Options for Decentralized Local Defence Forces in Iraq & Afghanistan

Patrick Blannin (@PatrickBlannin) is a PhD Candidate, teaching fellow and research assistant at Bond University, Queensland, Australia.  The authors doctoral research focuses on the role and scope of defence diplomacy in contemporary counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.  The author has published a research monograph titled Defence Diplomacy in the Long War (Brill) as well as peer-reviewed journal articles on topics related to transnational terrorism (organisations, funding sources and counter measures).  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Can decentralized Local Defence Forces (LDF) reliably fill the security void in the Long War (Iraq and Afghanistan)?  Will LDFs such as the Tribal Mobilization Forces and the Afghan Local Police generate or maintain stability until the capability of state forces improves?  Or should such entities remain as a state sanctioned, locally drawn, semi-autonomous component of a formal security apparatus[1]?

Date Originally Written:  January 29, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 23, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  From an academic perspective, the author analyses national security issues, and the responses to them, through the lens of a whole-of-government approach.  This approach ensures all the U.S.’ tools of statecraft (DIMEFIL) are utilized pursuant of its national security strategic objectives[2].

Background:  In a perfect world, when the long-arm of the state is unable or unwilling to extend through the entirety of its sovereign territory, effectively filling the security vacuum by calling for a grass-roots approach to security and policing would represent a “compelling argument[2].”  However, the Long War theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan are far from perfect, and for over a decade numerous iterations of so-called Local Defence Forces (LDF, or Local Police Forces, Community Defence Units, Public Protection Force, etc.) have been stood up.  Results are mixed, with often short-term benefits yielding mid-term pain.  For example, the highly vaulted Sons of Iraq (’Sahawa al-Anbar’, the Sunni Awakening) constituted a number of strategically aligned LDFs which combined to facilitate the routing of Al Qa’ida from Western Iraq (primarily Anbar Province)[3].  At the time however, with stories of its recent successes reported around the world, some analysts were guarded in their praise, identifying the short-term security gains in at least some areas, while recognizing “[T]here is little guarantee that these gains will persist, and there is some chance that the strategy will backfire in the medium term[4].”  Similar conversations, and associated apprehension, regarding Afghanistan were occurring before, during and after the 2009 ‘Surge[5].’  The intoxicating aroma of tactical victory soon fades and is replaced by the lingering odour of arms races and power grabs between tribally aligned militias, and the often undermining influence and/or actions of the state.

Significance:  Over the past 16 years, the U.S. and its Coalition partners have encouraged the Iraq and Afghan governments, such as they were, to incorporate LDFs into their national security strategy.  LDFs are designed to contribute to clearing or holding missions as well as local law enforcement in broader stabilization efforts.  Although each theatre offers innumerable differences and associated challenges, one constant remains, that short-term tactical successes are followed by mid-term strategic losses.  A legacy of its Long War experience, U.S. and Coalition civilian and military decision-makers have a ‘better’ understanding of the social/cultural anthropology in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Although lessons have been learned and mistakes addressed, repeating the same flawed approach remains a primary strategic choice, and our expectations continually failed to be met[6].

Option #1:  Firstly, limit the size of LDFs.  Secondly, ensure U.S. and Coalition personnel play a role, clandestinely wherever possible, in the vetting and training process which would allow the U.S. and its partners to identify recruits and influence the operating culture of the LDF.  Additional constraints could include the amount, and type of weaponry supplied, limit or equalize the political influence/politicization of all LDF leadership as well as introducing an enforceable set of operating parameters[7].

Risk:  Attempts to constrain LDFs by limiting their size, political influence, or access to weapons risks undermining the capacity of the LDF to fulfill their objective.  Moreover, a constrained and disempowered force can leverage traditional community relations to operate a shadow or parallel security apparatus which effectively monopolizes the use of violence within their respective area of operations which would undermine broader stabilization efforts[8].

Gain:  Limiting the size and capability of the LDF makes it more able to be managed by the government.  Additionally, introducing a personnel cap in conjunction with more rigorous vetting would create a more effective and perhaps malleable security force.  Standing up an effective LDF may mitigate the role/presence/agenda of existing militias affording tribal leadership the ability to pursue legitimate, non-violent, political activities[9].

Option #2:  Firstly, acknowledge, accept and plan for the inherent challenges and limitations of LDFs[10].  Secondly, increase the tempo of the current, centrally controlled train, advise, assist, accompany, and enable and police force capacity building programs, leveraging the arrival of the nascent U.S. Army Security Force Assistance Brigades and private sector trainers/advisors.  Centrally controlled, locally drawn LDFs can be generated through the existing security, stabilization and capacity building framework[11].

Risk:  Convincing/guaranteeing local militia and populations that their acquiescence to a degree of central government control and/or oversight will not prove detrimental to their local security objectives will be a challenge.  Lack of progress in establishing security creates a security vacuum which nefarious actors will exploit rendering the situation worse than prior to implementing this option.

Gain:  Using the existing capacity building framework expedites implementation of this option.  Moreover, generating requisite personnel should not represent a barrier, with existing militiae and a willing local population providing significant pool to draw from.

Other Comments:  For many, a situation in which locals (including LDFs) governed locals would significantly reduce tensions.  However, this local-for-local governance does not equate with the preferred central government model.  Both options are based on realities on the ground rather than a theoretical construct, thus LDFs such as the Tribal Mobilization Forces and the Afghan Local Police represent a rare triptych.  This triptych is an opportunity to empower in situ populations, reduce the anxiety of the central government, and achieve the stabilization objectives of the U.S./Coalition Long War strategy.  The objectives and concerns of all stakeholders are legitimate, yet they are diverse and need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.  LDFs do deliver short-term tactical benefits and can positively contribute to the strategic objective of sustainable stabilization in Iraq and Afghanistan[12].

