Posts Tagged ‘COIN’

An Interview with Matthew Hoh

Derrick Crowe. Return Good for Evil, 21 November 2009.


How many recruits do they [al-Qaida] get per year? A hundred? Two hundred? The Muslim population is over a billion. You’re talking about such a small fraction. It’s really associated with such a fringe movement that we have to attack using human intelligence and using law enforcement techniques. Army brigade combat teams do not affect al-Qaida. Having 60,00 troops in Afghanistan is not affecting al-Qaida. …[T]he destruction of al-Qaida should be our priority…but we need to go after that organization as it exists and not with ground combat troops in Afghanistan.

Are American Muslims A Threat?

response by Michael Brenner to question posed by James Kitfield on National Journal Expert Blog, 19 November 2009.


…all it would take to restore sanity is some slight reflection on our dismal performance everywhere we have tried our hand at manipulation in the Greater Middle East since 9/11. We have been consistently arrogant, incompetent, corrupt – in all senses, callous to the pain inflicted on the natives and ourselves alike, and abject failures.

Building on 2 blunders: the dubious case for counterinsurgency

Stephen M. Walt. Foreign Policy, 16 November 2009.

Editor’s Comment

Walt makes a fundamental strategic point. The Bush wars involved operational and grand strategic errors, so why institutionalize a shift in defense planning that in effect has the U.S. military prepare for more strategic errors by our leadership? Why not opt to correct the error? It is really an elemental point of strategy: Don’t compound error!

I understand how military professionals who have been ordered to take on foolish strategic missions might feel that counterinsurgency theory is an attractive way out of their tactical and operational dilemmas. But there is really no excuse for civilian leaders, including Sec Def Gates, chasing the mirage of COIN as if it were an answer for our current problems dealing with the consequences of a disastrous Bush national security strategy. Change the strategy and there will be no need for investments in COIN!

Conceptualizations of Insurgency and its Effects on the Counterinsurgency Policy Process

Adam L. Silverman. Sic Semper Tyrannis, 12 November 2009.


Given the reality that the US faces in Afghanistan; the historic lack of functional centralized government, exceedingly high number of societal elements, many of which are geographically isolated or semi-isolated, the illegitimacy of the current Afghan government, and the fact that groups we are fighting are not all insurgents makes successfully reaching the COIN end state of tethering Afghan society back to the Afghan state very, very difficult. The debate on the use of COIN really needs to be focused in on this difficult set of Afghan circumstances and whether they allow any chance for a positive counterinsurgency outcome.

Winning in Afghanistan: A Message from Ambassador Eikenberry

Karl E. Eikenberry. Embassy of the U.S.A., Kabul, 08 November 2009.

Full Spectrum Dominance and COIN

Dave Anderson. News Hoggers, 06 November 2009.


COIN does not decrease the chance of future interventions; it instead probably increases the chance of future interventions and invasions as it is a “solution” that is “proven to work” as long as not too many questions are raised about either what “working” means or the initial rosy scenario assumptions that are made to sell the invasion.

Ambassador Eikenberry’s Cables on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan

Karl W. Eikenberry. The The New York Times has published two cables authored by the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul addressed to Secretary of State Clinton. The first is dated 06 November 2009 and is entitled “COIN Strategy: Civilian Concerns”. The second is dated 09 November 2009 and is entitled “Looking Beyond Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan”.

Editor’s Comment:

Quibble: COIN is a tactic, not a strategy. Non-quibble: Wars are rarely decided at the tactical level.

Refighting the Last War: Afghanistan and the Vietnam Template

Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason. Military Review, November/December 2009.


By misunderstanding the basic nature of the enemy, the United States is fghting the wrong war again, just as we did in Vietnam. It is hard to defeat an enemy you do not understand.

Elections don’t make democracies; democracies make elections.

As Jeffrey Record … notes, “the fundamental political obstacle to an enduring American success in Vietnam [was] a politically illegitimate, militarily feckless, and thoroughly corrupted South Vietnamese client regime.” Substitute the word “Afghanistan” for the words “South Vietnam” in these quotations and the descriptions apply precisely to today’s government in Kabul. Like Afghanistan, South Vietnam at the national level was a massively corrupt collection of self-interested warlords, many of them deeply implicated in the proftable opium trade, with almost nonexistent legitimacy outside the capital city. The purely military gains achieved at such terrible cost in our nation’s blood and treasure in Vietnam never came close to exhausting the enemy’s manpower pool or his will to fght, and simply could not be sus-
tained politically by a venal and incompetent set of dysfunctional state institutions where self-interest
was the order of the day.

No Pashtun would ever identify himself by his province, where we are attempting to impose external governance. Rural Pashtuns thus have no perceivable political interest in this keystone of international military and political effort in Afghanistan.

“Extending the reach of the central government” is precisely the wrong strategy in Afghanistan because it is exactly what the rural people do not want. The level of coercive social change that would be required to actually implement this radical social revolution in Afghanistan is beyond our national means.