Options for the Demilitarization of Security in Nigeria

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He now works for a leading airline in Nigeria. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. 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 increased use of the Nigerian military to carry out constabulary duties[1] has created an undue strain on the armed forces[2] and left it unable to focus on its core functions. This strain has coincided with a continued diminishing of Nigeria’s internal security[3].

Date Originally Written:  January 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 8, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the roles of the various armed services of the Nigerian state have become unnecessarily blurred by the willingness of political leaders to deploy force (too often deadly) for roles best served by other levers of governance.

Background:  Over two decades after Nigeria returned to democratic rule, the military has continued to play an outsized role in governance at the highest levels[4]. The election and appointment of former military and security personnel into political positions has stifled alternative voices and catalyzed despotic tendencies, even in politicians without regimented backgrounds. The continued deployment of the military in scenarios better served by other agencies has left it unable to deal with the insurgencies ravaging the North-West, North East, and Middle-Belt geopolitical zones of Nigeria[5]. 

Significance:  There is a pressing need to reinvigorate other branches of law enforcement and security in Nigeria[6][7]. Too often, political leaders authorize the deployment of military force as quick fixes to problems better solved by the long term application of legal, political, and social interventions, or other avenues of conflict resolution. These military deployments have lacked oversight and often resulted in human rights violations against Nigerians living in the crisis areas[5].

Option #1:  The Nigerian Government bans the use of the military in Internal Security Operations. 

Risk:  This option risks forcing the government to rely on inappropriate or insufficient resources domiciled in law enforcement or other internal security organizations to deal with violent events. As was seen during the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre[8], unforeseen situations may require capabilities that only the military can provide. Considering Nigeria’s current internal security crises, there will be the need for a transition period for current security operations to be transferred from the military to the civilian side of government.  Considering the length of some of these operations, the transfer may be messy and cause serious operational deficiencies that malign actors may exploit to wreak havoc. The resultant transfer of heavy weapons to civilian law enforcement and security agencies, with their continued lack of accountability and history of corruption and human rights violations, will only exacerbate the lack of trust from the larger society

Gain:  The removal of the option of military force to resolve internal security challenges will force the political class to invest in the manning, training and equipping of those agencies who are primarily tasked with securing the nation from within. This option will also incentivize proactive confrontation of violent and fringe groups before they manifest as major challenges to the peace of the nation. This option will also encourage the deployment of other forces of persuasion in dealing with issues. By freeing the nation’s armed forces of their local constabulary obligations, they are freed to focus on external threats from the near abroad.

Option #2:  The Nigerian Government imposes reporting requirements on the deployment of the military for internal security operations. Also, the military must answer to predefined civil authorities and agencies for the duration of their engagement. 

Risk:  In this option, politicians unwilling to meet additional requirements before deploying troops will simply refuse to call on military assistance when it is appropriate. This option may also exacerbate the inter-service rivalries between the various armed services that have often turned deadly[9][10][11][12][13]. Also, the current lack of accountability that pervades governance in Nigeria means that these requirements will likely simply be ignored without repercussion.

Gain:  Nigerian Government Officials will have to publicly justify their deployment of military force and may face potential repercussions for their choices in the national security sphere. This option also provides a framework for nongovernment security analysts and commentators to examine the decision-making processes of government in the civilian sphere.

Option #3:  The Nigerian Government bans serving and retired personnel of the armed services from holding executive political positions over armed agencies.

Risk:  This option will be very radical and risk alienating very powerful members of the political class. Political leaders without military or paramilitary experience lose a unique insight into the thinking and abilities of the military and how they can contribute in times of extreme national emergency. This blanket ban will rob former military officers with the requisite qualities from serving in these positions.

Gain:  The military has, directly and indirectly, continued to exert a very powerful influence over the direction of Nigeria’s security. This option goes beyond the U.S. National Security Act of 1947[14], which requires a waiver for former military officers separated by less than seven years from service in certain positions. This option ensures that those who are appointed to oversee armed agencies can face political accountability for their actions. This option will make politicians less willing to deploy military might without justification.

Option #4:  The Nigerian Government creates legislation setting out clear limits for when and how military force can deploy in internal security operations.

Risk:  The ambiguity that will result from possibly poorly worded legislation will only intensify the friction between the military and various security agencies. A lack of institutional robustness means that career military personnel, law enforcement agents, and civil servants are unable to prevent political leaders who wish to simply ignore the provisions of such legislation. This option may also lead to a situation where unanswered jurisdictional questions will create cracks to be exploited by malevolent actors who wish to keep their activities below a level that will allow the authorization of more forceful response from the government.

Gain:  This legislation will force the various nonmilitary agencies to scrutinize their capabilities and work towards shoring up any deficiencies. This option will provide another incentive for political leaders to expend the political capital required to pursue non-violent solutions to situations. Option #4 allows the military to begin to transfer the burden of continuous internal deployments and begin to rest and refit to tackle challenges more appropriate to its abilities.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


[1] SBM Intelligence (2020, January 15). Chart of the Week: Military exercises in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.sbmintel.com/2020/01/chart-of-the-week-military-exercises-in-nigeria/ 

[2] Ogundipe, S. (2016, August 4). Insecurity: Soldiers deployed in 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/208055-insecurity-soldiers-deployed-30-nigerias-36-states-report.html 

[3] Nwabuezez, B. (2018, February 3). Why ‘Nigeria’ is now qualified as a failed state. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/02/nigeria-now-qualified-failed-state/ 

[4] Osogbue, E. (2018, December 1). Military Hangover and The Nigerian Democracy. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/12/military-hangover-and-the-nigerian-democracy/ 

[5] Shehu, S. (2019, August 13). Making Military Reform and Civilian Oversight a Reality in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.cfr.org/blog/making-military-reform-and-civilian-oversight-reality-nigeria 

[6] Solomon, S. (2020, December 2). After Outcry Over Abuse, Nigeria’s Police Reforms Under Scrutiny. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.voanews.com/africa/after-outcry-over-abuse-nigerias-police-reform-efforts-under-scrutiny 

[7] Page, M. (2019, April 2). Nigeria Struggles With Security Sector Reform. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.chathamhouse.org/2019/04/nigeria-struggles-security-sector-reform 

[8] Chambers, G. (2018, August 15). 1972 Munich Olympics massacre: What happened and why is Jeremy Corbyn under fire? Retrieved January 7 from https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/1972-munich-olympics-massacre-what-happened-and-why-is-jeremy-corbyn-under-fire-a3911491.html 

[9] Polgreen, L. (2005, October 6). 3 Killed as Nigerian Police and Soldiers Clash. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/06/world/africa/3-killed-as-nigerian-police-and-soldiers-clash.html 

[10] Ugbodaga, K. (2011, June 23). Soldiers, Policemen Clash Again. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2011/06/23/soldiers-policemen-clash-again/ 

[11] (2013, August 22). Police, army clash in Nigeria. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/police-army-clash-in-nigeria 

[12] Ogundipe, S. (2018, March 14). Updated: Tension as Police, soldiers clash with Road Safety officers in Abuja. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/261751-updated-tension-as-police-soldiers-clash-with-road-safety-officers-in-abuja.html 

[13] (2018, June 15). Three die as soldiers clash with Police in Aba. Retrieved February 6 from https://thenationonlineng.net/three-die-as-soldiers-clash-with-police-in-aba/ 

[14] Levine, D. (2016, December 1). Why James Mattis Needs a Waiver to Be Trump’s Defense Secretary. Retrieved January 7 from https://heavy.com/news/2016/12/why-does-james-mad-dog-mattis-need-waiver-donald-trump-defense-secretary-pentagon-george-marshall-gillibrand/ 

Damimola Olawuyi Defense and Military Reform Government Homeland Defense Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Nigeria

Can You Have it All? – Options for Readying for Both Stability and Large Scale Combat Operations

Dr. Jacob Stoil is an Assistant Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies and Fellow of the West Point Modern War Institute. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Oxford. His research and publications primarily focus on indigenous force cooperation, Israeli military history, special operations in the Second World War, peripheral campaigns in global war, and the use of the subterranean environment in warfare. Dr. Stoil is a member of the International Working Group on Subterranean Warfare and the Second World War Research Group (North America).  He can be reached on Twitter at @JacobStoil.