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes: 

[1] Clark, K. (2017). ‘Update on Afghan Local Police: Making Sure they are armed, trained, paid and exist’, Afghan Analysts Network at https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/update-on-the-afghan-local-police-making-sure-they-are-armed-trained-paid-and-exist/; Gaston, E. (2017). ‘Sunni Tribal Forces’, Global Public Policy Institute Report at http://www.gppi.net/publications/sunni-tribal-forces/ ; For a comprehensive list of Article about the Afghan Local Police from Afghan War News see: http://www.afghanwarnews.info/police/ALPnews.htm

[2] Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, defines the “instruments of national power” as Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic, normally referred to as the DIME.  The DIMEFIL acronym encapsulates: Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence & Law Enforcement. DIMEFIL is an extension of the DIME construct that can be found in the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (NSCT-2003) and the National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism (NMSP-WOT). The NMSP-WOT defines DIMEFIL as the means, or the resources, used for the War on Terrorism (2006: 5) at http://archive.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2006-01-25-Strategic-Plan.pdf; For a brief overview of DIMEFIL see: Smith, A.K. (2007), Turning on a DIME: Diplomacy’s Role in National Security, Carlisle, VA: Strategic Studies Institute, pp. 1-17 at https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB801.pdf

[3] Arraf, J. (2014). ‘A New Anbar Awakening’, Foreign Policy at http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/01/08/a-new-anbar-awakening/; Jones, S. G. (2011). ‘Security from the Bottom Up’, Time at ; Theros, M & Kaldor, (2007) M. ‘Building Afghan Peace from the Ground Up’, A Century Foundation Report, New York: The Century Foundation, pp. 1-60 at http://www.operationspaix.net/DATA/DOCUMENT/4311~v~Building_Afghan_Peace_from_the_Ground_Up.pdf

[4] Hamilton, B. (2017). ‘Illusions of Victory: The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State’, US Army; Kagan, E, (2007). ‘The Anbar Awakening: Displacing al Qaeda from its Stronghold in Western Iraq’, Iraq Report, The Institute for the Study of War & the Weekly Standard, pp. 1-18 at http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/reports/IraqReport03.pdf

[5] Long, A. 2008). ‘The Anbar Awakening’, Survival’, Vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 67-94 at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00396330802034283?needAccess=true

[6] Human Rights Watch. (2012). Impunity, Militias, and the “Afghan Local Police”, pp.  1-100 at https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/09/12/just-dont-call-it-militia/impunity-militias-and-afghan-local-police ; Long, A., Pezard, S., Loidolt, B & Helmus, T. C. (2012). Locals Rule: Historic Lessons for Creating Local Defence Forces for Afghanistan and Beyond, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, pp. 1-232 at https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/09/12/just-dont-call-it-militia/impunity-militias-and-afghan-local-police

[7] Dearing, M. P. (2011). ‘Formalizing the Informal: Historical Lessons on Local Defense in Counterinsurgency’, Small Wars Journal at http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/formalizing-the-informal-historical-lessons-on-local-defense-in-counterinsurgency .

[8] Mansour, R & Jabar, F. A. (2017). ‘The Popular Mobilization Forces and Iraq’s Future’, Carnegie Middle East Center at http://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810 ;  Gharizi, O & Al-Ibrahimi, H. (2018). ‘Baghdad Must Seize the Chance to Work with Iraq’s Tribes’, War on the Rocks at https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/baghdad-must-seize-chance-work-iraqs-tribes/

[9] Gibbs, D. 1986). ‘The Peasant as Counter Revolutionary: The Rural Origins of the Afghan’, International Development, Vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 37–45 at http://dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/sites/dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/files/peasant.pdf

[10] El-Hameed, R. (2017). ‘The Challenges of Mobilizing Sunni Tribes in Iraq’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/59401; n/a. (2016). Militias in Iraq: The hidden face of terrorism, Geneva International Center for Justice at http://www.gicj.org/GICJ_REPORTS/GICJ_report_on_militias_September_2016.pdf

[11] Cox, M. (2017). ‘Army Stands Up 6 Brigades to Advise Foreign Militaries’, Military.com; Cooper, N. B. (2017). ‘Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades get Manning and Intel Right?’, War on the Rocks at https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/ ; Gutowski, A. (2017). ‘Newly created ‘teaching’ brigade prepares to deploy to Afghanistan, FDD Long War Journal at https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/01/sfab.php ; Keller, J. (2018). ‘The 1st SFAB’s Afghan Deployment Is A Moment Of Truth For The Global War On Terror’, Task & Purpose at  https://taskandpurpose.com/sfab-train-advise-assist-afghanistan/  Strandquist, J. (2015). ‘Local defence forces and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: learning from the CIA’s Village Defense Program in South Vietnam’, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 90–113 at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09592318.2014.959772?needAccess=true ; Green, D. (2017). In the Warlord’s Shadow: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and their Fight Against the Taliban, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2017, pp. 1-256.

[12] Al-Waeli, M. (2017). ‘Rationalizing the Debate Over the PMF’s Future: An Organizational Perspective’, 1001 Iraqi Thoughts at http://1001iraqithoughts.com/2017/12/14/rationalizing-the-debate-over-the-pmfs-future-an-organizational-perspective/

[13] Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations. (2017). Operation Inherent Resolve, Report to the U.S. Congress-July 2017-September 2017, pp. 1-126; U.S. Department of Defence. (2016). Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, Report to Congress, pp. 1-106 at https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Afghanistan-1225-Report-December-2016.pdf ; Hammes, T. X. (2015). ‘Raising and Mentoring Security Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq’, in Hooker Jr, R. D., & Joseph J. Collins. J. J. (eds.), Lessons Encountered: Learning from the Long War, Fort MacNair: National Defence University, pp. 277-344 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0030438715000691

Afghanistan Allies & Partners Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Iraq Irregular Forces Option Papers Patrick Blannin United States

Options for the U.S. to Deter China in the East & South China Seas

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Curtin is a Field Artillery Officer with over 20 years of experience in the United States Marine Corps, including at the Pacific Division of Plans, Policies, and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps.  Annie Kowalewski is a Chinese military and defense researcher at Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese militarization of artificial islands in disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.

