With the current situation in Afghanistan, the book, Ensuring National Government Stability After US Counterinsurgency Operations: The Critical Measure of Success, by retired Marine Dr. Dallas Shaw is a timely must-read. Below is an excerpt:
We operated alongside 2d Battalion, 6th Marines (2/6), and took over from the two previous battalions who had conducted the initial seizure of Marjah during Operation MOSHTARAK. After seven months, 2/9 had fifteen Marines and sailors killed in action, more than a hundred amputees or severely injured Marines and sailors, and one medal of honor recipient. However, in just one tour, 2/9 and 2/6 were able to reduce violent SIGACTS to nearly zero. Additionally, 2/9 had more than 200 Afghan students—both boys and girls—attending a single school in northern Marjah. We had won the support of the populace, and the Taliban could not operate effectively in Marjah while we were there.
How was it possible to reconcile the fact that the US military could have been so successful at COIN while US forces were present and then have these gains unravel less than four years after US combat formations withdrew? Why—despite the differences in the US interventions in Iraq and South Vietnam, in terms of military leadership, professionalism of military forces, training, general support of the nation and massive technological advantage—were the outcomes in South Vietnam in 1975 and in Iraq in 2014 similar? As I wrestled with these questions, I began to ask, “Had the US ever succeeded in foreign COIN? If the US had, then when and where had this happened? Was it possible for US forces to succeed in COIN but fail to create a state that was able to govern and defend itself for longer than four years after US combat formations withdrew? Was it possible to create a US-supported state able to govern and defend itself after the US combat formations withdrew, even if US forces had not been successful in COIN operations?” […]
To put these questions into context and begin a search for possible answers, I analyzed the universe of US uses of force abroad from 1898 to the present. I identified a total of ten instances in which the US employed combat formations to intervene; and of these ten, nine instances where the US also led the foreign COIN effort. […]
The first Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was established in Mosul in late 2005, and, in Iraq the PRTs were constituted in nearly inverse fashion to the later Afghanistan PRTs. These PRTs were almost exclusively comprised of civilian personnel and led by a US Department of State Foreign Service Officer. Later, in Afghanistan, the PRTs would be made up almost entirely of military personnel and a small contingent of civilian professionals. In Iraq, only a small fraction
of the PRT was military, and the teams were tied to large US bases unless they could negotiate military transportation and protection.
Dallas Shaw teaches expeditionary warfare with the Marine Corps’ professional military education program. He holds a PhD from Virginia Tech, an MS from Marine Corps University, and a BS from George Mason University. Dr. Shaw retired as a Marine Corps officer in 2016 after 27 years of service in Marine force recon and the infantry. He served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and has taught conventional and special operations for over 10 years.
This book is in the Rapid Communications in Conflict and Security (RCCS) Series (General Editor: Dr. Geoffrey R.H. Burn) and is available in hardcover, paperback, and various digital formats.