Major General Tony Jeapes’ book, SAS Secret War: Operation Storm in the Middle East, is timely and relevant book that would be of interest to all Special Forces Soldiers and anyone else interested in counterinsurgency warfare.
The book details the operations of a squadron of the British 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, or SAS, in the Dhofar War, a campaign fought in the austere province of Dhofar in southwestern Oman from 1966 to 1976. The Omani government of Sultan Qaboos, assisted by a small number of SAS soldiers, contract military personnel and British logistics support, fought one of the few successful counterinsurgency campaigns in modern times. Their enemy (Adoo in Dhofari) was the communist guerrillas of the People’s Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf, a movement supported from across the nearby border with the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.
By 1970, the Adoo were in control of the bulk of the province, controlling the interior “djebel” or plateau, above the coastal plain and isolating the major population centers. Starting with a scattered, poorly equipped Omani military, the British elements were able to improve Omani operations and governance, successfully crushing the insurgency movement.
The Dhofar War is an example of classic modern counterinsurgency theory successfully applied to a contemporary conflict. The author, Major General Tony Jeapes, tells the story of the successful campaign from his contemporary vantage point of being the SAS squadron commander. He outlines the objectives of the Adoo to subjugate the isolated and undeveloped province of Dhofar, and he describes the harsh and austere operational environment. He follows with what makes this book unique — a prescient outline of the strategic and operational counterinsurgency objectives by which he guided his campaign. These objectives are common to all counterinsurgency campaigns: to improve Omani military capacity and capability, thereby improving the security; to improve the reach of Omani government services, such as roads, clinics, schools and veterinary services; to conduct a truthful and an accurate information campaign, and lastly, to isolate, capture and “turn,” if possible, their Adoo military opponents.
The story that follows vividly portrays the campaign as it was pursued along the established lines of operation. The Omani military was supported and fostered to control the coastal plain, expanding control from its main bases. Irregular forces — the Firqats, which were filled with surrendered enemy personnel — were created to pursue the enemy using their appreciation of the local area and politics. Security was provided to bring health, veterinary and educational services to the undeveloped Dhofar province. A vigorous information- operations campaign was waged by the creation of a weekly newspaper, notice boards and daily radio broadcasts to provide an accurate and timely Omani government viewpoint to the Dhofaris.
SAS Secret War: Operation Storm in the Middle East is the story of a counterinsurgency campaign run with a clear plan and objectives to a successful conclusion. The parallels of the Dhofari campaign to current counterinsurgency operations by the United States are considerable. The operation of the British forces in a remote, harsh and undeveloped country with a disparate ethnic, linguistic and religious population, and an enemy supported from across an international border, is analogous to the situation that U.S. forces face in Afghanistan. Read in conjunction with David Galula’s classic Counterinsurgency Warfare, Jeapes’ SAS Secret War is a case study of a successfully planned and conducted modern counterinsurgency.
This book would, without doubt, be appreciated by any reader with an interest in modern applications of counterinsurgency theory. It is a demonstration that the basic tenets of counterinsurgency — focusing on the population and its political center of gravity — properly applied and resourced, can have a successful conclusion.