Moving Beyond Population-Centric Vs. Enemy-Centric Counterinsurgency

Published in: Small Wars & Insurgencies, v. 27, no. 6, 2016, p. 1019-1042

by Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke, Beth Grill, Molly Dunigan

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Historically, insurgency is one of the most prevalent forms of armed conflict and it is likely to remain common in the foreseeable future. Recent experiences with counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan offer many lessons for future counterinsurgents, but the discourse on the subject continues to be mired in a traditional dichotomy pitting population-centric approaches to counterinsurgency against enemy-centric approaches. Historical analysis suggests that this traditional dichotomy is not a sufficiently nuanced way to understand or plan for such operations. Instead, discussions of counterinsurgency should focus on two dimensions: actions (use of physical force vs. political or moral actions) and targets (active insurgents vs. insurgent support). This perspective divides the space of possible counterinsurgency efforts into four quadrants, suggesting that effective counterinsurgency campaigns find a balance of effort across the four quadrants that is well matched to the specific context.

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