War, Will and Warlords: An Interview, Part II

July 23, 2012

 

In this second part of a two-part interview by Government Book Talk blog editor Michele Bartram,  Col. Robert M. Cassidy, author of the new, critically acclaimed book, War, Will, and Warlords: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2011, describes the lessons learned after ten years of war in Afghanistan. Click here to read Part I of the interview.

GovBookTalk: In Chapter 5 of War, Will, and Warlords, you refer to Pakistan’s prospects of doing what needs to be done as “hard, not hopeful, but not impossible.”  What role does Pakistan play today in 2012 in this counterinsurgency, and how do you rate these prospects today on the scale of hopeful vs. impossible?

Cassidy: There is currently not much at all to be sanguine about in relation to Pakistan, as it has done the most odious things in terms of regenerating and sustaining the Afghan Taliban and other groups.  And, the Coalition and the international community have allowed Pakistan to get away with this—murders, literally.  Pakistan poses as a friend, but performs as a foe. The Afghan Taliban would have withered away over the last several years of the surge if Pakistan had stopped supporting the regeneration, resting, recruitment, and retraining of militants, improvised explosive device makers, technology, and components in its tribal sanctuaries and in Baluchistan.

Image: Balochistan’s strategic importance. Source: Intellibriefs

Pakistan has employed terrorism and unconventional warfare to ostensibly achieve strategic depth by supporting its proxies in Afghanistan for almost four decades.

However, the United States has not yet crafted a Pakistan strategy that employs its substantial leverage to modify Pakistan’s strategic calculus.  A genuine Pakistan strategy, coupled with unambiguous momentum and perseverance in Afghanistan, could compel Pakistan to alter its strategic rationale and reduce support to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. 

Image: [GovBookTalk] The Haqqani Network,an insurgent group allied with the Taliban and operating on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, is one of the most dangerous groups fighting U.S.-led Coalition forces and the Afghan government. Originating in Afghanistan during the mid-1970s, it was nurtured by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan. Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani lead the group. A reward of $200,000-USD was offered by Coalition forces for information leading to the arrest of Siraj Haqqani. Source: Wikipedia.

The United States needs a strategy for Pakistan, one which is logically and temporally linked and integrated with the imperatives in Afghanistan.  A viable strategy must first recognize that the U.S. does have considerable leverage over Pakistan.  America must demand discernible results for the steady diet of carrots it has been feeding Pakistan for the perfidious abetting of enemies who kill and maim the Afghan and Coalition civilians and military forces trying to stabilize the country in some lasting way.

GovBookTalk: After wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, what lessons has the US military learned about fighting a counterinsurgency campaign— in strategy, training, equipment, communications with locals, relations with coalition nations and neighboring regions?

Cassidy: Let me clarify at the outset that counterinsurgency is not a strategy in and of itself, but more of the art and method of an operational campaign to defeat or neutralize an insurgency.  The first and most paramount thing we should learn is not to unlearn or expunge what we know of previous counterinsurgencies’ best practices.  In 2001-2003 when we undertook those wars, there was very little thinking, knowledge, doctrine, or awareness of the requirements for prosecuting counterinsurgency to a successful conclusion.   The American military was compelled to adapt in the crucible of combat and it ultimately changed over time, and we now see the most seasoned counterinsurgent forces in our history.

Image: [GovBookTalk]: This is an actual PowerPoint slide shown by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in the summer of 2009 to portray the complexity of U.S. strategy. Source: Charles V. Peña. Click on image above to enlarge.

Cassidy: Notwithstanding, it is negligence of criminal magnitude to prepare soldiers with the doctrine, the equipment, and the leadership savvy for countering insurgents only after the fighting has begun.  Also, in many ways and instances, it was the early methods of American military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that helped catalyze support for the insurgencies by alienating large parts of those populations.  Here are some pithy things we should retain:

  • Knowledge empowers and the one who thinks, wins:  analyze and understand the environment.
  • Good counterinsurgency campaigns fully integrate both general purpose and special forces.
  • Start with simple and clear, not convoluted and cumbersome, command and control.
  • Match action and information to address grievances to win the war of ideas.
  • If the insurgency benefits from unimpeded sanctuary, ruthlessly shut this down.
  • Start with the end— what should the indigenous security capacity be when we leave?
  • Show moral rectitude:  kill precisely the insurgent leaders and protect most of the people.

GovBookTalk: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book?

Cassidy: Two things: one, I would have added a chapter that explained how we need to rethink and reframe our relationship with Pakistan after the bin Laden raid; and two, I would have made one more look to minimize any redundancy between the first chapter and the last chapter because the last chapter was something I developed apart from the main manuscript when I was last in Afghanistan during 2011.

GovBookTalk: Did you personally learn anything from writing this book and what was it?   

Cassidy: I deepened and broadened my knowledge about the enduring and deplorable perfidy of the Pakistani ISI in Afghanistan over almost four decades of war in the region.

Image: Pakistan spy chief (right), Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, is head of  the Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, whose headquarters are shown to the left. Source: Jagran Post. [GovBookTalk] Note that the ISI continually denies links to the Taliban and terrorism, in spite of accusations by Coalition allies of ISI ties to the 7/7/2005 terrorist attacks in London, the attempted assassination of President Karzai, the bombing of the Indian embassy, supporting terrorist groups and other acts. Source: The Council on Foreign Relations 

GovBookTalk: Are there additional resources where readers can go for more information, assistance with this topic?

Cassidy: Some useful resources include the websites of the Afghan Analysts Network (AAN), the New America Foundation Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative Policy Paper series, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) [link to Stanford University’s archives of CRS reports], the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), The Council on Foreign Relations  and the U.S. Government 1230 and 1231 reports on the progress in Afghanistan.  Also, they could start with the bibliography of this book.

GovBookTalk: What are the next upcoming projects for you?  

I am drafting an outline for a new book with the draft title of, On Raw War:  The wages of the American way of strategy and war.  This will start with a theoretical chapter that distills the best thinkers on strategy and war and then it will proceed to explore American wars after Vietnam, from the Persian Gulf War up until Afghanistan to assess how practices compared to the theory.

GovBookTalk: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers in parting, a memorable quote?

Cassidy: The Roger Ascham quote in Chapter 1:  “it is a costly wisdom that is bought by experience;” juxtaposed with the famous Bismarck quote that “fools say they learn from experience; I prefer to learn from the experience of others.”

GovBookTalk: Thank you for your insights, Col. Cassidy!
HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN a copy of War, Will, and Warlords: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2011?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

To learn more about America’s involvement in Afghanistan, browse our new Afghanistan Collection of Federal publications.

About the author: Colonel Robert M. Cassidy, USA, is a military professor at the U.S. Naval War College, a senior fellow with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, and a member of the RUSI Advisory Board. His experience and scholarship focus on strategy and irregular warfare. He has served on deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, Egypt, and Grenada. He most recently served as a special assistant to the senior operational commander in Afghanistan in 2011. Colonel Cassidy has published a number of articles and two previous books on stability operations and irregular war:  1) Peacekeeping in the Abyss: British and American Peacekeeping Doctrine and Practice after the Cold War and 2) Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terror: Military Culture and Irregular War. He has a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.


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