Thursday, July 5, 2018

An Overview Of Counter Insurgency History

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By Brian Richardson

Throughout history, war has been part and parcel of life. From the Servile War in the BC era to modern engagements in different war theaters, the world has seen a change of conflict strategy and weaponry. War tacticians often like to classify insurgencies as being among the most difficult types of conflict to contain. This article looks at counter insurgency history, mostly from an American standpoint.

There are various types of insurgencies in the modern world. The ones that occur most are terrorism and guerilla warfare. A vast majority of wars that are related to terror take place in semi urban or urban settings. Guerilla warfare, on the other hand, is primarily based in rural places and jungles. Non state actors are the chief perpetrators of these kinds of insurgencies. Counterinsurgency is just a word used to refer to the act of crushing an insurgency or limiting its effects.

These days, most conflicts are concentrated in South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East. For years, the insurgent groups that have been dominant in these regions are Al Shabaab, ISIL, Al Qaeda and rebel organizations that have the intention of toppling governments. A couple of years back, the most recognized insurgent group in Latin America was FARC. Fortunately, it ended its conflict with the government and brought some much needed peace to Colombia when it recently signed a peace deal with the authorities.

Regardless of where most insurgencies emanate from, one truth is that the US army has been involved in counterinsurgency in most of them. Take the case of the Afghan Taliban insurgency, one that the US has countered for decades. Another one to include in the list is the international war on terror.

Insurgency type conflict is not simply confined to the years that followed the new millennium. In the 1960s, America was involved in a bloody battle to eliminate communist fighters who were hell bent on toppling the capitalist Vietnamese regime. It is not generally known who won the Vietnam War, but many pundits have awarded the US a pyrrhic victory. During the same period, America was intent on toppling the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba and funded a militia to fight the Cubans on its behalf.

The operation, which was later billed the Bay of Pigs invasion, was a total loss for the US. The Cuban authorities were well aware of the planned invasion, and had thus mounted proper defenses to counter it. Historians like to bill it as one of the worst disasters in American military and foreign policy history.

Counterinsurgency often has three wide objectives. It is intended to restore security and economic and political stability. It can be best thought of as a solution to restoring normalcy. Whenever there is conflict, civilians lose their lives, political instability kicks in and the local economy falters.

Many authors have written works that are aimed at demystifying this type of conflict. Some of them postulate that as long as the reasons for an insurgency are genuine, it is bound to succeed. Only time will tell if this is true.

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