FOG HORN

Commentary

08 July 2010

COIN and FOIN for the layman.
By: Sal Palma (Follow me on Twitter.com/Twobirdsflying)
There is a great deal of discussion in the media about winning the hearts and minds. Quite often, the term COIN is used in connection with payments to Afghani farmers to keep poppy off the market. COIN is often presented as a new strategy, or development, specific to the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, which is not true. The term COIN stands for counter insurgency; its antonym FOIN stands for fomenting insurgency. Both of these strategies have been used throughout man’s history. The Roman legions would often engage proxies to undermine or defeat opponents. COIN and FOIN have generally been clandestine tools used by intelligence agencies in situations and under conditions where the sponsoring country finds it undesirable to leave its own footprint. One example of a FOIN operation is the Pakistani sponsored insurgency in the disputed Kashmir region of India. A further example of FOIN includes the funding, training and arming of the Mujahedeen by our own Central Intelligence Agency, in Afghanistan against the Soviet Forces. The fall of Saddam Hussein, in Iraq, created a power vacuum in the region. This void created problems and opportunities for Iraq’s neighbors: Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. With exception of Iran – who is principally Shia, Sunni Muslims govern all of Iraq’s bordering states. Syria and the Sunni states are very interested in seeing Iraq remain a Sunni state while Iran sees Iraq as an opportunity to establish a Shia state. With these two interests at play, Iran foments insurgency in Iraq by using the generally oppressed Iraqi Shia

population as proxies to advance its goal of a Shia Iraq. Iran supplies arms, funds, training and advisors to support a Shia insurgency in Iraq. The situation becomes even more tenuous when Syria and other Sunni states fund, arm, train and support Sunni insurgents. In the middle of this is the legitimate Iraqi government and the United States of America. In an attempt to stabilize Iraq and give the Iraqi government the opportunity to establish its authority and legitimacy, the Iraqi government and the United States of America are engaged in COIN, or counter insurgency operations, to bring about social, political and economic stability. COIN operations exhibit one of two characteristics. One approach, generally considered ruthless, is to use unrestrained military power to destroy the insurgency, followed by a rapid exit from the area; leaving behind no resistance and devastation. The other approach to COIN is a three-phased operation that begins with the use of military force to defeat the insurgents, secure the area to ensure that insurgents do not return and finally empower the bystanders to rebuild politically and economically. The later method is broadly described as “winning the hearts and minds”. Both COIN and FOIN operations carry risks to the sponsoring states and many have backfired. It is beyond the scope of this article to catalog insurgencies. Readers that are interested should research the excellent work done by the RAND Corporation. There are also exceptional monographs written on the subject. Haider A. H. Mullick wrote one such report, Pakistan’s Security Paradox: Countering and Fomenting Insurgencies, The JSOU Press, 2009.

Copyright, Sal Palma dba Twobirds-Flying Publication, 2010. All rights reserved.

FOG HORN

Commentary

08 July 2010

General David H. Petraeus deserves much of the credit for the limited success of U.S. COIN operations in Iraq but he faces a much more difficult task in Afghanistan, where AlQaeda has a significant presence. Although AlQaeda is not a recognized state, it has proven to be quite formidable with “statelike’ capabilities to train, motivate, fund, arm and recruit. To make matters worse, AlQaeda does not have a hierarchical organization, so destroying command and control makes for good press but does nothing to destroy the organization. AlQaed and Associates, or AQA, exhibit the same operational characteristics of retroviruses, which makes them polymorphic. A retrovirus invades the host cell attacking its nucleus. It then destroys the host cells genetic code and replacing it with its own. It then directs the cell to produce proteinaceous strands of itself, which eventually ruptures the host cell releasing its deadly cargo into the cellular milieu. A typical AlQaeda strategy is to send operatives into a region, in many cases using Pashtun recruits from the Pakistani Northwest Frontier Provinces or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, to capitalize on the very powerful tribal relationships. They then destabilize and destroy local governance and their system of justice, imposing their own. To make matters worse Afghanistan and the Pakistani FATA and NFP are so poorly managed that residents rely on their tribal hierarchy for their needs. From a cursory understanding of chemistry, we know that discrete elements will combine only if the compound form is more

stable than their native state. This is the antithesis of the region. Here, for a variety of religio-social dynamics, autonomousness is preferred. In my opinion, establishing a strong centralized government in Kabul is counterproductive in Afghanistan. In order for COIN operations to be successful in the region, military and government policy makers need an Adaptive Counter Insurgency Strategy or ACOIN that specifically address the dynamics of the targeted region. A uniform Afghan COIN strategy will probably not succeed. Although Afghanistan does not represent a vital economic U.S. interest, its geographic and tribal relationships to Pakistan, a nuclear capable state, make it very important to U.S. national security. Pakistan is under attack on two fronts; to the west, AQA and the Pashtun Taliban, and to the east India - who has developed an appetite for military prestige at the expense of feeding its citizens. Success in Afghanistan in crucially important to our national security as well as security in the region, but maybe the key to stability is to allow autonomous regions with a smaller centralized government responsible for economic development and stability. -SP

Copyright, Sal Palma dba Twobirds-Flying Publication, 2010. All rights reserved.