Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Basics Of Fighting A Guerrilla Operation

With the development of communist ideology and lately Islamic Jihad concepts Guerrilla Warfare has gained great importance. The Islamic jihad or holy war concept is presently the biggest challenge to the United States and other democracies. After the end of 2nd World War, the communist put forward the theory of revolutionary war and South East Asia became a testing ground. The victory of Ho-Chi-Minh over the French and subsequent Guerrilla Warfare in Indo-China and Malaya have given us much insight and we can now formulate some ideas to control and fight a Guerrilla operation, particularly of the Islamic variety that is now a days the biggest challenge. Before we proceed further it must be stated that no country before the present age has so far ever trained anti-Guerrilla troops. The Germans made an attempt, but it was a crude effort and doomed to failure as by then the war was lost. But does this mean that the Guerrilla operations cannot be controlled? Modern Guerrilla tactics are based on the Mao-Marx theory and practice where the Gnats exhaust the Giant who cannot use his superior strength. To counter this, the Giant must immunize himself against Gnats and, in addition, find ways and means to utilize his superior strength.

The first step in this direction was the manual issued by the Germans in 1944 called the "MANUAL OF WARFARE" against bands for all services of the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, as the war was already lost, the Germans had no time to put this into practice. However, its practical value cannot be over-rated. It is a classic on anti-band Warfare. Further the American operations in Vietnam and the Indian Army's experience in fighting insurgency in Kashmir and the North east can lead us to the following for containing, controlling and eliminating Guerrilla operations:

(a) PROTECTION: Everything that is important in the conduct of a war must be protected against the Guerrilla troops. This is a fairly vast idea. For, there are a great many objects which are vital. E.g., Railways, Roads, Industries, Installations and the troops themselves. Engaging a large body of troops for the purpose is not practicable and therefore, not the answer in order to provide effective protections, the troops must be in full physical control of all vital installations and areas surrounding them. Additionally, at base 300 yards surrounding these installations must be free of obstacles, declared protected and intruders shot. No effective protection would work out if the adjoining country on either side is not under complete control. Hence, without going into the details we can say that all adjoining areas must be physically held and:-
i. Cleared of all obstacles up to 300 yards.
ii. The above area is declared protected and unauthorized people be shot.

(b) INTELLIGENCE: Anti Guerrilla Forces Intelligence has the same objective as that of Guerrillas. For this purpose, extensive use of slow A/C for reconnaissance may be used. The use of helicopters by Americans in Vietnam considerably blunted the edge of the Viet Cong TET Offensive.
During the battle the following tasks must be borne in mind:
i. To discover all concealed enemy forces.
ii. To recognize in time any attempt at flight or breaking away by the Guerrilla.
iii. To prevent surface attack and ambush
iv. To reconnoiter enemy positions and the BATTLE LINES of approach.
Interrogation of prisoners is one of the best methods of extracting information and this must be done on the spot during battle.

(c) BATTLE TECHNIQUES: Drawing upon the experience of troops who have fought the Guerrilla, the following three techniques stand out:-
i. Communication by RADIO and wireless for quick transmission of information supplemented by satellite communication set up.
ii. Mobility of troops and commander, if necessary by helicopter which allows them to intervene at decisive spots.
iii. Close objectives for the troops which should be informed to them before hand and the anticipated Guerrillas plan of action. A degree of independence in operations is called for.

In actual battle many methods are known to annihilate the Guerrilla Force. The encirclement tactics and destruction through surprise attack and hunt with large Air Force Support including unmanned drones and helicopter gunships are known to be successful. However the biggest aim of the troops fighting a guerrilla operation is the political aim.

This is the most important point and may well decide who wins a battle/war with Guerrilla troops. We have already stated that the Guerrilla lives of the Land and people. Conversely, if the Guerrilla is isolated from the land and people he loses ground and would be annihilated. This isolation can be achieved by psychologically winning over the masses. History shows that by their misdeeds the Germans roused the partisan spirit of the Russians and Chiang Kai Sheik did the same in China. So, it is very important to win the people over from the Guerrilla Band. Interestingly enough one could loosely compare a Guerrilla band with a band of Robbers. The robber band has all the characteristics of a Guerrilla army in homogeneity respect for chief, bravery, knowledge of land and terrain, and in some cases complete understanding of the tactics to be used. The band lacks only the support of the people and a political aim to unite the support of the masses. Inevitably therefore, the robber band is hunted down, arrested and exterminated. Keeping the above in mind, anti-Guerrilla troops must be seem to be just and avoid violence against the masses.

(a) Isolate villages known/suspected to be harboring Guerrilla forces, as was done in Malaya, and improve the living and economic conditions of the villagers.

(b) The breeding ground of Guerrilla activities is economic misery. In case this is eliminated the Guerrillas would loose much of their force. The Maoists who are operating in central India and control vast tracts of territory have been able to do so because of the lack of development in those areas. It's a sad commentary that while the Indian Government developed Bombay and Delhi the vast country side saw no development, no roads, and no drinking water-only abject poverty. So is it any surprise that the Maoists are thriving?

(c)Another breeding ground is religious zeal. This in a way is also related to economic misery and more so ignorance. The Islamic jihadis play on the ignorance of the people and distort the religious texts to suit their

The Islamic Jihadists thus have for their own purpose gallivanized a large number of people to fight in the name of Islam. They refer to it as a religious war and portray it as a fight between good and evil. This is a major threat for the Western Democracies, India as well as Russia and even China.

