Third Battalion, Twenty-

Fifth Marines (infantry) in Iraq, and

currently serves as the S-2 for the 24th

Marine Regiment (Infantry). LtCol St.

Romain received his master of science of

strategic intelligence from the National

Defense Intelligence College. LtCol St.

Romain was recognized by ROA as the

top-performing Reserve officer in the

2009 graduating class. This article is an

edited version of his thesis, “The Strategic

Corporal: Implications for Intelligence.”

We look forward to your additions to and thoughts on this topic, via comments on the Roundtable at, or your e-mails to me at



A British Military Viewpoint: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Others: Small Wars, Insurgents and Terrorists and Threats, American Foreign Policy, and the American Public, Part 8

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

“Armed Nation Building: The West’s Unhappy History”

More on COIN and Irregular Warfare, One Foreign Viewpoint: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Others: Small Wars, Insurgents and Terrorists and Threats, American Foreign Policy, and the American Public, Part 7

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

With the entire range of political, diplomatic, coalition and military options at your disposal

  • What would you do relative to Syria if you were President?
  • What would you do relative to Yemen if you were President?

It looks like one of the basic points of controversy that will be a part of each decision our country makes about whether or not to become in some way involved in emerging threats and conflicts in failed states will be whether we have to be “on the ground”  and “in the neighborhood” for our initiatives that build on the context, facts, knowledge and understanding gained from being “among the population.”  How can you find and build intelligence on the threats…individual and networks…..from the distance of a SOF unit or a drone?  Some will argue HUMINT, gathered by and from humans in the villages and cities, is an indispensable and required preamble for planning and operations.  Others will argue that newly-developing phenomena including social media, crowdsourcing, sentiment analysis, influence modeling, threat definition and research, influencing, infiltration, and the like will be even better at discerning threats, earlier in their life cycles, from a much larger base of human activities and interactions (than HUMINT could possibly gather and process), so we don’t need the assets on the ground.  The people, logistics, costs of maintaining them, the risks of inextricable involvement once we are “in”, the political and public opinion risks and complications, etc., these are the complications the American public may not stomach.

Some views on threats to national security and conflicts….up close and from a distance….follow.
“Why COIN Principles Don’t Fly With Drones”

By Peter Matulich, published in the Small Wars Journal, February 24, 2012.

“Abstract:  This article argues that the current use of drones in counter-terrorism strikes in Pakistan is contrary to the effective COIN doctrine the US has developed over the last ten years. Although attempts have been made to integrate COIN principles on a tactical level, drones operations as they currently stand are of limited use if not counterproductive. Drones alone are incapable of facilitating population-centric goals of COIN. Their use in ‘clearing’ operations produces negative effects including collateral damage and the militarisation of local populations. This not only alienates populations but can fuel further insurgency. In advocating a COIN based approach, this article acknowledges that numerous political issues will have to be surmounted before Pakistan will be ready to cooperate in such a campaign. Nevertheless plausible options remain for a strategic shift away from counterterrorism operations to a more COIN based ‘hold and build’ approach. This article concludes that drones used in support of COIN strategy (population security and development efforts) would provide the greatest likelihood for a sustainable solution in the region.

“By using drones to strike against insurgents in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP) of Pakistan the US is ignoring it most harshly learnt lessons from fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Crucial to a successful counterinsurgency campaign is the population-centric elements of development, population security. It is in these areas the shortcomings of drone strikes become only too apparent. Counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy provides for use of drones for efforts in ‘clearing’ insurgents but states clearly that these hinge on the ability of a host nation to ‘hold and build’ upon these efforts. By implementing an un-cohesive COIN effort in the FATA and NWFP the US risks further militarising the local population and leaving an unwilling Pakistani Army to deal with the more challenging population-centric objectives of COIN.

The use of drone strikes in the FATA and NWFP provinces have insofar fallen under the aegis of ‘counter-terrorism operations’, however, this signifier is somewhat misleading. Undoubtedly a large amount of foreign fighters use Pakistan as a staging point for terrorist-style attacks of ISAF forces in Afghanistan. It is these militants who are the primary targets for drone operations. However drone strikes against these targets inevitably cause collateral damage and property destruction in local communities. These types of damage serve to militarise local populations in the FATA and NWFP, demonstrated by an increase in homemade bomb attacks rising from 887 in all of 2009 to 1036 in November 2011 alone.

