The Urbanization of Insurgency: The Potential Challenge to U.S. Army Operations

by Jennifer Taw, Bruce Hoffman


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This report evaluates the effects of urbanization and population growth on the conduct of insurgency/counterinsurgency operations and assesses the U.S.'s ability to effectively support foreign nations' counterinsurgency activities. The report argues that as the dual demographic trends of rapid population growth and urbanization continue to change the face of the developing world, the likelihood of urban insurgency is increasing. It also argues that although urban insurgencies have traditionally been the easiest kind to defeat, that may no longer be the case. This means that governments, no longer able to simply rely on their urban counterterrorist or rural counterinsurgency strategies, will have to develop a hybrid strategy that prepares them to fight a broad-based insurgency across rural and urban environments. The report concludes that the United States can provide only limited support in these efforts, because it has neither the resources nor the will to become directly involved. The United States must realize that there are factors over which it has no control and that before committing its support to a counterinsurgency effort, it must determine how much it is willing to spend, how much it can control, how its efforts will be perceived, and the minimum outcome it will accept.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Effects of Demographic Changes on Subnational Conflict in the Developing World

  • Chapter Three

    Combating Urban Insurgency

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusions and Recommendations: U.S. Readiness for Counterinsurgency Operations on Urban Terrain

  • Appendix

    Annotated Bibliography: Conventional Military Operations on Urban Terrain

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The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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