Huffpost WorldPost
Dr. Charles G. Cogan Headshot

COIN-ing a new term: expeditionary counter-insurgency

Posted: Updated:

My friend Prof. Harvey Rishikof of the National War College came up with a new term used by some of the students, "expeditionary counter-insurgency," during off-line discussions at an International Law Conference at Newport, RI this week...the idea being that conducting counter-insurgency far away from the homeland is an extremely difficult thing to do unless you have a consistent and reliable ally.

How indeed, I would ask, and apart from the question of a "reliable ally," can (or should) the U.S. carry out a campaign to win "hearts and minds" in an alien country thousands of miles away on the other side of the world?

The idea that one can point to the example of Malaya in the late 1940's is misleading. There the British had a foothold that was part of the British Empire.. Further, the British could depend on the major ethnic group - the Malays - which is the opposite of the case in Afghanistan today, where the insurgency is a Pashtun one...and so far at least, the Pashtuns are not turning against the Taliban.

Gen. David Petraeus, whose political judgment far exceeds that of his dismissed predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was the organizer of the new Army and Marines counter-insurgency (known for short as COIN) doctrine (Field Manual 3-4). Now, the "victor" in Iraq will get a first-hand opportunity to put the doctrine into practice in Afghanistan. Here we come back to the "reliable ally" issue. Gradually Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker came to find such an ally in Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki in Iraq. This is the missing element in Afghanistan today with a corrupt and inefficient government led by an inconsistent President - Hamid Karzai.