Economic Development In Counterinsurgency: Building A Stable Second Pillar – Analysis


By Patrick H. Donley*

The future of U.S. participation in counterinsurgency (COIN) is uncertain, but not so the probability that future adversaries will avoid U.S. conventional military dominance by using asymmetric, unconventional methods. As COIN theorist David Kilcullen warns, “Any smart future enemy will likely sidestep our unprecedented superiority in traditional, force-on-force, state-on-state warfare. And so insurgency . . . will be our enemies’ weapon of choice until we prove we can master it.”1 Unfortunately, because no two insurgencies are exactly alike, mastering COIN will be a perpetual endeavor.

At its core, a counterinsurgency is a battle for government legitimacy in the minds of its people.2 Writing in 1963, David Galula summarized the insurgent aim: “If the insurgent manages to dissociate the population from the counterinsurgent, to control it physically, to get its active support, he will win the war because, in the final analysis, the exercise of political power depends on the tacit or explicit agreement of the population or, at worst, on its submissiveness.”3 One of the chief ways insurgents attain popular support is by capitalizing on government ineffectiveness. In fact, government illegitimacy is considered by many COIN strategists as the “root cause of and the central strategic problem in today’s unstable global-security environment.”4 Counterinsurgents, then, must have as their primary objective the creation of a government that derives legitimacy from its ability to provide its population with effective security, responsive governance, and sufficient economic development.5 In fact, Kilcullen considers the security, political, and economic mission elements to be co-equal “pillars” in his Inter-agency Counterinsurgency Framework.6

Due to the complexities of COIN, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps collaborated in 2006 to provide their forces with “a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations.”7 Recognizing “that every insurgency is contextual,” the authors set out to highlight the “common characteristics of insurgencies” to provide military implementers of COIN “a solid foundation for understanding and addressing specific insurgencies.”8 Along with security, the manual concedes the criticality of governance and economic development to COIN success, and acknowledges that military members must work closely with “many intergovernmental, host-nation, and international agencies” to capitalize on skills such as “rebuilding infrastructure and basic services” and to facilitate the establishment of “local governance and rule of law.”9 Moreover, it advocates synchronizing these three mission elements and unifying “efforts of joint, interagency, multinational, and Host Nation (HN) forces toward a common purpose.”10

While military forces have a legitimate role in each of the mission elements, their primary expertise lies in providing a secure environment so that political and economic development can occur. To this end, the chapter titled “Executing Counterinsurgency Operations” advocates using a “Clear-Hold-Build” approach for “specific, high-priority area[s] experiencing overt insurgent operations” in order to “create a secure physical and psychological environment; establish firm government control of the populace and area; and gain the populace’s support.”11 Since publication of the military COIN guidance, many observers believe the strategy has been expanded to include a preliminary “Shape” phase (intelligence preparation of the battlefield, interagency planning, and so forth) and a concluding “Transfer” phase (bulk U.S. force withdrawal, primary responsibility shifts to HN security forces, and so forth).12 Whether the military’s “Shape, Clear, Hold, Build, and Transfer” model is correct, it provides a useful framework that political and economic development experts can use to integrate their actions with their security colleagues.

To date, political and economic developers have not created comparable models to guide their actions or inform their mission partners. Consequently, their efforts appear somewhat reactive and disjointed, and may, as a result, be perceived as being subordinate to the security mission. To address this weakness, this article focuses on the economic development mission. It proposes five key principles that should guide economic development activities in a counterinsurgency, and it presents a four-phase conceptual model that can be used by economic developers, as well as security and political planners, to better synchronize all COIN efforts. It does not, however, offer a context-independent recipe for COIN success or an easy-to-follow checklist that simplifies COIN complexities. No matter how efficiently a COIN campaign is run, success depends on a number of complicated factors, many of which are outside the economic developers’ control. Most importantly, COIN success presupposes a capable HN government partner that is willing to make the changes necessary to win popular legitimacy. Secondly, it assumes that the United States wants to defeat the insurgency and not merely alleviate some lesser risk. Both of these are weighty assumptions that may, at some stage, prove inaccurate. While this article hopes to provide general guidance that will increase the probability of U.S. COIN success, it concedes the enormity of the COIN challenge upfront.

