Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat / Edition 1

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By focusing on four specific hotbeds of instability-Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq-Richard H. Shultz Jr. and Andrea J. Dew carefully analyze tribal culture and clan associations, examine why "traditional" or "tribal" warriors fight, identify how these groups recruit and where they find sanctuary, and dissect the reasoning behind their strategy. Their new introduction evaluates recent developments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the growing prevalence of Shultz and Dew's conception of irregular warfare, and the Obama Defense Department's approach to fighting insurgents, terrorists, and militias.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Some academics can see clearly what military generals and Pentagon civilian planners apparently cannotthat the nature of warfare has changed drastically in the past few decades. Shultz and Dew, of the Tufts University International Security Studies Program, grasp that combat involving nongovernment forces calls for innovative tactics by the U.S. military. Failing to understand the changed nature of warfare can lead to deadly consequences, the authors write, as the Iraq insurgency shows. This scholarly book is grounded in warfare theory, but is easily accessible for generalist readers. Looking at post-1990 conflicts in Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq, "in which the armies of modern nation-states fought armed groups, often with great difficulty, in traditional societal settings," Shultz and Dew propose new taxonomies, describe the reasons nongovernment combatants wage war, and the nontraditional approaches those combatants use. Government strategists hoping to defeat these nonstate warriors must learn about the cultures and traditions of those groups rather than relying solely on how much firepower they possess, the authors argue. Helpfully moving beyond theory, they suggest ways that Pentagon policy makers and field commanders can mine historical, anthropological and cultural studies to understand shadowy enemies. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Officer - Col. Will Holahan

A succinct and well-presented history of the birth and growth of the extremist Muslim fundamentalist political movement.

Marine Corps Gazette - LtCol Charles L. Armstrong

Thoroughly researched and highly readable.... Examines how non-state armies fight, identifies the patterns and trends of their combat, and recommends how conventional militaries can defeat these irregular... organizations.

US Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine

[This book] provides valuable insight on what must be considered to set conditions for the commitment of military forces in future conflicts.

Seymour M. Hersh

Like it or not, the wars of tomorrow will be fought by small units of fighters who will operate unconventionally. Shultz and Dew have written a first-rate primer about these warriors of contemporary combat. Most importantly, they tell all who care—including, one hopes, the decision makers in the Pentagon and White House—a great deal about how to fight in places like Afghanistan and Iraq before things go wrong. Is anyone listening?

Bruce Hoffman

Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias authoritatively traces the evolution of conflict in the twenty-first century and incisively analyzes the formidable national security challenges confronting both established nation-states and the international system. The concluding section's discussion of lessons learned for policymakers, military planners, and intelligence analysts makes the book an especially valuable contribution to the literature.

Military Review

If you are interested in either irregular warfare or counterinsurgency, you should add this book to your reading list.

Wall Street Journal - Robert Kaplan

Wise and cogent.

Star Tribune - Michael J. Bonafield

This is one in a handful of truly important books... It is fresh, innovative and immensely informative.

Human Events Online - Austin Bay

[Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias] should be on every Pentagon reading list.

The Washington Times - Rowan Scarborough

[They] have done more than write a book on America's new enemies. The two authors have done a public service.

Colonel; Officer - Will Holahan
A succinct and well-presented history of the birth and growth of the extremist Muslim fundamentalist political movement.
Lt. Colonel; Marine Corps Gazette - Charles L. Armstrong
Thoroughly researched and highly readable.... Examines how non-state armies fight, identifies the patterns and trends of their combat, and recommends how conventional militaries can defeat these irregular... organizations.
Military Review - Walter Ladwig

Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias is a useful introduction to the topic of traditional warriors and modern warfare.

US Naval Institute - Proceedings Magazine
[This book] provides valuable insight on what must be considered to set conditions for the commitment of military forces in future conflicts.
Journal of Slavic Military Studies - Leo J. Daugherty

This is undoubtedly the single best book written on what has become a true global war on terror.

