To some, the fact that Gen. David Petraeus, the American military figure most associated with counterinsurgency, is responsible for increasing the use of airpower in Aghanistan represents a paradox. But assessments of the utility of airpower in counterinsurgency efforts have always been bound up in debates over the utility of airpower itself and over the importance of air forces as a separate arm of the military.

Over the Horizon: Airpower and Savage Wars

By , , Column

On Monday, USA Today reported that the United States Air Force was increasing the size of its Afghanistan contingent in order to keep up with the dramatic expansion in the rate of airstrikes since Gen. David Petraeus took over command of the war effort.

To some, the fact that Petraeus -- the American military figure most associated with FM 3-24 (.pdf), also known as the counterinsurgency (COIN) manual -- is responsible for increasing the use of airpower in Aghanistan represents a paradox. FM 3-24 takes a notably dim view of airstrikes, suggesting that they "can cause collateral damage that turns people against the host-nation government and provides insurgents with a major propaganda victory. Even when justified under the law of war, bombings that result in civilian casualties can bring media coverage that works to the insurgents' benefit." Soldiers with rifles, it is implied, are better at protecting civilians than fighter jets with bombs. ...

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