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The Islamic Insurgency

Thomas Barnett Briefing - click to listen

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You will not be disasppointed
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Nice to see that the United States Marine Corps and LGen James Mattis agree with the idea of the "Islamic Insurgency":



Part of the latest thinking among Marine strategists is the notion that Islamic militant organizations such as Al Qaeda are labeled terrorist organizations when in fact they should be viewed as insurgencies.

In the current draft, the terms "counterinsurgency" and "irregular threats" are used interchangeably. The Defense Department generally characterizes non-state enemies and terrorist cells as "irregular." The Marine Corps will focus on counterinsurgency as one piece of a broader plan to build the new strategy.

Among those threats are organizations such as Al Qaeda, which employ terrorist tactics but also embody many of the characteristics of an insurgency, according to one Marine strategist.

Al Qaeda's transnational networking and a multi-ethnic constituency has the makings of a "spiritually based insurgency that is somewhat different than the Maoist people's war model, which underwrites most counterinsurgency doctrine," wrote Marine Lt. Col. Michael F. Morris in a March 2005 research paper at the U.S. Army War College.

The dangers Al Qaeda pose flow from its willingness to employ weapons of mass destruction, its global reach and its focus on targeting America, Morris noted. But, more importantly, Al Qaeda's strength lies in its "revolutionary and expansionist ideology."

The size of Osama bin Laden's organization, its political goals, and its enduring relationship with a fundamentalist Islamic social movement, Morris added, "provide strong evidence that Al Qaeda is not a terrorist group but an insurgency."

This form of insurgency challenges the Pentagon's traditional approach to planning wars, Morris argued. Al Qaeda is engaging in a "somewhat leisurely paced guerrilla war," which makes it difficult for U.S. planners to develop a strategic response. "Long term success for the United States will require support for true political reform, a revolutionary cause in itself, among autocratic Islamic governments."

Clearly, at the strategic level, it is recognized that Militant Islamic, especially that represented by Global Salafist thought, is more than a collection of motley terrorists.  Rather than some game of international Thelma and Louise, the USMC is adapting their doctrine to fight a protracted global insurgency aimed at defeating the liberal international order that exists today.
The previous article mentions that the Marine's are taking on a view of a global Islamic Insurgency, and some interesting things are coming out of the Small Wars Laboratory:

I've finally managed to track down the article by LtCol Robert Morris USMC that the article above was based upon.  This article is an indepth look at the "Islamic Insurgency".  I will try to add further comments when I go through the paper.


Some further discussion in the latest issue of Parameters.
Okay, we can try this again.  I fixed this because I like this thread; if anybody messes with this thread I'm simply going to delete their posts.
Just marking my place so I dont lose this thread.  Still reading and evaluating content.  Spicy stuff and good reading!
This is a double post of this article, but I thought I'd through it here as one part is very relevent to this discussion:


07/05/2006 - By Michael Scheuer (from Terrorism Focus, July 5) - Osama bin Laden's speeches on June 30 and July 1 are notable because they portray his confidence and focus, command of the al-Qaeda organization and steady application of a strategy that seeks to prompt U.S. actions that spread U.S. military and intelligence forces in a thinner and more costly manner. They also show the dexterity of al-Qaeda's media arm in producing tapes that are timed to exploit unfolding international events. The speeches were clear, well-informed, forward-looking and taunting. They merit closer examination in the West than such unenlightening headlines as "Bin Laden sounds tired" and "Bin Laden urges war on Iraqi Shias" and "Bin Laden may be injured or dead" suggest they have been given.

Bin Laden's June 30 speech was a formal eulogy for the slain chief of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Bin Laden praised al-Zarqawi as "an intrepid knight, the lion of jihad and a man of resolve and sound opinion" and said that his death was a "big calamity and a grave matter" for all Muslims. He added, however, that al-Zarqawi's death was God's will, and that much of his work had been completed before he was killed. Underscoring al-Qaeda's intention that Iraq serve as a safe haven for launching operations into the Levant, bin Laden said that al-Zarqawi successfully "established a base [in Iraq] for defending religion and regaining Palestine, God willing." He also noted that al-Zarqawi had fully executed the main role of all senior al-Qaeda leaders: instigation to jihad. Al-Zarqawi's leadership in fighting the U.S.-led coalition and its Iraqi collaborators, bin Laden wrote, "encouraged people from all places far and near, including worshippers and sinners, to come and attack them in Iraq" [1].

