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Review: David Galula’s – Pacification of Algeria 1956-58

June 5, 2009

I am almost finished reading this classic COIN work by David Galula, a Lt.Col. in the French Colonial army during Algeria’s war of Independence.  I will publish in-depth thoughts soon and I highly recommend this reading to anyone interested in counter-insurgency and pacification methodology.   -Mike R (CC)

source for document (RAND Corporation)

http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2006/RAND_MG478-1.pdf

David Galula (1919-1968)

David Galula (1919-1968)

Here are just small quotes from the introductory section:

In February 1956, Galula returned to France and immediately requested assignment to Algeria. On August 1, 1956, then-Captain Galula reported for duty with the 45th B.I.C. (Colonial Infantry Battalion) in Kabylia, a region of intense insurgent activity where French pacification efforts had proven to be both frustrating and problematical.
His recollections, mostly as a company commander but also as deputy battalion commander during the last four months of his tour, still have a remarkable, almost timeless resonance nearly half a
century later. The parallels with America’s own recent experiences in Iraq are striking. A few examples follow:

  • The absence of counterinsurgency doctrine:
    “In my zone, as everywhere in Algeria, the order was to ‘pacify.’ But exactlyhow? The sad truth was that, in spite of all our past experience, we had no single, official doctrine for counterinsurgency warfare.”
  • The perils of failure to recognize the signs of a budding insurgency:
    “ ‘Ordinary banditry,’ said a high-ranking government official in Algiers . . . By the time the insurrection was finally recognized for what it was, only drastic political and military action would have reversed the tide, and slowly in any case.”
  • The insurgents’ urban terrorist strategy:
    “The rebels realized that they could achieve the greatest psychological effect on the French and on world opinion at the cheapest price by stepping up terrorism in the main cities, notably in Algiers, which served as headquarters to most French and foreign correspondents and thus acted as a natural amplifier. A grenade or a bomb in a café there would produce far more noise than an obscure ambush against French soldiers in the Ouarsenis Mountains.”
  • The imperative of separating the population from the insurgents:
    “Our forces were vastly superior to the rebels. Then why couldn’t we finish with them quickly? Because they managed to mobilize the population through terror and persuasion . . . It was therefore imperative that we isolate the rebels from the population and that we gain the support of the population.  This implied that under no circumstances could we afford to antagonize the population even if we had to take risks for ourselves in sparing it.”
  • The concomitant imperative of not inadvertently alienating the indigenous population:
    “If we distinguish between people and rebels, then we have a chance. One cannot catch a fly with vinegar. My rules are this: outwardly treat every civilian as a friend; inwardly you must consider him as a rebel ally until you have positive proof to the contrary.”
  • Promoting women’s rights to counteract support for theinsurgents:
    “Reflecting on who might be our potential allies in the population, I thought that the Kabyle women, given their subjugated condition, would naturally be on our side if we emancipated them.”
  • The emphasis on policing rather than military tactics in countering an insurgency:
    “While the insurgent does not hesitate to use terror, the counterinsurgent has to engage in police work . . . The police work was not to my liking, but it was vital and therefore I accepted it.”
  • The fallacy of a decapitation strategy to defeat an insurgency:
    “Then, five top leaders of the rebellion, including Ben Bella, had been neatly caught during a flight from Rabat to Tunis. Their capture, I admit, had little effect on the direction of the rebellion, because the movement was too loosely organized to crumble under such a blow.”
  • The critical importance in a counterinsurgency of an effective information operations campaign:
    “If there was a field in which we were definitely and infinitely more stupid than our opponents, it was propaganda.”
  • The importance of sealing off the borders:
    “The borders with Morocco and Tunisia would easily have required 100,000 men to control with reasonable effectiveness, given their length and the local terrain. In order to save personnel, it was decided to build an artificial fence, a project which was completed along both borders by the spring of 1958.”
  • The importance of according humane treatment to captured insurgents:
    “Throughout the war our prisoner camps were open for unannounced inspection by the International Red Cross, the reports of which were made public . . . In the best camps, efforts were made to sift the tough prisoners from the soft; where it was not done, the camps became schools for rebel cadres.”
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