Drug Wars, Counterinsurgency, and the National
The United States is engaged in two wars: the
war on drugs and the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). These conflicts
have stretched U.S. Special Operation
Forces (SOF) thin. Many units are in their third overseas deployment
in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom.
I recently deployed to Iraq, where I was assigned
to Combined Joint Special Operations task Force- Arabian Peninsula.
There, I witnessed firsthand how skills learned during domestic
counterdrug missions could directly affect the success of counterinsurgency
operations. My 8 years of U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG) counterdrug
experience proved helpful in solving some of the problems conventional
forces faced. Observing how frequently counterdrug skills resembled
the skills of SOF soldiers, I wondered how to leverage the National
Guard Counterdrug Support Program's (NGCDSP's) uniqueness to help
support overburdened SOF and combatant commanders.
The NGCDSP, which has supported the war on
drugs since 1989, has vital experience that the United States should
harness in Iraq, Afghanistan, and counterinsurgency (COIN) operations
around the world. Field Manual-interim 3-07.22, Counterinsurgency
Operations, defines an insurgency as "an organized movement
aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use
of subversion and armed conflict. It is a protracted political military
struggle designed to weaken government control and legitimacy while
increasing insurgent control."1
although the drug war is not an insurgency, insurgencies are often
funded by drug sales. One only has to look at the Revolutionary
armed Forces of Colombia and the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan
to see this.
Field Manual-Interim 3-07.22 also states: "Fundamental
to all counterinsurgencies is the need to help local authorities
establish safety, security, and stability, because insurgents thrive
on chaos and instability."2 the
NGCDSP is postured to take the next step in support of overseas
national security objectives. Clearly, the NGCDSP's years of vital
civil-military counterdrug experience should be used to augment
overburdened SOF and combatant commanders.
DOD and ARNG Involvement
The 1989 national defense authorization act
identifies drugs as a clear and present threat to U.S. security
and designates the department of defense (DOD) as the lead agency
to detect and monitor illegal drug shipments into the country; to
integrate certain command, control, and technical intelligence assets
to ensure they are dedicated to drug interdiction; and to approve
and fund state plans for using ARNG soldiers and air National Guard
(ANG) airmen to support law enforcement agencies (LEAS) and community-based
The NGCDSP, a pure joint program, uses ANG
and ARNG personnel in full-time counterdrug status to conduct full-spectrum
campaigns in support of law-enforcement operations and government
and community-based organizations at all levels. Part of its mission
is to anticipate, prevent, deter, and defeat narcotic threats. To
accomplish this mission, the NGCDSP provides-
• Program-management coordination and
liaison with supported LEAS and CBOs to effectively manage military
personnel and equipment and civil support operations.
• Technical support by linguist-translators,
intelligence analysts, communications support, engineers, and subsurface
• General support to LEAS for domestic
marijuana eradication, including but not limited to aerial, logistic,
communications, intelligence, planning, medical, security, transportation,
herbicide spraying, and operational planning support.3
• Counterdrug-related training to LEAS
and military personnel in military subjects and skills used while
conducting counterdrug operations or while using military equipment
during counterdrug operations.
• Reconnaissance and observation ground
teams to perform area observation to detect and report illegal drug
activities that include but are not limited to marijuana cultivation;
suspected or isolated drug trafficking; airstrips; drug drop zones;
drug trafficking corridors; illegal drug laboratories; and suspicious
aircraft, water craft, or motor vehicles. Ground reconnaissance
teams use a combination of visual methods by mobile teams, unattended
sensors, and ground surveillance radar. ARNG reconnaissance and
aerial interdiction (Raid) uses specially modified OH-58 helicopters.
The ARNG uses RC-26B, HH-60, and C-130 aircraft to conduct aerial
reconnaissance using a combination of visual air-to-ground techniques,
thermal imaging, unmanned aerial vehicles, and photography.
• Drug demand reduction support to provide
training and education to CBOs, including mentoring and role-model
programs, and training to empower local leaders and communities
so they can work with local governments to stem the consequences
of illegal drug use.4
The NGCDSP also owns and operates specialized
equipment located throughout the United States that is dedicated
to supporting drug law enforcement. This equipment provides enhanced
reconnaissance abilities and drug-detection capabilities. Equipment
that could be of value in COIN operations includes-
• Counterdrug RC-26B fixed-wing reconnaissance
aircraft equipped with infrared thermalimaging systems, TV spotter
scopes, moving map displays, digital and wet-film cameras, and Global
Wulfsburg radios capable of providing multiband command and control
• Counterdrug RAID OH-58 helicopters,
which can be flown while using night-vision goggles and are equipped
with infrared sensors, TV cameras, Wulfsburg radios, Global Positioning
Systems, and 30-million-candlepower searchlights.
• Light armored vehicles (LAVs), which
are 8-wheeled vehicles that can hold 8 to 12 people, are equipped
with a variety of radios, and are used primarily as mobile command
centers for tactical operational control but can also be used as
• Mobile vehicle inspection systems,
which are self-contained inspection systems that use low energy
X-ray and Gamma-ray imaging to identify anomalies that might indicate
concealed cargo, narcotics, or explosives in a targeted object.
The NGCDSP also has an extensive federal program
that uses ARNG personnel and assets in a Title 10 (Armed Forces)
status to augment and support U.S. Combatant Command in aerial reconnaissance,
signal intelligence, and radar employment (although ARNG Special
Forces (SF) units have also been used and other ground forces are
A Great Fit
Counterdrug and counterinsurgency operations
strive for the same end state, rely heavily on the use of counterinsurgency
doctrine to be effective, and are examples of fourth-generation
warfare-low intensity asymmetric warfare conducted by groups (rather
than by nations or states) who seek major reallocations of power
or the overthrow of social systems.5
Fourth-generation warfare strategies are most visible when viewed
through the elements of national power: diplomatic, informational,
military and economic (DIME). in fourth-generation warfare, the
military element is not DIME's decisive arm; rather, power rests
with a balance between economic, diplomatic, and informational elements.
In Iraq, even the strongest, most advanced military in the world
does not deter insurgent recruitment. In America, the best and largest
LEAS have not been able to deter or defeat drug gangs, international
cartels, or criminal enterprises. By attacking population groups
instead of the military or LEAS, insurgents and drug cartels preserve
their infrastructure, avoid devastating head-on firefights, and
maintain the ability to spin information to obtain their goals.
Field Manual-Interim 3-07.22 states: "Counterinsurgency
is those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological,
and civic actions taken by a government to defeat an insurgency
(JP 1-02). It is an offensive approach involving all elements of
national power. It supports and influences the host nation's internal
defense and development program."6
Assistance and development programs are the preferred methods of
providing support. Counterinsurgency operations usually provide
three levels of support:
1. indirect support, which stresses host-nation
and local government self-sufficiency to strengthen governmental
infrastructures through economic and military capabilities.
2. Direct support not involving combat operations,
which provides U.S. support directly to civilians or their military,
including civil-military operations.
3. Direct support involving combat operations,
which deploys combat forces against insurgents temporarily until
host nations provide their own security.
Overseas, only the president can order direct
combat support, whereas he would have to invoke the insurrection
act to deploy title 10 forces domestically. Within states, governors
have the authority to mobilize title 32 (National Guard) military
members to quell domestic disturbances. Clearly, the strategic goals
of counterinsurgency operations and those of the drug war are largely
Through its support to domestic LEAS and CBOs,
the Army National Guard has learned how to operate outside a traditional
warfighting role, making the NGCDSP a key player as DOD shifts from
quick, decisive maneuver warfare to fourth-generation warfare and
supporting counterinsurgency operations. What makes National Guard
counterdrug personnel so valuable to COIN is their specialized training,
their years of practical field experience in conducting military
assistance to civil authorities (MACA), and their joint, interagency,
Specialized training. in addition to meeting
all military and professional education requirements, NGCDSP personnel
are as well trained in warfighting as their full-time counterparts.
They also receive specialized training not available to standing
conventional forces, such as advanced shooting, defensive tactics,
motorcade operations, narco-terrorism personal protection, interview
and interrogation, coalition development, photo/video surveillance,
and criminal street gang investigations.
Practical field experience. NGCDSP personnel
have years of practical experience in MACA and full-spectrum operations.
The missions and situations they face daily provide valuable knowledge
and skills that are difficult to replicate. Only SF Training Exercise
Robin Sage comes close to depicting the difficulties encountered
in trying to apply these unconventional warfare techniques. In Robin
Sage, SF soldiers must reconcile the desires of rebel commanders,
competing underground rebel cells, community leaders, and the uncommitted
Joint, interagency problem-solving mindset.
As a fully joint program, the NGCDSP must be able to solve problems
related to both Air Force and army issues. Daily support from LEAS
has taught NGCDSP personnel to immediately analyze situations to
determine how military support will affect all other civilian or
governmental organizations. This new ability is a significant asset
at the program-management level and one closely related to maintaining
Where To Go From Here
The NGCDSP can support COIN operations overseas,
and it possesses the necessary conventional and unconventional skills
to combat insurgencies, particularly in countries such as Afghanistan
that engage in significant opium production. On the word go, the
traditional minutemen of our nation can begin supporting overseas
COIN operations, with emphasis on matters related to coca and poppy
cultivation. The NGCDSP can provide a modular, Title 10 force package
with critical skills and equipment. We should create a title 10
battalion-size joint task force to use NGCDSP skills in an overseas
COIN role.8 But who would control the
force? How would it be staffed, knowing the states are already short
of personnel because of deployments? And how would such a venture
be paid for?
The new battalion would be a purely joint military
entity, created by a joint manning document and assigned for administrative
and logistical support to a combined joint special operations task
force. For mission execution, it would be attached to the U.S. Department
of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement,
to accomplish its overseas narcotics-control mission.
Standing up this force with the least negative
effect on the states is critical. By taking only a few members (by
specialty) from each of the 54 states and territories, the battalion
could quickly attain a workable strength of 360 soldiers and airmen.
The task force could be equipped by allocating key counterdrug program
materiel already in the inventory. Equipment such as LAVs, surveillance
technologies, and reconnaissance aircraft would be vital to successfully
accomplish the task force mission.
The task force could deploy quickly under the
Contingency Operation Temporary Tour of Active duty (COTTAD) statute.
COTTAD tours are limited to 179 days or less, making them consistent
with many SOF tour lengths. Premobilization time could be minimized
(but not shortchanged) using replacement centers at Fort Bliss,
Texas, or Fort Benning, Georgia. In Afghanistan, initial funding
could come from the recently requested $257 million addition to
the existing $15.4 million budget.9
In other U.S. Central Command areas of responsibility (AORs), GWOT
funds could be used, and in the U.S. Southern Command AOR, Andean
Counterdrug Initiative funds could be tapped.10
The Decisive Step Forward
Today the National Guard Bureau domestic Operations
J3 Counterdrug Program consists of approximately 2,500 soldiers
and airmen performing counterdrug duties in a full-time title 32
status throughout the 54 states and territories. This includes more
than 110 linguists and more than 750 people performing intelligence
analysis and case-support duties; 162 highly skilled coalition development
facilitators; and over 150 ground reconnaissance specialists, many
in an armed status. NGCDSP personnel have a long history of joint
and interagency operations. They stand ready to support SOF in counterinsurgency
operations around the world.
1. U.S. Army Field Manual-Interim
(FMI) 3-07.22, Counterinsurgency Operations (Washington, DC: U.S.
Government Printing Office [GPO], October 2004), 1-1.
2. Ibid., iv.
3. Manual eradication,
or "whack and stack," is no longer a valid mission set
for the NGCDSP.
4. U.S. Army National
Guard Regulation 500-2, National Guard Counterdrug Support (Washington
DC: GPO, March 2000), 8.
5. Global Guerrillas,
4GW-Fourth Generation Warfare, posted on-line by Jon Robb, 8 May
2004, at <http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/05/
4gw_fourth_gene.html>, accessed 27 October 2005.
6. FMI 3-07.22, vi.
(See also Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary
of Military and Associated Terms [Washington, DC: GPO, 1994.) Major
Reyes Z. Cole, California National Guard, is assigned to the National
Guard Bureau J3-Counterdrug Division. He received a B.A. from California
State University, Bakersfield, and has served in various command
and staff positions in the continental United States, with Special
Forces units, and with the Combined Joint Special Operations-Arabian
7. Linda Robinson,
Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces (New
York: PublicAffairs, 2004), 28.
8. The new battalion-size
task force would consist of a reconnaissance and security company
(supported by National Guard Bureau [NGB] mission 5); civil affairs
company (supported by NGB mission 4); and a headquarters company
of five specialty platoons: intelligence analysis, language and
translation, communications, engineers, and subsurface divers (supported
by NGB mission 2). Battalion leaders would provide operational planning
support and coordination with host-nation law enforcement agencies
and governmental organizations (supported by mission 1).
9. Thom Shanker, "Pentagon
To Aid Afghan War On Drugs," New York Times, March 2005, and
Contra Costa Times, 25 March 2005.
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