Clear and hold
Clear and hold is a counter-insurgency strategy in which military personnel clear an area of guerrillas or other insurgents, then keep the area clear of insurgents while winning the support of the populace for the government and its policies. As defined by the United States Army, "clear and hold" contains three elements: civil-military operations, combat operations, and information warfare. Only highly strategic areas are initially chosen for "clear and hold" operations; once these are secure, the operation gradually spreads to less strategic areas until the desired geographic unit (county, province, nation) is under control. Once an area has been cleared, local police (rather than military) authority is re-established and government authority re-asserted.
Development and critical elements
The clear and hold strategy was first developed by Sir Robert Thompson and the British Army during the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960. It was also widely employed by the British during the Mau Mau Uprising of 1952–1960. The strategy was also implemented by General Creighton Abrams as part of the "pacification" effort conducted by the Republic of Vietnam and the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War (at which time the strategy became widely known). Clear and hold has also been used as a counter-insurgency tactic in Algeria, Greece, the Philippines, and South Korea. The strategy was used extensively by the United States and its allies in the Iraq War.
Several critical elements of the clear and hold strategy have been identified. One element is to secure support for the strategy at all levels of the traditional military forces. Experience in Vietnam has shown that traditional military forces dislike the limited role they play in the clear and hold strategy, and may successfully advocate for a more traditional war-making role. Another challenge is that the strategy takes time, which a government may not (for various reasons) have. The strategy also requires significant numbers of on-the-ground "clearing" combat and "holding" police forces. Thompson and others have also argued that clear and hold operations can only be successful by isolating the population from insurgents, but some strategists point out that this can have deleterious effects on public support for the government and its policies.
Assessment of the strategy
The success of clear and hold as a counter-insurgency strategy is hotly debated. Military historian Lewis Sorley has argued that clear and hold tactics were markedly successful in the Vietnam War, despite being implemented after a decade of conflict and under less than ideal conditions. His view is supported by others, who see the strategy as still viable in the 21st century.
While combat operations against insurgents are often successful, some authors conclude that combat operations themselves make it very difficult to win support for the government, that "hold" operations are rarely successful, and that guerrillas easily adapt. Others argue that the initial limited goals of clear and hold operations enable guerrilla forces to regroup militarily, limiting the combat effectiveness of the strategy. Some analysts have also voiced the concern that the strategy relies too heavily on physical security issues, and ignores the role that ideology, nationalism, and other belief systems play in fomenting insurgency in the first place.
More recently, American military strategists in Iraq and Afghanistan have proposed modifications to the strategy. Sometimes defined as "clear, hold and build" as well as "shape, clear, hold, and build", this strategy relies more heavily on using native forces to identify the nature and strength of the enemy threat in a given area (shape), using foreign and native forces to defeat the enemy threat (clear), using foreign and native forces to keep the area clear of enemies (hold), and establishing native democratic institutions which draw their legitimacy from the local people (build). Basic services such as electricity, sewer systems, and fresh water were also provided, as well as farms and marketplaces. By 2008, the strategy had "shown some results in Iraq." International affairs expert Anthony Cordesman has noted less success in Afghanistan, where many areas were still in the "shape", "clear", and "hold" stage after nine years, and only a few others in beginning, mixed "hold/build" stages. Journalist Fred Kaplan has argued that the revised doctrine is ethnocentric, capitalist, and materialistic, ignoring such important beliefs as religion and cultural norms and institutions. Kaplan also concludes that too little discussion is given to local versus national government (especially regarding corruption and trustworthiness) and situations where a majority of the population is on the side of the insurgents.
- U.S. Army, Counterinsurgency Operations, 2004, p. 3–11.
- U.S. Army, Counterinsurgency Operations, 2004, p. 3–12.
- U.S. Army, Counterinsurgency Operations, 2004, p. 3–13.
- Joes, America and Guerrilla Warfare, 2004, p. 254; see also, generally, Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency: Experiences from Malaya and Vietnam, 1978.
- Thompson invented the term. See: Marston and Malkasian, "Introduction," in Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, 2008, p. 14.
- Collins, Military Strategy, 2002, p. 187.
- Tuohy, "Ky's Army Switches to Pacification Role," Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1966; "South Viet Nam: To Clear & to Hold," Time, March 27, 1964.
