Insurgency and counterinsurgency are not new to Americans. People often forget that the American Revolution was an insurgency by colonists against the British crown. In South Carolina, Frances Marion, the so-called “Swamp Fox” who hid with his band of guerrillas in the woods and led raids against British troops, is considered an American hero. Likewise, during the American Civil War, southern “partisans” such as John Mosby, of Mosby’s Rangers, became infamous for their successful guerrilla tactics against Union soldiers.1
Americans have an even more extensive history as counter-insurgents –with a mixed record of success.2 Early American expansion led to a number of bloody engagements between the Army (and sometimes the Marines) and various Native American tribes in the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), in the Creek and Seminole Wars that followed in the South, and in the many famous clashes with the Sioux, the Comanche, and others in the West throughout the 1800s. Many of the lessons learned through trial and error on the American frontier were handed down through word of mouth by soldiers who brought their personal experiences from one fight to the next.
This nearly uninterrupted string of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla operations informed the U.S. military’s approach in later conflicts, including the guerrilla elements of the Civil War and its aftermath; the Mexican-American War of 1846-48; the Spanish-American War and the long struggle against Filipino insurgents from 1898 to at least 1910.3 The Marine Corps leveraged the only doctrine the Army had up to that point (Small Wars and Punitive Expeditions)4 in the so-called Caribbean “Banana Wars,” and ultimately recorded its lessons learned from that experience as doctrine in the 1940 publication of the Small Wars Manual.5
Janine Davidson wrote this paper while a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings.
It will take more than cosmetic steps by Pakistan to get the Trump administration to unfreeze security assistance [to Pakistan]. Washington is looking for serious and sustained efforts against the Haqqanis [Haqqani Network], and active measures to incentivize the Taliban to engage in peace talks. I also suspect that any resumption of security assistance would be phased, focusing first on restoring military exchanges and narrowly-targeted counterterrorism assistance programs.
This suspension [of U.S. military aid] will no doubt put pressure on Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves, but I am skeptical that cutting a few hundred million dollars in assistance will induce Pakistan to make significant changes to its security policy. Today’s announcement sends a signal about the U.S. administration’s intent to hold Pakistan to account in the public domain. Whether it accomplishes more than that is yet to be seen.
The suspension [of military aid to Pakistan] is arguably more significant as a signal of Washington’s discontent than as an act of financial deprivation. The Trump administration has likely sketched out an escalation strategy, and would be wise to pause after Thursday’s announcement to give Pakistan the opportunity to quietly address U.S. concerns.