Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Paper - SOF and Private Security Companies

A paper has recently been published in Parameters and posted on the Strategic Studies Institute portal of the U.S. Army that looks at the relationship between special operations forces and private security companies (or private military companies). The paper abstract is below:
"This article examines the potential role of private security companies as part of a global special forces network. It reveals three factors that may influence the utility of such companies: (1) the industry's largely defensive forces; (2) the implications of serving a humanitarian and development clientele; and (3) the challenges of retired special forces personnel moving to the private sector".
The paper - "Special Operations Forces & Private Security Companies" - by Christopher Spearin, was published in Parameters, 44(2) Summer 2014, pages 61-73. Dr. Spearin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Defence Studies of the Royal Military College of Canada located at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Ontario.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Independent Kurdistan?

Kurdistan has been in the news a lot over the past few months as we learn more and more about the struggle in Iraq and Syria. Prior to 2014 few people could accurately place Kurdistan on the map - a geographic area containing Kurds in northwestern Syria, southwestern Turkey, northwestern Iran and northeastern Iraq. This area of the world almost gained its independence shortly after World War I but soon found out it was sold down the river by the European powers. Since then, it has suffered as a minority population in those four countries.

A huge change has taken place for Kurdistan as a result of the current conflict in Iraq. In 2014 the Kurds of Iraq have emerged as the force that will make the difference between the Islamic State being contained or becoming a true nation spanning the greater part of Iraq and Syria.

Up until mid-2014 the Obama administration was reluctant to provide arms, money, equipment, air support, and advisors to the Kurds. Its stance was that any aid to the Kurds should flow through the corrupt and inept central government run by the Shia regime.

During the height of the Iraq War (2006-2007) Vice President Biden was one of the few politicians who thought that Iraq would survive and thrive as a three-state entity - the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds each having an autonomous region. There was little support for that notion; especially from the political right. Some neo-cons have had a change of heart - see a piece entitled "Hello Kurdistan" by Daniel Pipes (September 10, 2014).

Then the rapid advance of the Islamic State and the embarrassing losses of the Iraqi Army turned the tables. The Obama administration was hit in the face with reality; coming to the realization that if the Islamic State was to be stopped it would be largely because the Peshmerga came to the rescue. Soon air support and aid flowed to the Kurds. This aid should continue and efforts should support the independence of an Iraq Kurdistan. This new entity should be welcomed into the world. The United States would finally have a "friend" in the Middle East that we could depend on. The question is - can the Kurds depend on the United States?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

SAMA Contract for Advisors and Trainers in Iraq

With the newly declared commitment on the part of President Obama to form a coalition to fight the Islamic State there is widespread speculation among the civilian firms providing services and support to the Department of Defense on the possibility of lucrative contracts in Iraq and the Middle East in general. The fight against the Islamic State (also referred to as ISIL and ISIS) will likely last for a number of years. The President has said (in a September 2014 nationwide speech) that the U.S. (and the coalition) will degrade, defeat and destroy the Islamic State. Hmmmm. Degrade maybe. Defeat a slight maybe. Destroy? Very unlikely. At any rate, the fight may go on for years and defense contracts in support of the effort are likely to be forthcoming.

One of the first contracts may be to provide advisory and training services to the Iraq ministries of defense and interior. The use of experienced civilian advisors would lessen the need for military advisors to operate in Baghdad - decreasing the overall number of U.S. military in Iraq.

In fact, the defense department has already sent out a "solicitation" for " . . . interested vendors with the capability of performing Security Assistance Mentors and Advisors (SAMA) services in Iraq."

The contracted firm would provide personnel to support the Government of Iraq (GoI) in ". . . administration, force development, procurement and acquisition, contracting, training management, public affairs, logistics, personnel management, professional development, communications, planning and operations, infrastructure management, intelligence and executive development". The advisors would be working at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).

U.S. special operations forces (SOF) previously provided advisors and trainers to the CTS and its subordinate units in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq but these were significantly reduced towards the end of 2011. In early 2013 the President directed the CIA to provide assistance to the CTS in an effort to fight al-Qaida affiliates backing Islamic militant groups in Syria.

