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How We Can Win in Afghanistan

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
November 2, 2009


The terms counterterrorism and counterinsurgency have become common currency this decade in the wake of September 11, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. To a layman's ear, they can sound like synonyms, especially because of our habit of labeling all insurgents as terrorists. But to military professionals, they are two very different concepts. Counterterrorism refers to operations employing small numbers of Special Operations "door kickers" and high-tech weapons systems such as Predator drones and cruise missiles. Such operations are designed to capture or kill a small number of "high-value targets." Counterinsurgency, known as COIN in military argot, is much more ambitious. According to official Army doctrine, COIN refers to "those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency." The combined approach typically requires a substantial commitment of ground troops for an extended period of time.


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