A How-To Guide to Counterinsurgency — By A Former Insurgent – Forward Observer Shop

A How-To Guide to Counterinsurgency — By A Former Insurgent

You can’t “shock and awe” someone who is not afraid to die, but on the contrary desires to do so on the battlefield. Never underestimate the resilience of your opponent…

Unconventional wars are often won by tactics rather than strategy. The insurgent’s only strategy is to win the war. In order to successfully combat guerrillas, a military force has to have very capable and flexible infantry squad and platoon commanders. This is the infantry’s war, not that of the generals.

Waging an unconventional war requires a different type of intelligence from the one when fighting against a conventional enemy. Guerrilla operations and movements cannot be easily spotted. Often the insurgents are well camouflaged or operate in disguise. Therefore human intelligence is an absolute necessity. It won’t be enough to just listen to the enemy’s radio communication or rely on aerial or satellite images in order to learn their intentions.

Source: GRI


Photo via US Army


Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. Hello Sam,

    The linked article got me to wondering about actionable intelligence and what happens when there isn’t anything useful to target but expectations from on high are hot and heavy for results. Do the intel types give in to the pressure and make things up or make assumptive leaps they normally wouldn’t, or are they required to “show their work” so the right stuff/folks get proper attention, volume be damned?


    1. The only way no one’s being targeted is if they’re all dead or some kind of reconciliation process is ongoing. To fake a target packet (zero chance), there would have to be so many people involved, from HUMINT and SIGINT reporting to the targeting analyst and anyone QA’ing the work. In the three years of being in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve never seen a case of having nothing to do.

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