The advising mission will likely be similar to the Security Forces Assistance advisory effort that will be in place during the Resolute Support mission that will start in January 2015 in Afghanistan. The SAMA solicitation (W560MY-14-R-0004) was posted on August 11, 2014 on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website. You can read the solicitation online at this link.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Army Closes Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC)

The Demise of the Army Irregular Warfare Center

It appears that the U.S. Army is once again burying the hard-earned lessons learned of counterinsurgency. The same thing happened at the end of the Vietnam War. Forgetting the counterinsurgency lessons of Vietnam (the conventional army wanted to get ready for the Soviet troops that would invade western Europe) would cost us dearly in the early days of Afghanistan and Iraq. Once the army recognized that it was fighting insurgencies in both Afghanistan and Iraq it had to quickly re-learn the doctrine, strategy and tactics of counterinsurgency. The early beginnings of the Counterinsurgency Center (now called the AIWC) had its origins in the need to gather up past COIN lessons learned and disseminate them in a field manual entitled Counterinsurgency (FM 3-24).

The Army is getting rid of the organization that would capture the lessons and educate the force on the past decade of fighting insurgents. On October 1, 2014 the Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC) will close its doors.  The AIWC mission is described below (taken from the AIWC portal):

"The AIWC integrates and collaborates information exchange and analysis for irregular warfare (IW) activities in order to advocate DOTMLPF-P solutions addressing IW capabilities and threats. AIWC synchronizes and assists in the development of IW and Countering Irregular Threats (CIT) enterprise to support a coherent Army strategy that accounts for building partner capacity, stability operations and other pre-crisis activities".

The IW center's focus was on integration, security cooperation, security force assistance, stability operations, and counterinsurgency. As defined by Joint Publication 1-02 (January 2011), "Irregular Warfare is a violent struggle between state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations. IW favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capabilities, in order to erode an adversary's power, influence and will". The five primary activities of IW include Foreign Internal Defense, Counterinsurgency (COIN), Counterterrorism, Stability Operations, and Unconventional Warfare.

The center, at one time it was called the "Counterinsurgency Center" (formed in 2006), is responsible for the development of irregular warfare doctrine (to include counterinsurgency). It had as its leader and staff members of the military community that were knowledgeable on irregular warfare in all its variations. It was recently responsible for the publishing of the recently issued FM 3-24, Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies, May 2014.

It is truly amazing that the Army would close AIWC. Irregular Warfare is the most common type of conflict in the world today. One only has to look around the globe for examples such as Russia's use of hybrid warfare in the Ukraine, the mix of conventional and IW by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the current insurgency in Afghanistan where the Security Force Assistance mission is still ongoing.

It is unknown who will pick up the task of keeping the Army current on irregular warfare and counterinsurgency (perhaps they will leave that to the Navy or Air Force). A more appropriate organization would be the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School. At one time the U.S. Army Special Forces were considered the experts on counterinsurgency. One would have thought that the Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) would have been in charge of writing the 2006 version of FM 3-24. Perhaps the next update will come from SWCS in a few years?

See "Irregular Warfare Center to close Oct. 1", Army Times, September 1, 2014.
Learn more about the Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Unconventional Warfare A Better Option for U.S. Goals

A recent article in Foreign Policy Magazine by Whitney Kassel raises some interesting points on the use of unconventional warfare (UW) to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives. The author provides us examples of how training, advising, assisting, and equipping foreign military forces have yielded less than optimal results for the goals of the United States. The Pentagon calls this providing Security Force Assistance (SFA) to a Foreign Security Force (FSF) . See Security Force Assistance in Afghanistan for an example of SFA at work.

Kassel argues that the White House et al should consider the use of unconventional warfare by Special Operations Forces (SOF). A more accurate consideration would be UW by U.S. Army Special Forces; this military organization is specially trained for UW (see Special Forces training). The example provided in the article is the use of Peshmerga forces in the current Iraq conflict. The Peshmerga, Kurdish security forces, are organized loosely as either part of  the regional security force of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) or one of the militias of various Kurdish political parties in Kurdistan. Read the full article at the link below:

"Send in the Guerrillas", Foreign Policy Magazine, September 8, 2014.