- Joes, The War for South Viet Nam, 1954–1975, 2001, p. 63.
- Ignatius, "A Better Strategy For Iraq," Washington Post, November 4, 2005; West, The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq, 2009, p. 110.
- Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990, 1991, p. 83; Walton, The Myth of Inevitable US Defeat in Vietnam, 2002, p. 55.
- Asprey, War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History, 2002, p. 831.
- Walton, The Myth of Inevitable US Defeat in Vietnam, 2002, p. 55; Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006, p. 413.
- Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000, p. 170; Gettleman, Vietnam and America: A Documented History, 1995, p. 210.
- See, generally: Sorley, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam, 1999; see also: Elliott, "Parallel Wars? ..." in Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam, 2007, p. 29; Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, 2007, p. 418.
- See, generally: Walton, The Myth of Inevitable US Defeat in Vietnam, 2002; Trinquier, Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency, 2006.
- Elliott, The Vietnamese War: Revolution and Social Change in the Mekong Delta, 1930–1975, 2007, p. 8.
- Walton, The Myth of Inevitable US Defeat in Vietnam, 2002, p. 58; Taber, War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare, 2002, p. 85.
- Gettleman, Vietnam and America: A Documented History, 1995, p. 211–212.
- Dunn, Tom Newton. "The Prize and the Price." The Sun. January 12, 2011, accessed 2012-12-27; Bowman, War in Afghanistan, p. 28–29.
- Bowman, Tom (October 31, 2008). "'Clear And Hold' Showing Results 40 Years Later". NPR.org. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
- Cordesman, Anthony (July 22, 2010). The Need to Refocus Afghan Metrics and Narratives on Key Local Areas and Population Centers (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies. p. 2. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
- Maslin, Janet. "A General Battles His Own Army: 'The Insurgents,' About David Petraeus, by Fred Kaplan." New York Times. December 26, 2012, accessed 2012-12-27; and, generally, Kaplan, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War.
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- Collins, John M. Military Strategy: Principles, Practices, and Historical Perspectives. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2002. ISBN 1-57488-430-1
- Elliott, David W. P. "Parallel Wars? Can 'Lessons of Vietnam' Be Applied to Iraq?" In Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam, or, How Not to Learn From the Past. Lloyd C. Gardner and Marilyn Blatt Young, eds. New York: New Press, 2007. ISBN 1-59558-149-9
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- Gettleman, Marvin E. Vietnam and America: A Documented History. 2d rev. ed. New York: Grove Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8021-3362-2
- Headquarters. Department of the Army. Counterinsurgency Operations. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 2004. ISBN 7-116-69200-2
- Ignatius, David. "A Better Strategy For Iraq." The Washington Post. November 4, 2005.
- Joes, Anthony James. America and Guerrilla Warfare. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. ISBN 0-8131-9095-9
- Joes, Anthony James. The War for South Viet Nam, 1954–1975. 2d rev. ed. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-275-96806-5
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- Kaplan, Fred. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4516-4263-6
- Marston, Daniel and Malkasian, Carter. "Introduction." In Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare. Daniel Marston and Carter Malkasian, eds. Westminster, Md.: Osprey Publishing, 2008. ISBN 1-84603-281-4
- Ricks, Thomas E. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin Group, 2006. ISBN 1-59420-103-X
- Sorley, Lewis. A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999. ISBN 0-15-601309-6
- "South Viet Nam: To Clear & to Hold." Time. March 27, 1964.
- Taber, Robert. War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare. Reprint ed. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2002. ISBN 1-57488-555-3
- Thompson, Sir Robert. Defeating Communist Insurgency: Experiences from Malaya and Vietnam. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1978. ISBN 0-333-24825-2
- Trinquier, Roger. Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 0-275-99268-3
- Tuohy, William. "Ky's Army Switches to Pacification Role." Los Angeles Times. November 6, 1966.
- Walton, C. Dale. The Myth of Inevitable US Defeat in Vietnam. Florence, Ky.: Taylor & Francis, 2002. ISBN 0-7146-8191-1
- West, Bing. The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq. Reprint ed. New York: Random House, 2009. ISBN 0-8129-7866-8
- Woodward, Bob. State of Denial: Bush at War. Reprint ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007. ISBN 0-7432-7224-2
- Young, Marilyn Blatt. The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990. Reprint ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. ISBN 0-06-092107-2