Moving forward by looking in the rearview mirror
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The U.S. military remains a premier conventional fighting force, but success in counterinsurgency has proved to be beyond its grasp on numerous occasions. Consequently, this research investigates preconditions that could increase the likelihood of success for a U.S.-supported counterinsurgency. The selected factors include the host government's level of legitimacy, its capacity and willingness to deny sanctuary, and whether it shares key objectives with the United States. In all four cases of this comparative analysis, the United States functioned as the external supporter to the counterinsurgency forces. The cases include conflicts in the Philippines (2002Ð2014), El Salvador (1981Ð1992), Afghanistan (2001Ð2009), and Iraq (2003Ð2006). In the cases of the Philippines and El Salvador, both governments demonstrated a degree of legitimacy, the capacity and willingness to deny sanctuary, and shared critical objectives with the United States. In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, both governments were relatively illegitimate and lacked the willingness and capacity to deny sanctuary. Moreover, while the host governments shared some objectives with the United States, the local populations did not embrace these ideals. Arguably, the Philippine and El Salvador cases reached acceptable outcomes, while the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have not. Therefore, this thesis recommends that the United States should not commit significant military support unless all three pre-conditions are satisfied.
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