Date Originally Written:  March 1, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  March 12, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors are a military member and a defense researcher.  The authors believe that Chinese actions in the East and South China Sea are destabilizing and threaten to shift the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Background:  China is showing no evidence of slowing down its territorial aspirations within the “nine dash line” and continues to emplace anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems on its man-made islands in the East and South China Seas[1].  China also uses its maritime militia to bully neighboring countries and extend Chinese fishing rights and territorial reach.  The United States has thus far been unsuccessful in responding to or deterring these Chinese challenges to the status quo.

Significance:  Chinese actions represent a “salami-slicing” strategy aimed at slowly changing regional norms and asserting Chinese dominance in the East and South China Seas.  This strategy allows China to exert influence and establish itself as a regional hegemon, thereby threatening the balance of power and U.S. primacy in the region.  Chinese militarization and power projection also threaten the United States’ allies and security partners, some of which the United States is bound by treaty to offer security assistance.

Option #1:  The United States invests in capabilities-based deterrents that can deter specific Chinese actions.

Risk:  China has objected to the capabilities that provide this type of deterrent, such as the new F-35B fighter operating on naval vessels in the pacific[2].  China may use the deployment of these capabilities as an excuse to finally militarize islands such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Gain:  A capabilities-based deterrent will make Chinese islands in the East and South China Seas vulnerable and, ultimately, a military liability rather than an advantage.  New technologies such as the F-35B allow the United States more flexibility when operating in the Pacific, by providing U.S. and allied commanders with a 5th generation aircraft that is normally only employed off traditional U.S. aircraft carriers.  Option #1 would not only help offset the eventual Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) numerical superiority in the Pacific, but also demonstrate the U.S. commitment to modernizing a capability that has been historically suited for military operations against static, geographically isolated island targets.  This option may help shift China’s risk calculus when deciding how aggressively it hopes to militarize the islands, once it realizes that increased island investment actually increases vulnerability instead of capability.

Option #2:  The United States invests in strategic deterrence by helping boost allies’ and security partners’ amphibious capabilities.

Risk:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities runs the risk of antagonizing China.  China has already strongly condemned proposed amendments to the Japanese constitution calling for a larger defense budget[3].  China has been known to use economic and political coercion to pressure regional countries to adopt, or abandon, policies.

Gain:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities will be key to creating a sea force able to challenge an increasingly capable PLA(N).  This option would also allow allies and security partners to better deal with Chinese salami-slicing activities by providing them with the capability to deter or engage the Chinese on their own, rather than rely on U.S. deployments and assistance[4].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bader, Jeffrey. (2014). The U.S. and China’s Nine-Dash Line: Ending the Ambiguity. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-u-s-and-chinas-nine-dash-line-ending-the-ambiguity/.

[2] Lockheed Martin. (2018). The F-26B Lightning II. Retrieved from https://www.f35.com/about/variants/f35b.

[3] Huang, Kristin. (2017, October 23). China to keep wary watch on Abe’s push to change pacifist constitution. Retreived from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2116635/china-keep-wary-watch-abes-push-change-pacifist.

[4] Erickson, Andrew. (2016, September 21). Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea. Retreived from https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/seapower-and-projection-forces-south-china-sea.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners Annie Kowalewski China (People's Republic of China) Christopher Curtin Maritime Option Papers South China Sea United States

Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Ian Wilkie is an American lawyer and terrorism expert living outside of New York City.  Wilkie has lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa and speaks multiple foreign languages.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Army (Infantry), completed French Foreign Legion commando training, and graduated from Vassar College and Tulane Law School.  Wilkie lived in South Asia post-9/11 where he conducted research and has been a consultant and advisor to two U.S. government agencies.  He has also worked for two of the three largest law firms in the world and has served as general counsel to hedge funds.  Wilkie possesses a deep knowledge of terrorist strategy and is currently working on a book called “Checkmate: Jihad’s Endgame.”  Follow Wilkie on Twitter @Wilkmaster.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 1, 2018.

Summary:  U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter[1] and Ronald Reagan[2] aligned the U.S. with jihadists in Afghanistan against Russia and later gave weapons to Salafi-jihadis allied with Osama Bin Laden[3].  Less than 20 years later, Al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon.  Presently the U.S. is bogged down in Syria and continues to make the foreign policy mistake of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi.”

Text:  The United States has been fitfully fighting Muslim-majority countries since shortly after the founding of the nation.  President Thomas Jefferson saw enough of a piracy and kidnap threat to mobilize the Navy and newly formed Marine Corps and deploy them to Africa[4].  Centuries later, the use of violence against civilians is a hallmark of Islamist extremists.  Informed by Islamist interpretations of ample examples in scripture (Qu’ran[5] and Hadith[6]), religious “holy warriors” find it easy to commit atrocities and justify them on perceived religious grounds.  Some clerics support this violence, and some have even gone so far as to condone the use of nuclear[7] and biological[8] weapons against “infidels” based their interpretation of sacred texts.  The violence of these Islamist actors, whether on 9/11 or in Europe, Africa, or the various countries of the Middle East today, is not in doubt.  The history of violence associated with the Islamist jihad (“struggle”) to convert the world to Islam is rife with examples of massacres and forced conversions[9].  Put bluntly, the blood lust of these violent Islamists is not even an open question, yet the U.S. still works with some of the extremists, while trying to kill others.

Afghanistan in the decade from 1979-1989 saw the U.S. advance a strategy of opposing Russia without fighting Russia directly.  The U.S., primarily the Congress and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), believed that Russia could be bloodied and beaten if the “right” people were given the right weapons, clandestinely.  To this end, close ties were forged between the CIA and jihadists and Salafi-jihadis who believed in pedophilia, polygamy, and the liberal application of violence against civilians, including religious minorities.  America knew what Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar stood for, yet we still worked with them according to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory of geopolitics[10].  On September 11, 2001, America and the world learned the true dangers of allying with Islamist religious zealots: they may kill U.S. enemies, but they will never be U.S. allies.  Islamist religious zealots answer to their God and no one else, regardless of which faith they profess.