Dr. Tal Misgav is a Chief Superintendent in MAGAV where he serves as the commander of the MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center. Prior to assuming his post in 2002 he served as special unites and training officer in the operations branch of the Israel Police. He holds a PhD in Military History from the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and MA in History from Touro College. Tal has served as an advisor to the commander of MAGAV on MAGAV’s combat history and structuring and building the future of the force. He has authored numerous articles and several books including a forthcoming work “The Legal Framework for Security Force Activity in Judea and Samaria” and “Between the Borders in a Changing Reality: Magav in the run up to and during the Six Day War.”

The views, facts, opinions, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and neither necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies or any other U.S. government agency nor Israeli Government, Israel Police, or MAGAV. 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 U.S. military shift from stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN) to large scale combat operations (LSCO) requires challenging force structure decisions.

Date Originally Written:  January 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that for the U.S. military to emerge victorious in future conflicts, it must retain the knowledge and capabilities for both large scale combat operations (LSCO) and stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN), and that this will require deliberate planning.

Background:  Over the last twenty years, the U.S. military has paid a heavy price to learn the lessons for fighting COIN campaigns and stability operations. As the U.S. military now focuses more exclusively on LSCO, it risks having the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. The doctrine for LSCO recognizes that in the future, as in the past, stability operations and COIN will play a significant role in both the consolidation zone and the phase of consolidating gains[1]. The historical record supports this. In the Second World War and American Civil War, the U.S. Military expended significant resources on stability, security, and reconstruction[2]. There is every indication that stability and security operations will continue to play a major role in operations below the threshold of LSCO. While there are several ways the U.S. may try to address this problem, other countries, such as Israel, have come up with novel solutions.

Significance:  Historically, the U.S. military has tended to swing between focusing on COIN and stability and focusing on large scale conventional operations. As Iraq and Afghanistan showed, this swing had a cost. The U.S. can find a way to retain knowledge, expertise, and readiness to engage in stability and COIN as well as, and as part of, LSCO. It cannot rely on the experience of the officers and personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Soon there will be officers who have no experience in COIN or stability operations. Yet despite the challenge, developing and retaining expertise in COIN and stability will be critical to the success of future LSCO as well as combating hybrid threats.

Option #1:  The Israeli Option: The U.S. military models a portion of its forces on the experience of MAGAV (Israel’s Gendarme).

Among MAGAV’s responsibilities is maintaining security in the West Bank – an operation which the U.S. military would term as a COIN or stability operation[3]. In LSCO, MAGAV fulfills the same role in the consolidation area[4]. For example, in the 1982 Lebanon War, MAGAV entered Lebanon with the responsibility for security in the costal consolidation area[5]. In order to maintain its specialty for both LSCO and regular operations, MAGAV trains its personnel for operations among the civilian populations[6]. This process begins in boot camp which focuses on this mission, including instruction in how to deal with a wide range of civilian-led demonstrations and terrorist activities—among both friendly and hostile populaces[7]. This process continues in special bases known as “greenhouses” that enable service members to practice their skills in urban and open-territory scenarios as well as targeted training in dispersing demonstrations[8]. This training gives MAGAV a specialized skill set in COIN and stability operations[9].

Risk:  While soldiers from a COIN / stability centric branch like MAGAV would have the ability to conduct basic infantry tasks, they will not be interchangeable with conventional combat focused units. This may create a problem when it comes to deployments and missions as in the current strategic environment, the more stability focused branch will likely have more frequent deployments. Bureaucratically, this also means creating another career and training pipeline in which they can advance, which itself will have a budgetary effect.

Gain:  As the case of MAGAV demonstrates, having a specialty force for stability and COIN can take the pressure off the rest of the branches. This model already exists within the U.S. Army, whose various branches recognize the different skill sets and training required to conduct different types of missions and that the total force benefits from integration of the branches. The experience of MAGAV in the 1982 Lebanon War shows that a specialist branch will solve the challenge of the allocation of forces to consolidation zones in LSCO and may help prevent some the problems that plagued the Iraq War. This option will allow the Army to retain the knowledge and skills to prevail in stability and COIN operations while allowing the bulk of the Army to focus on LSCO.

Option #2:  The Generalist Option: The U.S. military tries to balance its force structure within existing concepts and constructs.

The U.S. military seeks to end the bifurcation between COIN and stability operations on one hand and LSCO on the other. In this option, the military recognizes that COIN and stability tasks are a critical facet of LSCO.  The focus on integrating the two will be in all training and professional military education (PME). While at the most basic level, the training requirements for LSCO may apply to COIN and stability tasks, at higher echelons the tasks and mindsets diverge. To compensate for this, COIN and stability will be included in training and PME for echelons above the battalion. This option would keep within the intent authored by Lieutenant General Michael D. Lundy, former Commanding General of the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, not to lose the lessons of COIN while pursuing LSCO[10]. However, this option differs from the tack that the U.S. military is currently taking by explicitly requiring the retention of a focus on COIN and stability operations, as well the capabilities and structures to execute them within the framework of a force preparing for LSCO.

Risk:  In a budget and time constrained environment this option can be supremely difficult to retain an integrated focus, which could leave critical aspects of COIN and LSCO uncovered. This option risks having one or the other type of operation undervalued, which will result in the continued problem of radical pendulum swings. Finally, even if it proves possible to incorporate stability and LSCO operations equally in training, education, structures, and thought, this option risks creating a force that is incapable of doing either well.

Gain:  This option will create the most agile possible force with a fungible skill set. It allows any formation to serve in either form of operation with equal efficacy, easing the job of planners and commanders. This option will create the broadest possible pool from which to draw, allowing deployments and other missions to be balanced across the force without leaving one or another formation overburdened.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


[1] Hernandez, R. (2019, July 2). Operations to Consolidate Gains. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/NCO-Journal/Archives/2019/July-2019/Operations-to-Consolidate-Gains

[2] See for example: Shinn, David H. and Ofcansky, Thomas P. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia p. 309; https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/Occ-GY/index.htm; https://history.army.mil/html/books/075/75-18/cmhPub_75-18.pdf 

[3] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Organizational Command #11/12, June 2012, p. 2; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, MAGAV Judea and Samaria, December 2015, p. 2

[4] According to FM 3-0 the consolidation area is the portion of an “area of operations that is designated to facilitate the security and stability tasks necessary for freedom of action in the close area and support the continuous consolidation of gains.” Dept of the Army (2017) Operations (FM 3-0). 1-158

[5] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Summary of MAGAV Action in Lebanon: 1982–1985, p. 3; 

[6] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Public Disturbance Trends, 2004, p. 9

[7] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Border Patrol Unit Course”, March 2012, pp. 9–12; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6

[8] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Magav Commanders Course”, April 2014, p. 7

[9] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Magav—The Future Has Already Arrived, 2019, pp. 25–26

[10] Lundy, M. D. (2018, September). Meeting the Challenge of Large-Scale Combat Operations… Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/September-October-2018/Lundy-LSCO

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Dr. Jacob Stoil Dr. Tal Misgav Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Israel Option Papers Training U.S. Army United States

Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

Harrison Manlove is a Cadet in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Kansas and is currently studying History and Peace and Conflict Studies. Harrison has also written for The Strategy Bridge, where he examined Russia’s strategy in Syria and the Middle East. 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:  Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

Date Originally Written:  June 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2019.

Author and / or Author Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. National Security Council after the 1962 Geneva Accords to determine the effectiveness of programs in Laos and their use in future foreign policy actions.

Summary:  From 1954-1962 the deployment of U.S. Army Special Forces teams, Central Intelligence Agency officers, economic and military aid prevented a communist takeover of Laos, considered a strategically important country in Southeast Asia. A pro-West Laos was desired under Eisenhower, but the transition to a neutral coalition government was ultimately supported by the Kennedy administration to keep Laos from becoming a Communist foothold in Indochina.

Text:  Counterinsurgency (COIN) can be defined as government actions to counter the “organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region[1]”. U.S. COIN in Laos had a broad focus to include: building the capacity of the Forces Armées du Royaume (FAR) – the Lao Royal Armed Forces, training a thousands-strong Hmong paramilitary force, economic and military aid packages, and defeating insurgent threats within Laos. Despite little strategic value, the French war in Indochina had convinced the Eisenhower administration that Laos could be the first potential ‘domino’ to cause Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to fall to communism[2]. 

