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Counter-Insurgency: OPSEC and Operational Art Paint a Different Picture

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Writer: Dr Rupali Jeswal and Damien Martin
In traditional warfare the objective is to destroy the adversary and occupy the territory, the guerrilla’s aim and objective is to control the population. By using blind terrorism the insurgents win latent support and by selective terrorism they are able to isolate the counter-forces and terrorise the people into silence. Insurgents always start with a cause and nothing else; a counter-insurgent starts with everything else but the cause. Nepalese and Filipino Maoist outfits have long been suspected of providing rhetorical and material support to the CPI(M). Maoists are acquiring weapons through Bangladesh, Myanmar and possibly Nepal. Some members of the Communist Party of Philippines (CPP), one of the major communist insurgent outfits of the world, had met Indian Maoist leaders in Chhattisgarh. Agencies also claimed that CPI (Maoist) cadres are undergoing training in urban guerrilla warfare in different Indian cities


“If I were given an hour to save the planet, I would spend fifty-nine minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it” – Albert Einstein.


This quote shouts out – Knowing what you are dealing with and Plan effectively. The influence on the population of the Naxalites – the “Red Taliban” as they have been called, has noticeably been growing and escalating, adopting tactics of blind and selective terrorism.

The Global Terrorism Index, 2012 reports:
The Communist Party of India – Maoists (CPI-M) by itself is responsible for nearly 45 per cent of all attacks in India. If we include all groups affiliated with the Maoist insurgency, the vast majority of terrorism, which occurs in India, is by nationalists / separatists who are politically motivated. Personal security is an inalienable, fundamental human right; it is also the first primer for the survival and thorough development of a democratic society. Insurgencies and acts of terrorism weaken personal freedom and security of a society, threatening the foundations of a democracy.

Terrorism, like Guerrilla warfare is a method to achieve fear. The battleground though in regards to an insurgency is the relay of information and exploitation of people`s minds. Inspiring local inhabitants with an idea is a difficult tactic to see and combat. That imminent ambush creeps up slowly and by the time it is understood, it's already too late

Security is like oxygen, once you realise it is decreasing, it may already be too late. So the significant role is to understand the importance of prevention and how it can be achieved. We have heard in plentiful the need for good analysis, information and intelligence but we still are unaware of Operational art and Operational design. However, before this comes the need for OPSEC (Operations Security) and what it is. OPSEC is the only discipline that focuses primarily on critical and non-critical information and operation activities. OPSEC is threat driven, we have already seen strategies and tactics which are evidence-based, but evidence is as good as what is in front of you, to see what is not there is where OPSEC comes is most valuable.

We need a correct interpretation of today’s security scenario and the relation to information; there is destabilising diffusion of powers with regional, non-regional and non-state actors. Insurgents, Terrorist Organisations, Crime Syndicates coming together and producing hybrids leading to hyper-accelerated incidents, wars are not new, but with the technological innovation the phenomenon has gained new, diabolical dimensions.

Those that defend everything protect nothing – Fredrick The Great

Terrorism, like Guerrilla warfare is a method to induce fear. The battle for ground in regards to an insurgency is the relay of information and exploitation of people`s minds. Inspiring local inhabitants with an idea is a difficult tactic to see and combat. That imminent ambush creeps up slowly and by the time it is understood, it`s already too late. If you can’t kill an idea how do you counter-ambush it? In order to plan effectively, we must understand what we are dealing with.

The counter approach must be separated into 3 domains:
1. Counter-insurgency        2. Anti-guerrilla warfare         3. Counter-terrorism


Dividing an offensive / defensive strategy into three is imperative for the growth of a successful plan. Counter-insurgency tactics cannot be utilised to combat guerrilla warfare and vice-versa. Guerrilla warfare could be one characteristic of an insurgency, just as terrorism could be. The guerrilla is really the combative element of an insurgency. In order to understand this paradigm, looking at the flow of information is the first step. What information is being disseminated to the locals and what information is being released or acquired by the insurgents? Conversely, what information can be ascertained from the military? What information forces the guerrilla path? What elements forge terrorist action? To exclusively gather insurgent intelligence is insufficient without first protecting the military which is battling the enemy. This safeguard of critical information is done via OPSEC.


The common ground all three of the aforementioned domains share is information. OPSEC as a mindset dates back to Sun Tzu, “If I am able to determine the enemy`s disposition while at the same time I conceal my own, then I can concentrate and he must divide”.


