Washington advised to support local Jihadis against ‘transnational’ Jihadis and Sunni rulers against Iranian govt
RAWALPINDI: The United States is currently engaged in what has been characterised as the “long war”.
A comprehensive report by the Rand Corporation, a US based institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, has suggested some key roles through which the US can counter what it calls threats to it by engaging “long war” against its enemies without minimum involvement of its army.
The report says that the long war has been described by some as an epic struggle against adversaries bent on forming a united Islamic world to supplant Western dominance, while others characterize it more narrowly as an extension of the war on terror.
However, no consensus has been reached about this term or its implications for the United States. To understand the effects that this long war will have on the US Army and on US forces in general, it is necessary to understand more precisely what the long war is and how it might unfold.
To address this need, this study explores the concept of the long war and identities potential ways in which it might unfold as well as the implications for the Army and the US military more generally.
Framework for Understanding the Long War One way to think about the potential threats the United States faces in the long war is to consider the confluence of three problems raised by the war: those related to the ideologies espoused by key adversaries in the conflict, those related to the use of terrorism, and those related to governance (i.e., its absence or presence, its quality, and the predisposition of specific governing bodies to the United States and its interests).
The study examined groups operating within predominantly Muslim countries and organized them into categories based on an understanding of their motivating ideas and goals: Doctrinaire jihadists, whether global in orientation or internally focused, who adhere to a version of Islam known as Salafi-jihadism. Religious nationalist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas that participate in the political process but that are also willing to use violence, sometimes against their own people, to dominate a particular community, region, or nation.
Other groups whose primary motivation is secular, such as communists, Arab nationalists, or Ba’athists.
In addition to these groups, other nonviolent organizations operating within predominantly Muslim nations can sometimes provide a “gate-way” for entrance into more radical organizations.
This categorization scheme helps illustrate the diversity of groups plausibly involved in a long war with the United States and indicates the assortment of economic, social, and political factors and grievances that can motivate adversaries. Some groups in this scheme pose a greater or lesser relative threat than do others (e.g., doctrinaire jihadists with an external focus constitute the greatest threat) and thus require the United States to have a range of approaches available to deal with them.
The study identified eight alternative “trajectories,” or paths, that the long war might take. The trajectories emphasize not what the future looks like, but the ways in which it might unfold.
In addressing the future of the long war, we identified a number of trends and uncertainties associated with the future combat environment. This analysis, combined with our understanding of the components of the long war, provided the basis for a set of seven strategy options for the United States in the long war.
Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces. Divide and Rule would be the obvious strategy choice for the “Narrowing of Threat” trajectory as the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace. In the “Holding Action” trajectory, Divide and Rule would be an inexpensive way of buying time for the United States and its allies until the United States can return its full attention to the long war. US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the “Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict” trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world.
A table in the report shows short description of the eight trajectories discussed in it:
1 Steady State Baseline case largely reminiscent of current actions and environment. In this vision, the threat continues to be the broad universe of radical Salafi-jihadists, including both transnational and sometimes regional groups.
2 War of Ideas Shift to information-based campaign with the goal of isolating jihadists and their infrastructure from the broader global Muslim population. Plans to confront Iran militarily over its nuclear program are shelved for the time being.
3 Major Muslim Nation Goes Bad: Radical shift in a regime brought on when a critical state in the Muslim world is taken over by radical extremists. Two of the most plausible and most threatening scenarios to American interests would be a military coup in Pakistan or a successful fundamentalist insurgency in Saudi Arabia.
4 Narrowing of Threat: Conflict arising between jihadists leads the US to take a “divide and conquer” approach in order to exploit cleavages among transnational jihadists and local/regional jihadists. Consequently, the US would adopt a more flexible position toward local and nationalist Islamist groups like Hamas and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines.
5 Expanding Scope: Expanded scope of the long war threat beyond a major terrorist attack against US interests to include radical Shiism, the Iranian state, regional terrorists, and/or some non-Islamic terror groups.
In this formulation, the long war would become a true global war on terror.
6 Holding Action: A series of geopolitical shocks (e.g., an attempt by China to shift the balance of power in the Western Pacific or a sudden, violent implosion of North Korea) would compel the US to temporarily scale back its efforts against Salafi-jihadists in order to focus on more traditional threats that require a response involving conventional forces and diplomatic capital.
7 Sustained Sunni-Shia Conflict: Widespread violence between Shia and Sunni groups, resulting in deep fault lines between Shia and Sunni communities throughout the Muslim world. As a result, the US is led to concentrate, in the short term, on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
8 Chronic Insurgencies/ Instability: Serious insurgencies and unrest around the world that drain the resources of the US and its allies and decrease regime legitimacy. The insurgencies are driven largely by dissatisfaction with inefficient and ineffective governmental structures, dilapidated infrastructure in terms of basic services, and questions of legitimacy of the current leaders.
To be continued
Source: The News, 8th January, 2009