US Special Forces has some fairly good Unconventional Warfare doctrine to work from as a base.  The concept of using a small 12-man team to infiltrate deep behind enemy lines, train guerrilla forces, and launch of unconventional campaign is a sound one, but one that is only now beginning to be updated, an endeavor which took far too long.  Special Forces is making some positive steps in the direction of modernizing their approach to Unconventional Warfare but they still have a long way to go.  Until Title 10/50 disputes are resolved, Special Forces will never truly conduct covert operations unless they are done so under the auspices of the CIA.  With new UW capabilities left in legal limbo, it may only be a matter of time before some bean counter in the Pentagon, or even within SOCOM, realizes they are spending money on a shiny new toy whose only purpose is to gather dust in garrison and suck up training resources at the Special Warfare Center.

It would be inappropriate to go into the details of these emerging capabilities right now so I will simply wish all the Green Berets out there the best and hope that the bureaucracy wakes up to the potential of Special Forces.  Instead, I’d like to use this space to point towards a few other directions in which Unconventional Warfare can go.  One is in the context of non-violent perception management and gradual cultural re-direction.  Another is financial warfare, but that will have to wait for another time.

Rachel Kleinfeld and Harry Bader recently published a paper which critiques American strategy for making a series of dangerous assumptions in how we approach Counter-Insurgency, such as the notion that locals don’t support the insurgents, how training and advisory programs are short sighted and episodic in nature, and how Counter-Insurgency is particularly difficult when there is no legitimate government to fill the vacuum.  Bader and Kleinfeld propose a form of non-violent unconventional warfare to help bridge these gaps.

Now before anyone here thinks that I’m going soft as of late, by no means do I think that airstrikes, Direct Action raids, sabotage, and assassinations are not valid techniques to use in war or in counter-terrorism operations.  This is a ugly business, and killing is inevitably a part of it.  When we do kill, we should make sure that we do so for tactical and strategic purposes, not just to rack up a body count.  The manner in which we kill should be at a time and a place of our choosing, and conducted in a surgical manner to the extent possible.  However, there are non-lethal options which would more than likely work in tandem with other forms of espionage and military operations.

Kleinfeld and Bader write:

…military action to counter violent groups is often necessary. Yet force alone is rarely sufficient to end violence by nonstate actors. Kinetic activities can also create backlash that strengthens insurgencies and makes it easier for violent groups to recruit individuals.

Meanwhile, civilian agencies in the international community generally implement governance programs and economic development projects to promote stability. Governance programs are essential to establishing strong, functioning states that are based on the rule of law and citizens who can hold such states accountable. Yet these initiatives take decades to bear fruit, while violent armed groups grow, spread, splinter, and become more difficult for even the strongest, most legitimate states to tackle.

In Afghanistan the Natural Resources Counterinsurgency Cell, or NRCC, worked with local groups who were interested in improving their community, filling in some of the gaps between the aforementioned programs.  The NRCC began by targeting key individuals, those who were not radicals but sought upward mobility and increased status in their society.

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