Posts Tagged fourth generation warfare

Strategy: William Lind On How The Taliban Mastered The Operational Art Of Modern Warfare

Excellent little article and it is always cool to check out what William Lind has to say. If you are familiar with the term ‘4th Generation Warfare‘, then you would know that Lind was one of the originators of the concept. So in the world of strategy and warfare, I tend to listen to what guys like this have to say. (read the paper here)

As far as I can tell, the reception of this article is kind of luke warm. Meaning it is debatable, and the guys over at Zen Pundit did a pretty good job of pointing out where Lind was short.

However, I think Lind errs in ascribing too much credit to the Taliban here. A much simpler explanation is that the usually illiterate ANA soldier is a product of the same xenophobic cultural and religious environment that created the Taliban, the Haqqanis, vicious Islamist goons like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or the Afghan tribesmen who slaughtered the retreating garrison of Lord Elphinstone in 1841.

While the Taliban have infiltrators, it remains that many of the “Green on Blue” killings are just as easily explained by personal grievances, zealous religious bigotry, indiscipline, mistreatment by American advisers or Afghan superiors and sudden jihad syndrome. While it is impolitic to emphasize it, Afghan betrayal and murder of foreign allies (generally seen as “occupiers”) is something of a longstanding historical pattern. The Taliban capitalize on it politically but they are not responsible for all of it.

Although I must say that the Taliban have still held out the last ten years, and they are still fighting.  They are also doing all they can to exert influence on the people, hanging out in the shadows and dropping violent hints that as soon as the foreigners are gone that all of those that supported them will be paying the price. That, and the Taliban are doing all they can to show how inept the Afghan government is.(and the government is doing a great job on it’s own of doing that-lol)

But back to this tactic of green on blue. It is a good tactic if the Taliban are able to get individuals into those positions. They either have to ‘turn’ a police or military officer or infiltrate the unit with one of their own. That can be difficult but it is possible.

You also have moles or use pseudo operators to create chaos as well. They can gain valuable intelligence on the enemy or the supporters of the enemy, and give plenty of information to Taliban planners.

The Taliban are also conducting suicide assaults wearing police and military uniforms.  Anything that would create a hesitation amongst the responding forces, or create chaos and confusion during the attack. The end result is very visual and has impact, even if they are not successful. Those attacks show their dedication to the cause (willing to die for it), it shows that they can strike anywhere and the police and military are not able to protect everyone, and it is a reminder to all for when the ‘foreigners’ leave that this is what is in store for everyone.

So maybe Lind should have expanded on all of the little things that the Taliban are doing and have done over the years, that have contributed to their survivability against such a formidable western foe?  They are today’s fourth generation warfare ‘fighters’, much like Al Qaeda or even the cartels in Mexico are. They are small forces that have found ways to combat large forces in the modern era, and survive. In some cases flourish…. So how do you defeat these guys?

Personally, I always default to mimicry strategy for this stuff, just because in the history of warfare, that seems to be what has worked. That you copy what your enemy is doing or what the competition is doing, and add that one little thing to give you the edge over your opponent.

To apply Kaizen to that strategy, and constantly attempt to find weakness in your strategy and plans before the enemy, all so you can modify it and make it better. (destruction and creation–fight dogma Boyd style) You are also looking for weaknesses in your enemy and their strategy, and constantly looking for advantage.

It also takes innovation, and not just adaptation to find that novelty that will give you the edge in the fight. I know many smart folks out there are seeking just that, and I know I am constantly exploring ideas in regards to this interesting and complex problem. I highly depend upon the feedback of the readership here and the knowledge that is out there to help me ‘build my own snowmobiles’, and I am optimistic about the process. It is also a fun thought experiment, to put yourself in the strategist’ or general’s chair, and find your own solutions to defeating these enemies. Check it out and let me know what you think? –Matt


Unfriendly Fire
Posted By William S. Lind
June 27, 2012
The greatest intellectual challenge in Fourth Generation war—war against opponents that are not states—is how to fight it at the operational level. NATO in Afghanistan, like the Soviets three decades ago, has been unable to solve that riddle. But the Taliban appears to have done so.
The operational level of war lies between strategy and tactics. While great commanders have always thought and fought at the operational level, the concept was not formally recognized until the 19th century. As usual, it was the Prussian army that led the way. Some historians think the operational level may have been formalized by Field Marshal von Moltke himself in the Franco-Prussian war as a way to keep Bismarck out of his business. (“Yes, my dear Bismarck, you are in charge of strategy, but you simply must not interfere in operational matters.”)
The U.S. Army did not officially recognize the operational level of war until 1982, but the tsarist Russian army and later the Soviets picked up on it. By 1944-45, the Red Army was as competent at what they called “operational art” as the Wehrmacht. That was never true of the Western allies.

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Strategy: Fourth Generation Warfare And Grand Strategy, By Chet Richards

4GW and Grand Strategy

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