The International History - Depaak Lal

[An] excellent study.

Wall Street Journal
Wise and cogent.

— Robert Kaplan

Star Tribune
This is one in a handful of truly important books... It is fresh, innovative and immensely informative.

— Michael J. Bonafield

Human Events Online
[ Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias] should be on every Pentagon reading list.

— Austin Bay

The Washington Times
[They] have done more than write a book on America's new enemies. The two authors have done a public service.

— Rowan Scarborough

A succinct and well-presented history of the birth and growth of the extremist Muslim fundamentalist political movement.

— Col. Will Holahan

Marine Corps Gazette
Thoroughly researched and highly readable.... Examines how non-state armies fight, identifies the patterns and trends of their combat, and recommends how conventional militaries can defeat these irregular... organizations.

— LtCol Charles L. Armstrong


An excellent primer on the nature of warfare and our likely enemies in the twenty-first century.

Journal of Slavic Military Studies
This is undoubtedly the single best book written on what has become a true global war on terror.

— Leo J. Daugherty, III, Ph.D.

The International History
[An] excellent study.

— Depaak Lal

Canadian Military Journal

Highly recommended for all senior policymakers, military planners, and soldiers on the ground who will have to confront traditional warriors face to face.

Miliatary Review

The book offers an excellent model

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231129824
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/20/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard H. Shultz Jr. is director of the International Security Studies Program at Tufts University's Fletcher School. He is the author of many books, including The Secret War Against Hanoi: Kennedy and Johnson's Use of Spies, Saboteurs, and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam.

Andrea J. Dew is codirector of the Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups (CIWAG) and an associate professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. As the codirector of CIWAG, she is responsible for developing curriculum, case studies, and scholarly research on the threats and opportunities posed by irregular warfare and armed groups. A graduate of Southampton University, England, she earned her masters and doctorate in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Her previous research fellowships include research associate for the International Security Studies Program at the Fletcher School and a security studies fellowship at the Belfer Center on Science in International Affairs, the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Columbia University Press

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Read an Excerpt

Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias

The Warriors of Contemporary Combat
By Richard H. Shultz

Columbia University Press

Copyright © 2006 Richard H. Shultz Jr. and Andrea J. Dew
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-231-12982-3

Chapter One


Sun Tzu Again

Remember Sun Tzu! His advice was simple and yet timeless: "know your enemy." Even centuries after Sun Tzu first warned his political masters, this maxim is still a primary principle for all who go to war. And his advice still rings true even for dominant political powers like the United States, which possesses the most technologically advanced military capabilities. As the studies in this book remind us, soldiers and statesmen alike ignore Sun Tzu's counsel at their own peril.

But with the end of the Cold War, many believed a new world order was dawning. Disputes would now be settled through impartially negotiated agreements brokered by a rejuvenated United Nations. Sun Tzu was no longer germane. The role of force would diminish, and the waging of war would fade into an historical curio. Sadly, things did not turn out that way. Rather, the last decade of the twentieth century left a terrible legacy of violence, bloodshed, and destruction in its wake.

While the end ofthe twentieth century heralded an avalanche of progressive global change, it was also accompanied by a plethora of unanticipated conflicts. The Cold War gave way to a decade of bloody internal wars, with transnational dimensions, that pitted non-state armed groups against the military forces of modern nation-states. Insurgents, terrorists, militias, and criminal organizations, in large measure, were the product of weak and failing states. And, as the 1990s demonstrated, it was precisely in those lands that armed groups burgeoned and violently challenged state authority. Moreover, when it was caused by communal and religious differences, as oft en was the case, the fighting was particularly brutal, long-lasting, and difficult to terminate. According to the experts, these kinds of conflicts, generated by non-state armed groups, will remain a major cause of violence and instability in many regions of the world for the foreseeable future.

If the end of the twentieth century was marked by violent internal wars around the globe, the twenty-first century began even more tumultuously for the United States with al-Qaeda's lethal transnational attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Those strikes are now recognized as part of a global Salafi jihad movement, which combines a radical and puritanical interpretation of Islam with the use of deadly terrorist operations. The ultimate goal of the movement is to reestablish past Muslim glory in a great Islamist state. In addition to attacking corrupt Arab governments that defile Islam and infidel troops occupying Muslim lands, the vanguard of that movement-al-Qaeda-told its fighters in the late 1990s to strike the United States anywhere in the world where the opportunity presented itself, including the American homeland.

Since 9/11, the Salafi jihad movement has suffered major setbacks, among the most important the loss of its Afghan sanctuary. Nevertheless, it remains functioning and lethal in many parts of the world. As an international war-fighting organization, al-Qaeda has sought to adapt and relocate its networks. It has not given up the armed struggle. Leading specialists on radical Islam agree that al-Qaeda remains very dangerous and will not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction to further its mission.

This is all a far cry from the hopeful refrain of "no more war." And accordingly, Sun Tzu's guidance remains as relevant for soldiers and statesmen in the twenty-first century as it did when he first offered it in the fourth century B.C. Regardless of the type of conflict, the time, or place, knowing whom you will engage in combat and how they will fight you is the essential element or condition-the sine qua non-in order to prevail. And, as we saw in the case studies, how the irregular forces of traditional societies fight, the ways in which they organize for combat, the concept of warfare they follow, the strategy and tactics they employ, and the international assistance they receive all differ greatly from the conventional militaries of modern nation-states. Through the centuries, these unconventional ways of war have more oft en than not given the world's great powers awful fits. Remember the British experiences in Afghanistan in the nineteenth century. As we have learned in these pages, when statesmen and their military and intelligence services dismiss the capabilities of such irregular adversaries as primitive, and fail to plan appropriately, catastrophe ensues.

The conflicts in Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as on 9/11: These wars, which pitted armed insurgent, terrorist, militia, and criminal groups against the armies of modern nation-states are prologue for the years ahead. We believe there is little to suggest otherwise. Therefore, U.S. policymakers as well as military and intelligence professionals can draw practical and prudent lessons from these pages. Indeed, as Iraq has demonstrated, it is absolutely vital that the Iraqis develop more effective methods for understanding and assessing such unconventional adversaries whose long-established conduct of warfare differs greatly from their own.

This study provides a framework for doing so. It sets out a series of operational-level questions for profiling and assessing the war-fighting modus operandi of armed groups, and demonstrates where to look for and how to find the answers in historical, anthropological, and cultural studies. We employed the framework to describe and appraise four post-Cold War conflicts-Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq-in which the armies of modern nation-states fought armed groups, oft en with great difficulty, in traditional societal settings.

Lessons Learned

If U.S. civilian leaders send soldiers to engage such unconventional warriors, then military commanders must have a clear-eyed understanding of their adversary's way of war. Moreover, when soldiers fight warriors, they must also know how to adapt to their adversary's way of war in order to prevail against it. To not understand and adapt accordingly, as the U.S. policymakers and military forces found out in Iraq, is to pay a considerable price in blood and treasure.

It is possible to gain an informed understanding of how, where, when, and why non-state armed groups will fight. By doing so, modern conventional militaries and their planners can avoid underestimating these traditional and unconventional warriors, and not repeat the mistakes of the past. Our case studies are illustrative of such underestimations and contain important operational lessons for U.S. policymakers and their advisers-civilian and military. It is to these lessons that we now turn.

Traditional Concepts of War Remain Relevant

The first lesson to be learned from this study is that traditional concepts of warfare do indeed exist, you can learn the details about them if you know where to look, and they remain very relevant in today's world.