Guerrilla Warfare is a formidable way, short of a total General War, for achieving the political objectives of any ideology. The Guerrilla warfare thrives on the support of the people. The communists and now the Islamic Jihadists have championed the cause of so called poor or the purity of Islam. The Islamic jihadist has also adopted this form of warfare in Afghanistan. There is no choice but to win over the masses and simultaneously the Guerrilla Bands must be ruthlessly hunted down and exterminated.

Since the responsibility for the security of a nation rests with Military forces, effort should be made to plan and train for counter Guerrilla actions. The soldier must be trained to be disciplined and operate in jungles deserts and mountains. The Indian army with an experience of 40 years in counter insurgency operations has the Army school of Counter insurgency at Warangte in Mizoram. Similar training schools need to be set up by all armies. The Guerrilla Islamic or otherwise can only be defeated at his own game.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Counter-Guerrilla Warfare


The guerrilla can be difficult to beat, but certain principles of counter-insurgency warfare are well known since the 1950s and 1960s and have been successfully applied.

Classic guidelines

The widely distributed and influential work of Sir Robert Thompson, counter-insurgency expert in Malaysia, offers several such guidelines. Thompson's underlying assumption is that of a country minimally committed to the rule of law and better governance. Some governments, however, give such considerations short shrift, and their counterguerrilla operations have involved mass murder, genocide, starvation and the massive spread of terror, torture and execution. The totalitarian regimes of Hitler are classic examples, as are more modern conflicts in places like Afghanistan. In Afghanistan's anti-Mujahideen war for example, the Soviets implemented a ruthless policy of wastage and depopulation, driving over one third of the Afghan population into exile (over 5 million people), and carrying out widespread destruction of villages, granaries, crops, herds and irrigation systems, including the deadly and widespread mining of fields and pastures. See Wiki article Soviet war in Afghanistan. Many modern countries employ manhunting doctrine to seek out and eliminate individual guerrillas. Elements of Thompson's moderate approach are adapted here: [Robert Thompson (1966). "Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Malaya and Vietnam", Chatto & Widus, ISBN 0-7011-1133-X ]

a. The people are the key base to be secured and defended rather than territory won or enemy bodies counted. Contrary to the focus of conventional warfare, territory gained, or casualty counts are not of overriding importance in counter-guerrilla warfare. The support of the population is the key variable. Since many insurgents rely on the population for recruits, food, shelter, financing, and other materials, the counter-insurgent force must focus its efforts on providing physical and economic security for that population and defending it against insurgent attacks and propaganda.

b. There must be a clear political counter-vision that can overshadow, match or neutralize the guerrilla vision. This can range from granting political autonomy, to economic development measures in the affected region. The vision must be an integrated approach, involving political, social and economic and media influence measures. A nationalist narrative for example, might be used in one situation, an ethnic autonomy approach in another. An aggressive media campaign must also be mounted in support of the competing vision or the counter-insurgent regime will appear weak or incompetent.

c. Practical action must be taken at the lower levels to match the competitive political vision. It may be tempting for the counter-insurgent side to simply declare guerrillas "terrorists" and pursue a harsh liquidation strategy. Brute force however, may not be successful in the long run. Action does not mean capitulation, but sincere steps such as removing corrupt or arbitrary officials, cleaning up fraud, building more infrastructure, collecting taxes honestly, or addressing other legitimate grievances can do much to undermine the guerrillas' appeal.

d. Economy of force. The counter-insurgent regime must not overreact to guerrilla provocations, since this may indeed be what they seek to create a crisis in civilian morale. Indiscriminate use of firepower may only serve to alienate the key focus of counterinsurgency- the base of the people. Police level actions should guide the effort and take place in a clear framework of legality, even if under a State of Emergency. Civil liberties and other customs of peacetime may have to be suspended, but again, the counter-insurgent regime must exercise restraint, and cleave to orderly procedures. In the counter-insurgency context, "boots on the ground" are even more important than technological prowess and massive firepower, although anti-guerrilla forces should take full advantage of modern air, artillery and electronic warfare assets.Learning from Iraq: Counterinsurgency in American Strategy - Steven Metz. US Army Strategic Studies Institute monograph, December 2006,

e. Big unit action may sometimes be necessary. If police action is not sufficient to stop the guerrilla fighters, military sweeps may be necessary. Such "big battalion" operations may be needed to break up significant guerrilla concentrations and split them into small groups where combined civic-police action can control them.

f. Aggressive mobility. Mobility and aggressive small unit action is extremely important for the counter-insurgent regime. Heavy formations must be lightened to aggressively locate, pursue and fix insurgent units. Huddling in static strongpoints simply concedes the field to the insurgents. They must be kept on the run constantly with aggressive patrols, raids, ambushes, sweeps, cordons, roadblocks, prisoner snatches, etc.

g. Ground level embedding and integration. In tandem with mobility is the embedding of hardcore counter-insurgent units or troops with local security forces and civilian elements. The US Marines in Vietnam also saw some success with this method, under its CAP (Combined Action Program) where Marines were teamed as both trainers and "stiffeners" of local elements on the ground. US Special Forces in Vietnam like the Green Berets, also caused significant local problems for their opponents by their leadership and integration with mobile tribal and irregular forces. [Michael Lee Lanning and Daniel Craig, "Inside the VC and NVA", and "Inside the LRRP's"] In Iraq, the 2007 US "surge" strategy saw the embedding of regular and special forces troops among Iraqi army units. These hardcore groups were also incorporated into local neighborhood outposts in a bid to facilitate intelligence gathering, and to strengthen ground level support among the masses.

