Accession Number:



Dividing Our Enemies

Descriptive Note:


Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Dr. Thomas H. Henriksen provides us with historical insights into the benefits and difficulties of implementing strategic concepts for dividing our enemies. He suggests that understanding and leveraging the human fault lines to counter terrorism can sometimes be an important complement to, or even substitute for, Special Operations Forces SOF direct action tactics and larger battles of annihilation. Overwhelming fire is likely to be much less effective by itself in todays global fight against violent extremism than other approaches that can take advantage of the political divisions among insurgents and terrorists. Henriksens review of some past and recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq suggests that SOF are probably exploiting the right strategic vision for the Global War on Terrorism. The use of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban forces was unique to that historical setting, yet it is certainly a historically viable stratagem. The vital role played by SOF in engaging the Kurdish opponents to Husseins government during the Persian Gulf War and the SOF actions during Operation Provide Comfort presaged the Kurdish revolt in the mid-1990s and Kurdish help again in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom as U.S. forces moved unopposed into Kirkuk. The downside of attempting to use factions against one another is seen in our strategic blunder in Fallujah in the spring of 2004, when successfully advancing U.S. Marines were ordered to withdraw from that city and the Baathist-run Fallujah Brigade was put in charge to police the town. This resulted in angered Kurdish and Shiite leaders, a sanctuary for terrorist extremist Abu Musab Zarqawi, and an operational and moral back-slide for U.S. forces. Henriksen points out that exacerbating Sunni-Shia division would contravene our vision for a viable democratic government in Iraq, but that exploiting the rivalries or animosities among the insurgent bands clearly meets our goals.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement: