I briefly touched on this last night in the article about Pakistan and the Taliban forces (More On Afghanistan and Pakistan). I received a lot of emails asking about it, so I wanted to elaborate a little more. The original insurgency design of a Maoist type insurgent is one in which they attack the government along three lines of operation. These lines of operation are broken down into Political, Guerrilla, and Conventional War. The decisive effort (or most important) is always the political. As certain objectives and milestones are met they move from allocating a predominance of their resources from one line of operation to another. But, the decisive effort always remains the political line of operation.
There are two main reasons why Mao chose this. One is the obvious answer that if the people support you, and believe in you, then it makes operating an insurgency that much easier. The people can hide you, supply you, help you move, and provide safe houses for you. If your guerrilla campaign is beaten by the government forces then you can always return to your safe houses, regroup, and in a year or so attempt to attack again.
The other reason, and I would say the much more dangerous reason, is if your political ideas become firmly concreted in society, people can vote for you. If you begin to establish a shadow government, if you are providing services to people, if you are helping secure them; then the people begin to look at you as the government. When it comes election day, the people vote for you obviously, and not the government they have lost faith in. In all honesty an insurgency does not even need to move to the guerrilla or conventional war phase if they can just be voted into office. This becomes the crux of our problem.
The Taliban in Pakistan, and even the Mahdi Army in Iraq are by no means Maoist type insurgents. But, they have stolen a few ideas from his play book. As we saw from the article last night, the Taliban have established shadow governments in the FATA and Northwest Frontier Province. With limited pressure from the Pakistan Government for a number of reasons, this is leaving a vacuum for them. If they continue to develop this capability, they could very well be heading down this road in Pakistan and attempting to outright gain seats in Pakistan's Parliament. I would say that this is a significant threat to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, and to all of us; since Pakistan is a Nuclear Capable Nation.
This is not an isolated incident though. Sadr and his followers were attempting to do the same thing in certain areas of Iraq until the Iraqi Security Forces destroyed much of his militia. Sadr was controlling and managing hospitals for the local citizens. His militia was promising their fellow Shiites protection from Sunni Militias. He was forming his own political party to run in the election. Sound vaguely familiar? Luckily, Prime Minister Maliki is a very strong leader, and was able to re-establish the proper controls over his entire country. I am sure his political party (Sadr) will win a couple seats, but by no means will it be the success that he hoped for before PM Maliki stepped in and caught this attempt to subvert the Government of Iraq.
Insurgencies are not just IED's, and suicide bombings. True well thought out insurgencies target the support of the people to ensure they maintain it, cultivate and grow it. As counter-insurgency fighters we must understand these factors and always remember that the people are the center of gravity in these types of operations. My largest concern right now, is that if Pakistan does not re-establish firm control over the tribal areas, they may be dealing with a situation where there is a Taliban Party on their ballots soon.
God Bless America
Much thanks to my History Professor, LTC (Ret) Louis DiMarco who helped me formulate many of these opinions in his counter-insurgency and history classes. Highly recommend reading anything you see published by him, great teacher, and he knows what he is talking about.
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