Economic Development Principles

Rather than propose a new definition for economic development, this article uses Kilcullen’s description of the economic pillar in his Inter-agency Counterinsurgency Framework. Within the pillar, he includes “Humanitarian Assistance, Development Assistance, Resources & Infrastructure Management, and Growth Capacity” as key tasks.13 Economic development, then, is the provision of sufficient basic services, infrastructure, and economic essentials to garner popular support and engender government legitimacy. Because “sufficient economic development” is largely based on the affected population’s expectations, it is always contextually determined.

As a growing number of development experts have observed, economic development is not a panacea and cannot be divorced from security and governance. The government cannot gain sufficient legitimacy solely by building projects or otherwise infusing money into a local economy.14 In fact, such development can actually increase instability rather than decrease it.15 Andrew Wilder and Stuart Gordon conclude from their research in Afghanistan that U.S. and international aid efforts “show little evidence of . . . winning hearts and minds or promoting stability.”16 An Afghan tribal elder summed up the argument this way: “Lack of clinics, schools, and roads are not the problem. The main problem is we don’t have a good government.”17

This finding was echoed by a group of development experts who discussed the topic at the 2010 Wilton Park Conference “Winning ‘Hearts and Minds’ in Afghanistan: Assessing the Effectiveness of Development Aid in COIN Operations.”18 The end-of-conference report found that “many Afghans believe the main cause of insecurity to be their government, which is perceived to be massively corrupt, predatory and unjust. . . . Without getting the ‘politics right’ both military and aid efforts are unlikely to achieve their desired effects.”19

In contrast to the U.S. Army’s 2009 handbook Commander’s Guide to Money as a Weapons System, which claims that warfighters can use “money as a weapons system to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous population to facilitate defeating the insurgents,” mounting evidence indicates that money (and economic development more broadly) is effective in COIN only if it bolsters government legitimacy.20 Development can buy the population’s goodwill temporarily, but it cannot do so indefinitely by itself.21 While economic development efforts will depend on the nature of the insurgency and the specific context of the situation, U.S. economic development strategies for a counterinsurgency should broadly comply with five key principles.

Endgame Legitimacy. Economic development in COIN must have as its overriding purpose the creation of HN legitimacy. Every other aim must be subordinated to this objective. While the concept is easy to understand, it is often difficult to practice consistently and may increase local instability and opposition in the short term. It requires developers to bypass unethical local powerbrokers and shun corrupt business practices in favor of closely monitored, community-led development programs. Using this approach, developers may be opposed by economically powerful business people, corrupt government leaders, organized crime syndicates, and local warlords who seek to protect their power and influence, in addition to traditional insurgents. Nevertheless, to achieve the long-term goal of building HN government legitimacy, economic developers and policymakers must resist the urge to compromise overall mission success for short-term progress. This is far easier said than done.

One way of legitimizing the HN government is to work within the HN structure as much as possible. Rather than setting up parallel U.S. structures that delegitimize the HN government, U.S. developers should adapt to HN institutions if they exist. It is possible that the HN government has capabilities and institutions that are uniquely suited to the culture and the expectations of its populace.22 By utilizing them and building upon their expertise, the United States increases mission effectiveness, bolsters HN capability, and lends credence to the government. If the HN structures are ineffective, U.S. developers should use their expertise and financial leverage to reform them since the HN will eventually inherit the long-term mission.23 Reforming the government institutions can be problematic since affected HN officials may resist the changes and accuse the United States of neocolonial meddling—an accusation the United States is particularly keen on avoiding and one insurgents can exploit to discredit HN government legitimacy. Resolution of these conflicts will be difficult and will require diplomatic acumen, but the United States cannot simply acquiesce to HN intransigence if it hopes to be successful.

Similarly, economic development should utilize HN implementers as much as possible so that the HN gets the credit. While this development approach takes longer and may require more people to institute initially, it builds long-lasting HN capacity and engenders popular support for the government. Making this more difficult is the fact that U.S. economic developers are usually under pressure from an impatient U.S. public to generate results quickly. Consequently, developers are susceptible to two common development pitfalls. Either they are tempted to use whatever structures are already in place without regard for the negative effect such practices have on the local population, or they opt to do all the work themselves. Both of these approaches delegitimize the HN government and minimize the chances for long-term success.