h. Cultural sensitivity. Counter-insurgent forces require familiarity with the local culture, mores and language or they will experience numerous difficulties. Americans experienced this in Vietnam and during the US Iraqi Freedom invasion and occupation, where shortages of Arabic speaking interpreters and translators hindered both civil and military operations. [Learning from Iraq, op. cit. ]

i. Systematic intelligence effort. Every effort must be made to gather and organize useful intelligence. A systematic process must be set up to do so, from casual questioning of civilians to structured interrogations of prisoners. Creative measures must also be used, including the use of double agents, or even bogus "liberation" or sympathizer groups that help reveal insurgent personnel or operations.

j. Methodical clear and hold. An "ink spot" clear and hold strategy must be used by the counter-insurgent regime, dividing the conflict area into sectors, and assigning priorities between them. Control must expand outward like an ink spot on paper, systematically neutralizing and eliminating the insurgents in one sector of the grid, before proceeding to the next. It may be necessary to pursue holding or defensive actions elsewhere, while priority areas are cleared and held.

k. Careful deployment of mass popular forces and special units. Mass forces include village self-defence groups and citizen militias organized for community defence and can be useful in providing civic mobilization and local security. Specialist units can be used profitably, including commando squads, long range reconnaissance and "hunter-killer" patrols, defectors who can track or persuade their former colleagues like the Kit Carson units in Vietnam, and paramilitary style groups. Strict control must be kept over specialist units to prevent the emergence of violent vigilante style reprisal squads that undermine the government's program.

l. The limits of foreign assistance must be clearly defined and carefully used. Such aid should be limited either by time, or as to material and technical, and personnel support, or both. While outside aid or even troops can be helpful, lack of clear limits, in terms of either a realistic plan for victory or exit strategy, may find the foreign helper "taking over" the local war, and being sucked into a lengthy commitment, thus providing the guerrillas with valuable propaganda opportunities as the stream of dead foreigners mounts. Such a scenario occurred with the US in Vietnam, with the American effort creating dependence in South Vietnam, and war weariness and protests back home. Heavy-handed foreign interference may also fail to operate effectively within the local cultural context, setting up conditions for failure.

m. Time. A key factor in guerrilla strategy is a drawn-out, protracted conflict, that wears down the will of the opposing counter-insurgent forces. Democracies are especially vulnerable to the factor of time. The counter-insurgent force must allow enough time to get the job done. Impatient demands for victory centered around short-term electoral cycles play into the hands of the guerrillas, though it is equally important to recognize when a cause is lost and the guerrillas have won.


Some writers on counter-insurgency warfare emphasize the more turbulent nature of today's guerrilla warfare environment, where the clear political goals, parties and structures of such places as Vietnam, Malaysia, or El Salvador are not as prevalent. These writers point to numerous guerrilla conflicts that center around religious, ethnic or even criminal enterprise themes, and that do not lend themselves to the classic "national liberation" template. The wide availability of the Internet has also cause changes in the tempo and mode of guerrilla operations in such areas as coordination of strikes, leveraging of financing, recruitment, and media manipulation. While the classic guidelines still apply, today's anti-guerrilla forces need to accept a more disruptive, disorderly and ambiguous mode of operation.

:"Insurgents may not be seeking to overthrow the state, may have no coherent strategy or may pursue a faith-based approach difficult to counter with traditional methods. There may be numerous competing insurgencies in one theater, meaning that the counterinsurgent must control the overall environment rather than defeat a specific enemy. The actions of individuals and the propaganda effect of a subjective “single narrative” may far outweigh practical progress, rendering counterinsurgency even more non-linear and unpredictable than before. The counterinsurgent, not the insurgent, may initiate the conflict and represent the forces of revolutionary change. The economic relationship between insurgent and population may be diametrically opposed to classical theory. And insurgent tactics, based on exploiting the propaganda effects of urban bombing, may invalidate some classical tactics and render others, like patrolling, counterproductive under some circumstances. Thus, field evidence suggests, classical theory is necessary but not sufficient for success against contemporary insurgencies..."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Understanding Guerrilla Warfare in the Modern Context

Guerrilla Warfare in simple terms means the effort of harassing an army by small armed bands. In other words, it is petty warfare. Generally we have 3 types of war i.e. total war, limited war and general war. The significance of Guerrilla warfare is that it is relevant to all these types of war.

Guerrilla Warfare is a form of warfare by which the strategically weaker side assumes the tactical offensive at places and times selected by it. History is witness to the fact that Guerrilla Warfare has never been resorted to by a militarily stronger side while mounting an offensive/attack. It is essentially the weapon of a strategically weaker side for tactical offensive at selected places and times.

This is borne out by any number of examples from history e.g. Russian partisans during German occupation/advance in World War II, China in the wake of Japanese occupation during World War II and more recently Afghanistan. A stronger side may resort to Guerrilla Warfare after it has been defeated e.g. Russian Guerrilla operations during the 2nd World War and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Having been ousted by the NATO forces the Taliban have regrouped as a guerrilla and terrorist force.

Guerrilla warfare is not a present day innovation. Historically, it was first fought in China in 360 BC (when emperor Huang employing guerrilla tactics succeeded in defeating the Miao race) and the concept has effectively survived through the centuries till the present day. "Guerrilla Warfare" means a little war and it has come to denote the irregular, non-professional civilian soldier who takes up arms to fight against professional military forces. The emphasis however, is not on taking over and retention of cities, townships or places. The primary, aim, as explained by Mao is to annihilate the fighting potentials, of the enemy. By continuously harassing the opponents with its 'hit and run' policy, a small troop of guerrillas successfully ties up a relatively larger body or soldiers. There are numerous examples where guerrilla warfare has achieved the purpose when conventional types of war have failed. History shows that Guerrilla Warfare has chiefly been the weapon of partisans, revolutionaries, rebels, communist inspired movements and more recently the vanguard of Islamic fundamentalism. During World War II in two years of combating partisans indulging in Guerrilla Warfare in Russia the German Army employed 300,000 soldiers.

