September 23, 2009

Petraeus on COIN, CT and Afghanistan

Petraeus in the Times of London.

Countering terrorists and extremism requires more than a conventional military approach. Military operations enable you to clear areas of extremist and insurgent elements, and to stop them from putting themselves back together. But the core of any counterinsurgency strategy must focus on the fact that the decisive terrain is the human terrain, not the high ground or river crossing.


Focusing on the population can, if done properly, improve security for local people and help to extend basic services. It can help to delegitimise the methods of the extremists — especially if you can contrast your ability and willingness to support and protect the population with the often horrific actions of extremist groups. Indeed, exposing their extremist ideologies, indiscriminate violence and oppressive practices can help people to realise that their lives are unlikely to be improved if under the control of such movements.


For the strategy to work, it is also necessary to find ways to identify reconcilable members of insurgent elements and to transform them into part of the solution. ...


General Stan McChrystal, the Commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force, who has spent most of his career since 9/11 leading the US’s most elite counterterrorist element, the Joint Special Operations Command, is employing a comprehensive, counterinsurgency campaign. He is the first to recognise not just the extraordinary capabilities but also the limitations of counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan.

Does anyone have his full remarks? (UPDATE: My readers rule.)