Critical Thinking Exercise: What it Takes to Win in Afghanistan

“How We Can Win in Afghanistan,” by Max Boot is located here.

Abstract

The terms counterterrorism and counterinsurgency have become common currency this decade in the wake of September 11, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. To a layman’s ear, they can sound like synonyms, especially because of our habit of labeling all insurgents as terrorists. But to military professionals, they are two very different concepts. Counterterrorism refers to operations employing small numbers of Special Operations “door kickers” and high-tech weapons systems such as Predator drones and cruise missiles. Such operations are designed to capture or kill a small number of “high-value targets.” Counterinsurgency, known as COIN in military argot, is much more ambitious. According to official Army doctrine, COIN refers to “those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency.” The combined approach typically requires a substantial commitment of ground troops for an extended period of time. When General Stanley McChrystal was selected on May 11 of this year as the American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, it was by no means certain which approach he would employ. His background is almost entirely in counterterrorism. He had been head of the Joint Special Operations Command (comprising elite units such as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEALs) when it was carrying out daring raids to capture Saddam Hussein and kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. If he had decided to follow the same approach in Afghanistan, he would have had the support of Vice President Joe Biden and numerous congressional Democrats who favor a narrow counterterrorism strategy to fight al-Qaeda and who want to cut the number of American troops to a bare minimum.


 The file containing my list of key points from the article is here.