Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Counterinsurgency: Learn, Prepare, and Partner

Steven Metz has been an advisor to political campaigns, a faculty member of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and a faculty member of the Air War College. Metz wrote “The U.S. Is Again at Risk of Abandoning the Lessons of Counterinsurgency” in 2018. He discussed how many U.S. military operations lacked effective counterinsurgency measures. His solution was to form learning organizations and monitor global insurgencies.

Organizational Structure

A counterinsurgency learning organization should be a joint effort. Metz argued the U.S. Army should have the largest role, but the learning organization should involve the entire government and multinational partners. This organization would conduct strategic war games, research, refine strategic counterinsurgency concepts, and obtain a multinational community of counterinsurgency experts. Additionally, The U.S. can partner with NATO allies. These allies can also provide resources and host counterinsurgency exercises.


The U.S. was involved in regime changes, nation-building, conflict stabilization, and the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan’s forces after the interventions under the George W. Bush administration. U.S. forces were not prepared as armed resistance groups quickly emerged. Metz also noted U.S. force’s counterinsurgency measures were not sufficient in Vietnam in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Pentagon’s Stance

The Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy’s primary goals involved strategic defense measures against ‘revisionist powers’, such as China and Russia, and ‘rogue regimes’, such as North Korea and Iran. This 2018 strategy did not mention counterinsurgency. However, the U.S. Marine Corps and Army did update their counterinsurgency doctrine and created a Joint Force in 2018. The U.S. Army also looked to help allies and created the Security Force Assistance Brigades.

Closing Thoughts

Metz argued the Pentagon’s efforts were not sufficient. The Army can not solely handle counterinsurgency. It is most effective as a joint effort and should focus less on soldier skills and more on effective strategy. Counterinsurgency measures will remain relevant and the U.S. military and allies should be prepared.

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