Counterinsurgency is much more than a military discipline. As General David Petraeus recently noted, successful COIN requires the integrated employment of all components of national power. This paper evaluates the fundamental underpinnings of the NATO counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, examines past and current practices, and explores attempts to create best-practice doctrine for future COIN operations by examining the experiences of France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
The essay also evaluates the factors that have prevented NATO from effectively wielding its collective military and economic strength in Afghanistan and suggests lessons that NATO should draw from its experience with counterinsurgency in Afghanistan in order to prepare better for future requirements. Achieving a genuinely “integrated” or “comprehensive” transatlantic COIN approach requires that all elements of diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military power be combined to assist the host government to develop its country and deny territory and safe havens to insurgents, gradually strangling their capabilities and motivation—and ultimately rendering them irrelevant. It remains to be seen whether NATO has the political will to conduct such an operation in Afghanistan over the time span required to succeed.
The Transatlantic Paper Series is a product of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ project on The Transatlantic Alliance in a Multipolar World. The project was made possible by generous funding from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the McCormick Foundation, and the Adenauer Fund at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Other papers in the series include: