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Counterinsurgency expert: We need to rethink how we fight

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Published:   |   Updated: February 18, 2014 at 10:57 PM

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TAMPA — David Kilcullen, who helped write the military’s guide to waging the counterinsurgency campaign used in Iraq and Afghanistan, says it is time to rethink that effort as the world continues to change.

Speaking on the opening day of a two-day conference put on by the University of South Florida’s Citizenship Initiative, Kilcullen says a changing world calls for a changing approach.

A former Australian Army officer who later became a senior counter-insurgency advisor to Army Gen. David Petraeus and then served as special advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Kilcullen laid out a vision for the future that outpaces what previous doctrine can handle.

Kilcullen said any policy needs to recognize the ongoing explosion in the world’s population. The earth’s population stood at about 750 million people in the middle of the 18th century, he said; current projections estimate a world population of 9.5 billion by the middle of this century.

More than half the population now lives in cities, with the fastest growing in some of the poorest parts of the globe. And increasingly, everyone is connected by modern communications.

All that has changed the challenges facing a military that since the end of the war in Iraq has largely fought in the undeveloped and sparsely populated Afghanistan.

“In Karachi (Pakistan), a city of 22 million, you could put the entire U.S. military in and most people wouldn’t even know they were there.”

Kilcullen said that on Thursday, his company, Caerus Associates, is going to release the results of a 15-month study on the humanitarian efforts in the Syrian civil war. With people on the ground in Syria working with teams analyzing Syrian social media and other data, the study found that aid is not getting to the most vulnerable populations, Kilcullen said.

The conference was created to help drive the debate about national strategy and military doctrine after 13 years of war.

Earlier in the day, Army Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division and formerly deputy chief of staff for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan talked about how his command, designed to react quickly anywhere in the world, is a “microcosm” of the shifting U.S. interests.

Still responsible for helping to win the war in Afghanistan, it also has to be ready to react elsewhere around the globe, is reducing the number of brigades from six to five and has to retrain a cadre of mid-level officers and senior enlisted personnel who have known nothing but the counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another element examined was how jihadi groups fund their operations.

David Asher, a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, talked about a massive international effort in which Hizballah sold used cars to launder the profits of their illegal drug trade.

Russ Howard, a retired Army brigadier general and now director of the Monterrey Institute of International Studies, said that crime is big business.

About $9.5 billion is raised through human trafficking, $2 to $10 billion through weapons sales, $400 billion to $1 trillion on illegal drug sales, and untold fortunes in the sales of commodities like oil, conflict diamonds and cigarettes.

One of the big markets of the future?

“Antiquities and art,” says Howard.

Wednesday’s session opens with a panel on “The Prospects for Counterinsurgency, Stability Operations, and Peacekeeping After Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The panel will be moderated by Paula Broadwell, a major in the Army Reserves who had her security clearance put on hold and is still under investigation by the Army after her affair with Petraeus led to his resignation as director of the CIA.

Broadwell, who declined to talk about the investigation, said the panel she is moderating will look at the future of missions like the Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan where U.S. troops trained Afghan local police.

“Stability operations are absolutely applicable to everything we are going to do in the future,” said Broadwell.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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