Not only did the Army partisans tie up these troops but many a page in the German Wehrmacht archives is filled with descriptions which point to a feeling of hopelessness, growing in-intensity of nervousness and culminating into despair. Another example is that of Greece where 200,000 Nationalist troops were employed to combat only 30,000 Guerrillas. Another case is that of Fidel Castro of Cuba who with only 6,000 soldiers was able to overthrow the numerically very large Batista forces. It has been estimated that it takes approximately 10 regular soldiers to nullify one Guerrilla. By simple arithmetic, the number of troops needed to combat guerrillas could reach phenomenal figures. This is the basic military aim of a Guerrilla War i.e., to tie up and render immobile large bodies of regular soldiers and weaken their morale by waging a successful war of nerves. Though the military aim outlined above is basic, there are many Guerrilla operations conducted in which motives and purposes differ. For example, the motive of Soviet Guerrillas against the Germans during World War II was primarily to harass the German Rear and function as an intelligence agency. This objective varied from the motives of Ho-Chi-Minh of Indo China and Mao-Zedong in China, where their purposes were to overthrow the ruling government. Islamic fundamentalists are waging their war to establish their own brand of 'pure' Islamic religion.

There are certain characteristics identified with a Guerrilla Operations i.e., the exploitation of an unstable political situation, the gaining of popular support amongst the masses and the emphasis on the certain principles of war like concentration of force, advantageous use of the terrain and the effective use of the element of surprise. Of these, the political situation is of prime importance. No Guerrilla Warfare can be sustained without a political objective popular among the mass of people. Mao-ze-Dong states "If Guerrilla Warfare is without a political objective, it must fail. But, if it maintains a political objective which is incompatible with the political objective of the people there by failing to gain their support, then this too must fail". As opposed to a professional soldier, a Guerrilla is basically a civilian from the local population Popular Support once obtained, the Guerrilla becomes a formidable force which may numerically outnumber the Opposing troops, though it may lack in fire power.

There is no scope in the above case for Guerrilla Warfare to develop into a conventional war. The Guerrilla activities ceases the moment the regular troops launch an offensive. There is no example of any Guerrilla operations during a successful advance of a regular army.

However, once the Guerrilla is fighting an established army, it is only the beginning of a conventional war. As there is no recorded instance of a pure Guerrilla operation in the strictest term of overthrowing a National Government the conversion at a later stage after the weakening of the opposing army to conventional war and physical control is a natural corollary to Guerrilla Warfare.

Thus, Guerrilla Warfare is a phase of Warfare that cannot by itself attain complete victory. China, North Vietnam all started off as Guerrilla operations. But, once the opposing regular army was exhausted, the conventional methods of war were adopted, to gain total victory. This is what happened in Vietnam. The early stages of the guerrilla operations of the Viet Cong had towards the end turned into a full scale conventional war. No amount of Aerial bombing could alter the result.

A number of Guerrilla fighters have made a name for themselves in history and some have achieved almost legendary fame. The last world war produced at least half a dozen such men, the First World War a Lawrence, the South Africa war a De Wet the American civil war Mosby and, of course one can always think of 'Che', Garibaldi and Shivaji. In contrast, not a single anti-partisan fighter had made a name for himself. This clearly sums up the fact as to the almost total invincibility of a Guerrilla Operation. But on the positive side it must be said that it is only now the real menace of Guerrilla Warfare is being understood.

The western democracies and India including Russia and China are confronted with a new development - the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Countering it will be the challenge of the 21st century.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guerrilla Warfare, Democracy, and The Fate of The Confederacy

One of the most enduring explanations for why the confederacy lost the Civil War asserts that the Rebels were too democratic. First proposed by David H. Donald as a variation on a theme by Frank L. Owsley, it has survived, with some modification by recent scholars, as a viable part of most multicausal explanations of Confederate defeat. To date, the argument has rested largely on the supposed political blunders of the central government, in its indelicate handling of issues that infringed on personal liberties or that injured the sensibilities of powerful state politicians, to demonstrate the disruptive effect of Confederate individualism. Occasional references are also made to problems caused by the independent spirit of the Confederate soldier, but these discussions tend to convey a greater sense of pride or respect for this quality than rebuke. Little has been said about how military policy might have been influenced by an underlying tension in Confederate society between democracy and authority, between individualism and discipline, or between popular conceptions of the war and the government's conduct of the war. Conscription, probably the most divisive issue involving individual fights, cut across both social and military lines, but another pivotal military issue eclipsed even conscription: guerrilla warfare. Indeed, guerrilla warfare sparked sharp policy debates in both North and South that affected the outcome of the war in no small way.

Large numbers of common folk assumed from the earliest days of the Confederacy that guerrillas would be an important component of their nation's military force. This is not to say they underestimated the role to be played by conventional soldiers, for even the least militarily knowledgeable Rebels sensed that independence could not be won by fighting an exclusively irregular contest. Rather, they believed that guerrillas could help win the war, and many men wished to contribute to Confederate victory in that way. They saw guerrilla warfare as a freewheeling, unfettered, grassroots style of fighting that suited southern tendencies toward individualism and localism. Like the Europeans who had associated the guerrilla style with "natural man" since the eighteenth century, Rebel advocates also thought of it as "natural," almost primordial. For Confederates, guerrilla warfare was not democratic: in any political sense, in that it was not based on philosophical musings about republican values, but it exemplified democracy in a social, Tocquevillian sense, whereby equality and individual action formed the impetus for a "people's war".

