Wednesday, July 23, 2014

U.S. Must Rethink Unsustainable Counterterrorism Strategy


Another reason that America's counterterrorism strategy is unsustainable is because the bar has been set too high. It is unrealistic to expect local partners to be interested in or capable of controlling every shred of territory or teeming city where extremists might take root and flower. The primary goal of regimes like this is holding on to power, not making the United States more secure. Accepting this basic truth might allow American policymakers to jettison traditional notions of "victory" and "defeat" that do not apply to the struggle with the form of transnational terrorism created by the ongoing social and political revolutions in the Islamic world. Policymakers and analysts should abandon the quixotic search for a magic number of U.S. forces small enough to be tolerated by the public and Congress but large enough to deter or defeat the extremists. Policymakers need to walk away from the idea that almost every regime or political organization in the Islamic world fighting extremists deserves support. They should realize that the political elites in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere will not suddenly change no matter how long American money flows to them. And, most of all, Americans need to accept the idea that eradicating extremism once and for all is not a realistic objective. 

I think we really need to focus on countering unconventional and political warfare that is being practiced by state and non-state actors.

       Our opponents excel at Unconventional Warfare (UW), Political Warfare (PW), New Generation Warfare, Three Warfares, Psychological Warfare and Propaganda, etc.
      AQ, ISIL/ISIS, Iran, Russia, and China just to name a few
      We do war fighting very well – best in the world
       We need to be able to do something else well in addition to war fighting so maybe countering UW/PW is a necessity particularly to address non-existential threats
       Bottom line is we have to operate effectively across the spectrum of conflict and that includes countering our adversaries who are conducting unconventional and political warfare in a hybrid conflict environment.
       Change the Narrative
      Terrorism is a tactic and a symptom
       Part of subversion and sabotage in UW
      Threats are conducting UW and PW and using terrorism
      Focus on enemy conducting UW/PW and exposing and attacking the enemy’s UW/PW strategy


U.S. Must Rethink Unsustainable Counterterrorism Strategy

By Steven Metz, July 23, 2014, Column
While the world's attention this week was focused on Gaza and Ukraine, security remained precarious in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two lynchpins of America's conflict with transnational terrorism. The recent elections in Afghanistan offered a glimmer of optimism, but neither the Taliban's ability nor its willingness to launch terrorist attacks has abated. There is no sign that the Afghan security forces will someday be able to defeat the movement. Meanwhile, the Iraqi military cannot reverse the advances of ISIS extremists, and there is no sign that a competent, inclusive government will emerge in Baghdad. Iraq and Afghanistan remain stark reminders that America's counterterrorism strategy, developed by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks and largely adopted by the Obama administration, is increasingly ineffective and unsustainable.    

In a nutshell, this strategy sought the ultimate eradication of transnational terrorism, with the lead role played by national governments in the parts of the world where such terrorist groups arose. The United States would help these governments with assistance and training, and use the American military as a temporary backup when local security forces couldn't handle the job. Unfortunately, the strategy was born with deep flaws that become more and more evident over time. It incorrectly assumed that the states at the front line of the struggle shared America's priorities and goals. It overestimated the willingness of the American public to tolerate grinding military operations in far-flung places. And it did not accurately reflect the nature of the threat. 

The architects of the counterterrorism strategy believed that to be effective, terrorists needed explicit or tacit state support. Hence the United States removed regimes, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, that either backed or might back terrorists, and replaced them with governments expected to join the battle against terrorism. What actually happened was the emergence of fluid, transnational extremists, who learned to swarm to a point of weakness anywhere in the Islamic world and then move on if things became too dangerous, elevating traditional guerrilla tactics to a strategy. Old defenses did not work against this new style of enemy. Historically states defeated traditional guerrillas by clearing out and controlling their base areas or homeland. But today's transnational guerrillas have no specific and discernible base area. U.S. strategy remains focused on controlling territory while the enemy has transcended reliance on any specific place.
(Continued at the link below)

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