Assessing the Role of Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Paul Jemitola is a lecturer at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He can be reached on Linkedin. 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.


Title:  Assessing the Role of Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Date Originally Written:  August 5, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 9, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that governments engaged in countering violent extremists must pair hard and soft power to consolidate gains and bring about lasting peace.

Summary:  There are no recent success stories of a multifaceted approach to irregular warfare as leaders have been unwilling to engage in the work required. Responses to militant non-state actors will be ineffective without a whole of government effort that emphasizes military and nonmilitary interventions in appropriate measures to defeat violent threats, stabilize territories and restore the lives of affected populations.

Text:  As the world resumes Great Power Competition, irregular warfare will continue to be a means for states and groups to project power beyond their conventional means[1][2]. As in the Cold War, powerful nations will continue to employ indirect means to counter adversaries and shape events in the wider world[3]. As political leaders deal with the new global order, states can move from a military-first model of countering violent non-state actors and move to a whole of government approach that encompasses every facet of state power[4][5].

Countries confronting irregular warfare usually have underlying socio-economic difficulties[6][7]. Often, the authority of governing structures has been discredited by discontentment[8]. Both terrorists and insurgents usually seek to achieve political objectives by violence, either against the civil population, representatives of government, or both[9]. This violence to political transition implies that while military forces may defeat the irregular combatants and shape events on the ground, other means of power projection options are required to bring about durable peace. Without integrated and synchronized political, economic, legal, security, economic, development, and psychological activities[6], strategies against guerrillas, insurgents, and militias will not be effective.

Law enforcement agencies are often the most visible symbols of a government’s authority and the target of most attacks by insurgents and terrorists[10]. Historically, police action is the most effective strategy that ends terrorist groups that don’t abandon violence for political action[11]. The police organization’s ability to maintain a significant presence on the ground undercuts any narrative of strength insurgents may seek to project. Police Officers may carry out their usual functions of enforcing the law, mediating in disputes between locals, and protecting the population from criminals looking to take advantage of security vacuums.

Paramilitary forces can protect critical infrastructure, assist in force protection, expand the capacity of law enforcement, and deter militant activity with expanded presence and routine patrols. As these groups are often made up of volunteers from the local population, they can also serve as invaluable sources of intelligence and are less intimidating than armed forces[12][13].

Intelligence agencies can gather information about the combatants to facilitate a proper understanding of what the government is confronting how best to address them[14]. Human Intelligence from interrogations and agents, Signals Intelligence from intercepted communications, and other means of data gathering can help develop the picture of the guerillas, their leadership structures, the forces, the equipment available to them, and their support system both local and international[15][16]. These intelligence activities will include working with financial authorities to cut off their sources of funding and supporting military, security, and law enforcement tactical and operational actions[17].

The government can deploy its diplomatic corps to ensure international support for itself while dissuading foreign actors from intervening in support of the insurgents. These diplomats will ensure that the government’s narrative finds receptive audiences in foreign capitals and populations. This narrative can be converted to concrete support in terms of aid for securing military materiel and social-economic interventions in areas affected by the conflict. These diplomats will also work to dissuade foreign actors from providing aid to the militants and prolonging the conflict unduly[18].

Government agencies may provide social and economic interventions to support refugees and returnees seeking to rebuild their societies. The provision of health care, nutritional aid, job training, and economic opportunities will go a long way to break the attraction of militants and ensure that the population is invested in keeping the peace[19].

The government may encourage well-spirited Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and international agencies seeking to assist people caught up in the conflict. These agencies usually have vast experience and technical knowledge operating the areas of conflict around the world. While ensuring that these groups are acting in good faith, the government does not unduly burden them with regulatory requirements. Security for NGOs can be guaranteed to the extent possible[20].