In 1954, economic aid began flowing into Laos through a United States Operations Mission (USOM) based in Vientiane[3]. The 1954 Geneva Agreement brought the fighting to a (relative) end, established an independent and neutral Laos, and issued a withdrawal of French military units and Viet Minh elements, leaving only a small French force to train the FAR. The Pathet Lao, a communist political movement and organization in Laos, would move to the northeast for eventual demobilization[4]. 

The Programs Evaluation Office (PEO) was established in 1955 as an element of USOM to facilitate defense aid to the FAR, supporting the fight against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) presence in northeastern Laos. Laotian neutrality meant the PEO was staffed and led by civilians who were almost all former military[5]. The Vientiane Agreements, signed in 1957, incorporated the Pathet Lao into the FAR. However, a 1959 coup conducted by Laotian General Phoumi Savanna signaled the continued tenuous situation in Laos[6]. 

In 1959 U.S. Army Special Forces (SF) personnel deployed to Laos as part of Project Hotfoot to train FAR personnel. Hotfoot was spread across the five military regions within Laos. Led by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Arthur ‘Bull’ Simons of the 77th Special Forces Group, training responsibilities for Hotfoot were divided in two. “France would provide the tactical training to Laotian forces while non-uniformed U.S. SF would equip and provide technical training[Emphasis in original][7].” Hotfoot transitioned and expanded after Kennedy took office. 

In August 1960, Laotian Captain Kong Le led an FAR airborne battalion to Vientiane in a coup against the Royal Lao Government (RLG) to form a neutralist government. Lack of pay and the burden of continuous operations led to the coup[8]. While U.S. efforts under Hotfoot became Operation White Star in 1961, SF began Operation Pincushion, a training program for the Kha tribal areas with village defense units each up to 100 strong[9]. The PEO also became a Military Assistance Advisory Group with personnel donning uniforms, signaling the transition to an overt military presence[10]. During French rule the Auto Defense Choc (ADC), or self defense units, were established at the village level and filled by local populations. CIA began a covert operation, called Momentum, to build off the ADC program and establish a large paramilitary force of ethnic Hmong to fight the Pathet Lao insurgents and Kong Le’s forces[11].

Vang Pao was a Hmong officer in the FAR who had earlier received assistance from SF to create an irregular Hmong force. In 1961, CIA paramilitary officer James W. Lair approached Vang Pao to expand the operation which became Momentum. The second White Star rotation in the spring of 1961 became part of Momentum. The operation would equip and train nearly 10,000 recruits who proved extremely effective in the field[12].

CIA used its proprietary airline – Air America –  to support operations taking place throughout Laos. H-34 helicopters (replacing the weaker H-19), C-46, C-47, C-123 transport aircraft, and single-engine short take-off and landing aircraft provided airlift capabilities to CIA officers moving throughout the country, and FAR and Hmong units who received supplies through airdrops[13].

U.S. activities were critically challenged by Pathet Lao radio broadcasts (with Soviet support) which “were convincingly portraying the U.S. as obstructing peace and neutrality in Laos (while downplaying their own efforts to do so)[14].” The U.S. Information Agency field office in Laos “had two main objectives: improve the credibility of the Laotian government in the eyes of the population, and counter-Communist propaganda[15].” Small radios were distributed to provide pro-government messages in the Lao language, which was limited by the various local dialects around the country. In 1961 the U.S. Army deployed the 1st Psychological Warfare Battalion consisting of 12 men, whose “primary role was augmenting the U.S. Information Service (USIS).” and their under-resourced staff[16]. 

Under U.S. policy from 1954-1962, COIN efforts to support the RLG were a relative success. In 1962 a neutralist-majority coalition government was formed including rightists (from the RLG) and members of the Pathet Lao. The 1962 Geneva Accords again declared Laotian neutrality and barred any re-deployment of foreign forces to Laos. Fighting had slowed, but the Kennedy administration was disappointed with the political result. Neutrality was not a complete policy failure for the Kennedy administration, as a communist government would not be in place[17]. In accordance with the agreement SF teams withdrew from Laos, while Air America flights slowed[18]. However, future American operations would be covert, and conducted primarily by the CIA beginning after the coalition collapse in 1964 to the Pathet Lao defeat of the RLG in 1975. 

From a policy perspective, the American commitment to Laos was consistent with containment and halting the global spread of communism. The covert nature of U.S. operations reflected not only the declarations of neutrality by the RLG, but the larger possibility of U.S. embarrassment on the domestic and world stages if U.S. objectives did fail. Even with no discernible strategic interests in the region, particularly Laos, “National prestige was, as always, closely linked to its apparent success or failure in foreign policy[19].”


[1] United States, Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Publication 3-24 Counterinsurgency (p. ix)

[2] Mcnamara, R. S. (1996). In retrospect. Random House Usa. (pp. 35-37)

[3] Leeker, J. F. (2006). Air America in Laos II – military aid (p. 1, Rep.). Part I

[4] Adams, N. S., & McCoy, A. W. (1970). Laos: War and revolution. New York: Harper & Row. (p. 128).; United Nations. (1954). Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Laos 20 July 1954.

[5] Castle, T. N. (1991). At war in the shadow of Vietnam: United States military aid to the Royal Lao government, 1955-75 (Doctoral dissertation).

[6] Adams, N. S., & McCoy, A. W. (1970). Laos: War and revolution. New York: Harper & Row. (p. 147).

[7] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html. 

[8] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 80). 

[9] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 171). 

[10] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 87).

[11] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 121).

[12] Ahern, T. L., Jr. (2006). Undercover Armies: CIA and Surrogate Warfare in Laos 1961-1973. (p. 45).; Leary, W. M. (1999-2000). CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974. Studies in Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art7.html.

[13] Leary, W. M. (1999-2000). CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974. Studies in Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art7.html. 

[14] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html.

[15] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html.

[16] Tracy, James M., PhD. “More Than Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Psywar in Laos.” Veritas 14, no. 2 (2018): 1. https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n2_shoot_and_salute_pt2_page_1.html.

[17] Goldstein, M. E. (1973). American policy toward Laos. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. (pp. 263-267).; United Nations. (1962). No. 6564. DECLARATION 1 ON THE NEUTRALITY OF LAOS. SIGNED AT GENEVA, ON 23 JULY 1962https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume 456/volume-456-I-6564-English.pdf.

[18] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 247).

[19] Koprowski, D. C. (2000). John F. Kennedy, the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and American intervention in Laos, 1961-1963 (Doctoral dissertation). University of Massachusetts Amherst. Masters Theses 1911 – February 2014. 1682 https://scholarworks.umass.edu/theses/1682.

Assessment Papers Harrison Manlove Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Laos United States

Assessment of the American-led Constabulary during the American Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 in Comparison to Later Occupations

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.

Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander. He currently works in USAREC. 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:  Assessment of the American-led Constabulary during the American Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 in Comparison to Later Occupations

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 16, 2019. 

Summary:  During the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, the United States Marines officered a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. Throughout the occupation, the Gendarmerie built infrastructure and assisted in the administration of the country. The success of the Gendarmerie can be compared with the failures of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the occupation of Iraq.

Text:  The United States of America began its longest military occupation of a foreign country in August 1915 when United States Marines landed in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. The occupation was the Wilson administration’s reaction to the potential establishment of a European naval base that could control the Windward Passage, combined with growing instability in Haiti. This instability culminated in the violent execution of Haitian President Guillaume Sam by a group of Haitian elites. After landing, the Marines met little resistance and rapidly established control of the country. By September, the Marines had established garrisons in all the major towns in Haiti. In 1915 and again in 1918, the Marines used superior training and tactics to quell uprisings of the native cacos during the First and Second Caco Wars. Between these two wars and for the rest of the time that the Marines administered the government in Haiti, the Americans ran a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti[1].

The constabulary was comprised mostly of the noirs, which made up most of the population, but the officers of the constabulary were Marines. This was an attractive assignment for the Marines stationed in Haiti, as they would receive an additional stipend and a higher rank. For instance, a Corporal or Sergeant in the Marine Corps would be an officer in the Gendarmerie. In the same way, then Lieutenant Colonel Smedley Butler held the rank of Major General in the Gendarmerie while acting as its first commandant. The Gendarmerie d’Haiti was as a joint army-police organization, but their role didn’t stop there. The American-led constabulary also “administered prisons, roads, bridges, the water supply, telegraph lines, sanitation, and other vital services[2].” Despite allegations of war crimes and three resulting investigations, the American military presence in Haiti continued throughout the 1920s with general success. Towards the end of the decade, the Gendarmerie d’Haiti became gradually more comprised of Haitians, and in 1928, the government renamed it the Garde d’Haiti. With the help of the Garde d’Haiti, the American administrators ran an efficient government while reducing graft and increasing stability. Upon leaving Haiti in 1934, the American-run government left behind “1,000 miles of roads constructed, 210 major bridges, 9 major airfields, 1,250 miles of telephone lines, 82 miles of irrigation canals, 11 modern hospitals, 147 rural clinics” and more[3]. America also achieved its strategic goals of keeping out the Germans and creating stability. The occupation was ultimately a success, with the Gendarmerie a large part of that success.

Although the model used by the Gendarmerie d’Haiti had seen use in previous small wars, once the United States withdrew from Haiti, the native constabulary model did not see use again in the many counter-insurgency operations in the following century. The ensuing general distaste for overt American Imperialism ensured that white officers leading black foreigners in the service of an American-led government would not be a viable option. Instead, America favored train, advise, and assist (TAA) operations during the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan conflicts to the extent that the United States Army is now establishing units to carry on TAA operations as an enduring mission[4]. However, these operations were and are mainly concerned with establishing security to enable the success of a new government in an unstable nation. To truly examine the legacy of the American-led constabularies of the early 1900s, we must look to institutions that sought to exercise authority over a foreign government in an unstable state. The best example of this is the Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) of the early Iraq War.

Formed in the early days of the Iraq War and led by L. Paul Bremer, the CPA exercised executive, legislative, and judicial power in Iraq for 14 months from April 2003 to June 2004 as a caretaker government which attempted to set the conditions for a sovereign Iraqi government to take control of the country[5]. Planners for the occupation of Iraq had looked to the military occupation of Japan for guidance, considering that if they modeled the occupation off a previously successful one, the occupation would transform Iraq into a functioning democracy[6]. In 2019, we know that this was not the case. Looking back at the CPA through the lens of the Haitian Gendarmerie can help us understand why.

The occupation of Haiti was successful compared to the occupation of Iraq due to the continuity and command-structure provided by the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. By giving enlisted Marines commissions in the Haitian constabulary, the occupying force garnered a commitment to the institution for which they were working. Furthermore, the Gendarmerie benefited from having the “advisors” in a command position over those they were seeking to influence. Unlike the current model of organizations tasked with TAA missions, placing Marines in command positions added to the buy-in needed to garner a vested interest in the organization. Finally, the constabulary gave the American administration the benefits of a military-run government. Like in the successful military occupation of Japan, the Marines of the Gendarmerie stayed for long periods of time, with a clear military structure. Compare these facts with the experience of the CPA. Few leaders in the CPA stayed for the duration of its short lifespan, and organizations within the CPA suffered from the lack of a clear structure[7]. The continuity and structure of the American-led constabulary allowed the Marines to see successes in their administration of the country.

Even considering the above, it is important to remember that the American-led Gendarmerie was not without its problems. The reintroduction of the corvée labor system and sometimes brutal methods of enforcing the corvée were morally wrong and almost immediately led to the Second Caco War, despite Butler’s predecessor abolishing the system in 1918. Also, not all Gendarmerie officers had enlightened views of their Haitian subordinates. Smedley Butler led them with affection, but Colonel Tony Waller had a decidedly more racist and less compassionate view of the Haitian gendarmes under his command[8]. Even with these problems, the Gendarmerie d’Haiti showed how an American-led military organization can aid in the occupation and administration of another nation. While the United States will likely not employ this type of organization in the future, the successes of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti are worth remembering if the United States once again engages in the risky act of nation building.


[1] Boot, M. (2014). The savage wars of peace: Small wars and the rise of American power. NY, NY: Basic Books.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Lopez, C. T. (2017, June). SFABs to Free BCTs from Advise, Assist Mission. Infantry Magazine, 4.

[5] Ward, C. J. (2005, May). United States Institute of Peace Special Report: The Coalition Provisional Authority’s Experience with Governance in Iraq (Rep. No. 139). Retrieved May 29, 2019, from https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr139.pdf

[6] Dower, J. W. (2003, April 01). Don’t expect democracy this time: Japan and Iraq. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/dont-expect-democracy-this-time-japan-and-iraq

[7] Hunter-Chester, D. (2016, May/June). The Particular Circumstances of Time and Place: Why the Occupation of Japan Succeeded and the Occupation of Iraq Failed. Military Review, 41-49.

[8] Boot, M. (2014). The savage wars of peace: Small wars and the rise of American power. NY, NY: Basic Books.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Haiti Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Iraq Travis Prendergast

Assessment of Civilian Next-Generation Knowledge Management Systems for Managing Civil Information

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.

Ray K. Ragan, MAd (PM), PMP is a Civil Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and an Assistant Vice President of Project Management for a large Credit Union.  As a civilian, Ray worked in defense and financial technology industries, bringing machine learning, intelligence systems, along with speech and predictive analytics to enterprise scale.  Ray holds a Master’s degree in Administration from Northern Arizona University and a Certificate in Strategic Decision and Risk from Stanford University. He is a credentialed Project Management Profession (PMP) and has several Agile Project Management certifications.  Ray has served small and big war tours in Iraq and the Philippines with multiple mobilizations around the world, working in the U.S. National Interests.  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:  Assessment of Civilian Next-Generation Knowledge Management Systems for Managing Civil Information 

Date Originally Written:  May 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2019.

Summary:  Current Civil Information Management Systems are not taking advantage of the leaps of technology in knowledge management, specifically in the realm of predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning. This creates a time cost that commanders must pay in real-time in their operating environment, particularly felt in small wars. This cost also diverts resources away from direct mission-enabling operations.

Text:  Currently Civil Information Management (CIM) systems employed by the U.S. Military are not keeping pace with the current revolution seen in civilian next-generation knowledge management systems (KMS)[1][2]. These KMS are possible through the convergence of modern computing, predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML)[3]. This CIM limitation is unnecessary and self-imposed as a KMS offers persistent and progressing inputs to the common operating picture. This assessment explores how civilian business harnessed this revolution and how to apply it to CIM.

Generally, CIM represents the operational variables (OV) of an operational environment (OE) and as practiced today, resides in the domain of information rather than knowledge[4]. The DIKW pyramid framework, named for its Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom structure informs the structure of learning[5]. Further, one can infer that traversing each step represents time and effort, a price paid by commanders in real-time during operations. Small wars demand speed and agility. Current CIM takes time to gather data, input it into a database, run queries, overlay on maps, and eventually infer some knowledge to inform decision making by the commander[6]. 

Using the 1999-invented Cynefin Framework to aid decision-making, commanders needlessly leave many of the OVs in the chaotic domain[7]. Moving from the chaotic to the complex domain the OVs must come from a KMS that is persistent and automatically progressing. Current CIMs do not automatically update by gathering information from public sources such as broadcast, print, and digital that are digitized with NLP and speech/text analytics[8].   Instead, human operators typically located in the OE, manually update these sources. Because of this, today’s CIMs go stale after the operators complete their mission or shift priorities, making what information was gathered devolve to historic data and the OE fog of war revert to chaos[9].

The single biggest advantage a quality KMS provides to a commander is time and decision-making in the OE[10]. Implemented as a simple search engine that is persistent and progressing for all OEs, would mean a commander does not need to spend operational time and effort on basic data gathering missions. Rather, a commander can focus spending operational resources on direct mission-enabling operations. Enticingly, this simple search engine KMS allows for the next advancement, one that businesses around the world are busily employing – operationalizing big data.

Business systems, such as search engines and other applications scour open sources like in court records and organizes them through a myriad of solutions. Data organized through taxonomy and algorithms allow businesses to offer their customers usable information[11]. The advent of ML permits the conversion of information to knowledge[12]. Civilian businesses use all these tools with their call centers to not only capture what customers are saying, but also the broader meta conversation: what most customers are not saying, but revealing through their behavior[13]. 

This leap in application of informatics, which civilian business use today, is absent in today’s CIM systems. The current model of CIM is not well adapted for tomorrow’s battlefield, which will almost certainly be a data-rich environment fed by robotics, signals, and public information[14]. Even the largest team of humans cannot keep up with the overwhelming deluge of data, let alone conduct analysis and make recommendations to the commander of how the civilian terrain will affect his OE[15].

In civilian business, empiricism is replacing the older model of eminence-based decision-making. No longer is it acceptable to take the word of the highest-paid person’s opinion, business decisions need to have evidence, especially at the multi-billion dollar level company level[16]. KMS enables for hypothesis, experimentation, and evidence. Applied in the civilian terrain, if the hypothesis is that by drilling a well reduces insurgency, a global KMS will reveal the truth through the metrics, which cannot be influenced, as former-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized[17]. 

Using text preprocessing with speech analytics and NLP, the KMS would solve an OE problem of data quality, as operators when supplementing the KMS with OE reports, would use speech whenever possible. This overcomes a persistent problem of garbage in and garbage out that plagues military and business systems alike. Rather than re-typing the field notes into a form, the human operator would simply use an interactive spoken dialog for input where feasible[18].

A persistent and progressive KMS also addresses a problem with expertise. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. State Department could not find enough experts and professionals to fill the voids in transitional governance. This problem was such that then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates volunteered to send Department of Defense civilians in their place[19]. With a KMS, commanders and policymakers can draw on a home-based cadre of experts to assess the data models of the KMS and offer contextualized insights into the system to commanders in the field.

As the breadth and quality of the data grows, system administrators can experiment with new algorithms and models on the data in a relentless drive to shorten OV-derived insights into operations planning. Within two years, this KMS data would be among the richest political science datasets ever compiled, inviting academia to write new hypothetical models and experiment. In turn, this will assist policy makers in sensing where new sources of instability emerge before they reveal themselves in actions[20].

“How do you put the genie of knowledge back in the bottle,” P. W. Singer rhetorically asked[21] in his book, Wired for War about the prospect of a robotic, data-enabled OE. This genie will not conveniently return to his bottle for robotics or data, instead commanders and policy makers will look to how to manage the data-enabled battlefield. While it may seem a herculean task to virtually recreate OEs in a future KMS, it is a necessary one. Working through the fog of war with a candle and ceding OVs to chaos is no longer acceptable. Civilian business already addressed this problem with next-generation knowledge management systems, which are ready for today’s OE.


[1] APAN Staff (n.d.) Tools. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.apan.org/(S(12adofim0n1ranvobqiyfizu))/pages/tools-communities

[2] Williams, Gregory (2016, December 2). WFX 16 tests Civil Affairs Soldiers. Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.dvidshub.net/news/189856/wfx-16-tests-civil-affairs-soldiers

[3] Szilagyi and P. Wira (2018) An intelligent system for smart buildings using machine learning and semantic technologies: A hybrid data-knowledge approach, 2018 IEEE Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS), St. Petersburg, pp. 22-24.

[4] Chief, Civil Affairs Branch et al. (2011). Joint Civil Information Management Tactical Handbook, Tampa, FL, pp. 1-3 – 2-11.

[5] Fricke, Martin (2018, June 7). Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization: Knowledge pyramid The DIKW hierarchy. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from http://www.isko.org/cyclo/dikw

[6] Chief, Civil Affairs Branch et al. (2011). Joint Civil Information Management Tactical Handbook, Tampa, FL, pp. 5-5, 5-11.

[7] Kopsch, Thomas and Fox, Amos (2016, August 22). Embracing Complexity: Adjusting Processes to Meet the Challenges of the Contemporary Operating Environment. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/Online-Exclusive/2016-Online-Exclusive-Articles/Embracing-Complexity-Adjusting-Processes/

[8] APAN Staff (n.d.) Tools. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.apan.org/(S(12adofim0n1ranvobqiyfizu))/pages/tools-communities

[9] Neubarth, Michael (2013, June 28). Dirty Email Data Takes Its Toll. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.towerdata.com/blog/bid/116629/Dirty-Email-Data-Takes-Its-Toll

[10] Marczewski, Andrzey (2013, August 5). The Effect of Time on Decision Making. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.gamified.uk/2013/08/05/the-effect-of-time-on-decision-making/

[11] Murthy, Praveen et al. (2014, September). Big Data Taxonomy, Big Data Working Group, Cloud Security Alliance, pp. 9-29.

[12] Edwards, Gavin (2018, November 18). Machine Learning | An Introduction. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://towardsdatascience.com/machine-learning-an-introduction-23b84d51e6d0

[13] Gallino, Jeff (2019, May 14). Transforming the Call Center into a Competitive Advantage. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/customer-experience-2/transforming-the-call-center-into-a-competitive-advantage/

[14] Vergun, David (2018, August 21). Artificial intelligence likely to help shape future battlefield, says Army vice chief.  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/210134/artificial_intelligence_likely_to_help_shape_future_battlefield_says_army_vice_chief

[15] Snibbe, Alana Conner (2006, Fall). Drowning in Data. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/drowning_in_data

[16] Frizzo-Barker, Julie et al. An empirical study of the rise of big data in business scholarship, International Journal of Information Management, Burnaby, Canada, pp. 403-413.

[17] Rice, Condoleezza (2011) No Higher Honor. New York, NY, Random House Publishing, pp. 506-515.

[18] Ganesan, Kavita (n.d.) All you need to know about text preprocessing for NLP and Machine Learning. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.kdnuggets.com/2019/04/text-preprocessing-nlp-machine-learning.html

[19] Gates, Robert (2014). Duty. New York, NY, Penguin Random House Publishing, pp. 347-348.

[20] Lasseter, Tom (2019, April 26). ‘Black sheep’: The mastermind of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombs. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sri-lanka-blasts-mastermind-insight/black-sheep-the-mastermind-of-sri-lankas-easter-sunday-bombs-idUSKCN1S21S8

[21] Singer, Peter Warren (2009). Wired for War. The Penguin Press, New York, NY, pp. 11.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Information and Intelligence Information Systems Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Ray K. Ragan

Options for the U.S. Department of Defense to Balance Peer Competition with Military Operations Other Than War

Greg Olsen is a cyber security professional and postgraduate researcher at University of Leicester doing his PhD on peacekeeping and civil wars. He can be found on Twitter at @gtotango. 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 U.S. Department of Defense faces a significant challenge trying to balance preparations for peer competition while maintaining the capability of executing military operations other than war (MOOTW).

Date Originally Written:  May 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber security professional currently researching the determinants for successful peacekeeping in civil wars for a PhD at University of Leicester.

Background:  With the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy, the United States is executing a policy pivot towards preparing for peer competition and away from nearly two decades of counterinsurgency. Yet, the most likely future military conflicts will continue to be small wars[1] and MOOTW—such as security force assistance, counter terrorism missions, evacuating U.S. nationals from conflict zones, and robust peacekeeping.

Significance:  The post-Cold War period of unipolarity has ended with a return to great power competition. Revisionist great powers are asserting themselves militarily in their near abroad and challenging Western hegemony. Consequently, the United States’ national security priorities have shifted to counter the threat. However, small wars and MOOTW are likely to be the dominant form of actual military conflict for foreseeable future. The challenge for the U.S. military is preparing for peer competition and continental conflict while maintaining the ability to execute MOOTW. For example, the U.S. Army has shifted from Brigade Combat Teams designed for counter insurgency warfare to warfare against peers[2]. What follows are three options for addressing the continuing need for conducting MOOTW.

Option #1:  The U.S. primarily employs Special Operations Forces (SOF) to address small wars and MOOTW. Currently, much of the U.S. counter terrorism mission is executed by SOF. Within SOF, the U.S. Army Special Forces were created to assist host governments in developing the capabilities to execute counter insurgency and counter terrorism missions. Other SOF are trained and deployed for direct action missions against high value targets. In many ways SOF is ideal forces for executing certain missions with a low footprint.

Risk:  The principal risk to this option is that special operations forces are not large enough nor equipped and trained to execute certain types of MOOTW, for example, evacuation of nationals during conflict, humanitarian disaster response, nor peacekeeping/peace enforcement missions.