Synchronicity of Missions. Economic development must be integrated and fully compatible with security and political strategies. As all three mission elements are necessary to generate the requisite legitimacy to defeat the insurgency, great care must be taken not to pursue one at the expense of the other two. This requires thorough inter-mission planning and an acknowledgment that each component affects the success of the others. To achieve this synergy, planners from all three mission sets, including representatives from the HN government, must work together to develop compatible plans. It may also require appointment of a single decisionmaker who exercises authority over all three missions.

Synchronization is also key to eliminating gaps between mission elements. The counterinsurgents’ ability to eliminate gaps between missions can be the difference between success and failure. Each COIN mission assumes prominence at a different point in the campaign even though all three operate throughout the COIN effort.24 Security is the foundational need for all others and therefore takes priority in the early stages of a COIN operation.25 Development reaches its critical point after security has been established but is a precursor to and facilitator for effective subnational governance. Lastly, political mobilization is critical toward the end of the COIN effort because the HN government must be capable of exercising long-term effective governance before successful transfer of the mission can occur.

Economic development must be synchronized with the security mission so that there is no gap between the termination of kinetic operations in the security mission and the initiation of humanitarian assistance in the economic development mission. Immediately following the Clear phase of the security mission, the local population is likely to feel a degree of cautious optimism that the HN government can positively change their lives. While locals may not yet feel comfortable expressing support for the government, they are expectant and hopeful that their lives might improve. Simultaneously, the immediate post-kinetic period is when local populations are particularly vulnerable and dependent on the government to meet their needs due to injuries, infrastructure destruction, economic upheaval, and population displacement. If the necessary assistance lags behind the security operation or is inadequate in its scope, the people’s hopes are dashed and their assessment of government legitimacy declines, possibly even below pre-security operation levels. This sense of betrayal gives the insurgent another leverage point with which to influence the population.

Moreover, the longer it takes the counterinsurgent to follow the security gains with economic development, the less able the security forces are to maintain the secure environment. Effective economic and political development activities build confidence among populations, resulting in the growth of an internal security dynamic. Without this internal security, it is virtually impossible to maintain any security at all, regardless of the number of people at their disposal. Insurgents will eventually infiltrate back into the community and exact vengeance upon those who collaborated with the government. The resultant insecurity will further highlight the government’s ineptness and create lasting doubt in the minds of the people that will be difficult to eradicate.

Similarly, there should be no gap between effective economic development and the establishment of good governance. To achieve the intended COIN effect, the local population must associate the economic development with effective HN governance, which can only be accomplished if the political mission is functional and effective while economic development is taking place. Simply put, people are more likely to respond favorably to governance when they associate it with meeting their needs.

Simultaneous Tactical and Operational Development. Economic development must be employed simultaneously at tactical and operational levels. Along these lines, the Wilton Park conferees made a distinction between “stabilization” and “development objectives” of economic aid. Stabilization funds were those used for “relatively small scale and short-term projects designed to promote stability effects at a tactical level” and development funds were for “larger-scale and longer-term development aid projects designed to promote development objectives.”26 Whether the distinction is between stabilization and development or between tactical development and operational development, economic development has the potential to generate crucial effects at both levels. Effective economic development will strive to take advantage of both domains to bolster government capability and generate popular support.

At the tactical level, economic development provides the counterinsurgent with a tool to incentivize the population to resolve factors of instability and bolsters local support for the HN government. Pragmatically, it also buys the counterinsurgent limited goodwill and forms the basis for trust from the local population. Effective economic development must take advantage of this window of optimism and provide tangible benefits that cannot easily be countered by insurgent information operations.27 Early on, tactical economic development comes in the form of emergency provisions and humanitarian assistance such as medical care, food and water, and temporary shelters. Because of the kinetic nature of the environment, implementers at this stage will primarily be military personnel.