Political leaders can ensure their words and deeds do not inflame tensions. They can seek to forge national identities that transcend tribal and ethnic leanings. They can address the concerns of indigenous population in the areas under attack work to separate legitimate grievances from violent acts. The governed must be able to advocate peacefully for change without resorting to violence. Governing structures can be focused on meeting societal needs to ensure peace and prosperity. Military and nonmilitary forces can be properly resourced and adequately overseen. They can facilitate understanding and unity of purpose. Concerns raised by security agencies can get the desired attention and support for measured actions to address them. The advent of nationalism and the non-applicability of democracy to all cultures demands that peoples be given sufficient avenues and support to organize themselves and that their demands be respected.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, built up the appetite of politicians for military interventions at home and abroad. This emphasis on military powers was to the detriment of other levers of power. Unfortunately, the abuse of military power to achieve goals best left to civilian or political institutions unfairly discredited the use of force in the eyes of the general public. This discrediting made it harder for politicians to justify military interventions even in situations where its deployment could be justified. While the military may continue to have a legitimate and even necessary role in countering irregular warfare, any successful strategy requires every element of national power. There are no recent success stories of a multifaceted approach to irregular warfare. This is because national leaders have been unwilling to engage in the work required. Political leaders can lead the way to move from violent responses to civil but more effective means to address conflicts.


Endnotes:

[1] Vrolyk, J. (2019, December 19). Insurgency, Not War, is China’s Most Likely Course of Action. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2019/12/insurgency-not-war-is-chinas-most-likely-course-of-action

[2] Goodson, J. (2020, May 20). Irregular Warfare in a New Era of Great-Power Competition. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from https://mwi.usma.edu/irregular-warfare-new-era-great-power-competition

[3] Fowler, M. (2019, November 4). The Rise of the Present Unconventional Character of Warfare. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2019/11/4/the-rise-of-the-present-unconventional-character-of-warfare

[4] McDonnell, E. (2013, January 7). Whole-of-Government Support for Irregular Warfare. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/whole-of-government-support-for-irregular-warfare

[5] White, N. (2014, December 28). Organizing for War: Overcoming barriers to Whole-of-Government Strategy in the ISIL Campaign. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://cco.ndu.edu/Portals/96/Documents/Articles/White_Organizing-for-War-Overcoming-Barriers-to-Whole-of-Government-Strategy-in-the-ISIL-Campaign-2014-12-28.pdf

[6] US Government (2012). Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=713599

[7] Cox, D., Ryan, A. (2017). Countering Insurgency and the Myth of “The Cause”. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/ASPJ_French/journals_E/Volume-08_Issue-4/cox_e.pdf

[8] Nyberg, E. (1991). Insurgency: The Unsolved Mystery. Retrieved July 04, 2020, from https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1991/NEN.htm

[9] Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2020, June). DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Retrieved July 04, 2020, from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

[10] Celeski, J. (2009, February). Policing and Law Enforcement in COIN – the Thick Blue Line. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://www.socom.mil/JSOU/JSOUPublications/JSOU09-2celeskiPolicing.pdf

[11] Jones, S. and Libicki, M. (2008). How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG741-1.pdf

[12] Espino, I. (2004, December). Counterinsurgency: The Role of Paramilitaries. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://calhoun.nps.edu/bitstream/handle/10945/1269/04Dec_Espino.pdf

[13] Dasgupta, S. (2016, June 6). Paramilitary groups: Local Alliances in Counterinsurgency Operations. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/06_counterinsurgency_dasgupta.pdf

[14] Clark, D. (2008, June 27). The Vital Role of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA448457.pdf

[15] White, J. (2007, April 14). Some Thoughts on Irregular Warfare. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/96unclass/iregular.htm

[16] Steinmeyer, W. (2011, August 5). The Intelligence Role in Counterinsurgency. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol9no4/html/v09i4a06p_0001.htm

[17] Department of the Army. (2006, December) Counterinsurgency. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=468442

[18] Murray, S. Blannin, P. (2017, September 18). Diplomacy and the War on Terror. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/diplomacy-and-the-war-on-terror