Another risk is the inability to train and deploy enough SOF to the myriad conflict zones around the world. There is currently an arc of ethnic and sectarian conflict from Mali in western Africa through central Africa to the Horn of Africa[3]. Libya, Somalia and South Sudan are already failed states[4]. Transnational terrorist networks are active in the Sahel, the Middle East, and South Asia, and Southeast Asia[5]. Three Latin American states are in crisis: Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela[6]. These forces are part but not the whole solution to the MOOTW challenges across the globe.

Gain: SOF are ideal for executing hostage rescue, counter terrorism missions, and for training partner forces in counter insurgency missions.  SOF taking the lead for MOOTW frees up conventional forces to focus on their conventional mission.

Option #2:  The U.S. primarily employee military reserve units to address small wars and MOOTW.

Military reserve units provide capabilities that are useful for various types of MOOTW. The military reserves have been the bank upon which the active duty draws specialized capability from in surge scenarios, such as logistics, communications, intelligence, medicine, construction, and military policing.

Risk:  The principal risk to a strategy based on mobilizing reserve forces is political. If reserves were mobilized for a mission with low stakes, such as six months of peacekeeping in South Sudan, then public opposition to the policy is likely to be high. Furthermore, significant casualties would increase opposition and limit policy options.  An additional risk is the time it takes to mobilize these forces.  Certain crises require a rapid reaction and these forces take time to prepare for overseas deployment to a conflict zone.

Gain: These military reserve capabilities would be valuable to missions such as humanitarian disaster relief, occupation, security sector reform and partner training missions, and peacekeeping.

Option #3:  The U.S. primarily employee the Marine Corps, in a role it has historically held, to address small wars and MOOTW.

The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Marines were landed for America’s “small wars”. Indeed, the deployments to Haiti (1915-1934) and Nicaragua (1926-1933) were precursors to modern twenty-first century robust peacekeeping operations[7]. Marines landed to restore order, evacuate nationals and/or secure multinational corporation property, organize and supervise elections, train police and military forces, and conduct counter insurgency operations. This “halls of Montezuma” and “shores of Tripoli” heritage is part of the strategic culture of the USMC.

Risk:  The principal risk is that it will divert the USMC from operating concepts needed for peer competition, but this risk can be overstated. Presence is key to the deterrence mission. In the European theater, this is the principal role of the USMC: deter by presence as both a trip wire and force for countering adversary hybrid warfare strategies[8]. In the Pacific theater, two operating concepts define the USMC role in great power conflict: (1) Littoral operations in a contested environment and (2) expeditionary advanced base operations[9]. The viability of both concepts has been brought into question based on analogies from World War II. The opposed amphibious landing may be an obsolete operating concept due to the political price paid for the high casualties that result if facing a peer enemy. The expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO) concept is innovative but may not be viable. EABO proposes to use land-based resources to augment the Navy’s surface fleet for sea control, logistics, and ISR. The fundamental flaw is the vulnerability of forces ashore. A ship on an ocean is a difficult target to find and fix, but an atoll is a stationary target. Like the defenders at Wake Island in World War II, they are exceedingly vulnerable. The primary benefit of deployment to islands in the Pacific is as a tripwire deterrent, not as a viable fighting force when the shooting starts.

An additional risk is the damage that may be done to esprit de corps, if Marines begin to think that they are not contributing to the primary strategic challenge of peer competition. The USMC must guard against the impression that MOOTW amounts to “scallywag soldiering” like that of the period of British high empire. The USMC has a unique warrior ethos that must be maintained. In addition to the primary mission of small wars, the USMC must continue to be able to deter aggression and blunt the military adventures of a peer adversary as the “first to fight.”

Gain:  The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. Rapid reaction and a flexible mix of capabilities makes this an ideal tool, especially in non-permissive environments. A battalion of Marines is the wrong tool for counter terrorism missions, it is the best tool when coercive presence is required.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


[1] Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Stanford: Stanford University, 2012.

[2] Todd South, “New in 2019: From tanks to Strykers, major brigade combat team conversions are coming this year,” Army Times, 2 January 2019. Retrieved from https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/02/new-in-2019-from-tanks-to-strykers-major-brigade-combat-team-conversions-are-coming-this-year/

[3] SIPRI Yearbook 2018, Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2018.

[4] Fragile State Index Annual Report 2019, Washington, D.C.: The Fund for Peace, 2019.

[5] Country Reports on Terrorism 2017. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State, 2018.

[6] SIPRI op cit.

[7] Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

[8] Shawn Snow, “No more Marine rotations to the Black Sea. The Corps is focusing here instead,” Marine Corps Times, 29 November 2019. Retrieved from https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2018/11/29/no-more-marine-rotations-to-the-black-sea-the-corps-is-focusing-on-the-arctic-instead/

[9] Sam LaGrone, “Lt. Gen. David Berger Nominated as Next Marine Corps Commandant,“ USNI News, 27 March 2019. Retrieved from https://news.usni.org/2019/03/27/lt-gen-david-berger-nominated-next-marine-corps-commandant#more-42200

Greg Olsen Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Major Regional Contingency Option Papers United States

Assessment of the Legion as the Ideal Small Wars Force Structure

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.

Brandon Quintin is the marketing manager of a museum in Dayton, Virginia.  He is a former editorial assistant at MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History.  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:  Assessment of the Legion as the Ideal Small Wars Force Structure

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 24, 2019.

Summary:  After the Massacre at the Wabash in 1791, George Washington and Henry Knox reformed the U.S. Army as the Legion of the United States. The Legion was a self-contained modular army composed of four identical combined-arms units. During the Fallen Timbers campaign, the Legion proved itself the ideal force structure for use in small wars. The Brigade Combat Team is the closest the U.S. Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure. 

Text:  In 1791 the United States Army suffered one of the greatest defeats in its history. At the Massacre at the Wabash in modern Ohio, also known as St. Clair’s Defeat, a force of regulars and militia 1,000 strong was destroyed by an army of Indian warriors. The Northwest Indian War, as the greater conflict was called, was the definitive “small war.” President George Washington directed and oversaw the response: a punitive use of asymmetric military force against a loosely-organized tribal confederacy in contested territory. The Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 was the climax of the war, in which a reformed American army routed its Indian opponents and forced a peace where one could not be negotiated. 

But in 1791 the path to victory was far from clear. Year after year, American forces marched into the Northwest Territory only to be beaten back by an aggressive, experienced, and knowledgeable enemy. George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox knew that significant change had to be made if the status quo was to be overcome. Tactical changes would not suffice. A redesign of the core force structure of the United States Army was required. 

The inspiration for Washington and Knox’s reformed army came from four primary sources: Ancient Rome, French Marshal Maurice de Saxe, British Colonel Henry Bouquet, and Washington’s famous drillmaster, the Prussian Baron Frederick William von Steuben. 

The ancient Roman legion is the greatest military unit the world has ever known. It effectively fought against the “conventional” forces of Greece, Carthage, Parthia, and other Roman legions during the Civil Wars. It fought against “unconventional” forces from Gaul and Britannia, to Judea. It built roads and forts and improved the state of infrastructure wherever it was sent. In all areas, and against all opponents, it was successful. It is no wonder that the Roman legion had so many admirers, especially among the early American officer corps. In a letter exchange, Henry Knox and South American revolutionary Francisco de Miranda called the legion “infinitely superior to any other organization or military arrangement we know yet[1].”

Maurice de Saxe took the operational concept of the legion and adapted it to the eighteenth century. The legion of ancient Rome predated much of the technology that allowed for combat arms designation. It was  was an almost entirely heavy infantry unit. Its excellence lie not in its composition, but in its effect. In his writings, Saxe advocated a resurrected legion that achieved the adaptability of its ancient forefather by adopting a combined-arms force structure—a revolutionary concept in its time[2]. Henry Bouquet, a Swiss-born Colonel in the British army, took the idea a step further and wrote that the modular combined-arms force structure was ideal for Indian-fighting in the Americas, i.e. for use against irregulars in unfavorable terrain[3]. 

