ISSUE 190 : Mar/Apr - 2013 - Australian Defence Force Journal

adfjournal.adc.edu.au

ISSUE 190 : Mar/Apr - 2013 - Australian Defence Force Journal

In managing this province, the British implemented a number of strategies. Firstly, theyrestricted the strategic space of the tribes, by constraining them to their own areas andpreventing any spill-over of conflict into adjoining areas. Secondly, and at the same time, theBritish permitted the tribes the tactical latitude to release their surplus reserves of energyand burn themselves out in a controlled environment. Thirdly, they held firm to the view(indeed, a primary objective) that any cessation of hostilities would need to be initiated bythe ‘recalcitrant’ tribes, with the peace then negotiated on British terms. 7 Finally, the Britishallowed the tribes autonomy to settle their internal legal disputes.In terms of tactical developments, the British had to deal with better armaments and bettertactics among the tribes as time went on. By 1925, they had developed The Manual ofOperations on the North-West Frontier of India, and both British and Indian Army units beganto absorb its lessons, especially when they were stationed adjacent to the frontier and tookthe time to train for mountain warfare. 8 However, there were still failures, such as the 1936-37operations in Waziristan, where the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders suffered unnecessarycasualties because of their failure to adapt to frontier warfare techniques. By 1939, newand improved doctrine had been developed, published in Frontier Warfare (Army and RoyalAir Force) 1939, incorporating all-arms lessons, mechanisation, frontier techniques and airoperations in the one volume. 9Nevertheless, it was not quite a ‘modern’ approach to counterinsurgency. The British strategic‘ends and means’ equation was not about building Pushtun acceptance of the political statusquo, nor building a society that was settled and had the benefits of British economic, socialand humanitarian endeavours. The British had long concluded that endemic warfare wasthe norm for the Pushtun tribes and that there was little the British could do to encouragethem into some form of polity. So the main aim was to secure the frontier against foreignadversaries—while accepting some risk in leaving an ungoverned strip of territory with a largemeasure of tribal autonomy—allowing the vast bulk of British India’s inhabitants to go abouttheir lives in a settled way, subject to the rule of law (albeit without democracy).However, the British approach did emphasise some attributes of successful moderncounterinsurgency doctrine. Firstly, the prime focus of British forces was not the attrition ofthe tribes but about ‘sufficient’ attrition to bring them to the negotiating table or back underpolitical control. Secondly, the British (both political and military elements) gave priority to thecollection and analysis of human intelligence, as well as the use of tribal levies, local translatorsand British linguists. The British did not isolate themselves from the local inhabitants,recognising that locals were the element most likely to provide them with intelligence.Thirdly, the British were not obsessed with force protection, although the best units andformations maintained their security by controlling the high ground as they advanced. Fourthly,the British Indian Army did not practise just ‘reactive’ tactics; the best units and commandersemployed surprise, deception and aggression. 10 They also progressively integrated newweapons systems into their approach (an early example was the Maxim gun), as well asdeveloping advances in infantry weapons, the air force and mechanisation, including the useof tanks.These lessons were sometimes forgotten, notably at the start of the Waziristan campaignsin 1919 and 1936. And in terms of modern counterinsurgency doctrine, the British were not‘humanitarian’ towards the local inhabitants, and employed the concept of ‘hearts and minds’45

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