The cold, realpolitik calculus that the CIA made in Afghanistan to work with jihadists and Salafi-Jihadis may have hastened the break-up of the Soviet Union, but it also hastened the end of America’s moral leadership in the eyes of the world.  When these “good” jihadis the U.S. once armed and trained utilized tactics from World War 2[11] against American buildings, the American response was telling: the Saudi allies and sponsors of violent jihad were permitted to leave the U.S., no questions asked[12].  The softball investigation of official Saudi ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 reflected yet another Machiavellian choice by Washington; the oil money and strategic advantage of remaining allied to the bandit Kingdom[13] outweighed any practical considerations of justice for the victims.  The Saudi departures and lackluster investigation were a clear case of vested interests and money overwhelming U.S. morality and yet, almost two decades later, the survivors and the almost 3,000 dead still demand justice.

America’s reaction to 9/11 consisted of removing the Afghan Taliban from power, but not eliminating their base of support in Pakistan, their illicit drug networks, or their financial backing across the Sunni Muslim world.  The American response largely ignored the fundamentalist horrors of the Afghan Taliban’s behavior towards women, children, and minorities and focused only on which “externally focused” terrorists they were giving refuge to.  Rather like its 180° shift on Osama Bin Laden, the U.S. went from bombing the Afghan Taliban to inviting them to peace talks, in effect treating them like normal people and not the barbarians that they are.  In 2017, the U.S. is still open to sitting across the table from “men” who rape little boys[14] as a matter of honor and shoot schoolgirls in the face[15] as a point of pride, which is moral capitulation of the very worst kind.

Shifting to Syria, we encounter the most egregious examples of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi” that the U.S. has ever engaged in.  The fact that the CIA was willing to advance the fiction that foreign fighters from Sunni theocracies were anything but jihadis shows you how gullible and uninformed they believe Americans are[16].  From an ethical point of view, there is no such thing as a “moderate” Sunni foreign insurgent in Syria and there never will be.  Syria is another example of the U.S. trying to advance a larger goal (oppose Shia Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) by making a moral compromise and allying with malign forces.  In Syria, the U.S. has sent entire warehouses full of weapons to some of the most suspect killers on the planet[17].  For example, U.S. antitank missiles have been used by “friendly, moderate rebels” to attack medevac missions and even journalists[18].  Jihadis that the U.S. knows, and possibly trained[19], have used chemical weapons dozens of times in that conflict[20].  That the insurrection in Syria failed is largely due to the fact that Islamist jihadis don’t fight in lanes; they fight everyone and especially each other.  The U.S. continues to arm “bad” jihadis, as there is no such thing as a “good” jihadi, and the results speak for themselves.


Endnotes:

[1] Brzezinski, Zbigniew (Interview). “How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen” https://www.counterpunch.org/1998/01/15/how-jimmy-carter-and-i-started-the-mujahideen/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2107).

[2] Kaplan, Fred. “Reagan’s Osama Connection” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2004/06/reagans_osama_connection.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[3] Harnden, Toby. “Taliban still have Reagan’s Stingers” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/1357632/Taliban-still-have-Reagans-Stingers.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[4] Hitchens, Christopher. “Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates” https://www.city-journal.org/html/jefferson-versus-muslim-pirates-13013.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[5] Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. “Islam Is a Religion of Violence” http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/09/islam-is-a-religion-of-violence-ayaan-hirsi-ali-debate-islamic-state/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[6] Anonymous. “1.B Violence in Hadith Books” https://islamreligionofwar.wordpress.com/1b-violence-in-hadith-books/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[7] Tobey, William & Zolotarev, Pavel. “The Nuclear Terrorism Threat” https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/nuclearterrorismthreatthailand2014.pdf (p.10, Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[8] Gunaratna, Rohan & Pita, René. “Revisiting Al-Qa`ida’s Anthrax Program” https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/revisiting-al-qaida’s-anthrax-program (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[9] Konrad, Mike. “The Greatest Murder Machine in History” http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/05/the_greatest_murder_machine_in_history.html (Accessed 5 December 2017).

[10] Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin, pp. 125-128.

[11] Editor, Military History Now. “One Way Ticket – Japan’s Kamikazes Weren’t the Only Suicide Pilots of WW2” http://militaryhistorynow.com/2014/03/17/one-way-ticket-japans-kamikazes-werent-the-only-suicide-pilots-of-ww2/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[12] Sperry, Paul. “Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup” https://nypost.com/2013/12/15/inside-the-saudi-911-coverup/ (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

[13] Zakaria, Fareed. “Saudi Arabia: The devil we know” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/saudi-arabia-the-devil-we-know/2016/04/21/2109ecf6-07fd-11e6-b283-e79d81c63c1b_story.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[14] Agence France-Presse. “Male rape and paedophilia: How Taliban uses ‘honey trap’ boys to kill Afghan police” http://www.firstpost.com/world/male-rape-and-paedophilia-how-taliban-uses-honey-trap-boys-to-kill-afghan-police-2837546.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[15] Johnston, Ian. “Malala Yousafzai: Being shot by Taliban made me stronger” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/malala-yousafzai-being-shot-taliban-made-me-stronger-f6C10612024 (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[16] Mazzetti, Mark, Goldman, Adam & Schmidt, Michael S. “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html (Accessed 4 Dec 2017).

[17] Sanger, David E. “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[18] Russia Today. “US anti-tank TOW missile used in attack on RT journalists in Syria” https://www.rt.com/news/323810-us-missile-journalists-attack-syria/ (Accessed 5 Dec 2017).

[19] Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. “State Dept: US-Backed Forces Executed Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria” http://yournewswire.com/state-dept-us-forces-chemical-weapons-syria/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[20] “State Dep. Admits Opposition in Syria Has Chemical Weapons”
https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/State-Dep.-Admits-Opposition-in-Syria-Has-Chemical-Weapons-20171020-0006.html (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers Ian Wilkie Islamic State Variants Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States Violent Extremism

Options for United States Military Assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq

Brandon Wallace is a policy wonk who spends his time watching Iraq, Kurdish borders, data, and conflict in the Middle East of all varieties.  Brandon can be found on Twitter at @brandonwallacex and at his website www.brandonlouiswallace.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) looms closer and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) ponders its future relationship with greater Iraq, the United States must decide what, if any, military assistance it will provide to the Kurds.