The perceived success of drone strikes led to an increase in their usage from 2009-2011. It was this success in eliminating ‘militants’ and ‘high-value targets’ which has driven the Obama administrations emphasis on drone operations. However this tactical shift has come at a price. The emphasis on counter-terrorism over COIN has led to an increase in drone strikes, which is arguably the cause of multiple ‘blowback’ factors including; retaliatory terrorist strikes against US assets in Afghanistan, an increase in militarisation of transnational Pashtu population and the decline of diplomatic relations with the Pakistani government. To avoid these blowback effects a strategic shift back to COIN from ‘counter-terrorism’ strikes will be necessary in order to obtain a more sustainable solution.

Drones are an invaluable asset to counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But with all new technologies it is their human management which is the most problematic. With drones strikes the integrations of COIN principles has occurred only partially at a tactical level, which has led to undesirable results. One example of such is the use of “killing boxes”. Killing boxes are akin to the mosaic strategy used in COIN operations; by which operators are given more autonomy to strike at targets within their pre-delineated area. This decentralisation of fire command in drone strikes is one of the key factors determining the level of collateral damage. Initial strikes on targets are based on sizeable amount of intelligence from both reconnaissance and HUMINT sources. However in the kill-boxes follow-up attacks often occur after the initial strike targeting those coming to the potential aid of wounded militants. It is in these follow-up attacks rescuers are targeted in an attempt to score a windfall of extra militants killed. Unfortunately in these attacks on rescuers, the task of differentiating civilian from militant is up to the digression of a drone operator. In these circumstances it appears little has been done to discern combatant from non-combatant, the consequence being an increased amount civilian casualties. Although this tactic is likely to have been altered under the new step-by-step agreements on military cooperation between the US and Pakistan; the extent to which the local communities have already been alienated by such operations will be crucial in future attempts to bring effective governance to these regions.

US counterinsurgency doctrine states: “Confrontational military action, in exclusion is counterproductive in most cases; it risks generating popular resentment, creating martyrs that motivate new recruits, and producing cycles of revenge.” It furthermore refers to such action as “illegitimate” and “self-defeating.” The incoherence between COIN doctrine and drone attacks is undoubtedly contributing to the militarisation of the FATA and NWFP population. The “cycle of violence” which drones strikes drive among the subject populations, is counterproductive in combating militant groups. It is furthermore an element which undermines other flawed justifications for operating drones in the FATA and NWFP; one such being the COIN based notion of ‘denial of sanctuary’ to militants.

Drones are used in the FATA and NWFP in an attempt to ‘deny sanctuary’ to insurgents from Afghanistan. The effectiveness of drones to achieve this tactical end is severely limited. Drones have the ability to harass and harry insurgents seeking sanctuary in the FATA and NWFP, temporarily denying them security and freedom to operate.  It does not ‘deny sanctuary’ in the long-term to the insurgents, nor eliminate their presence. Hence, attempts to use drones in sanctuary denial is a potentially frivolous task, if it is not complimented with physical attempts to deny territory to insurgents with effective ground forces and collaboration with the local population. The current nature of the US insurgent-centric operations does little to address these physical and human elements of COIN. As Tim Szymanski observes, the “US cannot deny sanctuary in the FATA unilaterally”[1]. Co-operation with the Pakistani military and civilian authority is a required element in denying sanctuary to insurgents and terrorist networks in the FATA and NWFP in the long-term. But the likelihood of a Pakistani COIN campaign is in itself a difficult prospect.

The possibility of a Pakistani COIN effort has been the subject of much analysis and has even been prospectively titled “Operation PRIDE”. For this plan to see fruition will depend on the mustering of political will of the Pakistanis to embark on such an endeavour. Previously, the Pakistani military has had little appetite for COIN operations which it calls “low intensity” warfare. It instead chooses to focus on their larger conventional threat, India. This adversarialism with India has been engrained in the Pakistani military by three wars and the longstanding dispute over the Kashmir region. Unfortunately, these fears are only exacerbated by the growing influence of India in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. Furthermore, there are numerous other factors decreasing the likelihood of Pakistan undertaking a COIN campaign. Pakistan has long fomented insurgencies as proxies. Instances of such have been seen as recently as the 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks in Mumbai, India.   Convincing Pakistan to abandon its ‘strategic calculus’ of colluding with militants and fomenting insurgent groups in the FATA would be a tough sell. The use of proxies is both an economic and effective form of influence in regional politics.  Abandoning this tactic would be just one of the changes needed for a Pakistani COIN campaign. Further issues exist around the composition of the Pakistani army. The number of troops derived from the Punjab region is one such factor. Any COIN operation might be interpreted by local Pashtuns as an attempt by centralised the Punjabi controlled army to establish absolute control over an area which has traditionally been fiercely autonomous. The issues surrounding a Pakistani COIN campaign do not end with Pakistan. Even if Pakistan could muster the political will to launch such an effort, it would likely result in a “strategic catch 22” for the US and NATO. Long-term support would be required to assist the Pakistani military and civilian development programs in a region where they are both trying to currently extricate themselves. Nothing short of a regional response can deal with the issues of insurgents on the Af/Pak border. A unified effort by Afghan forces and Pakistani forces will be needed along the border to combat militants and eliminate terrorist safe havens. For this task drones may prove to be a decisive factor.

