'Small Footprint' Counterinsurgency Strategies Work Best with Narrow Range of Partners
Feb 26, 2014
This report describes counterinsurgency strategies and practices and conditions in which U.S. "small-footprint" partnerships may succeed. Successful U.S. operations have been concentrated in favorable conditions, but most insurgencies occur in worst-case conditions. Case studies of the Philippines and Pakistan reinforce findings of the analysis and highlight challenges for the U.S. in trying to influence partners. Recommendations are offered for managing troubled partnerships.
Understanding U.S. Small-Footprint Interventions in Local Context
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This study examines the counterinsurgency strategies and practices adopted by threatened regimes and the conditions under which U.S. "small-footprint" partnerships are likely to help these governments succeed. The report's findings are derived from a mixed-method research design incorporating both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Simple statistical analyses are applied to a dataset of counterinsurgencies that have terminated since the end of the Cold War (72 in all), and more in-depth analyses are provided of two recent cases of U.S. partnerships with counterinsurgent regimes, in the Philippines and Pakistan. The quantitative analysis finds that the cases of small-footprint U.S. operations that are commonly touted as "success stories" all occurred in countries approximating a best-case scenario. Such a verdict is not meant to deny the importance of U.S. assistance; rather, it is meant to highlight that similar U.S. policies with less promising partner nations should not be expected to produce anywhere near the same levels of success. The majority of insurgencies have taken place in worst-case conditions, and in these environments, counterinsurgent regimes are typically unsuccessful in their efforts to end rebellion, and they often employ violence indiscriminately. The case studies of the Philippines and Pakistan largely reinforce the findings of the quantitative analysis. They also highlight the challenges the United States faces in attempting to influence partner regimes to fight counterinsurgencies in the manner that the United States would prefer. The study concludes with policy recommendations for managing troubled partnerships.
Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective
Quantitative Analysis of Counterinsurgency
Counterinsurgency in the Philippines
Counterinsurgency in Pakistan
Managing Troubled Partnerships
The research described in this report was sponsored by the Smith Richardson Foundation and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.
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