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America’s Guide for “Unconventional” Warfare (Insurgencies) P2

Chapter 2: Fundamentals of Resistance and Insurgency

The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea. Mao Zedong

Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move. Sun Tzu

Separate definitions exist for resistance movements and insurgencies within the DOD and various academic communities. However, within this document, the two terms convey  a  strategy  of  insurrection.  Planners  broadly  use  the  term  “insurgency”  to describe  the  concept  of  achieving  aims  through  a  strategy  of  armed  conflict  and subversion against an indigenous government or occupying power. Planners use the term “resistance movement” to convey a unique type of insurgency that focuses on the removal of an occupying power. The difference in terminology is important to the concept  of  UW,  because  planners  must  understand  the  significant  differences  in dealing with a resistance movement that forms in response to an occupying power, and an insurgency that grows over time out of discontent for an oppressive regime. Planners  generically  use  the  term  “resistance”  to  categorize  the  activities  of  a resistance movement or insurgency.

Insurgents  are  inherently  indigenous.  There  remains  confusion  regarding  external support  elements,  such  as  foreign  fighters.  Even  when  the  U.S.  forces  or  foreign fighters  support  an  insurgency  or  resistance  movement,  planners  should  not categorize them as part of the insurgency. Planners should categorize these elements as enablers, facilitators, advisors, or supporters.


2-1.  Resistance generally begins with the desire of individuals to remove intolerable conditions imposed by an unpopular regime or occupying power. Feelings of opposition toward the governing authority and hatred of existing conditions that conflict with the individual’s values, interests, aspirations, and way of life spread from the individual to his family, close friends, and neighbors. As a result, an entire community may  possess  an  obsessive  hatred  for  the  established  authority.  Initially,  this  hatred  will  manifest  as sporadic,  spontaneous  nonviolent  and  violent  acts  of  resistance  by  the  people  toward  authority.  As  the discontent grows, natural leaders, such as former military personnel, clergymen, local office holders, and neighborhood representatives, emerge to channel this discontent into organized resistance that promotes its growth. The population must believe they have nothing to lose, or more to gain. Key to transitioning from growing  discontent  to insurrection is the perception by a significant portion of the population that they have nothing to lose by revolting and the belief that they can succeed. In addition, there must be a spark that triggers insurrection, such as a catalyzing event that ignites popular support against the government power and a dynamic insurgent leadership that is able to exploit the situation. Figure 2-1, page 2-2, defines words critical to understanding resistance movements.

Figure 2-1. Resistance terminology
Figure 2-1. Resistance terminology


2-2.  People who outwardly follow their normal mode of existence conduct clandestine resistance. This type  of  resistance  is  organized  and  controlled  and  conducts  the  following  activities  as  groups  and individuals:

  Political action.

  Propaganda.

  Espionage.

  Sabotage.

  Traffic in contraband.

  Intelligence gathering.


2-3.  Individuals and groups who train along military lines perform overt resistance. Planners refer to this militant  arm  of  the  resistance  movement  as  the  guerrilla  force.  These  elements  make  no  secret  of  their existence or their objectives. However, resistance leaders compartmentalize the specific relationship of the guerrilla  force  to  other  components  of  the  resistance  movement  to  prevent  compromise  of  the  entire movement.

2-4.  Each insurgency or resistance movement has its own unique characteristics based upon its strategic objectives,  operational  environment,  and  available  resources.  Insurgencies  normally  seek  to  change  the existing social order and reallocate power within the country. Typical insurgent goals include:

  Removal  of  the  established  governing  authority,  whether  an  indigenous  regime  or  occupying military power.

  Establishment of an autonomous national territory within the borders of a state.

  Extraction of political concessions that the movement cannot attain through nonviolent means.

2-5.  The  structure  of  an  insurgency  or  resistance  movement  is  similar  to  an  iceberg  (Figure  2-2, page 2-4). Most of the structure is below the surface, and only the peak is visible. In building a resistance structure,  insurgent  leaders  give  principal  attention  to  the  development  of  a  clandestine  supporting infrastructure. This infrastructure works—

  Among the citizens in rural villages, towns, and urban cities.

  Within the military, police, and administrative apparatus of government.

  Among labor groups and students.


2-6.  JP  3-24,  Counterinsurgency  Operations,  lists  eight  dynamics  of  an  insurgency.  JP 3-24  includes internal  support  and  organizational  and  operational  patterns.  FM  3-24,  Counterinsurgency,  lists  six dynamics of an insurgency. FM 3-24 does not include organization and operational patterns. However, SF continue to use organization as one of the dynamics of an insurgency to understand the form, function and logic of insurgent movements.

2-7.  Seven dynamics are common to most successful insurgencies. These dynamics provide a framework for  planners  to  analyze  insurgencies.  It  is  some  combination  of  these  dynamics  that  will  generally transform popular disconnect into an organized and effective movement.


2-8.  A group committing random political violence is not an insurgency. In an insurgency, the group is committing directed and focused political violence.  It  requires  leadership  to  provide  vision,  direction, guidance,  coordination,  and  organizational  coherence.  The  insurgency  leaders  must  make  their  cause known to the people and gain popular support. Their key tasks are to break the ties between the people and the government and to establish credibility for their movement. The leaders must replace the government’s Chapter 2 legitimacy with that of their own. Their ability to serve as a catalyst that motivates and inspires others to have faith in their cause is vital to the movement’s growth. Their ability to organize and willingness to distribute power across the organization is vital to the long-term success of the movement. Organizations dependent upon key charismatic personalities to provide cohesion and motivation for the movement are vulnerable to disruptions if the enemy removes or co-opts those players.

Figure 2-2. Structure of an insurgency or resistance movement
Figure 2-2. Structure of an insurgency or resistance movement


America’s Guide for “Unconventional” Warfare (Insurgencies) P1

Special Forces Unconventional Warfare

Training Circular No. 18-01, Headquarters Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 30 November 2010


Training Circular (TC) 18-01, Special Forces Unconventional Warfare, defines the current United States (U.S.) Army Special Forces (SF) concept of planning and conducting unconventional warfare (UW) operations. For the foreseeable future, U.S. forces will predominantly engage in irregular warfare (IW) operations.


TC 18-01 is authoritative but not directive. It serves as a guide and does not preclude SF units from developing their own standing operating procedures (SOPs) to meet their needs. It explains planning and the roles of SF, Military  Information  Support  operations  (MISO),  and  Civil  Affairs  (CA)  in  UW  operations.  There are appropriate manuals within the series that addresses the other primary SF missions in detail.


The primary users of this manual are commanders, staff officers, and operational personnel at the team (Special Forces operational detachment A [SFODA]), company (Special Forces operational detachment B [SFODB]), and battalion (Special Forces operational detachment C [SFODC]) levels.  This TC is specifically for SF Soldiers; however, it is also intended for use Army wide to improve the integration of SF into the plans and operations of other special operations forces (SOF) and conventional forces.


Commanders and trainers should use this and other related manuals in conjunction with command guidance and the Combined Arms Training Strategy to plan and conduct successful UW operations. This publication applies to the Active Army, the Army National Guard (ARNG)/Army National Guard of the United States (ARNGUS), and the United States Army Reserve (USAR) unless otherwise stated.


The  proponent  of  this  TC  is  the  United  States  Army  John  F.  Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS). Submit comments and recommended changes on Department of the Army (DA) Form 2028 (Recommended  Changes  to  Publications  and  Blank  Forms)  directly  to  Commander,  USAJFKSWCS, ATTN: AOJK-DTD-SF, 2175 Reilly Road, Stop A, Fort Bragg, NC 28310-5000. This TC is designed to be UNCLASSIFIED in order to ensure the widest distribution possible to the appropriate Army special operations forces  (ARSOF)  and  other  interested  Department  of  Defense  (DOD)  and  United  States  Government  (USG) agencies  while  protecting  technical  or  operational  information  from  automatic  dissemination  under  the International Exchange Program or by other means. Unless this publication states otherwise, masculine nouns and pronouns do not refer exclusively to men.

Chapter 1: Overview

There  is  another  type  of  warfare—new  in  its  intensity,  ancient  in  its  origin—war  by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It preys on unrest. President John F. Kennedy, 1962

The Commander, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), defines UW as activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.


1-1.  The  intent  of  U.S.  UW  efforts  is  to  exploit  a  hostile  power’s  political,  military,  economic,  and psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish U.S. strategic objectives.  Historically,  the  military  concept  for  the  employment  of  UW  was  primarily  in  support  of resistance  movements  during  general-war  scenarios.  While  this  concept  remains  valid,  the  operational environment  since  the  end  of  World  War  II  has  increasingly  required  U.S.  forces  to  conduct  UW  in scenarios short of general war (limited war).