Once immediate needs are met, tactical economic development progresses to the provision of necessary economic infrastructure (for example, wells, roads, electrical generators), resolving communal instability, and laying the framework for sustainable development institutions. Tactical economic development should not be a blank check designed to meet every individual desire within a community; instead, it should be an incentive to motivate community members to work together to identify and solve local problems. In this latter stage, economic developers provide populations with training in basic economic development principles and organizational expertise and assist them in the acquisition of necessary infrastructure development in accordance with the community’s priorities. Ultimately, the latter stage of tactical economic development should build the community’s capacity to take control of its economic future and set the stage for the political pillar to operate effectively.

Operational economic development, on the other hand, is aimed at increasing the HN government’s legitimacy by bolstering its ability to provide economically for the entire country. What tactical developers do inside and among local communities, operational developers do on a national scale—using development to resolve disputes, increase employment opportunities, and provide skills training. U.S. economic developers at this level serve as advisors to key development ministries, facilitate U.S. access to key HN leaders, and act as the conduit for HN-U.S. meetings. Moreover, they should assist the HN government in identifying and sourcing large infrastructure projects that will have a positive national impact, training government personnel to implement and oversee these projects, and increasing HN capability to use international aid effectively. Vitally important to generating confidence within the HN population and the international community is the creation of transparent procedures for financial accountability.

Host-Nation Capacity-Building. Economic development must deliberately build HN government capacity so that the government is eventually able to conduct the mission without U.S. assistance. From planning to implementation to sustainment, U.S. developers must prioritize “transferability” by using methods the HN government can perpetuate. The goal of U.S. developers should be to transfer the mission seamlessly to their HN partners so that the population experiences no difference in the quality of service it receives. To this end, the United States must avoid using equipment or software that the HN can neither operate nor sustain. This constraint can be challenging for U.S. developers, who often rely on the latest technological and mechanical tools. They must either change their way of doing business to be compatible with HN capabilities, or they must invest in the HN’s long-term infrastructure development and commit to its sustainment and maintenance until the HN is able to sustain it on its own.

Because of the lead-time required to train HN personnel and the need to avoid gaps between the mission sets, the United States must begin capacity-building at the tactical and operational levels long before the need for implementation. Once there is agreement between the U.S. and HN governments regarding the manner in which economic development will occur (in the early planning phase), the United States should prioritize the capacity-building mission at the operational and tactical levels. Early on, U.S. personnel may out of necessity lead development efforts, but they must not do so indefinitely—particularly at the tactical level. The United States must deliberately taper its involvement until it is an unseen entity providing advice, technical expertise, and funding.

For the tactical mission, the United States must strive to transfer implementation responsibilities to the HN as soon as possible. To facilitate this, the United States must ensure the HN has a rapidly deployable development capability that can quickly reach all parts of the country. Recognizing that some countries cannot afford to support permanently based local HN developers in every part of the country, the United States should train deployable HN Development Teams (HNDTs) to meet this need. These teams should comprise people who work for various HN development ministries or departments and who have the requisite skills and knowledge to mobilize post-kinetic populations, manage expectations, assess immediate needs, and distribute essential life-sustaining necessities in conjunction with applicable government departments. In addition to meeting immediate needs, these HNDTs should be trained to identify sources of instability within populations so that development resources can be used to resolve them. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) already employs a stabilization framework designed to highlight sources of instability, but to be truly effective, USAID needs to partner more comprehensively and consistently with trained HN personnel to administer it.28

Not only would HNDTs bring cultural expertise and a shared cultural identity to complex situations, but they would also represent the HN government in a way that foreigners never could.29 Additionally, because of their knowledge of the HN government, they would be better able to coordinate the people’s perceived needs with the long-term plans of the government. For instance, if a particular community desired the construction of a new school, members of an HNDT would be better placed to liaise with the appropriate government department to ensure the proposed school aligns with HN government plans and resources. Too often, foreign economic developers, hoping to engender goodwill with a population, build infrastructure projects in the wrong locations or to the wrong specifications because they do not coordinate their actions with the HN government.30 Instead of fostering HN government legitimacy, the abandoned project becomes a testimony to the HN government’s inability to meet the population’s needs.