Yet, for two reasons this popular enthusiasm for a democratic uprising ran amok almost from the start. First, the original guerrilla war produced a pair of nasty mutations--community vigilantism and outright outlawry--that made Rebel noncombatants the victims, rather than the beneficiaries, of this people's contest. Earlier advocates be came disillusioned when the guerrilla struggle, feeding off its own excesses, began to hurt those it was supposed to defend more than it helped them. Second, Confederate political and military leaders, tied to traditional, hierarchical forms of social and military organization, were suspicious of the guerrilla war's grassroots origins and feared the consequences of such an unregulated mode of fighting. In a sense, the transformation of the original guerrilla war from a useful means of local defense and voluntarism into a rapacious free-for-all justified their doubts and fears, but Confederate leaders added to the chaos by first underestimating and then failing to harness its passionate energy.

None of this is to suggest, as have some historians, that the Confederacy fell because it failed to mount a more vigorous guerrilla contest. Yet the opposite position--that the guerrilla struggle was a mere "sideshow" that had little bearing on the outcome of the war--also misses the point. Scholars only began to appreciate the extensive social and political implications of the Confederacy's guerrilla war in the 1980s. Since then, they have presented increasingly sophisticated appraisals of the structure, organization, composition, and motivation of guerrilla bands, the roles of southern civilians in the irregular war, and the impact of guerrilla warfare on communities. The guerrilla war has emerged as a war unto itself, a war with its own rules, its own chronology, its own turning points, and its own heroes, villains, and victims. At the same time, it also formed part of the wider war. It influenced the strategy and logistics of conventional campaigns, the political culture, the morale of soldiers and civilians, the southern economy, and ultimately, the very nature of the conflict. Insofar as it evolved in unexpected ways and lurched out of the control of leaders and civilians alike, the guerrilla war weakened the Confederacy and became an important factor in Confederate defeat.

The guerrilla war began almost spontaneously, as befits a people's war. The guns in Charleston harbor had scarcely cooled before Rebels from the Atlantic coast volunteered to lead "guerrilla," "partisan," "ranger," and "independent" companies against the enemy. One Rebel urged Confederate secretary of war Leroy Pope Walker to authorize "a guerrilla service" in western Virginia, where several bands of irregulars had already formed. "I am deeply interested not only in defeating the enemy," this man emphasized, "but in whipping him by any and all means and as speedily as possible." A Louisianian explained the advantages of posting "a regiment of mounted men, on the guerrilla order," in the southern parishes of his state. "I can get the sturdy men of our State, besides 100 or 200 Indians," he declared. An Alabamian asked Walker's permission to raise a company that would wage war "without restraint and under no orders." He reasoned, "We have a desperate enemy to contend with, and if necessary must resort to desperate means." Governors got the message, too. A Tennessean urged Isham G. Harris to wage a "guerrilla war" by flooding the countryside "with armed men to repel the enemy at every point." A "more deadly and destructive antagonism," he stressed, "could not be raised to repel the invaders."

Even in the farthest reaches of the country, areas too often ignored by Civil War historians, Rebels prepared for a guerrilla conflict. In Colorado Territory, irregulars hatched plans during the summer of 1861 to stockpile weapons and launch raids against vulnerable minting establishments and ranches--gold and horses being of nearly equal value to the new Confederate nation. As the war progressed, these westerners attacked Union mail trains and expanded their activities into New Mexico. In California, Unionists begged U.S. secretary of war Simon Cameron for help in August 1861. Rebels--desperate men who were "never without arms"--controlled the state government, the petitioners wailed. The ruffians devoted all their energy to "plotting, scheming, and organizing," insisted the loyal citizens, and it would not be long before "[t]he frightful scenes ... transpiring in Missouri would be rivaled by the atrocities enacted upon the Pacific Coast."

Everyone knew about Missouri, where the most bitter of all guerrilla contests had already broken out. In fact, the instinctive way in which Missourians and other westerners grabbed their muskets and squirrel rifles helps to explain the popularity of the guerrilla war. Some people saw this irregular activity as a brand of western warfare that grew from the region's frontier heritage. Many westerners, even in 1860, still lived beyond the effective rule of courts and legislatures. They had grown accustomed to settling their own feuds, and they were not squeamish about resorting to vigilante justice. Much has been written about the tendency of southerners generally toward violence, but southerners on the frontier--especially unmarried young men inhabited a world that exacerbated their aggressive tendencies. The Missouri-Kansas border war of the 1850s represented just one of the many "Wars of Incorporation"--including land wars, Indian wars, and open brigandage--waged west of the Mississippi River during the antebellum years. Indeed, this was one region where northern settlers, as demonstrated by the jayhawkers of Kansas, matched southern predilections for guerrilla fighting.

Yet this spontaneous eruption of irregular warfare was not limited to the West. People all along the North-South border, in Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, and Virginia, embraced it. These states, like those beyond the Mississippi, had been up for grabs politically during the secession crisis. Virginia and Tennessee had been among the last states to join the Confederacy, while Kentucky and Maryland never did enter the fold. The border region thus came to represent a different sort of "frontier," unmistakably associated with the idea of guerrilla war in the eyes of new Confederates. Here is where they would have to rally and turn back the invading Federals: even guerrilla bands from the Deep South volunteered "for border service" during the spring and summer of 1861. A South Carolinian, for example, raised a hundred men "to be employed on the border" as "destructive warriors," and similar offers came from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

Most wars begin without the opposing sides knowing what to expect. Neither citizens nor even the soldiers can fully anticipate how a contest will be fought or what their roles will be. As a result, the spontaneous, sometimes desperate border clashes in the early months of hostilities quickly defined for most southerners the nature of the struggle. Journalist Murat Halstead reported from Baltimore, "Occurrences so suggestive of assassins behind the bushes, gives a smack of the excitement of real war.... "Another citizen confirmed the determination of Marylanders to strike at the Yankees by whatever means possible. "As soon as they begin the retreat through Maryland the people will rise upon them," he pledged. In Missouri Thomas C. Reynolds, the pro-Confederate lieutenant governor, informed Jefferson Davis that he and other "Southern men" vowed to throw Missouri "into a general revolution" and oppose the Federals in "a guerilla war," until sufficient numbers of Confederate troops reached the state.