Baron von Steuben wrote a letter in 1784 advocating that the United States adopt a permanent legionary force structure:

Upon a review of all the military of Europe, there does not appear to be a single form which could be safely adopted by the United States; they are unexceptionally different from each other, and like all human institutions, seem to have started as much out of accident as design … The Legion alone has not been adopted by any, and yet I am confident in asserting, that whether it be examined as applicable to all countries, or as it may more immediately apply to the existing or probable necessity of this, it will be found strikingly superior to any other[4].

Initially ignored upon publication, the letter acquired new meaning after the Massacre at the Wabash. Congress acceded to Washington’s demands and allowed the creation of the Legion of the United States.

President Washington and Secretary Knox abandoned the traditional regimental structure. Instead of a reliance on large regiments of either infantry, cavalry, or artillery, the Legion of the United States was one coherent unit with four self-contained armies making up its constituent parts. The armies, called Sub-Legions, contained 1,280 soldiers each, with two infantry battalions, one rifle battalion, an artillery company, and a cavalry company. The Legion of the United States was meant to address the failures of regimental design while accentuating the benefits of each combat arm. The end result was an adaptable, standardized force of 5,120 men—in no coincidence, exactly the same size as the famed legions of Julius Caesar.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers took place on August 20, 1794. The Legion of the United States proved its excellence by dispersing the opposing army, pacifying the Northwest Territory, and restoring order to the frontier. Its mission accomplished, the Legion was promptly disbanded.

The modular, combined-arms legion is an ideal small wars force structure. The same organizational principles that made the Legion of the United States a success in 1794 apply today. When a conventional power is faced with a number of different potential conflicts, over all scales of intensity and in all types of terrain, the unpredictability of the situation necessitates a standardized, generalist formation like the legion. Especially in an asymmetric scenario of regular versus irregular forces.

The modern Brigade Combat Team (BCT) is the closest the United States Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure. Semi-combined-arms units of nearly 5,000 soldiers, Brigade Combat Teams come in three varieties: Infantry, Stryker, and Armored. As of 2018, the  active U.S. Army has 31. While the advent of BCTs represents a step toward legionary warfare, a true revival of the design and spirit of the Legion of the United States would see the elimination of arms-designation between the BCTs and all echelons of unit organization above them. Small wars are the future of American warfare, and the legion has proven itself the perfect unit organization to overcome every situation such wars present. 


[1] De Miranda, F. (1791, February 2). The Form of the Roman Legion [Letter to Henry Knox]. London.

[2] De Saxe, M. (1944). Reveries Upon the Art of War. Harrisburg, PA: Military Service Publishing Company.

[3] Bouquet, H. (1764). Reflections on the War with the Savages of North America.

[4] Von Steuben, F. (1784). A Letter on the Subject of an Established Militia, and Military Arrangements, Addressed to the Inhabitants of the United States.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Brandon Quintin Insurgency & Counteinsurgency

An Assessment of Population Relocation in 21st Century Counterinsurgencies

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.

Sam Canter is an Infantry Officer in the United States Army and has completed an MA in Military History at Norwich University, where his thesis focused on the failures of the Revolution in Military Affairs.  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:  An Assessment of Population Relocation in 21st Century Counterinsurgencies

Date Originally Written:  March 28, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  May 6, 2019.

Summary:  Despite its endlessly debated efficacy, population relocation represents a frequently employed method of counterinsurgency warfare. Notwithstanding the military usefulness of this technique, its deployment in the 21st century is increasingly tied to questions of human rights and international law. As other methods of counterinsurgency fail, population relocation will continue to hold the fascination of military planners, even as it grows increasingly controversial.

Text:  No domain of military operations has proven quite as difficult for Western nations to master as counterinsurgency operations (COIN). Many different techniques have been brought to bear in efforts to defeat insurgencies, stabilize governments, and pacify local populations. Historically, one of the most frequently employed techniques in COIN operations is population relocation[1]. Either through brute force or more subtle coercion, this technique entails physically removing a segment of the population from the battlefield, with the purpose of depriving insurgents of their logistical and moral support base.

On a fundamental level, this population relocation makes perfect military sense. In a traditional COIN campaign, insurgents and opposing military forces compete for the “hearts and minds” of a population. For occupying forces, this technique contains a fundamental military flaw: electing to directly engage an enemy in a domain in which they possess an absolute advantage – culturally, linguistically, and fraternally. Population relocation, therefore, represents an asymmetric tactic. Rather than engage the enemy in a favorable domain, a conventional force physically alters the military paradigm by changing the human terrain. Relocating the population theoretically allows for more conventional methods of warfare to take place.

Regardless of the military wisdom of population relocation as a tactic, broader considerations inevitably come into play. The moral and legal issues associated with population relocation naturally invite condemnation from the larger international community. There are negative connotations – both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union practiced forced population relocation with genocidal results. Given the history of population relocation, this practice is unpalatable and unacceptable to the vast majority of Western nations. The United Nations considers forced evictions a violation of human rights, except in rare cases of “public interest” and “general welfare[2].” A COIN campaign might well meet that rare case bar, but it remains an open question if such a policy – even well-intended – can ever be enacted without force.

A recent example of population relocation viewed through a human right lens occurred in Egypt. To combat the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt engaged in concerted efforts to remove the insurgent group’s local base of support. However, within the context of a COIN paradigm, Egypt’s efforts represented a fifty percent solution of sorts. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Egypt has demolished almost 7,000 buildings in the Sinai, with virtually no efforts made to relocate those displaced, many of whom do not support the Islamic State[3]. In the absence of a practical and humane relocation plan, it is difficult to discern what Egypt hopes to accomplish. While Egypt is not a Western nation and is not necessarily bound by the moral or political consideration that Western democracies are, from a purely practical standpoint their relocation efforts have achieved little other than inviting international condemnation. Even so, given that Egypt’s efforts took place within the context of a legitimate COIN campaign – rather than a wholesale ethnic slaughter as a COIN tactic, such as recently occurred in Myanmar – their case is illustrative of the inherent tension in executing population relocation[4].

For Western nations, political tensions largely outweigh purely military considerations. In Afghanistan – the proving ground for North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries to execute COIN operations – population relocation has proven unviable for many reasons. Certainly, the culture, history, and geography of Afghanistan do nothing to suggest that such a tactic would succeed. Unlike the British experience in Malaya during the 1950s – usually cited as the textbook example of successful resettlement – attempts to implement population relocation would alienate the Afghan people, in addition to encountering a myriad of practical difficulties[5]. Therefore, the opportunity for Western nations to implement a “case study” of sorts in Afghanistan did not present itself. The United States instead recalls the failed legacy of the Strategic Hamlet program in Vietnam as its most recent military experience with population relocation[6].

With all this considered, it is quite evident that in the 21st century, population relocation as a COIN tool has been the purview of some less than exemplary militaries and has remained mostly unpracticed by Western nations. However, this does not necessarily forbid its use in a future COIN operation. If population relocation is to prove viable in the future, a series of conditions must be met to make this course of action suitable to the problem at hand, feasible to implement, and acceptable to Western governments and the international community.

In pursuit of population relocation efforts that are politically acceptable, first, the population must be amenable to such a move. This scenario will only result from the satisfaction of two sub-conditions. The population selected for relocation must be actively seeking greater security and lack historical ties to the land which they inhabit, factors which may preclude this tactic’s use in agrarian societies. Only upon meeting this condition can population relocation efforts avoid the condemnation of the international community. Second, before any attempts to implement this program, a site for relocation or integration will already need to exist. Ideally, the move to a new location should also equate to an increased standard of living for those resettled. Last, verifiable forms of identification are vital, as the process of separating insurgents from the general population must remain the central focus. It is crucial that those practicing COIN not underestimate the level of local support for an insurgency, as these techniques only stand a chance of success if the locals’ primary motivation is one of safety and security rather than cultural loyalty and ideology.

These are high standards to meet, but given the bloody history associated with population relocation, they are wholly appropriate. In COIN operations, many analyze the concept of asymmetry from the standpoint of the insurgent, but asymmetric tactics have a role for conventional occupying forces as well. If insurgents possess an absolute advantage in the human domain, then it is merely foolish for counter-insurgents to engage in direct competition. Therefore, and in the absence of other asymmetric practices, population relocation may still have some utility as a 21st century COIN practice, but only in scenarios that favor its use from a combined moral, legal, and practical standpoint.


[1] Examples in the 20th century include South Africa, the Philippines, Greece, Malaya, Kenya, Algeria and Vietnam among others. For a cogent examination of the effects of these various campaigns, see Sepp, Kalev I. (1982). Resettlement, Regroupment, Reconcentration: Deliberate Government-Directed Population Relocation in Support of Counter-Insurgency Operations. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Command and General Staff College.

[2] United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. (2014). Forced Evictions (Fact Sheet No. 25/Rev. 1). New York, NY: United Nations.

[3] Human Rights Watch. (May 22, 2018). Egypt: Army Intensifies Sinai Home Demolitions. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/22/egypt-army-intensifies-sinai-home-demolitions

[4] Rowland, Sarah. (2018) The Rohingya Crisis: A Failing Counterinsurgency. Small Wars Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2018, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/rohingya-crisis-failing-counterinsurgency

[5] For an analysis of Malaya as a prototypical COIN operation, see Hack, Karl. (2009). The Malayan Emergency as counter-insurgency paradigm. Journal of Strategic Studies, 32(3), 383–414.

[6] Leahy, Peter Francis. (1990). Why Did the Strategic Hamlet Program Fail? Fort Leavenworth, KS: Command and General Staff College.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Sam Canter

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.


[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 / Irregular Warfare Option Papers Patrick Blannin United States

Options to Build Local Capabilities to Stabilise the Lake Chad Region

Fulan Nasrullah is a national security policy adviser based in Nigeria.  He currently works for an international research and policy advisory firm.  Fulan tweets at @fulannasrullah and blogs here.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government.

National Security Situation:  Counterinsurgency and stabilisation campaigns in the Lake Chad region.

Date Originally Written:  December 11, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point Of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a Nigerian National Security Advisor, offering options on the building of key local capabilities in the Lake Chad region to further degrade destabilising non-state armed groups in the region, while fostering stability in the area.

Background:  With the launch of conventional offensives by the Nigerian and Chadian armies in 2015, non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region and Northeast Nigeria have lost much of the territory which they had earlier captured.  The successes of the regional governments’ conventional offensives have forced the non-state armed groups to return to a heavy emphasis on revolutionary and asymmetric warfare, which the local armies and governments are ill prepared to confront.

The conventional offensive resulted in a situation where local security capabilities, already inadequate, are  increasingly overstretched and worn down, by having to manage multiple security problems over such a wide area.

The Nigerian Army has an estimated 40,000-45,000 combat and support personnel (out of a total 130,000+ personnel) deployed in Northeast Nigeria, in over forty combat battalions.  These include the battalions that make up the in theatre 7 and 8 Divisions, plus those backfilling from 3, 1 and 2 Divisions.  These forces represent the majority of the Nigerian Army’s combat deployable strength, most of whom have been serving a minimum of 2 years of continuous deployment in the Northeast theatre.

However, unlike the much larger Nigerian military, other regional armies involved in this conflict have fewer manpower and material resources to expend.  These less capable forces struggle to combat an insurgency that has proven itself adaptable, and which despite losing conventionally, has sustained itself and progressively gained momentum on the asymmetric front.  The insurgency specifically uses armed groups to offset the disadvantage they suffer in conventional strength, through guerrilla operations, terror, and a heavy focus on information operations and ideological education and propagation targeted at local populations in rural areas.

Weak institutional capabilities, in addition to lack of intelligence and analysis-based understanding of these armed groups, have contributed to multiple conflicting and unrealistic strategies from the regional states, plus enhanced insurgent momentum.

Significance:  United States investment in building local capabilities is a necessity for both the U.S. and Lake Chad regional states, both to degrade active non-state armed groups in the region, and to build, foster, and maintain stability.  Without this investment by the United States, regional states will  be unable to stop the conflict which, though currently at a  strategic stalemate, could turn into a strategic victory for the insurgent groups.

While Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad poses a serious threat to local stability, the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP) is a greater worry for United States’ interests globally and in the long-term.  The power vacuum created by regional states failing to degrade insurgent capabilities[1], thus ceding territory, will create a huge opening for ISWAP and its local affiliates in the Lake Chad, Sahel, and Libyan regions to exploit.  Power vacuums have already been created in the Lake Chad Islands[2], and will be further created as the Nigerian government plans to abandon the rural Borno State[1].

Option #1:  The U.S. invests solely in a kinetic buildup, by establishing a regional infantry and counterinsurgency training centre in Nigeria, in the mold of the Fort Irwin National Training Centre, drawing on lessons the U.S. military learnt in Iraq and Afghanistan, to train local militaries.  A kinetic build up would also involve providing training and funding for more troops and units for the Nigerian and Chadian armies.  These troops would be dedicated to the clearing out of the Lake Chad Islands and areas around the Lake, in addition to training and funding more special operations units with the firepower and mobility necessary to engage in relentless pursuit of insurgents.  Finally, this option would invest in training, funding, and arming already existing local volunteer militia and paramilitary organisations such as the Civilian Joint Task Force in Nigeria, while embedding U.S. advisors with both militia, paramilitary, and regular armed forces units down to the platoon level.

Risk:  Option #1 results in the U.S. de facto owning the war against non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region.  In the U.S. this owning would lead to deeper engagement in yet another foreign war in an era of President Donald Trump’s “America First,” and increase the risks of more American combat deaths in this region with the accompanying political blowback.  Within the region, Option #1 would increase resistance from local political and military elements who do not want to admit they are incapable of dealing with the crisis themselves, or who may simply be war profiteers not interested in this conflict ending.

Gain:  Option #1 results in the degrading of the military, logistic, and organisational capabilities of ISWAP and Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad and the rolling back of ISWAP’s growing structure in the region.  This degrading and rolling back would place destabilising actors under constant crushing military pressure, increase the tactical performance of local military forces, and use existing volunteer militias to stabilize the government-controlled areas when the conventional military forces depart.  All of the preceding will enable military units to concentrate on offensive operations thus eliminating the ability of global-level actors, e.g. the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, to use bases and ungoverned spaces in the region to attack U.S. interests.

Option #2:  The U.S. invests in a non-kinetic build-up, by helping to establish and expand regional states’ information operations capabilities particularly in electronic warfare, psychological operations, and targeted information dissemination via “Radio-In-A-Box” and other mediums.  Option #2 also includes the U.S. providing training and funding for comprehensive reformations of local intelligence services to create lacking signals intelligence, human intelligence, and intelligence analysis capabilities.  Option #2 will enhance the U.S. Security Governance Initiative programme[3] which seeks to enhance local civil administration capabilities in law enforcement, anti-corruption, and criminal justice, and enhance local capabilities to deliver humanitarian support and government services to communities in the conflict zone.

Risk:  Option #2 reduces emphasis on degrading insurgent capabilities so soft-power efforts are properly funded.  This option would leave the insurgents alone and lead to indirect validation of regional government falsehoods that the insurgents have been defeated and the war is over.  This indirect validation will foster nonchalance and complacency from states of the region, to the strategic advantage of the insurgents. Option #2 will ensure de facto reduction of pressure on the insurgents, which gives room for the insurgents and their external allies to exploit the resultant power vacuum.

Gain:  Option #2 strengthens local governance capabilities, increases civil stability in government controlled areas, and is less expensive, less visible, and shorter term in an era of “America First.”  Option #2 would greatly reduce the risk of American combat deaths.

Other Comments:  None

Recommendations:  None.


[1] Carsteen, Paul and Lanre, Ola. (December 1, 2017) “Nigeria Puts Fortress Towns At Heart Of New Boko Haram Strategy”, Reuters, retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-borno/nigeria-puts-fortress-towns-at-heart-of-new-boko-haram-strategy-idUSKBN1DV4GU

[2] Taub, Ben (December 4, 2017), “Lake Chad: World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster”, New Yorker Magazine, retrieved from: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/12/04/lake-chad-the-worlds-most-complex-humanitarian-disaster

[3] Chalfin, Julie E. and Thomas-Greenfield, Linda. (May 16, 2017), “The Security Governance Intiative” PRISM Vol 6. No.4, Center For Complex Operations, National Defense University (US) retrieved from: http://cco.ndu.edu/News/Article/1171855/the-security-governance-initiative/

Africa Fulan Nasrullah Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Irregular Forces / Irregular Warfare Lake Chad Option Papers United States