The Red Scourage Returns-2008


The text below is an extract from a 2008 USAWC masters thesis by William Florig (a Pacific Command Civil Affairs officer) on the strategic threat of South Asian Maoism to US imperialism which advocates more aggressive US support to the Indian state.The US military apparatus has shown its continued interest in this issue with the 2012 publication of former BSF Director General Prakash Singh’s report Irregular Warfare: The Maoist Challenge to India’s Internal Security by the Joint Special Operations University which describes itself as “the educational component of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The JSOU mission is to educate SOF executive, senior, and intermediate leaders and selected other national and international security decision makers, both military and civilian, through teaching, outreach, and research in the science and art of joint special operations. JSOU provides education to the men and women of SOF and to those who enable the SOF mission in a joint and interagency environment.” -Signalfire

“It is unlikely that US forces would be directly involved in combating Maoist insurgency in India as it is viewed as an internal security issue. But if the Maoists are successful in carving out base areas, raising large insurgent guerrilla and conventional forces, and creating a broad united front in India to challenge the government for power, that could change as the insurgency would spread to India’s immediate neighbors and threaten much of South Asia as the networks for expansion already exist.

As US investment grows in India, US involvement in Indian affairs will grow as well, especially from an economic and security standpoint. The Maoists know that India’s high- technology sector is the capitalist star of the Indian economy and have plans to target it. Damaging that infrastructure and stopping foreign investment is one of their long-term plans that will directly confront US interests. Targeting multi-national corporations and stemming foreign investment is part of modern asymmetrical warfare. The economic ripples will be felt far beyond India. US involvement in the short term is problematic as American military literature treats Maoist insurgency as passé.

Frank Hoffman rails against the ‘classic’ Maoist model stating, “Today’s insurgent is not the Maoist of yesterday.” Clearly he has not been observing the Maoists of Nepal and India or the New People’s Army in the Philippines just to name a few. The writings of Steven Metz, one of the preeminent experts on insurgency are constantly challenging us to rethink COIN as our doctrines are based on fighting the classical insurgencies of the past. He desires to shift the focus to the insurgencies of the 21st century yet classical Maoism is raging unchecked in India, has established a government in Nepal, and is about to explode in South Asia, a place of great US economic and security interest.Current conflict is blinding us to what is to come from the Maoists.

Recommendations to Prevent Maoist Success in South Asia

The US needs to revise Joint and Army Doctrine to address the imminent Maoist threat and train US forces to counter Maoist political warfare. Future US involvement in combating Maoist insurgency will face an uphill battle as US doctrine and COIN strategies are focused on Afghanistan and Iraq. A basic student of the Maoist approach need only read FM 3-24 to note that we are unprepared for this type of insurgency. FM 3-24 is a good tactical template for US troops operating in Iraq but it has no viable solutions for conducting political warfare at any level. It dedicates only 1.5 pages to Maoist insurgency largely relegating it to history.

It acknowledges that political factors are primary in insurgencies but yet does not discuss how to work for political solutions that solve insurgencies.Alexander Alderson captures the essence of this argument well, quoting British COIN expert Frank Kitson stating, “There can be no such thing as a purely military solution because insurgency is not primarily a military activity.” Alderson continues, “No matter how radical and complex an insurgency may be, and however the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are interpreted, counterinsurgency is still not a military activity and current doctrine should reflect that.”

The US joint community needs to create political warfare training for combating future Maoist insurgencies under the greater umbrella of improving strategic communications from the grand strategic to the tactical level. This can be done by creating new courses in the military education system, new manuals, and doctrine devoted to Maoist insurgency and how to combat it. Iraq and Afghanistan are not the templates of the future and should not steer future doctrines. Counterinsurgency should be trained by the joint community as much as it trains for conventional warfighting. Diplomatically no regional forum exists for the states of South Asia to address the transnational Maoist problem. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar are providing sanctuary willingly or unwillingly to the CPI-M and its associated parties.

These nations have a vested interest in not allowing these Maoist groups to expand domestically but need to develop a concerted plan to end the red terror. The US Department of State, as lead agency, in partnership with the government of India and regional democracies, must create a forum to assist in developing solutions to the regional threat of Maoist insurgency. India should be the lead regional nation to defeat it. It also needs to emphasize this problem as a greater issue for South Asia and bring Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka into regional discussions to solve this problem before it is truly out of control.

Additionally the Department of State should not recognize the new Maoist-led government of Nepal and should encourage Nepal’s neighbors to do the same. Recognizing this government in any capacity legitimizes the Maoist strategic approach and will create unlimited sanctuary for the future Maoist armies of South Asia. From a financial assistance perspective USAID funding for India is paltry and does not target Maoist infested areas. The CPI-M should not be defeated militarily, but with development and common prosperity. USAID is the key here. USAID spending in India is projected to be 180-220 million per year for the next five years.

This is a mere pittance compared to what we are spending to influence Islamic societies. Small investments in affected districts will create confidence in local governance and undermine anything the Maoists are promising from their counter-state. The USAID India budget should be raised to one billion annually, matched dollar for dollar by the Indian government, and targeted at Maoist affected districts. The US Department of Commerce can also assist by encouraging US and allied corporations to invest in these troubled areas when the security situation is stable and development has begun. This budget should be focused to target Maoist strongholds in remote areas with roads, clean water, education assistance, employment programs, health care, judicial reforms, tribal, women’s and lower caste empowerment, and democracy education; the root causes of this insurgency.

Insufficient CMO forces exist in the USPACOM theater to assist our allies in combating Maoist insurgency. USPACOM does not have any meaningful CMO forces assigned in theater to take on the task of training and assisting allied forces in development activities to counter Maoist influence. By de-emphasizing military operations and building confidence with host nation development bodies, civil and military, the joint community can demonstrate US good will to allies in South Asia. USPACOM should create a Standing Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force to assist these nations in training their military forces in CMO and assist with development and disaster relief as required. USPACOM should also have its theater allocated civil affairs battalion assigned and stationed in theater to begin building those relationships necessary to defeat these insurgencies with our partners at the lowest level. Future force structure design should include a full civil affairs brigade with three battalions to combat the Maoist threat.


The danger to US-Indian economic and security relations from the Maoist parties of South Asia cannot be overstated. The Maoists have a real possibility in the long-term of toppling Indian state governments and eventually challenging the central government for state power if allowed to operate with impunity. They pose a transnational threat to the region with a governmental sanctuary anchored in Nepal. They are working to build a united front with the secular community, the persecuted, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs, and are coordinating their people’s war with the insurgencies in Kashmir and India’s northeast.

Their secret counter-state infrastructure is organizing throughout troubled regions and building mass organizations of workers, peasants, tribals, youth, students, and women. The People’s Guerrilla Army is growing daily as are the village militias. If this nationwide and regional campaign is not addressed and if prevention does not become policy over containment of the problem, there will emerge a point where the Indian national capacity to respond will fail disastrously. This Indian and regional nightmare is the Maoist’s dream. The continued myopic focus on Islamic terrorism and insurgency is letting the bright future of South Asia slip away into the grasp of the Maoists.”


Lieutenant Colonel William R. Florig US Army War College 2008

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