As Union armies pushed the border farther south, threatening communities and citizens with immediate violence, more Confederate citizens resisted. Edmund Ruffin, the quintessential Rebel, who legend says fired the first shot of the war at Fort Sumter, wrote from Virginia in late June 1861, "Guerrilla fighting has begun, & with great effect, near Alexandria & also near Hampton. Some of our people, acting alone, or in small parties, & at their own discretion, have crept upon & shot many of the sentinels & scouts. It is only necessary for the people generally to resort to these means to overcome any invading army, even if we were greatly inferior to it in regular military force."

When Federal troops menaced the coast of his beloved South Carolina, the novelist and poet William Gilmore Simms recommended that the army assign ten men from each company to guerrilla operations. "[H]ave them ... painted and disguised as Indians," Simms urged the local Confederate commander, and arm them with "rifle, bowie knife & hatchet." Plenty of men in the army, he assumed, were familiar with Indian warfare. "If there be any thing which will inspire terror in the souls of the citizen soldiery of the North," reasoned the poet-strategist, "it will be the idea that scalps are to be taken by the redmen." The fifty-five-year-old Simms, too old and sedentary to embark on active service himself, nonetheless urged all Confederates to join the fray in some fashion. "Every body is drilling and arming," he observed with satisfaction on July 4, 1861. "Even I practise with the Colt. I am a dead shot with rifle & double barrel.... Our women practise, & they will fight, too, like she wolves."

The widespread excitement had become palpable by that first summer of the war. "All persons that feel inclined to go into guerrilla or independent service," declared an Arkansas newspaper in July 1861, "will rendezvous at Little Rock." Volunteers should be prepared for immediate action, with "a good horse, a good double-barrel shot gun, and as well supplied with small arms as possible." That same month, recruitment posters went up in Hanover County, Virginia, for the Virginia and North Carolina Irrepressibles. "We are to WEAR CITIZENS' CLOTHES and to use such arms as we can furnish ourselves," promised the notice, "to serve during the war ... without pay." De Bow's Review predicted that, in addition to its magnificent armies, the Confederacy must be prepared "on proper opportunities to pursue that desultory partisan method of warfare before which invading armies gradually melt away." Indeed, De Bow's insisted that should the war prove to be a long one, with the enemy gaining ground in the South's interior, the nation's "chief reliance must be on irregular troops and partisan warfare."

American history also shaped thinking about the type of war to expect. Southerners justified secession in 1860 by insisting that northerners had abandoned the governing principles forged in the American Revolution and the spirit of government defined in the U.S. Constitution. Similarly, the secession movement and the creation of a Rebel government inspired comparisons between the Confederate straggle for independence and the war waged by England's American colonies some fourscore years earlier. Confederate editorialists, orators, and pamphleteers used this theme time and again to rally the populace. "Who can resist a whole people, thoroughly aroused, brave to rashness, fighting for their existence?" asked a Virginian. "This revolution is not the work of leaders or politicians," elaborated a Tennessean. "It is the spontaneous uprising and upheaving of the people. It is as irresistible as the mighty tide of the ocean...."

For many Rebels the Revolutionary heritage of a "People's War," as they were calling the current conflict by October 1861, included guerrilla fighting. Southerners, like most mid-nineteenth-century Americans, believed that their ancestors had defeated Great Britain not with the well-drilled, well-disciplined Continental army, but with the ragtag, defiant militia that operated in critical situations as irregulars. Although modern historians have shown that this was not the case, ardent Rebels had their own version of the past. "The scenes attendant upon the retreat of the British army from Concord and Lexington in the days of the Revolution should be reenacted to the last degree," insisted one Confederate. "Every man, woman, and child should rise in arms along the line of the retreating foe, and enforce by terrible illustration the lesson to the frightened outlaws how fearful the vengeance of a people armed in the holy cause of liberty...." 

American colonists had fought as "partizans"--the common name for guerrillas in the eighteenth century--in every theater of their war for independence but nowhere with more success or deadly effect than in the South. The exploits of Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, Daniel Morgan, and Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee had become legendary by 1860. Both Yankees and Confederates saw themselves as the heirs of Revolutionary "minutemen," a tradition that most often played itself out, as it had during the War for Independence, with amateur soldiers forming conventional armies. As the South braced for an invasion by vastly superior numbers--again, just as in 1776--the intangible association of amateur minutemen with partisan resistance had a particularly dramatic impact on Confederate assumptions about how to fight.

Is Afghanistan the Grave Yard of the Conventional Armies?

Afghanistan is a small landlocked country in South Central Asia. It is an inhospitable land with extreme climate. But its strategic location cannot be underestimated, as it is the key to domination of south Asia. Afghanistan has over the last six decades been a cradle of some form of anarchy and limited war. After the overthrow of King Zahir Shah in 1973, the communists under guidance of the Soviet Union took over from 1979. The Americans were alarmed at this extension of Russian influence and took steps to counter the Soviets. The result- they created a Muslim fighting force or mujahidin who engaged the soviet army. The red army soon brought in attack helicopters and guns and tanks to counter the American trained and inspired mujahidin. Pakistan under Gen Zia became the conduit for this operation.