As important as eulogizing al-Zarqawi, bin Laden used the June 30 speech and part of his July 1 speech to reassert al-Qaeda's priorities in Iraq: making war on the U.S.-led "infidel" forces and their "Iraqi agents," not on Iraqi Shiites; and, making sure the Iraqi insurgency has a thoroughly Iraqi leadership and orientation. In doing this, bin Laden first had to whitewash some of al-Zarqawi's actions, saying, "He was tough on infidels and merciful toward believers." He also made clear that he, Ayman al-Zawahiri and all of al-Qaeda wanted no war with the Shiites at this time unless it is forced on them by the Iraqi Shiite leaders.

"To those who accuse Abu Musab al-Zarqawi of killing some segments of the Iraqi people, I say…Abu Musab, may God have mercy upon his soul, had clear instructions [implicitly, from bin Laden] to focus his fighting on the occupying invaders, led by the Americans, and not to target whoever wanted to be neutral, but whoever insisted on fighting along with the Crusaders against Muslims should be killed, regardless of their sect or tribe. Supporting the infidels against Muslims is one of the 10 things that nullify Islam, as stipulated by scholars" [2].

Bin Laden returned to this theme on July 1 and, in essence, drew a line in the sand for Iraq's Shiites. Implicitly admitting that sectarian animosities in Iraq were beyond his control, bin Laden said that while al-Qaeda's priority was "the expulsion of the crusader armies through fighting them," he and other Sunnis—foreign and Iraqi—ultimately would protect "the defenseless people of Islam in the land of the two rivers [who] are facing genocide by the [Shiite] gangs or rancor and treachery…spread in all sensitive areas in al-Jaafari's previous government. They exist today also in the present government of al-Maliki." The Sunnis would not start a civil war, bin Laden warned, "[but] southern Iraqis cannot participate with the United States and its allies in invading al-Fallujah, al-Ramadi, Baqubah, Mosul, Samarra, al-Qaim and other towns and villages while their areas remain safe from reprisal and harm." Bin Laden then reasserted the Sunnis' live-and-let live position, however, by urging Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, al-Zarqawi's successor, "to concentrate his fight against the Americans and their supporters in their war on Muslims in Iraq" [3].

Also on July 1, bin Laden re-emphasized the overriding importance he attaches to al-Qaeda supporting, advising, but not leading the Iraqi insurgency. Bin Laden has long argued that for Islamist insurgencies to succeed, they must be led by the nationals of the country at war. This is the same point al-Zawahiri made to al-Zarqawi in a July 2005 letter, and which was acted on earlier in 2006 when al-Zarqawi was demoted from being the leader of the Iraqi insurgency to its military commander [4]. Building on Abu Hamza al-Muhajir's June 13 statement that "God has been very generous and bountiful by granting us gallant and hospitable brothers who have gathered with us in the Mujahideen Shura Council and have given the best example and have become the best support. We have taken vows to support each other…," bin Laden urged al-Muhajir "to strongly remain in the Mujahideen Shura Council. Disagreement is full of evil. Union is mercy, but division is nothing but plight" [5].

The remainder of bin Laden's July 1 speech focused on bracing the Iraqis to ignore Baghdad's amnesty offers and complete the defeat of the U.S.-led coalition and on what he described as the new U.S. threat to Islam that is emerging in Somalia. The cause of "the great calamities that befell the land [Iraq]," bin Laden said, "is the Crusader's entry and occupation of the country with the connivance with the leaders of the parties that encouraged them to invade Iraq and that called on their followers to join the services of renegade governments which were installed by America, such as the government of Allawi, al-Jaafari, and al-Maliki…" Bin Laden called on all Iraqis "not to be deceived by the parties and groups that entered and participated in these governments." To do so, he said, would be "like the stupid man who tries to persuade wolves to stop devouring sheep. This can never happen." The only salvation, bin Laden concluded, "is by holding to God's tether, getting together, avoiding disunity and upholding jihad…Your swords are your fortresses" [6].