[19] Godson, J. (2015, August 16). Strategic Development and Irregular Warfare: Lessons from the High Water Mark of Full-Spectrum COIN. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/strategic-development-and-irregular-warfare-lessons-from-the-high-water-mark-of-full-spectr

[20] Penner, G. (2014, July 07). A Framework for NGO-Military Collaboration. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/a-framework-for-ngo-military-collaboration

Assessment Papers Civilian Concerns Damimola Olawuyi Dr. Paul Jemitola Government Irregular Forces / Irregular Warfare

Assessment of the Role of Authoritarianism in Fomenting Extremism in the Arab World

Hari Prasad is an independent researcher on Middle East/South Asian Politics and Security. He holds a MA in International Affairs from George Washington University.  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:  Assessment of the Role of Authoritarianism in Fomenting Extremism in the Arab World

Date Originally Written:  December 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 19, 2018.

Summary:  Many Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) works have focused on the role of individual and enabling factors in the rise of extremism, yet it is important to not overlook larger structural factors.  In particular, authoritarianism in the Arab world has proven to help foment conditions that can help encourage the rise of extremism, or discredit counter extremism efforts.

Text:  In recent years with the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, the concept of CVE has gained traction in policy and academic circles.  A lot of emphasis has been put on the individual and community level with ideas such as examining the effects of discrimination, mental illness, and extremist ideology on influencing individuals to join violent extremist organizations.  However, it is also important to have an understanding of how larger structural issues, such as regime type, might allow for an environment that fosters extremism.  Using examples from throughout the Arab World, this assessment paper will show how authoritarianism contributes to extremism by encouraging divisions in society, undermining religious messaging, normalizing extremist rhetoric, denying outlets for political expression, and even facilitating the rise of extremist groups.

First and foremost, many Arab regimes fail to counteract sectarianism in the region. Instead of resolving ethnic, sectarian, or other tensions, the regimes exploit them.  As Syrian opposition intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh has observed, sectarianism played an important role in consolidating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime’s power[1].  Encouraging divisions in society causes the various sects to suspect one another, and ‘otherise’ them.  This ‘otherising’ continues sectarian tension and demonization, something that becomes operationalized to deadly effect during times of upheaval.  Authoritarian regimes also try to position themselves, especially to minority groups, as the sole protectors from radical groups.  This protector role provides some blackmailing towards minorities to support the regime or else, while also playing into the narratives of extremist groups that majority groups like Arabs and Sunnis are discriminated against by the regime[2].

Especially in combatting religious extremism, authoritarian Arab regimes can easily undermine religious messaging.  Often Arab regimes attempt to hold influence or control their respective official religious establishments to monitor the content as well as prevent criticism of the regime itself[3].  Although this has been used to also try to counteract extremist messaging, the fact that many religious establishments rarely stray from the regime narrative undermines counter-extremist messaging.  As official religious establishments primarily propagate a pro-regime narrative, they will be accurately perceived as simply another mouthpiece for the authoritarian regime.  Rather than serving as an important pulpit for counteracting extremist messages, the delegitimization of these religious institutions instead inadvertently encourage followers to seek out alternative narratives.

Along with this regime undermining of religious messaging, religion also is a valuable tool for regimes to turn to in times of crisis.  Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein enacted his ‘faith campaign’ while dealing with the harsh sanctions regime.  This campaign led to the rise of new Islamic institutions and organizations, including institutions that the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, attended[4].  In Egypt, despite overthrowing the democratically elected Islamist Mohammad Morsi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has also turned to Islam to help prop up his rule[5].  Regime manipulation of religion only further delegitimizes traditional religious leaders, while also normalizing religious language in denigrating their opponents.  Indeed, one of Egypt’s former Muftis went as far as to engage in similar takfirist (to declare a Muslim an apostate) justifications against Sisi’s opponents that the Islamic State and other extremist groups have engaged in[6].  Although it can be debated whether these initiatives are carried out to co-opt leaders or out of the personal faith of the leaders, these initiatives instead help normalize extremist rhetoric rather than counteracting it.