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 10, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This options paper is written from the hypothetical perspective of a senior policy advisor for a policy maker in the United States government.

Background:  The KRG, a semi-autonomous region in Northern Iraq with intentions of secession, requires both intrastate and external sponsors to sustain functionality.  The KRG depends on resource allocations from the central Government of Iraq (GOI) in Baghdad, as well as assistance from the United States and other international partners.  The campaign to defeat ISIS requires a functioning KRG partnership, resulting in several partners providing additional capital and arms to the region.  Without such assistance, the KRG faces serious economic turmoil.  The GOI allocates 17 percent of the federal budget for the KRG, yet the budget does not balance KRG spending.  The KRG carries an inflated public sector wherein 70 percent of KRG public spending is devoted to payroll[1]. The KRG must also support internally displaced people (IDP).  This year, KRG debts exceeded US$22 billion[2].

Moreover, the KRG cannot sustain itself through oil sales.  It is estimated that the maximum output of KRG oil production is nearly 800 kbd (Thousand Barrels Per Day)[3].  To balance the budget, the KRG would need oil to sell at nearly US$105[4].  Today oil trades at roughly US$50.

Significance:  The KRG’s ability to receive independent assistance from the United States has profound implications for the United States’ relationship with the GOI, Kurdish commutes in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and relations between neighboring states.  Yet, the KRG has been a valuable non-state partner in the fight against ISIS.  The United States paid the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs (the military forces of the KRG) US$415 million for their role in the Mosul Operation to topple ISIS- this does not include military equipment and other forms of aid from the United States and international partners[5].

Option #1:  The United States sustains its current level of military assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  This option risks dissatisfaction with bordering countries of the KRG.  Sustained support implies United States complicit backing of the KRG to the GOI, Iran, Turkey, and a significantly crippled Syria.  Further, military assistance, specifically cash payments from the United States, contributes to the bloating KRG payroll.

Gain:  The KRG will continue to be an important partner in the campaign against ISIS.  As ISIS is driven out of its controlled territories, a well-supported Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces will be necessary for security operations post-Mosul.  No allied actor is so upset by United States support of the KRG as to dramatically obstruct the campaign against ISIS.  Option #1 carefully mitigates the reservations of other actors while accelerating counter-ISIS operations.

Option #2:  The United States diversifies and increases its assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  Significantly increasing independent assistance to the KRG, without involving the GOI, will likely be met with open hostility.  If the United States increases its support to Kurdish groups, anxious governments with Kurdish minorities may attempt to undermine United States’ interests in retaliation.

Conversely, the United States may choose to diversify its assistance to the KRG by changing its lending model.  Last July, an International Monetary Fund loan of US$5.25 billion conditionally reserved US$225 million for KRG road infrastructure and small projects[4].  However, adopting this model, setting conditions for KRG sharing with the GOI, opens the United States to risks.  The KRG may not have the stability to repay a loan, and it is likely the GOI, who may be better positioned to pay off the loan quickly, will insist on the KRG meeting a 17 percent repayment share.  The symbolism of any conditional loan or military transfer to the KRG will certainly strain relations with the GOI.

Gain:  United States’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Assistance (FMA) programs in Iraq require the approval of the GOI, even when agreements are specifically directed at the KRG.  Per United States law, the FMS and FMA are limited only to interaction with central governments.  To secure large-scale military sales directly to the KRG would require a congressional change to existing United States’ laws.  Option #2 would surely win the favor of the KRG, and it may expedite counter-ISIS operations across northern territories.  Expanding the scope of assistance to the KRG by lending conditionally or giving conditionally to the GOI, could force Erbil, capital of the KRG, and Baghdad to broaden collaboration in developing the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).  Option #2 ensures the KRG does not return to relative isolation from the international community in a post-ISIS future.

Option #3:  The United States ceases all military assistance to the KRG and relies on the GOI to allocate resources.

Risk:  This option to cease assistance to the KRG may hinder security operations in Northern Iraq, and it diminishes the United States’ presence in the region- a vacuum other countries may fill.  For example, this option will certainly please Iran.  Conversely, the KRG will likely interpret this move as aggressive.

Gain:  Providing the GOI full authority in distributing assistance communicates a strong faith in the central government and the Iraqi state.  Further, this consolidation of assistance to a single power center in Baghdad may simplify bureaucratic procedure and empower the ISF.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Coles, I (2016, February 16) Iraqi Kurdish deputy PM says deal with Baghdad ‘easy’ if salaries paid. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-idUSKCN0VP22Z

[2]  Natali, D (2017, January 3) Is Iraqi Kurdistan heading toward civil war? Retrieved June 7, 2017, from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/01/kurdistan-civil-war-iraq-krg-sulaimaniya-pkk-mosul-kurds.html

[3]  Jiyad, A. M (2015, July 7) Midyear Review of the State Budget and Oil Export Revenues. Retrieved June 5, 2017, from http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ahmed-Mousa-Jiyad-Mid-Year-Review-of-the-State-Budget-and-Oil-Export-Revenues.pdf

[4]  Grattan, M (2017, June 25) David Petraeus on US policy under Donald Trump, the generational war against Islamist terrorism, and dealing with China. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://theconversation.com/david-petraeus-on-us-policy-under-donald-trump-the-generational-war-against-islamist-terrorism-and-dealing-with-china-80045

[5]  Knights, M (2016, July 28) The U.S., the Peshmerga, and Mosul. Retrieved June 6, 2017, from http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-u.s.-the-peshmerga-and-mosul

Allies & Partners Brandon Wallace Capacity / Capability Enhancement Iraq Kurdistan Option Papers United States

U.S. Partnership Options in the South China Sea

Brett Wessley is an officer in the U.S. Navy, currently assigned to U.S. Pacific Command.  The contents of this paper reflect his own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by U.S. Pacific Command, Department of the Navy or Department of Defense.  Connect with him on Twitter @Brett_Wessley.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea (SCS).

