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U.S. Military Learns COIN Lessons, but They Might Not Be Enough

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Even while U.S. troops are still disengaging from combat in Afghanistan, the American military is hard at work distilling lessons from its long, costly counterinsurgency campaigns of the past decade. Two new counterinsurgency doctrine manuals—a joint one released last November and an updated Army/Marine Corps publication that will hit the streets in the next few days—provide a window into what lessons the military drew from Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet both are also important for what they do not or cannot address.

Military doctrine institutionalizes the recent experience of the armed forces and identifies “best practices” for future operations. That the U.S. military continues to refine its counterinsurgency doctrine after leaving Iraq and preparing to leave Afghanistan is significant. After past counterinsurgency campaigns, uniformed leaders assumed they were out of that business for good and stopped thinking about it. Now the Pentagon is determined to preserve at least some counterinsurgency capability and to continue refining its thinking. ...

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