Many authoritarian regimes in the Arab World also limit political freedoms and outlets for political expression and change.  Indeed, scholars like Mohammad Hafez have demonstrated the role that repression and political exclusion has played in the rise of Islamic extremist movements around the world[7], especially in the Arab World.  Rather than serving as islands of stability, authoritarian regimes remain fragile and encourage resentment.  As there are few outlets to express one’s political opinions, and many ‘opposition’ parties are co-opted by the regimes, this encourages the rise of groups that lay outside of the realm of formal politics.

Finally, authoritarian regimes can directly facilitate the rise of extremist groups.  It is no secret that since the 9/11 attacks, many Westerners have preferred the ‘secular’ dictators instead of an ‘Islamist.’  These secular dictators have used the specter of Islamism to justify crackdowns and repression against all opposition.  While playing into the other factors that encourage victims to seek alternative ways of confronting the state, this has also proven useful for states that lack international legitimacy.  It is well-known that to support its narrative that it was simply fighting terrorists, the Assad regime released extremists and other unsavory characters from its prisons during the initial uprising in Syria[8].  As the initial protests turned to an uprising, these former prisoners formed organizations that helped paint the groups opposing Assad as extremist.  Groups like the Islamic State even temporarily received support from the Assad regime in its fight against the Free Syrian Army and other Syrian opposition groups.  Of course these are temporary alliances, but it demonstrates how authoritarian regimes will tactically allow extremist groups to form for the sake of their own survival.

Without reforming or changing these authoritarian structures in the Arab World, CVE efforts will only have a limited effect.  Of course, the demise of authoritarianism will not necessarily lead to an extremist free region.  After all, it is the newly democratic Tunisia that has become a large contributor for fighters for the Islamic State.  Nor will authoritarian reform lead to the erasure of extremist ideologies.  Yet, changing these authoritarian structures will provide a political opening that will allow better combatting of extremist ideology, while also providing a less repressive life for those that live in the region.  Authoritarian reform should not be mistaken as purely a humanitarian effort.  It is no secret that Western support for authoritarian regimes has been a common grievance for many extremist groups in the Middle East.  Mohammad Hafez in his keynote remarks to the RESOLVE Network in 2016 noted that the choice between repressive states or extremists, or rather “between barrel bombs and beheadings” is a false one, and one that the regimes themselves try to create[9].  Extremism in the region will never be fully addressed until policymakers understand the structural factors within authoritarian regimes that drive this behavior.


Endnotes:

[1] Saleh, Y. A. (2017). The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

[2] Shabi, R. (2014, April 10). Battling Perceptions: Minorities in the Arab World. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/04/battling-perceptions-minorities–20144965348535478.html

[3] Brown, N. (2017, May 11). Official Islam in the Arab World: The Contest for Religious Authority. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/05/11/official-islam-in-arab-world-contest-for-religious-authority-pub-69929

[4] McCants, W. (2015, September 1). The Believer: How Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Became Leader of the Islamic State. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://csweb.brookings.edu/content/research/essays/2015/thebeliever.html

[5] Springborg, R. (2014, May 24). Sisi’s Secret Islamism. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2014-05-26/sisis-secret-islamism

[6] Elmasry, M. (2015, June 27). Ali Gumah: Sisi’s Most Loyal Islamic Scholar. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/ali-gumah-sisi-s-most-loyal-islamic-scholar-1205811558

[7] Hafez, M. M. (2005). Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World. Boulder: Lynne Rienner .

[8] Gutman, R. (2016, December 01). Assad Henchman: Here’s How We Built ISIS. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/assad-henchman-heres-how-we-built-isis

[9] 2016 RESOLVE Forum Flashback: Keynote Speaker Dr. Mohammed Hafez. (2017, September 15). Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.resolvenet.org/news/2016-resolve-forum-flashback-keynote-speaker-dr-mohammed-hafez

Assessment Papers Government Hari Prasad Violent Extremism