Date Originally Written:  January 21, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 27, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Naval Officer serving on staff duty at U.S. Pacific Command.  The article is written from the point of view of U.S. policymakers weighing options in Southeast Asia and the SCS.

Background:  Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to table the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration June 2016 ruling was a strategic setback for the U.S.[1].  While the Hague’s ruling legally invalidated the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “Nine Dash Line” under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), Duterte’s increased ties to the PRC and deteriorating relationship with the U.S. have led to a potential “fait accompli” in the SCS.  Instead of pressing their claims through international engagement, the Philippines has decided to engage the PRC solely through bilateral forums, and the status quo of the PRC occupying and building islands in the SCS will continue unopposed by the principal aggrieved party.

Significance:  The SCS represents a strategic point of friction between the PRC and the international community, particularly with the U.S.  While territorial disputes in the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan involve major military powers and treaty alliances with the U.S., the international environment in the SCS is more permissive to incremental PRC actions to acquire territory (aka “salami slicing”)[2].  The Philippines is the only regional treaty ally to the U.S., and Duterte’s sidelining of the Hague’s ruling imperils regional neighbors like Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia – all of whom have territorial disputes with the PRC’s Nine Dash Line.  The danger for the U.S. is that the PRC may militarize its expansive holdings in the SCS and expand the People’s Liberation Army’s defensive perimeter to the south, thus reinforcing the PRC’s counter-intervention capabilities.

Option #1:  The U.S. repairs relations with Duterte and restore the alliance with the Philippines.

Risk:  Duterte has pushed numerous controversial policies within the Philippines during his short tenure as President, namely the extrajudicial killings of drug-related criminals[3].  Duterte’s rhetoric has been alienating and crude, particularly when involving the U.S. and the previous Obama Administration.  Duterte’s strong feelings about the U.S. are deeply rooted within his personal life and Philippine history, and this bias may be insurmountable through diplomacy.  Furthermore, the PRC has offered Duterte significant economic development and loans, all of which were aimed at dissuading him from aggressively pursuing the Hague’s ruling and improving relations with the U.S.

Even if the U.S. was successful in repairing the relationship with Duterte and the Philippines, doing so may create a perception that the U.S. will accept undermining the rule of law in return for strategic concessions.  This messaging is contrary to the U.S.’ position on the SCS and territorial disputes, in addition to open governance and a rules-based international system.  The greatest risk is that in persuading Duterte to move forward with the Philippine’s legal case against the PRC, the U.S. may be forced to abandon the international principles driving its foreign policy.

Gain:  Improved relations with Duterte and the Philippines would restore the U.S.’ foothold in the SCS for promoting a rules-based international system.  The Philippines is a treaty ally and historical partner of the U.S., and it is unlikely that a closer relationship could be formed with other SCS nations.  Additionally, the Philippines successful legal case against the PRC provides legitimacy to its territorial claims – namely against the illegal PRC seizures of several reefs and fishing grounds in the SCS[4].  Although the weakness of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard has prevented aggressive patrols of its territorial waters, partnership with the U.S. would provide avenues for equipment and training, in addition to opportunities for intelligence sharing and improved maritime domain awareness.

Option #2:  The U.S. pivots diplomatic and military engagement to Vietnam in the SCS.

Risk:  Although the PRC more recently fought Vietnam during the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, the bitter history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War will complicate relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.  The nominally communist government of Vietnam, and its rejection of democratic governance in favor of one party rule, will likely be domestically unpopular in the U.S. compared to partnership with the Philippines.  Additionally, Vietnam’s historical partnership with Russia may impede meaningful intelligence sharing with the U.S.

Gain:  When compared to the other SCS claimants competing with the PRC, Vietnam’s investment in maritime defensive capabilities is outstanding.  The legacy of Soviet sea-denial strategies has led to Vietnamese investment in coastal defense cruise missiles, integrated air defense systems, submarines, and patrol craft to defend its SCS territories.  Vietnam has militarized its holdings in the SCS in ways the Philippines and other claimants have been unable or unwilling to do. Vietnam’s geography near the major PRC naval bases on Hainan Island, and its holdings throughout the Spratley Islands, would put PRC military assets at asymmetric risk in any regional conflict [5].

If the U.S. was able to gain basing rights from Vietnam, its ability to conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations would be assisted by a Vietnamese Navy and Coast Guard capable of maintaining a presence in contested waters.  As a military partner to the U.S., the deterrent value of Vietnamese military capabilities in the SCS would be a credible improvement over the status quo.  U.S. pursuit of imposing cost on aggressive PRC expansion in the SCS would be uniquely complimented by Vietnamese military capabilities.

Other Comments:  It is important that the U.S. maintains a regional ally in the SCS with territorial holdings.  As an outside power, the U.S.’ goal of maintaining freedom of navigation in international waters can only be supported by partnership with a legitimate claimant.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ben Blanchard and Reuters, “Duterte says U.S. has lost, aligns Philippines with China,” CNN Philippines, October 21, 2017.  http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/10/20/duterte-cuts-us-ties-aligns-with-china.html

[2]  Robert Haddick, “America Has No Answer to China’s Salami-Slicing,” War on the Rocks, February 06, 2014.  https://warontherocks.com/2014/02/america-has-no-answer-to-chinas-salami-slicing/

[3]  James Hookway, “Rodrigo Duterte Ushers Manila Into a New Era,” The Wallstreet Journal, January 16, 2017.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/outsider-ushers-manila-into-new-era-1484560813

[4]  Jaime Laude, “China takes Philippine atoll,” The Philippine Star, March 02, 2016.  http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/02/1558682/china-takes-philippine-atoll

[5]  Shang-su Wu, “The Development of Vietnam’s Sea-Denial Strategy,” The Naval War College Review, Winter 2017. https://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/8756f6bf-78d0-4955-b1c6-ce8ee678f5c0/The-Development-of-Vietnams-Sea-Denial-Strategy.aspx

Allies & Partners Brett Wessley China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Philippines South China Sea United States Vietnam

Options for the Philippines in the South China Sea

Joshua Urness is an officer in the United States Army who has served both in combat and strategic studies roles.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Sovereign Rights of Economic Exclusion Zones (EEZ)[1] in the South China Sea (SCS) and the legitimacy of the international system to enforce them.

