18 April 2010


Maj Seth Wheeler penned an interesting study on "Pseudo-Operations" as an additional, plausible option for our Nation's CT strategy. You can read his full submission to the Small Wars Journal, here.

The bottom line, Maj Wheeler highlights several historical case studies where nations used Pseudo-Operations to affect Insurgent/Terror groups and offers these examples as a possible future means for America to conduct counter terror operations in non-permissive environments. I have believed for a long time that the United States needs a low visibility option that can degrade terrorist organizations' capabilities in areas where our Foreign Policy is not conducive to direct US involvement. This is one more facet needed in our CT/IW kit bag.

I think the CIA's involvement with Ahmed Shah Massoud during the late 90's is a great example of how a possible Pseudo-Operation could be implemented. To be clear, the US involvement with Massoud was not a Pseudo-Operation; however, the infrastructure used could be utilized as a model for Pseudo-Operations. The CIA would send small teams to bring Massoud money, equipment, and provide training, in the hopes that he would provide intel or even capture OBL. There was great concern on the CIA's part that money and aid used to target Bin Laden would not be consistent with American values, and give, not only, the United States, but also the CIA, the proverbial black eye. One method used to help maintain our morality was the use of written counseling statements, clearly stating what was and was not acceptable behavior. Maj Wheeler states that Pseudo-Operations can be successful with proper oversight. I believe this oversight comes in the form of written counseling that states, support is contingent on the Pseudo Organization's actions.

If there was a place to perfect this kind of operation, it is undoubtedly Somalia. Nothing has worked so far and Somalia is not on the brink of peace, so what do we have to loose? There are loyalty shifts between individuals in al Shabaab, Hizbul Islam, and the Islamic Courts Union. We would need to find a disenfranchised member of Hizbul Islam or the ICU, who wants to play a future role in a functioning Somali government. In effect, the goal would be to pit the three groups against each other (which is already happening to some extent) to degrade al Shabaab's capabilities enough to allow the Transitional Federal Government to succeed. The key to this particular Pseudo-Operation would be a clearly defined end state for the chosen group leader. If he plays by our rules, he will receive money and equipment, while working toward a position in the TFG. The Pseudo-Operation's fighters would also need some legitimate way out of conflict, a program like the "Sons of Iraq" could be the way to go. I think this situation and scenario provides us the least risk in attempting a Pseudo-Operation.


  1. Lawerence Cline wrote a great paper on the subject of pseudo operations back in 2005. I think the ultimate act of violence towards your enemy, is one in which your enemy is killed by what he thought was a friend or comrade.


  2. Matt,

    Thanks for providing the link, I look forward to reading it. I am ashamed to say that the first time I have heard of Pseudo-Operations was this week, but that is the best part about this blog, readers shed awareness. Stay Safe-