Military theorists and generals are urging President Trump to adopt the principles of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Giving the failed COIN playbook developed by General David Petreaus another chance is the wrong move. As William Smith explains at The American Conservative, the COIN manual doesn’t take into account issues of history and culture that are vital to success. He writes (abridged):
For the last decade, a rough consensus has emerged about the 2006 revised U.S. counterinsurgency manual written by General David Petraeus. …it is beyond dispute that the manual failed to achieve its most important goal—political reconciliation in those two nations…Why has this new strategy ultimately failed to win these wars?
Among committed interventionists, counterinsurgency doctrine became theological, a form of apologetics against criticisms of the Iraq War and interventionism generally.
As Donald Trump prepares to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, military intellectuals are again arguing that the only path to victory is the adoption of counterinsurgency strategies.
The counterinsurgency strategies adopted in Iraq and Afghanistan did, at certain points and for a period, create a more peaceful order. Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that the beneficial effects of these approaches had little staying power. Within a few short years, and even as American troop levels were peaking, cities like Tal Afar returned to horrific violence and many of the cities pacified during the surge were ultimately overrun by ISIS.
Petraeus might have considered the possibility that invading a large nation in a foreign civilization would create enormous cultural challenges and tensions that might not ever be solved—particularly not by an invading military
U.S. military planners must realize that political disorder and insurgency is the default outcome when an army from an alien civilization invades another civilization.
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