FO Podcast Episode 056 – Are We Looking at a Leftist Insurgency? – Forward Observer Shop

FO Podcast Episode 056 – Are We Looking at a Leftist Insurgency?

In this week’s podcast, I talk about the definitions and doctrine of insurgency, and answer the question:  “Are we looking at a Leftist insurgency?”.

Additionally, here are the SEVEN (said six on the podcast) factors for judging the staying power of an insurgent movement:


—Appeal of Program:
—Popular Support:
—Quality of Leadership and Troops:
—Internal Unity:
—Operational Terrain:
—External support:

















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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. Sam, I was a PSYOP Tactical Detachment Commander in Afghanistan and your comments are spot on, we did not have an effective messaging campaign. There are several reasons for this in my opinion:
    First the big stuff that is tough to fix. We weren’t from there like our enemy (minus the fact that the highest leadership as you mentioned was safe in Pakistan and not really “there” which we could exploit) so all our face to face communication was done through our interpreters. Afghanistan has a 12% literacy rate so how do you make posters and handbills that get your message across essentially without words? (Radio messages work well here). And lastly how do you answer the question “we understand you were attacked on September 11th and came here to get your revenge which we support because we are a heavy honor culture and you wouldn’t be true men if you didn’t but why are you still here 10 years later?” (I was there 2011-12).
    Now the small stuff, my higher leadership was so risk adverse that I couldn’t hardly get anything beyond a public service announcement approved. Now I’m not talking about me wanting to be a cool guy and run some grey or black PSYOP program (for those unfamiliar look it up, basically terms for unattributable messaging). I just wanted to work certain themes like inevitability of defeat through publicizing bad dudes we captured etc. Instead I was basically told to just use the same old stale products saying the Afghan Police were the “Guardians of Peace” and people should trust them despite the fact that I was seeing weekly reports of police setting up roadblocks in our AO to shake down locals to supplement their crappy pay. Talk about lack of credibility! Also there is nothing like handing someone a product that says they should call this number if they see a bad guy and have them look at you like you’re an idiot because the bad dudes come in at night and they make the local cell tower operators shut down service st night so they can’t call you…or better yet you have your interpreter call the number to test it and no one ever answers.
    Maybe some of my peers had better success in their areas or the years they were there but from what I saw we were losing the IO battle.

    1. Wow, great explanation. I was there in Kandahar and Helmand in 2010-2011 and saw the exact same thing. Can I read your comment on the next podcast? It will be VERY helpful for all to hear. Thank you for the feedback, amigo.

      1. Sure, feel free to edit as needed, I can get long winded when I’m ranting. One other comment I’ll make in way of explaining our difficulty with IO effectiveness is the feeling that we had been fighting 10 (at the time) 1-year wars because of the rotation of deployments. Consistency of messaging is so important and often that was lost even with a good left seat, right seat handoff to the new incoming detachment.
        Lastly FYI I was MI before going PSYOP so your comments always bring back found memories of Ft. Huachuca and various S-2 postings, keep up the great work!

  2. Sam,

    Thanks for this, more or less following on your recent thoughts on WRSA.
    I did some basic research on Antifa, but I’m sure I haven’t seen all the same manuals for the groups you referred to.
    Would love some direct links if you could/would, either here on your site, or in e-mail. The e-mail I gave you for this post will get to me if need be.

    FWIW, lacking a better framework, my napkin rating of Antifa at this point (just what I’ve seen of them), and using a 0-10 rating (good enough for American Bandstand) for the seven areas – well, actually, I split leadership and troops, so eight areas – I score them a 26/80 at this point.
    If they get more violent, between what I think increases and what decreases, I see them getting to maybe 30/80. At which point they’d be much more capable of executing further violence effectively (very dangerous), while simultaneously becoming about as popular as the plague (growth-neutered & reviled), and then hounded out of existence, probably at the end of a SWAT team’s muzzle.

    That’s pretty much a negative feedback loop taking them the way of Baader-Meinhoff in the long run.
    While simultaneously helping assure Pres. Trump’s re-election, and helping kill freedom for everyone even more, due to crackdowns everywhere, and then spawning a different movement (or movements), not even necessarily ideologically allied with their own aims and goals.
    Just more jello squirting out of the government’s fingers, the tighter they try to control the populace, without achieving anything in the US but a more dictatorial and less free society, without making overthrow or collapse any more likely.

    So we become Franco’s Spain beyond my time left on the planet, at which point I don’t care anymore after I’m dead.

    And that’s the most likely worst case (vs. best case) outcome I see.

    Thanks for the podcast. Actually, for all of them. I’ve probably listened to 75%, and downloaded a fair number of them reference and review.

    As I get the chance, in my ample spare time, I’ll see what I can dig up and pass along re: my local affiliate’s black-suited miscreants. I have quite a megalopolis to pick from hereabouts.

    Best wishes,

  3. I predict a summer of rage but not an actual revolution. Too many people are too comfortable. Now, if the welfare checks stop coming as a large scale event, and that probably trigger an insurgency.

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