1-2.  Enabling  a  resistance  movement  or  insurgency  entails  the  development  of  an  underground  and guerrilla  forces,  as  well  as  supporting  auxiliaries  for  each  of  these  elements.  Resistance movements or insurgencies always have an underground element. The armed component of these groups is the guerrilla force and is only present if the resistance transitions to conflict. The combined effects of two interrelated lines  of  effort  largely  generate  the  end  result  of  a  UW  campaign.  The  efforts  are  armed  conflict  and subversion. Forces conduct armed conflict, normally in the form of guerrilla warfare, against the security apparatus of the host nation (HN) or occupying military. Conflict also includes operations that attack and degrade enemy morale, organizational cohesion, and operational effectiveness and separate the enemy from the  population.  Over  time,  these  attacks  degrade  the  ability  of  the  HN  or  occupying  military  to  project military power and exert control over the population. Subversion undermines the power of the government or occupying element by portraying it as incapable of effective governance to the population.

1-3.  Department  of  Defense  Directive  (DODD)  3000.07,  Irregular  Warfare,  recognizes  that  IW  is  as strategically important as traditional warfare. UW is inherently a USG interagency effort, with a scope that frequently exceeds the capabilities of the DOD alone.  There are numerous, uniquely defined terms associated with UW (Figure 1-1, page 1-2).

These terms developed over the years from various military and government agencies, as well as the academic world. Many of the terms used to define UW appear to closely resemble one another and most are found in Joint Publication (JP) 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, or JP 3-05, Doctrine for Joint Special Operations.

1-4.  The  following  chapters  contain  vital  information  for  U.S.  Forces.  In addition, there are four appendixes. Appendix A provides an example of an area study, Appendix B gives an example of an SF area assessment, Appendix C contains a sample program of instruction for resistance forces, and Appendix D details SF caching.

Figure 1-1. Unconventional warfare terminology
Figure 1-1. Unconventional warfare terminology


1-5.  Three  documents  capture  the  U.S.  national  strategy:  the  National  Security  Strategy,  the  National Defense Strategy, and the National Military Strategy. The National Security Strategy states the President’s interest  and  goals.  The  National  Defense  Strategy  is  the  DOD  contribution  to  the  National  Security Strategy.  The  National  Defense  Strategy  also  provides  a  framework  for  other  DOD  strategic  guidance, specifically for campaign and contingency planning, force development, and intelligence. The goals and objectives of the President’s National Security Strategy guide the National Military Strategy. In addition, the  National  Military  Strategy  implements  the  Secretary  of  Defense’s  National  Defense  Strategy.  The National Military Strategy provides focus for military activities by defining a set of interrelated military objectives.

1-6.  USG support to a resistance or insurgency can manifest in any of the following manners:

  Indirect  support.  In  limited-war  scenarios,  overt  U.S.  support  for  a  resistance  movement  is sometimes undesirable. In these cases, the USG may indirectly render support though a coalition partner or a third-country location. The USG normally limits indirect support to logistical aid and training. Limited war presents a much more restrictive environment that requires low-profile execution of all USG support operations.

  Direct  support  (less  combat).  In  general-war  scenarios,  the  visibility  of  USG  support  is  less controversial, which expands the nature of possible USG support to include a wider scope of logistical  support,  training,  and  advisory  assistance.  U.S.  assistance  can  include  advisors  in sanctuaries or insurgent-controlled areas not in direct combat. The United States can also render assistance from a neighboring country.

  Combat support. Combat support includes all of the activities of indirect and direct support in addition to combat operations.

1-7.  Before providing support to a resistance movement or insurgency, planners must consider how the ideology and objectives of the resistance movement affect strategic interests in the region. Planners must ensure leadership clearly defines U.S. national strategy and goals before planners make any determination regarding  the  appropriateness  of  support  to  a  resistance  movement  or  insurgency.  Without  a  clear understanding of the desired effects and end state for a region or conflict, it is impossible to assess whether support to a resistance or insurgency would achieve favorable results.

1-8.  Successful planners weigh the benefits of providing support to resistance forces against the overall strategic  context  of  a  campaign.  They  must  not  allow  a  desire  to  conduct  UW  or  to  produce  a  purely military  effect  dominate  their  judgment.  Support  to  resistance  forces  does  not  simply  contribute  to  a military effort; it undoubtedly alters the geopolitical landscape of a given region. Planners may deem a specific  insurgent  effort  feasible  and  appropriate  to  the  military  effort,  but  consider  it  strategically unfavorable because of the political risk of the effort or the potential for increased regional instability.