Sunday, February 17, 2008

two players with one COIN?

Certain sections of the counterinsurgency manual hark back to our earlier discussion of Private Military Firms. For example, if COIN is a large part of ongoing U.S. operations in Iraq, and if effective COIN requires a highly sophisticated, coordinated strategy, then what is the relationship between PMF's active in Iraq - particularly Blackwater - and U.S. COIN? Do PMF's like Blackwater only constitute a liability?

In general, PMF's in Iraq are on escort or guard duty. The most troublesome examples involve Blackwater, whose employees have in at least two occasions been engaged in urban firefights that strongly anger the local populations. These in turn provide serious fodder for insurgents and can damage any attempts to legitimize the occupying force or existing Iraqi government.

Look at the assault on Fallujah, prompted by the killing and post-mortem desecration of several PMF employees. Given the crowd's initial response - to mutilate and burn the remains - the event seemed to be a serious victory for the insurgents, demonstrating the authority of their violence and the weakness and corruption of the Western occupiers and the Iraqi government they support.

So what do ya'll think? Can PMF's be effectively incorporated into COIN in Iraq, or if they cannot, can their damaging effects at least be minimized, or are they in fact largely irrelevant?

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