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There are four broad categories of operations in LIC: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency, Combating Terrorism, Peacekeeping Operations, and Peacetime Contingency Operations. Any conflict may involve one or more of these categories simultaneously.15


The objective in insurgency is mobilizing the populace to support a revolution. In counterinsurgency, the objective is mobilization in support of the existing government and against the insurgent movement. Although the two are polar opposites, the same general principles apply and the actual application becomes a matter of who is being supported.16

Insurgency primarily involves Unconventional Warfare, or the organization, training, and support of guerrilla forces. This is normally done by a small number of selected trainers or a specially organized support organization. They can be a select group of conventional force officers and NCOs or a Special Forces Team organized by TO& for that purpose.

Psychological operations are also an integral part of support to any insurgency. They provide a means to mobilize the populace both politically and operationally in support of guerrilla operations. The PSYOP unit would develop campaigns to discredit the government and highlight its shortcomings.

The U.S. military has never undertaken an insurgency operation as the lead agency. An example can be drawn from the early days of the American Revolution when France, Germany, and Spain contributed in many ways to support the emerging colonial rebels in their conflict with England.

Counterinsurgency17involves the full range of operations in support of a friendly foreign government. Nation building is a key operational concept. U.S. Forces operations should fit into an overall country plan which supports the established civil government. Normally the U.S. Ambassador orchestrates this plan and recommends the type of forces and operations which will be most effective.

U.S. Forces can be as limited as a small cadre designed to assist police or military training, or a large combat force to conduct direct operations against the insurgents. The latter is one of the least preferred options, because it causes direct U.S. involvement and begins to substitute U.S. military operations for those of the host nation government. A much more positive use of the same force, if the situation in the host country has not already become critical, is to deploy it on a combined training exercise in-country as a show of force. This demonstrates U.S. faith in the existing government and a resolve to assist if necessary. Example: British operations in Malaya, used earlier to illustrate the imperatives of LIC, illustrate the full range of successful counterinsurgency efforts.


Combatting Terrorism includes all actions to protect installations, units, and individuals from the threat of terrorism. Combatting terrorism includes both antiterrorism (AT) and counterterrorism (CT) actions throughout the entire spectrum of conflict. It is designed to provide coordinated action before, during, and after terrorist incidents. This includes both the passive measures associated with antiterrorism and the active measures of counterterrorism.

    Antiterrorism involves the measures taken by installations, units or individuals to reduce the probability of their falling victim to a terrorist act. Educational programs, physical security, personal protection techniques, and operational patterns are all passive means of making a target less appealing to a terrorist.18 Example: Unannounced MP searches of cars entering installations.

    Counterterrorism is the full range of offensive measures to prevent, deter, and respond to terrorism. Participation in counterterrorist actions is normally limited to specially trained and equipped forces kept on alert status for that purpose.19Example: The Israeli operation to rescue the airline passengers held hostage in Entebbe, Uganda during 1976.


Peacekeeping Operations maintain peace already obtained through diplomatic efforts. A peacekeeping force supervises and implements a negotiated truce to which belligerent parties have agreed. A distinguishing feature of these operations is the prohibition against violence, limiting it to self defense only.20Example: The Multinational Force Observer (MFO) operations in the Sinai act as a buffer between forces which have negotiated a peace but require 3rd party assistance in maintaining and monitoring the separation of forces.


Peacetime Contingency Operations are a rapid mobilization of effort to focus on a specific problem. This is usually during a crisis and guided at the national level by the crisis action system. These operations include such diverse actions as disaster relief, counter-drug ops, or land, sea, or air strikes. Operations may require the exercise of restraint and the selective use of force or concentrated violent actions21.

A wide array of options for U.S. Force employment exists. Limited in duration and focused on a specific objective, they do not always require combat operations as an integral' element. Examples: Operations BLAST FURNACE, URGENT FURY, and HAWKEYE.

    Operation BLAST FURNACE was the 1986 aviation task force support of the Bolivian Narcotics Police involving 6 UH-60 helicopters with an accompanying support, security, and intelligence package. The mission was to assist in targeting and transport of the host country's assets to conduct raids on cocaine production facilities.

    Operation URGENT FURY was the mission on the island of Grenada in 1983, to rescue American medical students and reduce Cuban influence. It was a violent, short-duration operation, oriented on an armed rescue and the immediate reduction of hostile forces. U.S. Forces were purposely tailored to achieve decisive results in a short time.

    Operation HAWKEYE was the XVIII ABN Corps Task Force deployment to the island of St. Croix to assist local law enforcement following hurricane Hugo in 1989. The task force included command and control, military police, civil affairs, and medical personnel.

These examples illustrate the wide variety of operations, and that the specific objective should dictate the type of forces and required response rather than a predetermined formula for a standard response.

Operations can involve several categories simultaneously. This was the case during the air strike against Libya in retaliation for their earlier terrorist acts. By way of responding to an act of terrorism and to deter future acts, the U.S. conducted what could be viewed as a peacetime contingency operation involving a joint raid by conventional forces.

The preceding examples illustrate that LIC Operations can take many forms and require a variety of force structures. There are several common threads that run through all these actions. The following characteristics of LIC and some general lessons learned demonstrate this point.

Table of Contents
Historical Perspective - Malaya 1948
Low Intensity Conflict Lessons Learned

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