Counterinsurgency in Crisis

Counterinsurgency in Crisis: Britain and the Challenges of Modern Warfare

DAVID H. UCKO
ROBERT EGNELL
Copyright Date: 2013
DOI: 10.7312/ucko16426
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/ucko16426
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  • Book Info
    Counterinsurgency in Crisis
    Book Description:

    Long considered the masters of counterinsurgency, the British military encountered significant problems in Iraq and Afghanistan when confronted with insurgent violence. In their effort to apply the principles and doctrines of past campaigns, they failed to prevent Basra and Helmand from descending into lawlessness, criminality, and violence.

    By juxtaposing the deterioration of these situations against Britain's celebrated legacy of counterinsurgency, this investigation identifies both the contributions and limitations of traditional tactics in such settings, exposing a disconcerting gap between ambitions and resources, intent and commitment. Building upon this detailed account of the Basra and Helmand campaigns, this volume conducts an unprecedented assessment of British military institutional adaptation in response to operations gone awry. In calling attention to the enduring effectiveness of insurgent methods and the threat posed by undergoverned spaces, David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell underscore the need for military organizations to meet the irregular challenges of future wars in new ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53541-0
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Colin S. Gray

    This book is not a comfortable read for a British strategist like myself. David Ucko and Robert Egnell are scholarly and measured in their treatment of the British experience with counterinsurgency, but they are all the more lethal as a consequence. British strategic effectiveness through counterinsurgency endeavors in the 2000s has been distinctly unimpressive. Indeed, it has been so unimpressive that the investigator is all but spoiled for choice in allocating blame. Although Counterinsurgency in Crisis should be read primarily as a careful study of the British experience of counterinsurgency in the 2000s in Iraq and Afghanistan, it speaks volumes...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  7. INTRODUCTION: RETHINKING COUNTERINSURGENCY
    (pp. 1-18)

    Both in iraq and Afghanistan, the British armed forces have confronted violent nonstate actors that employ deception and intimidation to resist government control. These groups intermingle with the civilian population, imaginatively offset their conventional military weaknesses, and engage in criminal activity, coercion, and outreach to maintain their local influence. Although the campaigns in these two countries differ in important respects from the colonial struggles that gave rise to the term, they both gradually came to be viewed as “counterinsurgencies.” The term seemed appropriate because even though the armed opposition did not always seek an insurrection, the tasks typical of counterinsurgency...

  8. 1 UNTANGLING THE BRITISH COUNTERINSURGENCY LEGACY
    (pp. 19-44)

    As basra fell on April 6, 2003, the British Army quickly adjusted from a combat mindset to one of peace-support operations. Leaning on their experiences with peacekeeping in the Balkans, troops marked the end of “major combat operations” and the onset of “postconflict operations” by swiftly removing their flak jackets and replacing their helmets with berets so as to convey a more benign posture.¹ Despite the contextual differences between Iraq’s Shia-dominated South, where British troops were operating, and the Sunni-dominated American area of responsibility, many interpreted the relative stability in Basra following the invasion as a product of the British...

  9. 2 THE BRITISH IN BASRA With Heads Held High into the Abyss
    (pp. 45-74)

    Public and media attention over the British role in the Iraq War has tended to converge primarily on Prime Minister Tony Blair’s determination to involve the United Kingdom in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Even during the Iraq Inquiry held in the aftermath of the campaign, in 2009–2011, the stories grabbing the biggest headlines were those that dealt with the case for and lead-up to war. The bias is understandable given the financial, political, and human costs wrought by the decision to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, an equally controversial and urgent area of inquiry is the British effort following the...

  10. 3 ACT II: BRITISH COUNTERINSURGENCY IN HELMAND
    (pp. 75-108)

    In spring 2006, at the height of violence and chaos in Basra, the British armed forces were presented with the added challenge of deploying also to Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. The mission was integral to NATO’s plan to extend its influence across the whole of the country because Helmand was a Taliban stronghold and, barring a small US PRT, a no-go area for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan government. As in Basra, British troops quickly ran into serious difficulties owing to confusion regarding the purpose of the mission, a flawed intelligence picture, and deficiencies in troop...

  11. 4 “A HORSE AND TANK MOMENT”
    (pp. 109-144)

    The british military’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan severely dented its standing as a force uniquely capable, by dint of its history and culture, to conduct counterinsurgency. The setbacks experienced in these campaigns cannot be placed solely or even mainly at the armed forces’ door: the troops were too few in numbers, too lacking in partners (both civilian and host nation), and, perhaps most fundamentally, without clear strategic direction or political support from the homeland. Yet alongside these factors the setbacks also related intimately to the British military’s own lack of preparation and familiarity with the tasks and type of...

  12. 5 WHITHER BRITISH COUNTERINSURGENCY?
    (pp. 145-166)

    During the course of the past ten years, Britain has experienced significant difficulties in conducting counterinsurgency, both in southern Iraq and in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Though the roots of operational frustration can be traced to deep-running problems at the political–military (or strategic) level, the armed forces have also struggled operationally and tactically to plan and conduct counterinsurgency operations in accordance with the resources provided. The military’s ability to understand the local environment and its actors, to train and advise local security forces, and to partner with them on operations have too often been found wanting, as has its capacity...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 167-186)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 187-204)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 205-224)