Insurgency is one of the oldest as well as common ways of warfare. Statistics reveal that in the last 100 years, there has been an increase in the number and intensity of insurgencies, especially urban insurgency. In order to defeat the urban insurgency, it is vital for counter-insurgency forces to understand the dynamics of the urban environment in that rebel forces often hide in the shadows of the non-partisan civil population1. Special considerations with respect to civilian populations should be given when planning and executing an urban counter-insurgency regardless of where operations are conducted2. Lessons learned from the past can assist in our understanding of how to deal with the current conflicts. This paper aims to assist in understanding urban counter-insurgency operations in Northern Ireland and explore applicability to operations in Afghanistan. In order to accomplish this task, a summary of events, tactics and techniques used by the insurgency and counter-insurgency, outcomes, and effects on the civilian population and environment will be examined.
Summary of Events
The violence that affected Northern Ireland can be traced back to the English conquest of Ireland in the early 17th century when the indigenous Irish Protestant population aligned themselves with their English Protestant conquerors and achieved power over their Catholic counterparts. This acquired power resulted in a growing and longstanding prejudice toward the Catholic population; prejudice was manifest, primarily, through economic and political inequality and culminated in the mid 20th century with armed conflict and subsequent political settlements. During the 1950’s, the increasing divide between Catholics and Protestants was evidenced by economic discrimination. During this time, the Catholic population was not given equal employment opportunities. According to records of 1951, Catholics constituted 40% of manual laborers while only 11% held senior positions in the public sector. Eight years later, numbers of Catholics in senior positions drastically declined to 6%. Disparities in employment opportunities led to great animosity among the Catholic population toward the Protestants. Issues with economic discrimination were compounded by political differences which began to arise in the 1960s. As the 1960s began, the Protestants assuredly saw themselves as British subjects and desired that Northern Ireland should remain under control of the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Catholics viewed themselves as Irish and were convinced that Northern Ireland should rejoin the Republic of Ireland. It goes without saying that this view was not accepted by the Protestants as they feared they would become the minority and possibly face oppression similar to that experienced by the Catholic minority. The political challenge by the Catholic minority forced the hand of the Protestant majority to institute policies with a goal to suppress Catholics. By 1968, the discord between Catholics and Protestants began to materialize in the form of a Catholic civil rights movement. During this time, the Protestants were convinced that the Catholic civil rights movement was a ploy to destroy the union between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. The fears of the Protestant majority were realized during several Catholic civil rights marches between 1968 and 1969, resulting in a tremendous amount of violence perpetrated on the Catholic community by not only Protestant rioters but also the police force. As a result, the Catholics created a militant opposition group which became known Irish Republican Army and armed conflict became inevitable. As the country slid deeper and deeper into armed conflict, British troops were sent to Northern Ireland to restore order in August of 1969. Upon arrival of the British Army, detaining citizens without trial was legalized and many men were taken to jail...