CTX Journal Vol. 5, No. 2

From the Editor


As international engagement in the Afghanistan conflict winds down, SOF and CT specialists are paying closer attention to irregular conflict and extremist activity in the rest of the world. The sad news is, of course, that there is much to pay attention to.

A multifaceted extremist insurgency has affected much of the southern Philippine archipelago for several decades now. To help the Philippine armed forces deal with these terrorist groups, the US Special Operations Command conducts a number of routine Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) events in the Philippines every year. Because of a lack of rigorous planning, execution, and assessment, writes Major Emmanuel G. Cabahug of the Philippine Army, these trainings are failing to live up to their potential, and an opportunity is being wasted. Fortunately, he concludes, these problems could be fairly easily corrected with a change in focus and the implementation of a plan for evaluation, assessment, and incorporation of lessons learned. The separatist insurgency that Turkey faces is also decades old. Turkish Army First Lieutenant Mehmet Kanmaz describes the many ways in which the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group that uses terrorist tactics against the Turkish state, ensures its financial survival. Like a criminal syndicate, the PKK relies on drug and human smuggling, extortion, money laundering, and other illegal and quasi-legal activities to keep the money flowing and stay in business. Kanmaz suggests a number of steps Turkey should take to improve its counterterrorism operations and cut off the PKK's money supply if the state is going to prevail.

From the Golden Crescent, we move to central Africa, where Ugandan Army Major David Munyua delves into the command structure of one of the most notoriously vicious terrorist groups in the world, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Since its beginnings as a militant political splinter group in the late 1980s, the LRA has devolved into a chronic insurgency that emerges from its hideouts in the forests and mountains of central Africa to kidnap, kill, and mutilate. Munyua considers who the next generation of LRA leaders will be, as its first generation commanders die, defect, or are pushed out of power, and what vulnerabilities these new leaders might exhibit.

Looking to the future from a somewhat different angle, Lieutenant Colonel Fabian Sandor of the Hungarian Army believes that most militaries are still living in the past and have not yet grasped the looming significance of hybrid warfare. In his brief essay on the development of NATO SOF, Sandor cautions against relying on—and paying for—legacy systems and legacy thinking to counter opponents' asymmetric and irregular strategies and tactics.

For the final feature article in this issue, we bring you a report about the first of what is planned to be an annual symposium hosted by the Special Operations Research Association (SORA). SORA is a think tank based in the United States, devoted to research on special operations and related topics. The symposium, which took place on 24–25 October 2014 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, brought together more than 100 experts, military specialists, and other interested participants to hear presentations and discuss aspects of "Special Operations and Strategic Implications."

For our CTAP interview, Dr. Doug Borer of the US Naval Postgraduate School spoke with Dr. Michael Noonan of the Foreign Policy Research Institute about Noonan's experiences as a member of a military transition team in Iraq. Deployed in 2006 to the district of Tal Afar, Noonan's team was assigned to help an Iraqi battalion improve its staff operations and take control of the district's security. Noonan speaks vividly about this difficult period of the Iraq War, when, he suggests, the seeds of the current fight for control of Iraq and Syria were sown.

George Lober, in his Ethics and Insights column, delves into the difficult questions of personal morality that are particular to fighters in times of conflict. In the first article of a two-part series titled "Making Decisions, Taking Ethical Responsibility," Lober uses the examples of Jewish refugees in 1938 and Rwandan Tutsis in 1994, and concentrates on the very different decisions of two men, one a Swiss state police officer and the other a Belgian Army captain, when faced with a barrage of desperate people fleeing certain death.

We have two book reviews on offer this time. Major David Munyua discusses Idean Salehyan's book Rebels without Borders: Transnational Insurgencies in World Politics (Cornell University Press, 2009), which, as the title suggests, deals with the phenomenon of what Salehyan calls "transnational rebellion" (TNR) and its link to civil conflict. While praising the book as a welcome discussion of the TNR phenomenon and ways to counteract it, Munyua notes that some of the generalities Salehyan derives may require closer study. The second review, by Colonel Ian Rice, US Army, examines journalist Malcolm Gladwell's newest work, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Little, Brown and Co., 2013). Rice lauds Gladwell's ability to deconstruct difficult concepts related to personal or cultural prejudices and recommends the book for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

As always, JSOU has a couple of new studies on offer in our Publications section. We urge you to write a letter to the editor (CTXEditor@GlobalEcco.org) and let us know what you think about what you've read in CTX, or anything else in the CT world that's on your mind. You can also keep up on global CT news and comment on articles by "liking" Global ECCO on Facebook. If you are interested in submitting an article for possible publication, see our submission guidelines at https://globalecco.org/ctx-submissions.

 

ELIZABETH SKINNER

Managing Editor, CTX
CTXEditor@GlobalEcco.org

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