The Russian army fighting without the support of the locals was doomed to failure. Mao's dictum of a war without popular support being un- winnable held true and the Russian armies suffered heavy casualties. Their afghan minions also failed to resist the Taliban coupled with the mujahidin and had soon to be written off. Amin and Najib the soviet puppets failed to get grass root support, as America fueled a religious war against the Soviets. The classic elements of guerilla operation were all in evidence as the mujahidin attacked outposts of the Soviets and over ran them. They then evaporated into the high mountains when reinforcements arrived. The Russians soon realized that the war in Afghanistan could not be won and decided to withdraw. Guerilla tactics of the Taliban bore fruit and the harassed soviet army though not defeated, could not sustain their fight as it became prohibitively costly in terms of loss of manpower and money. The Soviets then decided to withdraw. In a way this disengagement also had a lot to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union itself and its subsequent break up. The departure of the Russians led to the end of guerilla operations and the return to full-scale conventional war. The Taliban and the Mujahidin soon put the soviet trained afghan forces to route and captured Kabul. Little did the United States realize that they had nurtured a snake that would soon turn on them.

Afghanistan under the Taliban stepped back in time and the worst atrocities were inflicted on the people in the name of Islam. A progressive religion was reduced to a mockery of human rights and intolerance. The United States kept aloof and Pakistan exulted in what they saw as 'strategic depth' against arch enemy India. The Taliban thrived as America the champion of freedom for almost 3 centuries stood aloof.

The interpretation of Islam as enunciated by the mullahs required a war against the great Satan -the USA.Hence the diabolical plot of annihilation in New York on 26/11.This act at last galvanized the United States and most of the free world to launch an attack on Afghanistan and the Taliban in particular. The Taliban were defeated and retired into the mountains. The US and NATO forces came in, but lack of a clear cut policy and George Bush Jr. desire to vanquish Saddam resulted in Afghanistan again going off the Radar. This was a fatal mistake, as the Taliban were able to regroup and consolidate themselves with support from some elements of the Pakistan establishment, who still felt more comfortable with the Taliban.

The war is now on and US and NATO allies have realized the gravity of the situation.As Mao has pointed out the guerrilla lives of the land and hence it is important to isolate him from the people. Also the Taliban guerrillas thrive on the power of 'Islam in danger' ploy. This has to be countered.

Militarily the use of airpower can be decisive, more so in Afghanistan where mountains and caves rule the roost. Low flying helicopter gunships with mobile infantry units as well as heavy bombardment both from the air and the ground need to be carried out in a sustained manner. A study of the Vietnam War shows that America lost as what the chiefs of staff demanded ,was never agreed to in full and congress bowing to world opinion always watered down the military requests. This is not likely to happen now as most of the world has realized that the Taliban is threat to all and everybody. It is now incumbent for the United States to lead the attack.

Here a word needs to be mentioned about Pakistan. The United States needs to be vigilant about Pakistan which is the hot bed of support for the Taliban. There are still a lot many people in the Paki establishment who would like to shake hands with the radicals. USA has to beware of this. This war in Afghanistan is not just a military battle but a struggle that may well decide the course of history for the next 100 years.

The NATO forces have to get out into the country side and fight the Taliban on their home turf. Aerial bombardment, heavy arty and heliborne operations are the key to success in Afghanistan. More important is the political resolve to fight in Afghanistan. This resolve may require the execution of cordinated air and military strikes in Pakistan. Pakistan is itself beset by fundamentalism and their plans to export the mujahidin to the Kashmir valley are all linked together. The need of the hour is to join hands with the Indian army to put down the Pakistan proxy war in Kashmir, strike at the roots of training camps and havens in Pakistan and simultaneously launch destructive attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan. In case this three pronged strategy is followed the Taliban can be defeated.Karzai the Afghan president has realized the problem and needs all support.

The war in Afghanistan is certainly winnable but NATO and the USA have to launch a 3 fold policy of attack.Remember the guerrilla can be defeated only at his game and his sanctuaries must be destroyed. The strategy should be to eliminate the Kashmir mujahidin, destroy the training camps in Pakistan and at the same mount operations all over Afghanistan and the tribal areas of NW frontier. The key to winning in Afghanistan is a realization of this three pronged strategy. Once this is followed Afghanistan will not be a graveyard for a conventional army.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vietcong Guerilla Tactics

The Vietcong
The Vietnamese Communists, or Vietcong, were the military branch of the National Liberation Front (NLF), and were commanded by the Central Office for South Vietnam, which was located near the Cambodian border. For arms, ammunition and special equipment, the Vietcong depended on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Other needs were met inside South Vietnam.

Main force Vietcong units were uniformed, full-time soldiers, and were used to launch large scale offensives over a wide area. Regional forces were also full-time, but operated only within their own districts. When necessary, small regional units would unite for large scale attacks. If enemy pressure became too great, they would break down into smaller units and scatter. 

Unlike the main troops, who saw themselves as professional soldiers, local Vietcong groups tended to be far less confident. For the most part, recruits were young teenagers, and while many were motivated by idealism, others had been pressured or shamed into joining. They also harbored real doubts about their ability to fight heavily armed and well-trained American soldiers. 

Initially, local guerrillas were given only a basic minimum of infantry training, but if they were recruited to a main force unit, they could receive up to a month of advanced instruction. Additionally, there were dozens of hidden centers all over South Vietnam for squad and platoon leader, weapons and radio training. To ensure that the guerrillas understood why they were fighting, all training courses included political instruction. 