The security, stabilising and development efforts by the US along the Af/Pak border provide the best plausible option for the US to deal with the transnational insurgency. As early as February 2009 the United States Congress approved a Security and Development Plan in which six Border Security Centers were to be established “to coordinate friendly forces and coordinate interdiction of terrorists and others.” However, to date, of the proposed six, only three have been constructed to coordinate the operations along the 1 500km border. Nevertheless, the establishment of these centres creates an excellent opportunity to integrate drones into regional Af/Pak joint COIN operation. The use of drones by such a unified authority in surveillance and troop support may prove invaluable in eliminating the spectre of transnational insurgents in the frontier provinces. Although this use of drones does seem to be holistically beneficial, the issue around the “interdiction” side of drone operations remains problematic. It was a NATO “interdiction” strike which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on a November 26th 2011. This served as a catalyst for the US-Pakistan diplomatic row leading Pakistan to withdraw from two of the three border coordination centres and block NATO supply lines through its territory. For these centres to be effective, the primacy of interdiction strikes will have to be subordinated to an Af/Pak COIN effort. In this capacity the US can play a vital role in facilitating better intelligence operations by raising the effectiveness and reliability of joint operations, “including but not limited to U.S. U.A.V attacks.” Key to this regional effort will be the understanding that drones cannot in themselves provide a security solution for the Af/Pak border, regardless of who might operate them. They can only be effective when used in concert with COIN efforts which include physical territorial troop presence for security and policing, and crucially a sound development strategy.

Development efforts are arguably the most important and underrated element of COIN’s clear-hold-build strategy. Of the $230 million required by the Security and Development Plan in the 2009 fiscal year, the plan received only $62 million. It is these figures which have led some US diplomats to state that the development efforts for the Pakistani border regions are “woefully underfunded.” This rings true from also from the Pakistani side. The FATA Development Authority allocated $16 million for the 2011-2012 to cover development efforts in Infrastructure, industries and housing. Similarly, when contrasted to the US entering the then insurgent controlled district of Helmand in Afghanistan in 2009, $700 million was made available for development projects in the province. It seems that most crucial for the success of any COIN campaign is the ability to hold and consolidate upon efforts made. Although drones can indeed play a vital part in securing provinces; they remain of extremely limited use in development projects. On both sides of the border, economic development is crucial in the fight to rid these regions of insurgencies and jihadist networks. In foresight of the 2014 troop withdrawal, Ethan Kapstein notes “the most challenging problems that the [Afghan] government must face once the US leaves will be the economic.” This means fostering local industry, and developing local economic development, may still the most crucial element in successfully defeating the insurgency for good. In this respect NATO’s COIN commitment; this means it may need to be transformed from military to developmental and oversight role. In this capacity drones have little use.

The use of drones is an ineffective means of combating insurgencies along the Af/Pak border. As demonstrated by the hard learnt lessons of the US in Iraq and the ten year occupation of Afghanistan, COIN provides the best means available to combat insurgencies and deny territory to terrorist networks. COIN must be reemphasised as the primary tactic to be used along the Af/Pak border. This would require greater commitment by all parties (The US, NATO, Pakistan and Afghanistan) in population-centric efforts, focussing on population security and development assistance. Relegating the primacy of drones strikes, and emphasising COIN based operations would therefore provide the greatest chance of bringing a long lasting solution to the region.

[1] Tim Szymanski, ‘Denying Sanctuary’, Master’s Thesis, Joint Forces Staff College, Joint Advanced Warfighting School Norfolk VA (2009) p.74


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