Keeping military information secure and activities unknown to the outside world is Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for any military entity. In the event of an insurgancy in particular, if critical information was obtained it could increase the likelihood of Guerrilla warfare or Terrorism. Nowadays, OSINT and observations of military operations isn't an arduous affair. Regardless of the enemy's resources, the issue lies with the traditional security mind-set, not the information medium.
Too much emphasis is put on the medium not the processes that govern security. The traditional security model looks from the inside OUT, whereas OPSEC looks at the security problem from the outside IN. This idea of thinking as the enemy does, is the cornerstone to comprehending our own vulnerabilities and threats.
The 5 Step OPSEC risk mitigation process (Identify critical information, Analyse the threats, Analyse the vulnerabilities, Assess the risks and Apply counter-measures) applies to operations across the board. The security of operations should not be dictated or restricted by the medium of the information. Information whether it is critical or non-critical is the raw data used to compile useable intelligence. Reducing points of reference, implementing an OPSEC programme and instilling the OPSEC mindset to all military personnel is a necessary step to reducing critical information leakage.

To apply counterinsurgency TTP (Tactics, Tool and Procedures) requires a deep understanding of insurgency, terrorism, guerrilla warfare and its relationship to OPSEC.

Guerrilla Warfare and insurgency have been around as long as recorded history. Guerrillas usually don’t win wars, but their adversaries often lose them.

The Global Terrorism Index, 2012 reports: The Communist Party of India – Maoists (CPI-M) by itself is responsible for nearly 45 per cent of all attacks in India

In traditional warfare the objective is to destroy the adversary and occupy the territory, the guerrilla’s aim and objective is to control the population. By using blind terrorism the insurgents win latent support and by selective terrorism they are able to isolate the counter-forces and terrorise the people into silence. Insurgents always start with a cause and nothing else; a counter-insurgent starts with everything else but the cause.

In the case of the insurgency issues in India, the element of surprise has proved to be the sole right of the insurgents. Success can be attained out of all proportion to the effort expanded by using surprise and in many cases this is just what the insurgents have achieved.

Mao, Lenin and other leaders of global Communism paid a great deal of attention to organisational design and produced doctrinal statements of how Communist insurgencies should be organised. In his 1902 pamphlet “What Is To Be Done?” Vladimir Lenin laid the organisational foundations of modern Communist insurgency. Mao Zedong formalised the strategy and tactics of a protracted guerrilla war among the rural peasantry as a means of extending international Communism, this model has morphed into aboveground and underground and auxiliary features.

So will the final analysis be through explicit agreement of the populace or by mass submissiveness?
What is of importance in war is to attack the adversary’s strategy; the paramilitary or military’s contribution is supportive but not as supportive as political efforts can be for long-term success.
To identify the order of the battle (OoB) the insurgent strategy must be identified, understanding only sporadic encounters does not say much.

In an article Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said, “Security forces have launched large-scale operations in the Maoist strongholds of Jharkhand’s Latehar district”… but conceded it wasn’t going to be easy to clear out the well-entrenched Maoists. “The operations will continue till the Maoists are cleared from this area ... This is expected to be a tough battle since the Maoists are entrenched in this area for decades and are familiar with the terrain.” (http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Jharkhand/Docs-detect-bomb-planted-by-naxals-inside-body-of-killed-CRPF-trooper/Article1-987683.aspx). The home minister said Maoists were employing new tactics but was confident that they may be only able to use this strategy to insert explosives in the body of slain jawans once.

Insurgents obtain information from watching the daily activities of a military base, tapping analogue lines, intercepting non-encrypted emails or speaking to locals – information is key, not the medium

This explanation when analysed shows the obvious, that “clearing-out” just means pushing the issue to another area, unfamiliarity of security forces of the terrain, poor recon, (especially zone recon which is conducted to obtain information on all – the enemy, terrain and routes within a specific zone defined by set boundaries) lack of thoroughness in ORP, OP and ambush tactics.

Yes the Maoist will employ new tactics, inflict brutal violence and precision, it is working of a planned strategic mind-set, they know what they want and how to get it. They are not only logistically better organised and better trained, they are also better motivated and better led. Naxalism has superseded the law and order problem. It has morphed into a continuum of ferocity with fervour. Fervour rests within a deep-rooted cause and an iron will to only move forward.