Date Originally Written:  January 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 23, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty officer in the U.S. Army.  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. towards the Philippines, with a desire to ensure the legitimacy of the international system.

Background:  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is occupying and developing islands in the SCS based on the historical claim of its nine-dashed line.  These occupations have resulted in the direct challenge of the Philippine EEZ, an internationally recognized right of sovereignty, which fully includes the disputed Spratly Islands (Mischief Reef).  In 2016, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled that the Spratly Islands are technically rocks, and upheld that they are wholly within the Filipino EEZ.  Therefore, the PRC is in a “state of unlawful occupation[2].”  Countries especially impacted by the PRC’s expansion in the SCS, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam, do not currently possess the military or political capability to challenge the PRC’s actions independently.

Significance:  The stability of security and diplomatic relations in the SCS is important because of the economic trade routes which pass through the waterway, and the potential value of natural resources in the region.  The PRC’s willingness to ignore the UNCLOS ruling on the sovereignty of the Filipino EEZ is an affront to the legitimacy and credibility of the international system and the security status quo.  Further unchecked aggression by the PRC could embolden other states, creating further instability in other parts of the world.  The PRC’s disregard for the ruling, along with their military modernization and investment in power projection capabilities, will enable them to continue to challenge the sovereignty of EEZs throughout the first island chain.  Because the international system cannot enforce its decision, and the Philippines cannot enforce its own EEZ, the credibility of both international and state authorities will be questioned.

Option #1:  The U.S. facilitates Filipino acquisition of low-cost defensive capabilities which will enable them to enforce their own EEZ.  Examples of low-cost defensive capabilities include anti-ship missiles such as the RBS-16 which has a 100-200 nm range, coast guard equipment, and sensors.

Risk:  If the U.S. is not directly involved in the continued procurement and operations of the weapons given to the Filipinos, there may be an increased risk of mistakes or miscalculations being made by untrained and inexperienced Filipino weapons operators.  This includes the integration of sensors and shooters into an organized system in which commanders, with the authority to decide whether or not to fire a system, have enough information and time to make a good decision.  Because of the potential presence of Filipino Islamist or communist insurgents in areas likely to be chosen for weapon system employment, the security of the weapon sites must be emphasized.  If weapons are stolen or obtained by such actors with malign interests, this could destabilize the regions crucial shipping lanes and local maritime economies.  Additionally, inability or lack of political will on the part of the Philippines to use the capability to protect its citizens, or enforce EEZ claims, may perpetuate internal destabilization of the state.  Also, given the PRC’s positioning of military forces on these islands, the provision of weapons to the Philippines risks war over sea lanes through which 25% of global trade passes.

Gain:  Enforcement of the EEZ would enhance the legitimacy of the international system, even if the Filipinos themselves enforced it, as opposed to an internationally sanctioned coalition.  Option #1 would change the cost/risk calculation for the burgeoning PRC navy that may result in a deterrent effect.  Such a capability may also enable the Filipino government to protect its fishermen and economic interests in the EEZ from harassment from the PRC’s maritime militia.  This option would allow the Filipinos to demonstrate resolve, garnering regional and internal credibility, if they decisively utilize these capabilities to deter or defend.  Land based anti-ship missiles are easily maneuverable and concealable, therefore adding to the survivability and resilience of a force that could be in place for a long time.

Option #2:  A U.S.-led coalition defense strategy composed of states surrounding the SCS that is supported by U.S. foreign military funding centered on facilitating procurement, training and information sharing.

Risk:  A U.S. led coalition of SCS states could polarize the region and lead to a less effective Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).  This coalition may also stimulate a regional arms race that would be expensive over time for the U.S., despite the somewhat low-cost of capabilities involved.  The cost of building partner capacity could also be expensive over time where countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, not accustomed to working with the U.S., would require courtship.  Direct U.S. involvement and partnership in mission command and the integration of sensors and shooters into an organized system would require increases in the forward presence of U.S. forces.  This would expose the U.S. to a higher diplomatic commitment than previously held.  This higher level of presence would be necessary to mitigate the risk of mistakes in the use of the capability, as well as the security and posture of the systems.

Gain:  The primary advantages of a U.S.-led coalition are two-fold; it would ensure the credibility of the international system to assist in the enforcement of edicts (though the U.S. is not a signatory of UNCLOS, it does have a vested interest in the stability of the international system), and it would build a broader foundation of deterrence against further PRC expansion in the SCS.  If the U.S. used a strategy similar to the one for which the RAND Corporation advocates, in their report titled Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific[3], coalition states could work towards building the capacity for a “far blockade” of the first island chain.  This would significantly increase the PRC’s naval risk when operating within firing range of any coalition state, challenging the cost imposition and aggression paradigm, while also building capacity and knowledge that may be useful in future conflict.  Similarly, the U.S. could use such partnerships to develop its own capacity and institutional knowledge in land-based maritime denial systems.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:  

[1]  China and the Philippines have both signed and ratified the UNCLOS. Part five of the convention, article 55 through 75, cover economic exclusion zones. UNCLOS Part V, Article 56, which can be found at http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf, states that; ” In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;

(b) Jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

(i) The establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(ii) Marine scientific research;

(iii) The protection and preservation of the marine environment;

[2]  Graham, E. (2016, August 18). The Hague Tribunal’s South China Sea Ruling: Empty Provocation or Slow-Burning Influence? Retrieved January 07, 2017, from http://www.cfr.org/councilofcouncils/global_memos/p38227

[3]  Kelly, T., Atler, A., Nichols, T., & Thrall, L. (2013). Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific. Retrieved January 07, 2017, from http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR1321.html

Allies & Partners China (People's Republic of China) Joshua Urness Maritime Option Papers Philippines South China Sea

Anti-Access / Area Denial Options in the South China Sea

Ryan Kort is a Strategic Plans and Policy Officer (Functional Area 59) in the U.S. Army.  He currently serves as the Chief of the Strategy Branch at U.S. Army Africa / Southern European Task Force in Vicenza Italy.  He is on Twitter @kort_ryan36.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) creation of islands and militarization of reclaimed islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

Date Originally Written:  February 9, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 9, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:   This article, written from the point of view of a U.S. national security staffer, aims to provide both a collective security and an Anti-Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) deterrent option to the U.S. National Security Advisor.