Speaking to Somalis, bin Laden said "you can survive only by upholding Islam and being one [in] hand with the Islamic Courts…" He urged them to avoid negotiations with Somali General Abdullahi Yusuf's Baidoa-based government. "There must be no dialogue…except with the sword," he said. "Don't waste time. Fight them immediately." Yusuf is a U.S. agent, bin Laden argued, and will be used to further the thinly disguised U.S. war on Islam. He continued:

"Preparations for sending [international] military forces to Somalia upon America's instructions are part of this context, claiming that it is meant to help the people of Somalia and to establish security there. By saying so, they would be lying.

"Somalia has been suffering from tribal feuds since the defeat of the United States in it several years ago. Can any sensible person believe that they have discovered this tragedy today? Or is the real reason that the Islamic Courts have controlled the capital and imposed its influence on most of the important areas and are now striving to establish an Islamic state.

"We cannot possibly understand the reason for the arrival of any military forces in Somalia from whatever state, even if it is claimed that they are Islamic, other than as a continuation of the Crusade against the Islamic world. We warn all countries of the world against responding to America by sending international forces to Somalia" [7].

Clear but unspoken in the speech was bin Laden's attempt to goad the United States into another intervention in the Muslim world. Having seen Washington rush to become involved in a potential UN-led intervention in Darfur after he threatened jihad in that Sudanese region, bin Laden would clearly welcome U.S. involvement on the ground in Somalia and his July 1 speech deliberately throws the gauntlet down at the Bush administration's feet. Not only would such an action be seen as a U.S. attack on Islam across the Muslim world, but it would fit perfectly into al-Qaeda's bleed-America-to-bankruptcy strategy by contributing to the spread of U.S. military and intelligence assets to as many different Muslim countries as possible.

Taken together, the two speeches strongly suggest that bin Laden remains in control of al-Qaeda. The appointment of Abu Hamza al-Muhajir—reportedly a former member of al-Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad—to succeed al-Zarqawi is clearly meant to curtail the excesses of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Bin Laden's words also reassert traditional al-Qaeda policies: no war with Shiites unless the Shiites force it; the subordination of al-Qaeda fighters to local leadership; and mujahideen unity in face of the pending U.S. withdrawal.

The speeches also show that bin Laden is more than adequately informed about breaking world events. Beyond Iraq, bin Laden's discussion of Somalia not only laid a trap for the United States—as he did regarding Darfur—but warned Somali Islamists of the dangers of international intervention just a day before the African Union agreed in principle to field such a force.


1. "Bin Laden Mourns Al-Zarqawi's Death," http://www.tajdeed.or.uk, June 30, 2006.
2. Ibid.
3. Osama bin Laden, "To the nation, in general, and the mujahideen in Iraq and Somalia, in particular," http://www.muslim.net, July 1, 2006.
4. Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi, http://www.dni.gov, October 10, 2005.
5. "Statement by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir," The Mujahideen News, June 13, 2006.
6. Osama bin Laden, July 1, 2006.
7. Ibid.

The highlighted part underscores what I believe to be a central tenet to the idea of the Islamic Insurgency; namely that Al Qaeda has become a movement as opposed to an organization and that it is the prime force behind for conflict.  Sure, there are many other reasons that opponents of the West are attracted to organizations that attack military and/or civilians throughout the globe, but the inertia comes from this movement.  We see a strategic nod to this idea in bin Laden's speech; he acknowledges that the insurgency will be local and decentralized, that Al Qaeda can provide a web of support, and that disparate operations from Manila to Ramadi to a basement in Toronto serve an ultimate strategic end.
Finished reviewing the material.  I have four questions to throw out there for debate:

1) Correct me if I am interpreting this incorrectly, but the 'counterinsurgency' concept is based on the idea of creating an indigineous 'pro-government' force to counteract the indigineous 'anti-government' force? 

2) If UBL is still thought to be strongly in control of AQ (according to previous article), why did the government just dissolve the special team tasked with finding and capturing UBL, when the reason for said dissolution was that UBL was no longer in charge of the AQ?

3) Why is there such a strong emphasis on changing the perception of the world general population that Iraq is not part of the 'war on terrorism' but a 'war against insurgency', especially since the said insurgency didnt exist until after the US 'liberated' the Iraqi people?

4) Why does everyone keep saying that Powell's Doctrine was incorrect, when the most likely problem is that it was applied incorrectly?

Due to the over-inundation of material, some of which contradicts each other, I find these questions to be of importance and should be clarified.  There appear to be a lot of 'political manipulation' overtones when you read between the lines. 

