Overt Ops Part II

Unconventional Warfare in Theory

9th December 2011

In Part I we saw how recent news has included open admissions of the use of covert ops, known in current US military doctrine as Unconventional Warfare.  In Part II we will look at how this doctrine has become more explicit in its advocation of the use of low-intensity political violence, including terrorism. 

The documents I am using here are from the US Army's Field Manual (FM) training series.  This is the fullest and widest available collection of military training doctrine.  Similar manuals from the armies of other countries can be found, and are largely the same in content, though I cannot yet judge whether the same trends can be found through their history and development.  The full selection of these documents has been added to the document archive. 

FM 31-15 Operations against Irregular Forces is one of the manuals I included in the Operation Gladio document collection because it was used by the Turkish branch of Gladio.  This 1961 manual and its 1963 spinoff (FM 31-16 Counter-guerrilla operations) were the core doctrine taught to US forces for use in counterinsurgency and other forms of small-scale covert warfare.  It outlines in tremendous detail the cell structure of rural-based guerrilla networks including the following diagram:

(click for larger version)

Of course, this is solely a 'picture of the enemy', except for the fact that the manual explicitly advocates using 'friendly' local forces, inducing defections, and a nod towards the 'countergang' strategy developed by General Sir Frank Kitson:

Intelligence, Covert Collection

Covert collection means are a necessary source of information. Every effort is made to infiltrate the irregular force with friendly agents. Indigenous agents are usually the only individuals capable of infiltrating the irregular force.  Such agents are carefully screened to insure they are not double agents and that they will not relate information gained about friendly forces to the irregular force...

...They have an intimate knowledge of the local populace, conditions and terrain, and often have prior knowledge of, or connections with, members of the irregular force.
- FM 31-15

So far, so counter-guerrilla.  There is nothing in this manual that explicitly advocates using the tactics of the irregular forces, including terrorism, though reading between the lines one could make an argument that the manual does advance such methods.  That this document was used to train terrorists suggests that its ambiguity is somewhat deliberate, leaving open the possibility to those making use of it.  The manual does also state that:

Principles of Operation

5) Task forces employed against guerrilla elements are organized to have a higher degree of aggressiveness and mobility than the guerrilla elements.
- FM 31-15

What we should interpret by 'a higher degree of aggressiveness' than one's opponent, when your opponent uses terrorism as a tactic, is not entirely clear.  A hint as to what might be meant is provided via the 1986 FM 90-8 Counterguerrilla Operations.  Unlike the 1960s manuals, this document explicitly refers to terrorism throughout its pages, and outlines how and why terrorist attacks are used by guerrilla forces. 

2-14. Terrorism and harassment.

When guerrilla forces first become operational, they usually engage in limited or small-scale activities and operations. If they reach more sophisticated levels of organization, equipment, and training, then larger operations utilizing more conventional tactics may be expected.
Guerrilla tactics are characterized by elusiveness, surprise, and brief, violent action. These tactics in the early phases can be divided into terrorism and harassment.
(1) Terrorism. The guerrilla may use terrorism if it fits a given situation and accomplishes his goals. Terrorist techniques include bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, threats, mutilation, murder, torture, and blackmail. It must be recognized that all guerrillas do not use terrorism as a tool. If terrorism is utilized, it is usually for coercion, provocation, or intimidation.
(a) Coercion. This is used to persuade individuals to act favorably in given situations toward the guerrilla or the insurgent movement. As an example, terrorism might be used to persuade a local mayor to revise policy concerning the guerrilla.
(b) Provocation. This is used to provoke an overreaction on the part of government forces so that the population will be alienated by government forces' actions. Targets are usually government soldiers, leaders, or policemen.
(c) Intimidation. This is used to modify behavior. Usually, threats or fear of harm, either to the individual or his family and friends, are used. Intimidation can be used to induce the populace to silence or noncooperation with government forces. It is used to discourage competent citizens from accepting critical low-level governmental positions.
- FM 90-8

This is still a presentation of 'the threat', i.e. the opponent in low-intensity, small-scale warfare but it is a far more detailed and considered account of how and why terrorism can work as a warfare strategy than in the earlier equivalents.  It is curious that the training manual offers such a useful and explicit account of terrorism in a manual devoted to counterguerrilla operations.  After all, there is nothing in the manual about how to stop terrorist attacks, and this explanation of the use of terrorism as a tactic is more substantial than much of the material on the sorts of operations that are explicitly condoned. 

In the 1990s, following the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, much of US Army training doctrine was rewritten for the new post-Cold War era and many new editions of the FM series were published.  Most relevant to this analysis is the 1994 manual FM 31-20-3 Foreign Internal Defense: Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces.  'Foreign Internal Defense' (FID) is a major part of counterinsurgency/counterguerrilla operations, as noted in the 1986 document.  The US has never had to deal with a domestic insurgent/irregular/guerrilla force, unless you count groups like the Black Panthers or the white Christian Survivalists.  Those movements never posed a military threat and have largely been dealt with via COINTELPRO and the like.  Instead, they get themselves involved in fighting for or against such forces in other countries - the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Contras in Nicaragua and so on. 

