Some astute observations on COIN practice from the founder of Executive Outcomes, Eeben Barlow:
….Governments, despite often being the prime reason why an insurgency starts, are often only too keen to make the armed forces responsible for establishing workable governance in areas that have become positively disposed towards the insurgency.
As it is an internal problem, countering the insurgency is essentially a law enforcement responsibility. The problem is that often the law enforcement agencies do not realise that an insurgency is developing and through ignorance and denial, mislead government – and the nation – on the seriousness of the situation. This provides the insurgents with numerous advantages, most crucial being time to organise, train and escalate the insurgency.
The end goal of the insurgency is political in nature and therefore, the main effort aimed at countering it ought to be political and not militarily. This “passing the buck” approach places the armed forces in a position they can seldom if ever win as the military’s role is not to govern but to ensure an environment in which governance can take place.
An insurgency is neither a strategy nor a war. It is a condition based on the perception(s) of a part of the populace that poor governance exists, that government only governs for its own benefit and that they – the populace – are being marginalised or politically suppressed. In reality, an insurgency is an internal emergency that, left unchecked, can develop into a civil war. The insurgency itself is a means to an end and it is an approach aimed at either weakening or collapsing a government’s control and forcing a negotiation in the favour of the insurgents.