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Abstract

This monograph outlines strategic considerations relative to counterinsurgency campaigns; presents an overview of the current conflict in Iraq, focusing on counterinsurgency; analyzes counterinsurgency operations in Iraq; presents conclusions about counterinsurgency, based on the U.S. experience in Iraq; describes implications from that experience for future counterinsurgency operations; and offers recommendations to improve the ability of the U.S. government to conduct counterinsurgency in the future. For example, U.S. counterinsurgency experience in Iraq has revealed the need to achieve synergy and balance among several simultaneous civilian and military efforts and the need to continually address and reassess the right indicators to determine whether current strategies are adequate. The need to continually reassess counterinsurgency strategy and tactics implies that military and civilian leaders must have not only the will, but also a formal mechanism, to fearlessly and thoroughly call to the attention of senior decisionmakers any shortfalls in policies and practices, e.g., in Iraq, failure to protect the civilian population, as well as overreliance on technological approaches to counterinsurgency. The Iraq experience is particularly germane to drawing lessons about counterinsurgency. In essence, the conflict there is a local political power struggle overlaid with sectarian violence and fueled by fanatical foreign jihadists and criminal opportunists — a combination of factors likely to be replicated in insurgencies elsewhere.

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Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Overview of the Conflict in Iraq

  • Chapter Two

    Armed Groups in Iraq

  • Chapter Three

    Counterinsurgency in Iraq

  • Chapter Four

    Accounting for Success and Failure

  • Chapter Five

    Building Effective Capabilities for Counterinsurgency

  • Chapter Six

    Recommendations

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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