Winds of Change.NET: Counterinsurgency in Tribal Societies

Or why the US is being so patient with Mushi in Pakistan and Taliban in Afghanistan... Bush patient and diplomatic ? Believe it when I see it! Probably all the progress is being made in spite of Bush -- law

Counterinsurgency in Tribal Societies
by Joe Katzman at January 14, 2004 03:59 AM

We've covered "Small Wars" before here on Winds of Change.NET, and also noted both the importance of Iraq's tribal structure and Lt. Col. Alan King's successes in dealing with many Iraqi tribes.

Tribal societies are always tricky for outsiders, and there are real implications for counterinsurgency wars under these conditions. Fortunately, the Brothers Judd blog has an excellent feature covering counterinsurgency generally, incl. experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want to get a feel for what's happening on the ground, grasp the underlying challenges of counterinsurgency, then broaden your understanding, start right here. Judd leads with Peter Maas' NY Times Magazine article about U.S. Major John Nagl:

"Nagl's scholarship helped earn him a post as a professor at West Point. But when I met him last month, he was testing his theories far from the classroom. Nagl is now the third in command of a tank battalion in the heart of the so-called Sunni Triangle, which extends north and west of Baghdad. The counterinsurgency expert is, for the first time in his life, practicing counterinsurgency...."

There's more, of course: article excerpts, links to some of Nagl's writings, reports re: the 10th Mountain Division's efforts in Afghanistan, and other goodies.

For additional front line insights, I recommend this interactive "Arab Tribes in Iraq" presentation, as well as The Art of Peace's coverage of the Al-Buessa tribe's role in Fallujah's violence. Note the dynamics involved. Finally, see Orrin Judd's Iraq-related article "Why Stay," which notes the differences in Iraq's 3 major ethnic enclaves, makes some thought-provoking predictions, and even links to an article in The Village Voice. Judd's sobering post makes the local consequences of a U.S. pullout from a divided tribal society crystal clear.

Elsewhere in the War on Terror, The Art of Peace adds depth to Orrin Judd's 10th Mountain Division reports by bringing us up to speed on recent developments in Waziristan, where the U.S. is working with the Mashuds against the Pakistani Wazir tribes that shelter al-Qaeda.

The USA has apparently learned from the British and Russian experiences, and is working hard to keep the tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan's "lawless frontier" from uniting against them. This has significant policy implications, and explains why the USA is relying on slow progress from Karzai's efforts instead of "cracking down on the warlords" militarily as some ill-informed people are proposing. The resulting compromises are sometimes unhappy, and often sub-optimal... but it may be the best we can hope for.

Winds of Change.NET: Counterinsurgency in Tribal Societies


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