Looking Locally

Article excerpt

In "Beneficial War" from the previous issue, US Army Colonel Gian Gentile argued that counterinsurgency (COIN), the military doctrine for American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan by which American forces work to build security and governance in occupied territory, has largely failed. Gentile argues that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have remained unaffected by COIN, yet the doctrine has monopolized Army strategy and planning. This has forced politicians to accede to militarist commanders and threatened to transform our military-industrial complex for the worse.

However, Gentile does not properly classify COIN operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and gives too much credit to it as a doctrine dominating discussions in Washington. In fact, the Army has failed to hilly embrace counterinsurgency, a failure that is reflected in our faltering efforts in Afghanistan. More importantly, the Army faces a domestic and international political environment in which traditional ground warfare has become increasingly obsolescent.

Counterinsurgency as defined by Colonel Gentile does not appropriately reflect the full spectrum of counterinsurgency. Whenever possible, counterinsurgency places the onus of operations on local forces, with American forces primarily serving in an advisory capacity. However, American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan typically conducted operations either alone or using a token indigenous contingent to aid in their operations. By paying only lip service to enabling local forces to combat the insurgency, Americans bore the brunt of the fighting and prevented local forces from gaining experience and legitimacy. …