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This study explores the nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan, the key challenges and successes of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign, and the capabilities necessary to wage effective counterinsurgency operations. By examining the key lessons from all insurgencies since World War II, it finds that most policymakers repeatedly underestimate the importance of indigenous actors to counterinsurgency efforts. The U.S. should focus its resources on helping improve the capacity of the indigenous government and indigenous security forces to wage counterinsurgency. It has not always done this well. The U.S. military-along with U.S. civilian agencies and other coalition partners-is more likely to be successful in counterinsurgency warfare the more capable and legitimate the indigenous security forces (especially the police), the better the governance capacity of the local state, and the less external support that insurgents receive.

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 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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