(Mostly I want to avoid being pounced on for misinterpreting some text)
Keeping with the flavour of a global insurgent movement, this article by Ahmed Rashid, definately a SME on the region who was covering it before most could put it on the map, puts the 5 year war in perspective.  Disheartening, as much seems to ring true on the strategic level.


Losing the War on Terror
Why Militants Are Beating Technology Five Years After Sept. 11
By Ahmed Rashid
Monday, September 11, 2006; Page A17

LAHORE, Pakistan -- In the five years since Sept. 11, the tactics and strategy of Islamic extremists fighting U.S. or NATO forces have improved dramatically. To a degree they could not approach five years ago, the extremists are successfully facing off against the overwhelming technological apparatus that modern armies can bring to bear against guerrillas. Islamic extremists are winning the war by not losing, and they are steadily expanding to create new battlefronts.

Imagine an Arab guerrilla army that is never seen by Israeli forces, never publicly celebrates victories or mourns defeats, and merges so successfully into the local population that Western TV networks can't interview its commanders or fighters. Such was the achievement of Hezbollah's 33-day war against Israeli troops, who admitted that they rarely saw the enemy until they were shot at.

Israel's high-tech surveillance and weaponry were no match for Hezbollah's low-tech network of underground tunnels. Hezbollah's success in stealth and total battlefield secrecy is an example of what extremists are trying to do worldwide.

In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban have learned to avoid U.S. and NATO surveillance satellites and drones in order to gather up to 400 guerrillas at a time for attacks on Afghan police stations and army posts. They have also learned to disperse before U.S. airpower is unleashed on them, to hide their weapons and merge into the local population.

In North and South Waziristan, the tribal regions along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, an alliance of extremist groups that includes al-Qaeda, Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, Central Asians, and Chechens has won a significant victory against the army of Pakistan. The army, which has lost some 800 soldiers in the past three years, has retreated, dismantled its checkpoints, released al-Qaeda prisoners and is now paying large "compensation" sums to the extremists.

This region, considered "terrorism central" by U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, is now a fully operational al-Qaeda base area offering a wide range of services, facilities, and military and explosives training for extremists around the world planning attacks. Waziristan is now a regional magnet. In the past six months up to 1,000 Uzbeks, escaping the crackdown in Uzbekistan after last year's massacre by government security forces in the town of Andijan, have found sanctuary with al-Qaeda in Waziristan.

In Iraq, according to a recent Pentagon study, attacks by insurgents jumped to 800 per week in the second quarter of this year -- double the number in the first quarter. Iraqi casualties have increased by 50 percent. The organization al-Qaeda in Iraq has spawned an array of new guerrilla tactics, weapons and explosive devices that it is conveying to the Taliban and other groups.

Moreover, efforts by armies to win the local citizens' hearts and minds and carry out reconstruction projects are also failing as extremists attack "soft" targets, such as teachers, civil servants and police officers, decapitating the local administration and terrorizing the people.

No doubt on all these battlefields Islamic extremists are taking massive casualties -- at least a thousand Taliban have been killed by NATO forces in the past six months. But on many fronts there is an inexhaustible supply of recruits for suicide-style warfare.

Western armies, with their Vietnam-era obsession with body counts, are not lessening the number of potential extremists every time they kill them but are actually encouraging more to join, because they have no political strategy to close adjacent borders and put pressure on the neighbors.

Militants from around the Arab world and even Europe are arriving in Iraq to kill Americans. Yet the United States refuses to speak to neighbors Syria and Iran, which facilitate their arrival.

Hundreds of Pakistani Pashtuns are joining the Taliban in their fight against NATO. Yet NATO has adopted a head-in-the-sand attitude, pretending that Afghanistan is a self-contained operational theater without neighbors and so declining to put pressure on Pakistan to close down Taliban bases in Baluchistan and Waziristan.

If this is indeed a long war, as the Bush administration says, then the United States has almost certainly lost the first phase. Guerrillas are learning faster than Western armies, and the West makes appalling strategic mistakes while the extremists make brilliant tactical moves.

As al-Qaeda and its allies prepare to spread their global jihad to Central Asia, the Caucasus and other parts of the Middle East, they will carry with them the accumulated experience and lessons of the past five years. The West and its regional allies are not prepared to match them.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, is the author of "Taliban" and "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia."
So he's wrong then?