In keeping with the 1991 National Security Strategy of the United States outlined by 'Poppy' Bush, the 1994 manual mentions terrorism on an almost continuous basis.  With the fall of Communism, the West needed a new enemy and these files show that well before 9/11 the designated military (or paramilitary) enemy was terrorists.  The most important passage from the 1994 manual, at least for our purposes, was this explicit description of using the pseudogang/countergang tactic against terroristic insurgent movements during FID operations:

Alternative intelligence-gathering techniques and sources, such as doppelganger or pseudo operations, can be tried and used when it is hard to obtain information from the civilian populace. These pseudo units are usually made up of ex-guerrilla and/or security force personnel posing as insurgents. They circulate among the civilian populace and, in some cases, infiltrate guerrilla units to gather information on guerrilla movements and its support infrastructure.

Much time and effort must be used to persuade insurgents to switch allegiance and serve with the security forces. Prospective candidates must be properly screened and then given a choice of serving with the HN security forces or facing prosecution under HN law for terrorist crimes.

Government security force units and teams of varying size have been used in infiltration operations against underground and guerrilla forces. They have been especially effective in getting information on underground security and communications systems, the nature and extent of civilian support and underground liaison, underground supply methods, and possible collusion between local government officials and the underground. Before such a unit can be properly trained and disguised, however, much information about the appearance, mannerisms, and security procedures of enemy units must be gathered. Most of this information comes from defectors or reindoctrinated prisoners. Defectors also make excellent instructors and guides for an infiltrating unit. In using a disguised team, the selected men should be trained, oriented, and disguised to look and act like authentic underground or guerrilla units. In addition to acquiring valuable information, the infiltrating units can demoralize the insurgents to the extent that they become overly suspicious and distrustful of their own units.
- FM 31-20-3 (1994, my emphasis)

Note that the document clearly advocates recruiting 'ex' guerrilla forces for use in pseudogang operations, co-opting them with threats of being turned over to local security forces or the courts, and having the pseudogang members both look and act like authentic guerrillas.  Nowhere does the manual explicitly talk of US forces, or agents thereof, carrying out terrorist attacks, but since terrorism is a major tactic of guerrilla movements and since the manual says the countergang agents must act like authentic guerrillas the strong implication is that terrorism is allowed as part of covert warfare.  To train and orient someone to act like a guerrilla is just an abstract way of saying to radicalise and provoke some to become a terrorist.  One still has to connect the dots, but that connection spans less space than prior manuals in the FM series. 

The trend towards increasingly overt descriptions of covert ops did not stop in the 1990s.  For the post-9/11 world the US army produced another set in the FM series.  The 1994 manual was re-published with a new cover, bizarrely this was reported by Wikileaks to be a whole new manual, perhaps out of that organisation's desperation to look hip, cool and current.  One of the most up to date manuals in the FM series is FM 3-05.130 Unconventional Warfare.  'Unconventional Warfare' or UW is the latest name given to proxy warfare - i.e. fighting by using units other than your own.  You do the training, equipping, motivating, organising and directing.  They do the fighting, the killing and the dying. 

This 2008 document makes mention of prior US proxy force/UW operations, including the Mujahideen and the Contras, and unlike the previous manuals it clearly states US support for 'irregular' or 'guerrilla' or 'insurgent' movements and groups.  It explains that:

1-10. The current definition of UW is as follows:
Operations conducted by, with, or through irregular forces in support of a resistance movement, an insurgency, or conventional military operations.
FM 3-05.201, (S/NF) Special Forces Unconventional Warfare (U)
28 September 2007
- FM 3-05.130

Whereas prior manuals identified 'irregular forces' as solely being the enemy who must be fought against through counterguerrilla and counterinsurgency methods, this 2008 manual finally admits that they are, in fact, useful proxy forces for fighting particular sorts of battles.  It goes on to be even more explicit, explaining that:

Irregulars, or irregular forces, are individuals or groups of individuals who are not members of a regular armed force, police, or other internal security force. They are usually nonstate-sponsored and unconstrained by sovereign nation legalities and boundaries. These forces may include, but are not limited to, specific paramilitary forces, contractors, individuals, businesses, foreign political organizations, resistance or insurgent organizations, expatriates, transnational terrorism adversaries, disillusioned transnational terrorism members, black marketers, and other social or political undesirables.
- FM 3-05.130

Thus, Unconventional Warfare is war fought 'by, with or through' individuals or groups that include 'transnational terrorism adversaries'.  More simply, fighting by using your enemy. 

What this brief analysis shows is that as time has gone on the doctrine of at least the US Army has become ever more explicit in its advocation of the use of political violence, including terrorism.  This runs entirely contrary to the age-old claim that such tactics might have been used in the past, during the early days of the Cold War or during World War 2, but that they aren't still used today.  According to the training imparted to military spies and Special Forces, if anything such methods have become more common, more widely used, more explicitly discussed in the corridors and training bases of power. 

In Part III we will look into the history of known covert operations, to see whether a similar increasingly violent and explicit trend can be found when 'Unconventional Warfare' is put into practice.