Ethnic, tribal, clan, religious, and communal groups execute operations based on these traditional ways of war, oft en adapting them to the time and setting in which they are fighting. But they are not spelled out in the kinds of doctrinal field manuals that guide modern armies. Consequently, when conventional militaries engage armed groups from traditional societies in unconventional conflict, they frequently have little or no understanding of their adversary's way of war, and discount their capacity for combat.

Our case assessments reveal that it is possible to gain an awareness of the concepts of warfare that armed groups follow in order to organize themselves for combat. Tribal, clan, communal, and religious ways of war are not published in easily accessible handbooks or posted on the Internet, but the information is available. Our assessments of the Somali, Chechen, Afghan, and Iraqi war-fighting traditions and narratives are illustrative of how to gain such insight.

Traditional societies do not have standing professional armies in the Western sense. Rather, all men of age in a tribe, clan, or communal group learn through societal norms and legacies to fight in specific ways, and to fight well, if required. These traditions emphasize when to fight, the importance of combat skills, personal courage, honor, and valor in battle. In addition, they can and do have highly specialized and effective leadership structures for the conduct of battle. But they do not correspond to Western categorization. In planning for a military intervention in such settings, soldiers and statesmen must grasp the following: (1) armed groups found in traditional societies have long-standing methods of combat and ways of organizing to fight outsiders; (2) their members are well versed in these modes of fighting and are prepared for wartime roles; and (3) these traditional concepts invariably take protracted, irregular, and unconventional forms of combat.

This study documents the military misfortunes that come to pass when policymakers and those professionals who serve them fail to include these considerations in their planning. The insurgency in Iraq is only the most recent example. In Somalia, for example, within the clans, military power has traditionally determined political status. Clans with the most war-fighting skills were able to wield the most political power among their peers. Thus, while the United States wrote off Aidid as a thug in charge of a gang of armed thugs, to his Somalia clansmen, Aidid was the equivalent of their minister of war, commanding powerful paramilitary warrior forces well-versed in deeply rooted warfare methods. The resulting carnage from this oversight left nineteen U.S. elite soldiers dead and resulted in the U.S. withdrawal from Somalia.

The Russian military likewise caused feuding tribes and clans to unite against them with disastrous consequences in both Afghanistan and Chechnya, where their invasions provoked extraordinary and violent resistance. In both cases, as we highlighted, Red Army planners had little or no understanding of the concepts of war that produced this remarkable defiance.

Recall the bloodbath in Grozny on New Year's Eve 1994: tank after tank, the pride of the Russian military, in smoking ruins while Chechen fighters picked off soldier after soldier from their rooftop sniper nests. The Chechen concept of war has been shaped by traditional clan military organization and training, a history of resisting Russian invasions, and Sufi Islamic influence that cast resistance to Russian invaders as a religious duty. These factors guaranteed the armed resistance of the Chechen peoples from the early nineteenth to the twenty-first century. It is no surprise, then, that far from presenting the Red Army with a cakewalk, Chechnya became a terrible quagmire.

Organization and Command and Control Are Decentralized and Unconventional

Once military planners and intelligence analysts have come to appreciate an armed group's concept of war, the next step is to consider how the armed group organizes units for fighting and how those units are led. The second lesson from this study is that such units are almost always relatively small in size-no battalions or divisions here-and are assembled for unconventional operations, most notably ambushes and hit-and-run strikes.

It is important to recognize that although non-state armed groups may not wear uniforms or drill in formation, they do maintain the ability to mobilize rapidly for war and adapt their traditional tactics to fight modern foes. One of the patterns we have seen repeated in the case studies is small tribal or clan fighting units that are organized along geographical lines and commanded by fellow tribal or clan members. Sometimes, as in Somalia, the war leader has a separate position in a clan, but more oft en at the local level he is also the chief political leader. Sometimes the command-and-control structure can be traced straight back to ancient times, and sometimes tribal commanders have adapted time-honored traditions to modern weapons and enemies. But, be it Bedouin raids or Afghan ambushes, policymakers must be aware of the formidable fighting units and communal command-and-control structures that persist in traditional societies.

