chapter  6
31 Pages

Counterinsurgency operations

In previous chapters we have focused our attention on conventional land operations. Land warfare, however, has important unconventional dimensions, not least in relation to insurgency and counterinsurgency. Insurgency is one of the most widespread types of armed conflict. Yet despite its ubiquity, the history of efforts to defeat insurgency is a history marked by profound problems and controversies. Indeed, given experiences over the last ten years or so in Iraq and Afghanistan, an observer might be forgiven for thinking that insurgencies are almost impervious to military action. They are not: insurgencies can be, indeed often have been, defeated, and over time the methods by which this can be done have been codified by many armies into formal doctrines. This chapter concerns itself primarily with one key question: what are the principles

of modern counterinsurgency operations? Our investigation begins with a brief overview of the phenomenon of insurgency – its origins, objectives and methods. The chapter then considers the development of classic counterinsurgency techniques according to three broad chronological headings: imperial policing operations, charting responses by colonial powers to indigenous resistance; the so-called ‘golden age’ of counterinsurgency that emerged after the Second World War and which was associated with attempts to quell ideologically motivated insurgent groups; and contemporary COIN efforts, focused on the period after the end of the Cold War. The final part of the chapter explains the difficulties associated with counterinsurgency, especially the difficulties in defining success, the debates surrounding the nature of contemporary insurgency, and the problems involved with the execution of COIN operations themselves.