Bridging the short and long term goals of Counterinsurgency: Theory and Practice
Gregg, Heather S.
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Academic literature on counterinsurgency (COIN) is rich, and includes theories that delineate how to fight insurgents and case studies on historic and contemporary conflicts. In practice, however, waging a successful COIN campaign remains one of the toughest forms of warfare and, more often than not, results in defeat. This paper compares the theoretical stages in COIN—population engagement, stabilization, and the creation of a viable state1—with the challenges of winning these battles and linking them to victory in practice, focusing particularly on recent U.S. experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. It argues that, operationally, the United States Government faces several challenges to achieving victory in COIN, including the deployment cycles of U.S. forces, resources of civilian agencies, organizational cultures of civilian and military actors, and the status of the Host Nation’s government. These problems, while important to acknowledge, do not have easy fixes and will most likely continue to plague U.S. COIN initiatives in the future.
Prepared for the International Studies Association Conference February 17-20, 2010 New Orleans, LA
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