Background:   The PRC adopted a policy of island building over shallow shoals in the SCS.  The PRC forcibly evicted and continues to harass commercial and naval vessels from other SCS claimants such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia through use of fisherman ‘militias’ as naval proxies and other means of gray-zone or ‘hybrid’ warfare[1].  The PRC continues the rapid transformation of many of these semi-submerged reefs into islands replete with hard surface runways for strike aircraft and long-range air defense and fires (both tube and missile) capabilities, which pose an A2/AD threat to any actors the PRC may seek to keep out of its claimed ‘9 dash line’ area[2].  

Significance:  Other nations that border the SCS view the PRC’s actions as destabilizing, illegitimate, and threatening to their important national security and economic interests.  Several reclaimed islands are within the Exclusive Economic Zones recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas[3].  The SCS is a critical economic transit route, which approximately 30 percent of all annual maritime trade passes through, including $1.2 Trillion worth of goods destined for U.S. markets[4].  In times of crisis, the People’s Liberation Army, Navy and Airforce could disrupt the free movement of commerce through the area and coerce other nations in the region to recognize PRC dominion over the SCS.

Option #1:  Utilize diplomatic efforts to contain the PRC through the creation of a collective security organization, similar to the now defunct Southeast Asian Treaty Organization also known as SEATO.  This treaty organization would provide a deterrent option aimed at containing PRC adventurism and change PRC strategic calculation on future island building.  

Risk:  The PRC will view this diplomatic effort to isolate their nation as overt containment and respond in a variety of ways with multiple means[5].  At the greatest risk will be those nations the PRC deems vulnerable to coercion that it could peel away from the organization and undermine U.S. legitimacy.  Additionally, this option risks immediate failure if those partners critical to the success of the collective security organization do not join- specifically Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia.  This option also may become obsolete if the PRC completes the construction and garrisoning of the islands it needs to assert complete dominance over the SCS before an alliance to balance against it is in place[6].  

Gain:  The U.S. checks the rise of a regional and potential global peer competitor.  The U.S. stands to gain increased security cooperation and economic ties with the nations in the collective security organization.   

Option #2:  Utilizing a multi-domain concept, the U.S. and select allies create an A2AD challenge for the PRC along both the ‘first’ and ‘second’ island chains in order to negate some of the operational and tactical advantages of PRC bases in the region.  The entire coastline of the PRC is vulnerable to area denial.  A strong foundation of U.S. Army maneuver, fires, and sustainment capabilities would enable the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to operate more effectively within the region, while presenting the additional dilemma of embarked U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces capable of striking critical facilities.  An archipelagic defense through deterrence by denial would need expanded access to existing bases in Japan, with new footprints in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia[7].  The U.S. could employ a mixture of permanent or rotational forces in the region to demonstrate U.S. capability and resolve.  Additionally, the U.S. must have sufficient forces in the region capable of blockading PRC transit through the Strait of Malacca if required.

Risk:  The key risk associated with this option is vertical and horizontal escalation.  A minor incident could intensify quickly and impact other theaters in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility, such as Korea.  Another risk is loss of or initial refusal to allow access to bases in the nations mentioned earlier, which would unhinge this option.  Additionally, resourcing this A2/AD effort with sufficient forces would commit limited U.S. resources, such as air defense and long-range joint fires, to this single problem set.

Gain:  The U.S. deters conflict through placing PRC assets at risk in both the SCS and across the majority of the Chinese seaboard.  Additionally, this option presents the PRC with a dilemma if it should attempt to utilize hybrid or militia forces due to the increased presence of U.S. and allied forces capable of deterring such ‘hybrid’ aggression at the tactical and operational level.     

Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.  


Endnotes:

[1]  De Luce, Dan and McLeary, Paul, In South China Sea, a Tougher U.S. Stance, Foreign Policy, 02 October, 2015, accessed 09 February, 2017  http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/10/02/in-south-china-sea-a-tougher-u-s-stance/

[2]   Kennedy, Connor and Erickson, Andrew, (21 April 2016). Model Maritime Militia- Tanmen’s leading role in the Scarborough Shoal Incident,  Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), accessed 06 January, 2017, http://www.andrewerickson.com/2016/04/model-maritime-militia-tanmens-leading-role-in-the-april-2012-scarborough-shoal-incident/

[3]  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2016;  page 7

[4]  Corr, Anders, How the US can help the Philippines Counter China’s occupation of Mischief Reef, Forbes Magazine Online, 28 January 2017, accessed 09 February 2017. http://www.forbes.com/sites/anderscorr/2017/01/28/is-war-against-china-justified/#5066ccc774fb

[5]  Lieberthal, Kenneth and Jisi, Wang, Addressing U.S- China Strategic Distrust, March 2012, Brookings Institute.  Washington’s security ties with other nations in the region and other actions viewed by China as efforts to constrain China.

[6]  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2016;  Page i

[7]  Krepinevich, Andrew, Foreign Affairs, Volume 94, Number 2,  How to Deter China- The Case for Archipelagic Defense, pp 78-86, March/April 2015  

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners China (People's Republic of China) Deterrence Option Papers Ryan Kort South China Sea United States