A GUERRILLA BASE or base area is a physically secure geographic location used by political dissidents from which they can launch military attacks. Historically, such bases were local or national. In 2003, the process became global, with guerrilla bases of al-Qaeda staged in AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, the PHILIPPINES, SUDAN, and possibly South America. Since guerrilla bases are not randomly located and must provide both security as well as political access, their locations become somewhat predictable.
Using special geographic areas for political dissidents is not new. However, in the 1920s, Mao Zedong in CHINA developed specific guidelines for the location and geopolitical nature of such bases. For optimum political impact as well as general security of the participants, such bases should meet as many of the following location or geographic criteria as possible:
- It is best if an area or group has had previous experience in anti-government protests or activities.
- Ideally, a base should be located where there are multiple political or administrative boundaries that create confusion in terms of local government authority.
- A location should be chosen that provides access to a multiplicity of political targets that are demographic, economic, or political.
- The area selected should provide some kind of physical advantage against government military attack, for example, mountains, jungles, swamps, distance from formal military units.
- To the extent possible, the location should be capable of economic self-sufficiency. That is, it should be largely invulnerable to the withholding of food or essential supplies.
The use of these geographic conditions can be applied at all scales, from national to regional and even in an urban context with appropriate modifications, for example, high-rises and slums may equal rugged topography and jungle analogues. The key is target access and personal safety. It is the objective of these groups that distinguishes them from simple bandit hideouts like those used by Jesse James and others.
The ultimate objective is for each base area to become a proto-province or political unit. The creation of many base areas begins to form a geopolitical system and eventually an entire insurgent state. This was a calculated process in China during the civil war and has been used with varying degrees of success in almost all modern guerrilla wars.
The modern variation on this process is where an insurgent political movement (in this case, al-Qaeda) seeks to create bases among sympathetic concentrations of Muslims, regardless of where they may be located (Detroit, MICHIGAN, or the southern Philippines). The process is the same. Find a sympathetic population and locate in an area that has access to political targets yet provides some physical safety. In some instances, this safety has been provided by a sympathetic national government as in Afghanistan under the Taliban, and in Pakistan or YEMEN at various times.