By the mid-1960s, most main force Vietcong troops were armed with Chinese versions of the Russian AK-47 submachine gun. They also used a range of effective Soviet and Chinese light and medium machine guns, and infrequently, heavy machine guns. In particular, heavy machine guns were valued for defense against American helicopters. 

For destroying armored vehicles or bunkers, the Vietcong had highly effective rocket propelled grenades and recoilless rifles. Mortars were also available in large numbers and had the advantage of being very easy to transport. 

Many weapons, including booby traps and mines, were homemade in villages. The materials ranged from scavenged tin can to discarded wire, but the most important ingredients were provided by the enemy. In a year, dud American bombs could leave more than 20,000 tons of explosives scattered around the Vietnamese countryside. After air-raids, volunteers retrieved the duds and the dangerous business of creating new weapons began. 

Local forces also designed primitive weapons, some designed to frighten intruders, but others were extremely dangerous. "Punji traps" -- sharp spikes hidden in pits -- could easily disable an enemy soldier. Punjis were often deliberately contaminated to increase the risk of infection. 

Guerilla Tactics

In December 1965, Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese leadership ordered a change in a way the war in the South was to be fought. From now on, the Vietcong would avoid pitched battles with the Americans unless the odds were clearly in their favor. There would be more hit and run attacks and ambushes. To counter the American build-up, Vietcong recruitment would be stepped up and more North Vietnamese Army troops would be infiltrated into South Vietnam. 

The Vietcong, following the example of Chinese guerillas before them, had always given the highest priority to creating safe base areas. They were training grounds, logistics centers and headquarters. They also offered secure sanctuaries for times when the war might go badly. 

Hiding the base areas had always been a high priority for the Vietcong. Now, with American spotter planes everywhere, it was more vital than ever to protect them. In remote swamps or forests, there were few problems, but nearer the capital, it was much more difficult. The answer was to build enormous systems of underground tunnels.
The orders coming from NLF headquarters were absolutely clear. Tunnels were not to be treated as mere shelters. They were fighting bases capable of providing continuous support for troops. Even if a village was in enemy hands, the NLF beneath were still able to conduct offensive operations. 

There were complexes big and small scattered across the country. Each villager in a NLF area had to dig three feet of tunnel a day. There was even a standard handbook specifying how tunnels were to be built. The biggest tunnel systems were in the Iron Triangle and the Cu Chi District, only 20 miles from Saigon. 

Chu Chi

The base area at Cu Chi was a vast network, with nearly 200 miles of tunnels. Any facility used by the guerillas -- a conference room or training area -- had almost immediate underground access. Hidden trapdoors led below, past guarded chambers, to long passages. At regular intervals, branches led back to the surface and other secret entrances. Some openings were even concealed beneath the waters of streams or canals. 

At the deeper levels, there were chambers carved out for arms factories and a well for the base's water supply. There were store rooms for weapons and rice, and there was sometimes a hospital or forward aid station. Long communication tunnels connected the base with other distant complexes. 

Base kitchens were always near the surface, with long, carved-out chimneys designed to diffuse cooking smoke and release it some distance away. Near the kitchens were the guerilla's sleeping chambers, where they could survive for weeks at a time if need be. Everywhere on the top level, there were tunnels leading upwards to hundreds of hidden firing posts for defense of the base.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Douhet's Theory and the Failure in Vietnam

Douhet was an Italian who formulated the theory of Air Power. As per Douhet a favorable air situation and strategic bombardment from the air was a recipe for victory in any war. There is no doubt that Douhet was a far sighted man and deserves credit for the formulation of his theory on Air power.

But Vietnam is a different kettle of fish and one wonders whether Douhet was correct in his assumption that air power is the only requisite for a victory on the ground. In Vietnam the United States Air force certainly had a favorable air situation as well as complete control of the skies. In addition the US President Lyndon Johnson had ordered a strategic bombardment of Military targets over North Vietnam.

The United States Air force carried out heavy air bombardment from their bases at Guam and Japan over 'military' targets' in a sustained manner. Yet this favorable air situation and interdiction by the B 52 bombers failed to translate into a positive result on the ground. The Viet Minh supported by the North were able to harry the US Army to a great extant and slowly sapped the will power of the United States to wage a war in hostile environment.

A study of Douhets theory shows that Vietnam was not a test case as the basic ingredients of air power were studiously neglected. Firstly coming to the Bombing of North Vietnam. This by itself was more of a deterrent as the targets were carefully chosen to avoid 'collateral' damage. Moreover Johnson and his coterie chose the targets keeping in mind the prevalent political atmosphere and world opinion which was against the US bombing of North Vietnam.

Thus the US Air force never had a free hand over the targets and the bombing over North Vietnam. Douhet in his theory had not anticipated 'restrictions' in aerial bombardment. Coming to the second point of a favorable air situation in South Vietnam itself.The USAF certainly had the upper hand and had complete mastery over the air. But the terrain consisting of thick tropical jungles, offered a natural camouflage to the enemy which was difficult to track from the air.

Douhets concept of a favorable air situation referred to battle in the conventional sense between opposing armies. The war in Vietnam was guerrilla war and was fought by irregulars. thus it was not a conventional war as the enemy could be any one or any body and the US army on the ground was hard pressed to distinguish between friend and foe.

The solution was total war which because of political constraints was ot possible.Hence on the face of it Douhets theory appears suspect in Vietnam. But as it has been pointed out the US never applied Douhets theory in to and thus paid the price for half measures.We must remember that in a modern war there are no stop gaps or ambivalence in any field.Least of all on the battle field.