It is also important for policymakers to know that tribes, clans, and family groups take orders from their own leaders, oft en based on local hierarchies, and do not belong to a centralized military command-and-control system. In Afghanistan, for example, the Mujahideen comprised hundreds of individual and mostly independent units, with local tribesmen under the command of local leadership. As a result, the loss or capture of one commander impacted the effectiveness of an individual unit, but other units in the area were able to continue their operations.

Another important element in warfare conducted by many armed groups is the flexibility of small armed units. Such organizations have rarely confronted conventional militaries head on, but have utilized hit-and-run ambush techniques that take advantage of their superior knowledge of local terrain and improvised explosives. Indeed, conventional militaries are particularly vulnerable to such ambushes especially along their supply lines.

When policymakers and their advisers fail to take into consideration traditional command-and-control structures, the consequences can be dire. Recall, for example, that Saddam Hussein had strengthened and armed Sunni tribes during his war with Iran, and then in the 1990s had to rely on them to help maintain local security. They were also tasked by Saddam Hussein to coordinate with special elements of the Ministry of the Interior to resist U.S. forces in the event of an invasion. These tribal militias were to deploy in small-unit formations and employ guerrilla warfare tactics.

As the conventional Iraqi army was defeated or melted away in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, these irregular forces, with their traditional methods of fighting, were already organized and preparing to resist U.S. occupation. They became the Sunni Rejectionist element of the Iraqi insurgency.

The Areas of Operations Are Expanding

Next we must ask, where are armed groups likely to carry out operations? Will they be confined to the rural redoubts of their traditional societies or has urbanization changed the area of operations (AO)? Will operations be confined to the state in which the conflict is taking place, or will the battlefield be extended transnationally by the armed group across borders and geographical regions? And what happens if planners and analysts fail to take into consideration the strength of lineage support tribal, clan, and religious warriors receive in their homelands?

Thus, the third lesson to be drawn from the case studies concerns AO issues. When the traditional warriors we studied were able to operate from their rural homelands they capitalized on the support, or at minimum acquiescence, of local populations and their superior knowledge of the terrain and enemy activities in it, with deadly consequences. That superior knowledge can be a crucial advantage, as each of the armed groups examined here demonstrated. It provides a level of local intelligence that is extremely advantageous.

In Afghanistan, for example, the Mujahideen operated from their local tribal areas-in mountainous regions where Soviet tanks had limited effectiveness, and tribal hit-and-run ambush techniques proved exceptionally deadly. Moscow, moreover, ensured the war would spread countrywide when it placed its military deep in the heart of rural Afghanistan. The destruction caused by Soviet operations and the refugee flows turned all of Afghanistan into a war zone, so that the Mujahideen were able to operate throughout Afghanistan's rugged rural terrain with impunity. They quickly turned this to their advantage and made all but the major highways no-go areas for the Soviet Army.

Likewise, recall the situation in the Sunni triangle of Iraq. While U.S. soldiers have been able to easily defeat the insurgents when they cornered them, the problem has been how to corner them. That has required actionable intelligence, and collecting it through the first twenty months of the occupation was the Achilles' heel of the American effort. The insurgents, operating in their home territory, suffered no such lack of information, as demonstrated by their capacity to elude U.S. forces to carry out suicide attacks, assassinations, and IED detonations.


Excerpted from Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias by Richard H. Shultz Copyright © 2006 by Richard H. Shultz Jr. and Andrea J. Dew. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 War after the Cold War 1
2 Assessing enemies 17
3 Tribes and clans 39
4 Somalia : death, disorder, and destruction 57
5 Chechnya : Russia's bloody quagmire 103
6 Afghanistan : a superpower conundrum 147
7 Iraq : from dictatorship to democracy? 197
8 When soldiers fight warriors : lessons learned for policymakers, military planners, and intelligence analysts 259
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