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The Malayan Emergency 1948-1960

A Terrorist Insurgency Trying To Overthrow A Government Newly Formed After A War of Liberation - Sound Familiar?

During the Second World War the British fought alongside the Communists in Malaya to defeat the Japanese, however in the aftermath the Communists had a different vision for the future of the country, and a civil war erupted.

Essentially the Communists were supported by the ethnic Chinese population, and operated from bases deep within the jungle, striking at plantations, government officials and the infrastructure of the country in order to overthrow the British supported Government and instill Communist rule.

The British, Malayan Government and their Allies moved hundreds of thousands of Ethnic Chinese away from the Communists, into "Fortified Hamlets" where they could be constantly guarded and unable to lend their support to the Communists, cutting them off from their main source of food and money.

Special Forces worked with the indigenous population to identify Communist bases and call in ground & air-strikes, which along with patrols forced the Communists further and further into the Jungle, until in 1958 any remaining insurgents fled into Thailand.

What can we learn from the handling and tactics used in the Malayan Emergency? Well firstly, that and battle against Terrorists or guerillas has to include hearts and minds. The British, by moving the Ethnic Chinese, starved the Communists of support, but also gave those Ethnic Chinese land rights, new villages and stability. They made their lives better.

Using Special forces the British pursued the Communists into the jungle, but this was only effective because of the help provided by the jungle indigenous tribes, which the Brit's got on side with food, medicine and aide.

Probably the most important factor was that the British made it clear that Malay was working towards independence - they had fought together against the Japanese in WWII and now the UK wanted to give the people their independence, not keep a colony there.

There are of course factors that helped the British. The Malay Communists didn't have a powerful foreign ally, so they were fighting a continually diminishing force. The British Army also had a force of approximately 40,000 regular soldiers at their disposal and over 200,000 Malayan troops.

So the question has to be, why didn't at least the British take the above into account when fighting in Iraq & Afghanistan?

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