Two car bombs exploded today in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan. But what’s interesting here isn’t the tragedy of the bombs—that’s something that almost goes without saying, and is difficult to assess from the U.S.—but rather how Russia is responding to the various endemic insurgencies in the Caucasus. From the article:
The Kremlin has pledged to wage “a ruthless fight” against militant groups but also acknowledged a need to tackle unemployment, organized crime, clan rivalry and corruption as causes of the ongoing violence in the region.
One additional angle to this renewed COIN focus of theirs: tribal militias. Over at wish-it-was-my-day-job Current Intelligence, I have a short post about this:
Who knew counterterrorism was as simple as identifying people by their appearance? This kind of lazy stereotyping is one of many reasons why “arming the tribes,” of which the Daghestani attempt is merely the latest example around the world, is so fraught with danger. It is true that local proxies are normally part of a counterinsurgent’s arsenal—some people have made careers out of saying so—but that doesn’t mean they are always a good idea….
Counterinsurgency is risky war, perhaps one of the riskiest methods of warfare. Worse than the risk, there are no right answers—even doctrinally, concepts need to be emphasized or discarded in a chaotic, and sometimes contradictory way, to achieve success.
So in that sense, it’s interesting to see how the trend in arming tribes—not developing intelligence networks, or economically or governmentally undermining the insurgency, but arming new groups—seems to have taken hold in Daghestan. It’s possible this policy will result in a temporary, even short-term stabilization in the province (though at what human or material cost no one can really say).
I think Russia’s evolving COIN doctrine is a fascinating thing to watch. I wonder if other countries viewed the U.S. military’s evolving relationship to COIN with the same fascination? Given the obvious pitfalls in such warfare, I suspect it was less fascination than dread. Still, I’ll try to keep an eye on what Russia does going forward.