On another note - it seems that invading Northern Pakistan would have served more good than invading Iraq if we're picking real estate....
He's wrong. Who says we arent operating in N. Pakistan now ?

Frontier Rules

September 12, 2006: Pakistani officials admitted that American commandos have permission to enter Pakistan, if they are in hot pursuit of al Qaeda or Taliban leaders. This happened as recently as January of this year, in an incident that made it into the media, but just as quickly disappeared when Pakistani authorities declined to make an issue of it. It's also an open secret that American operatives (from the CIA, NSA and SOCOM) operate informant networks among the tribes on the Pakistani side of the border. These people are often spotted moving about with their Pakistani counterparts.
tomahawk6 said:
Pakistani officials admitted that American commandos have permission to enter Pakistan, if they are in hot pursuit of al Qaeda or Taliban leaders.

Damn caveats.  Fat lot that will do to stem recruits heading into the Khandahar region.  Then again, I'm unsure of what, if any effect, putting an infidel army in Waziristan would do asides from making it less of a journey for them....  :-\
Right now we are walking a tightrope with Pakistan. Musharref is having to deal with these fundamentalists in stages. Too much pressure and he runs the risk of having a civil war. The Army has been engaged in Baluchistan to put down a rebellion there. His forces recently killed the leader of the rebellion in an airstrike.
A small footprint is our best approach to getting the AQ/Taliban leadership. A major footprint like the Russians had would only inspire an uprising against us. There is not an endless supply of jihadists willing to throw away their lives. We are fighting a war of attrition all we need to do is have the will and patience to win. The other guys have every incentive to dissuade us from the mission. They want us to go home. We do that and they win by default.

Ont thing which strikes me is while the insurgents have "safe havens" we do not. Would it not make a certain amount of sense to take , say a battalion of Afghan National Army troops and bring them to WATC for some intensive training where they do not run the risk of being killed in their own homes? How about sending platoons of Afghan police to the RCMP depot for police training?

This has the additional effect of removing them from local politics and corruption for their period of training, while a six month to one year absence should not take them that far out of the loop. This does not seem like a difficult proposition, and it could be extended to teachers, technicians, doctors, accountents and other skilled people needed to do the development "D". As well, there is no reason for the soft "D" people to be flung into Kandahar, putting them into action in the more settled areas of Afghanistan would pay huge dividends.

I would personally say a more "Anglosphere" approach is needed rather than an "all Canadian" solution, the battalions of Afghan troops (and others, I would extend the model to Iraq as well) should be trained by the Marines and indoctrinated with "The Few, The Proud" attitude rather than any sort of tribal affiliations. (The Gurkhas, from what I have seen do not seem to be "tribal", but fully integrated members of their Regiment).

Just a bit of blue sky thinking on my part.

"For the Gurkhas, their Regiment is their tribe so to speak."

Which could pay dividends, if such a thing were to happen now.  Units fight better when there is a very close bond. 
The Americans learned this fast in the Revolution.  They would take regions and form units out of those, as they formed much better fighting units.

In the Chance the Afghans in the Army dont want to break with the Tribe mentality, they should treat their regiment (or whatever) as their tribe.  If tribes are what is familiar to them, let them keep them, but make sure it used to our advantage.
a_majoor said:
............. Would it not make a certain amount of sense to take , say a battalion of Afghan National Army troops and bring them to WATC for some intensive training where they do not run the risk of being killed in their own homes? How about sending platoons of Afghan police to the RCMP depot for police training?

This has the additional effect of removing them from local politics and corruption for their period of training, while a six month to one year absence should not take them that far out of the loop. This does not seem like a difficult proposition, and it could be extended to teachers, technicians, doctors, accountents and other skilled people needed to do the development "D". As well, there is no reason for the soft "D" people to be flung into Kandahar, putting them into action in the more settled areas of Afghanistan would pay huge dividends.

I agree with your proposal, but question how these people would be paid.  They are paid a fraction of what we would call minimum wage, and I am sure that their Government would not compensate them more, for such training here.  They would of course be billeted in barracks and fed in Mess Halls, but would not be able to afford such things as visits to Canex, Drug Stores, Dept Stores, etc. even for the most basic of items.  Any Tourist activities would definitely be out of the question.   The cost of transporting them would have to be picked up by their Government also.  I like the idea, but can forsee the fiscal restraints that would deem it infeasible without large Grants from our Government.  (Something for the NDP to chew on.  ;D )