 

Past reports and excerpts

Army intelligence states a close connection between the Maoists and the terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Nepalese and Filipino Maoist outfits have long been suspected of providing rhetorical and material support to the CPI (M). Maoists are acquiring weapons through Bangladesh, Myanmar and possibly Nepal, according to former Home Minister P Chidambaram, who had expressed government’s willingness for a dialogue with them provided they abjured violence. (The Hindu, “Naxals get arms from abroad: Chidambaram.” October 24, 2009.) http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article38017.ece

“Intelligence sleuths have reasons to believe that some members of the Communist Party of Philippines (CPP), one of the major communist insurgent outfits of the world, had met Indian Maoist leaders in Chhattisgarh. Agencies also claimed that CPI (Maoist) cadres are undergoing training in urban guerrilla warfare in different Indian cities. (2010) http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-04-12/india/28131010_1_maoist-leadership intelligence-agencies-maoist-rebels

On November 11, 2009, contacts told Asia Times Online that the LTTE, defeated in May by the Sri Lankan government after decades of struggle, is training the Maoists in the type of guerrilla war tactics for which the LTTE were known, including surprise hit-and-run tactics and jungle warfare. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KK11Df03.html

Money also comes through West Bengal-Malaysia drug trade route to procure sophisticated weapons such as the AK-47s, landmines and rocket launchers. The Naxalites also indulge in huge extortion from businessmen that extends over the region, also known as the Red Corridor. Poppy and Opium cultivation also figures among the chief sources of funds (Prof S Adhikari in Security Challenges From Naxalism; Centre For Air Power Studies; issue brief August 2012, National Defence and Aerospace Power).

We are aware that the third phase of Naxal activity led to the adoption of protracted warfare strategy. It began with the revival of the movement from 1991 onwards. After the economic reforms from 1991 and the corresponding rapid industrialisation and globalisation, the Naxalite movement with an aim of capturing political power by armed struggle highlighted tribal rights and forest issues (Mao Zedong formalised the strategy and tactics of a protracted guerrilla war among the rural peasantry as a means of extending international Communism into underdeveloped areas of Asia).

In order to implement the various strategies at the tactical level, the government must have a clear political goal. For winning the hearts of the people and implementing security simultaneously, what is needed is the combination of political and military strategy that could eliminate the insurgency.

Naxalism has superseded the law and order problem. It has morphed into a continuum of ferocity with fervour. Fervour rests within a deep-rooted cause and an iron will to only move forward

New “Order of Battle” or “Line and Block chart is overdue, the organisations at all levels require methodology based on Operational art, that is creative thinking, leading to a unifying thought process encouraging the security forces capability goals and operating process. It is also, unity of effort and integrates end ways and means while accounting risks across all levels.

Operational art leads to operational design that is conceptualisation and construction of an intellectual frame for subsequent execution. Operational art and design strengthen strategies and tactics. Operational design takes the creative process of operational art and makes us understand conceptually the complexed operational environment with tactical dilemma in space and time.

In theory, an infinite number of possible goals and courses of action (COAs) exist in any situation, perceptive insight is the combination of analysis and intuition, seeing in parts and whole and combining them in such a way that it leads to new behaviour and response to the true nature of a situation. A commander must be able to see the potential of a manoeuvre but also to envision the future course of action (COA), the 3 elements of Clausewitz’s discussion of coup d’oeil (pronounced koo dwee) lays emphasis on using the perceptive insight with strategic intuition; that is strategy at all levels, deciphering the COA’s and the end state it leads to.

Many incidents of insurgent attacks and the response of the forces have shown that we lack an Operational design and do not understand Operational art. Elements in nature too can influence a tactical operation but only if exploited.

Strategy should also state that porous borders, rapid technological change, greater information flow and the destructive power of weapons now within the reach of small states, groups and individuals, make threats more viable and endanger our values, way of life and the personal security of the citizens. Specifically, a national focal point will be critical to articulate a vision for ensuring Homeland Security.

What is crucial in times of war is to attack the adversary’s strategy; the paramilitary or military’s contribution is supportive in the following ways:

• Psychological operations (PSYOP)
• Military deception (MILDEC)
• Operations security (OPSEC)
• Counterintelligence (CI) operations   
• Counterpropaganda operations
• Public affairs (PA) operations

But not as supportive as political efforts can be for long-term success.

The best way of countering insurgency is learning how to mirror strategy and tactics, turning the negative into the positive via affirmative action.

The critical link between strategy and tactics is operational art. Strategy, operations and tactics routinely affect the dimensions of military conflict, each in a different manner. For instance, the Strategist aims at the enemy centre of gravity, which often is the nation’s will to fight, The operational artist’s centre of gravity is the mass of the enemy’s military force and its ability to command and control its forces. At the tactical level, the battlefield commander has a more limited and proximate perspective and focuses on his immediate foe.

Strategy may dictate whether or not to fight, but operational art will determine tactics.

For a tactician, intelligence is concerned with capabilities; but at the operational level, intelligence is focused on enemy intentions. A tactical commander will use deception to hide his forces; an operational commander will use deception to mask his intentions.

This cognitive approach requires “creative imagination” which rests upon a foundation of both art and science. Science includes the physics of modern warfare. Art, on the other hand, while often informed by science, relies upon intuition, or coup d’oeil. 


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