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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe AmericasAmerica Still Needs Counterinsurgency

America Still Needs Counterinsurgency

Author: Max Boot

Affiliation: Council on Foreign Relations 

Organization/Publisher:  Foreign Affairs

Date/Place: June 2, 2021/USA

Type of Literature:  Analysis

Word Count: 2258


Keywords: Counter-Insurgency, COIN, Counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, ISIS 


Despite being a risky option, counterinsurgency (COIN)—a military strategy to provide ordinary people with security and essential services—is a strategy that the US has at hand. Washington’s great-power competition with China and Russia has competitors moving carefully, but insurgency goes on. The writing off of COIN has already occurred in Afghanistan. COIN strategy was initially successful, but failures have resulted from the US’ strategic mistakes. Sending the US military for specified periods encouraged the Taliban to move back to districts and wait for the US to pull its military back.  Another reason for the COIN failure in Afghanistan has been the corruption of the army commanders and the limitations of the Afghan military to operate on its own. Though COIN failed in Afghanistan, it has proved successful elsewhere. For Colombian security services, government forces have provided security for civilians rather than simply trying to eliminate individual insurgents or their commanders. The US should have its own COIN success. As it had achieved its COIN success against ISIS, Washington should not directly engage the enemy. Still, the US needs to focus on helping allied militaries and governments (civil-military teams) deal with the threats themselves. Washington should help allies carry out such missions in an advise-and-assist capacity. As COIN can easily fail, the manner of holding it successful is the only way that the US has to take. 

By: Imad Atoui, CIGA Research Associate



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