Responsiveness to Local Input. Finally, economic development must respond to local demand. When seeking to bring economic development to a community, U.S. developers have a tendency to assume they know best what the community needs and what will most quickly resolve instability and engender legitimacy. To simplify logistical and financial planning and avoid conflict among local communities over aid equity, it is tempting for U.S. developers to eschew input from the local populace.31 While these concerns may be valid, they do not justify ignoring local input entirely. After all, the point of economic development is to create HN government legitimacy in the minds of its people, which requires government responsiveness to the perceived needs of the people. There are reasonable limits to the flexibility that can be allowed in the system, but some portion of the development budget must allow for popular input into the decisionmaking process.32

A compromise approach would be to give each community a per capita amount of money for spending on a community-selected project, in addition to other centrally selected development packages. The community project could then be used as a skills-development opportunity in which development experts mentor community leaders through every phase of project implementation. A similar approach is already used effectively by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development with its National Solidarity Program.33 Time and again, this community empowerment and rural development program is lauded by researchers and inspectors alike for its high accountability, broad popular support, and national reach.34

Regardless of the details of the economic development strategy that is implemented, U.S. developers would do well to incorporate these five economic development principles, even if it means the pace of development is slower, the selection of projects is suboptimal, or the credit for the efforts goes elsewhere. Above all, the United States should remember that if economic development is delinked from HN legitimacy, it is a fruitless exercise and a potential contributor to instability.

Economic Development Model

Utilizing the five economic development principles above, it is possible to construct an economic development model for COIN operations to guide future planning efforts. The model is composed of four phases: Shape, Stabilize, Build, and Transfer (figure 1). While three of the phases share the same names as their security model counterparts, they do not necessarily share the same timelines. Figure 2 illustrates the correlation between the security and economic development models.donley-figure1
Phase 0: Shape. This phase is primarily for planning and preparation. For the COIN effort to be successful, representatives from all three mission elements must participate equally in building a macro-level COIN plan. Because one mission element’s needs may drive the actions of the other two, it is critical that planning for all three mission elements be integrated from the beginning. For example, if successful economic development in a particular area requires uninterrupted electrical power, economic development planners should convey this requirement to the security planners so that they conduct their operation accordingly. Special emphasis should be placed on planning transition points between one mission element and another to ensure there is no gap in momentum or service to the population. Each mission element should share special considerations regarding timing, location, measures of success, and follow-on actions. At the micro-level of economic development planning, military, interagency, and HN personnel should actively participate, even if it slows the process.donley-figure2

In addition to planning, the Shape phase is devoted to identification and acquisition of necessary resources. To prevent a security development gap from occurring, the financial mechanisms, personnel, and key equipment must be ready in advance. Moreover, economic developers should identify, train, equip, and exercise HN Development Team members. Because of the questionable security environments and austere locations in which they will operate, HNDT members should possess a wide variety of skills. If development skills are lacking, the United States should consider initiating educational programs for host nationals in return for their obligatory government service. This “development college” would not only benefit the individuals and the HN government in the short term, but it would also broaden the foundation for longer term economic success as the graduates apply their skills after completing their service obligations.

Phase 1: Stabilize. This phase is divided into two stages. The first stage begins while the security mission is still conducting clearing operations. Because kinetic operations are ongoing, the military leads this phase, primarily using special operations forces and civil affairs teams who have been trained in economic development tasks. As the environment becomes more secure, economic development responsibilities shift to civilian experts from USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives and joint civil-military Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Economic development in this early stage focuses on providing advice to U.S. military combatants on how best to terminate their operations to facilitate economic development success, assessing humanitarian damage for planning refinements, and providing emergency humanitarian assistance. As the security effort transitions from Clear to Hold, HN economic developers play a greater support role, helping U.S. PRTs conduct initial needs assessments and stability surveys with returning internally displaced populations. They also work together to initiate small-scale projects designed to build on the population’s optimism, all the while actively managing the population’s expectations.

The second stage of this phase occurs when security has become fairly constant and the environment is relatively safe for civilian workers. The HNDTs lead this effort at the tactical level with the PRTs providing support when necessary. Because U.S. presence can be a destabilizing force within some communities, PRTs should limit their involvement to providing advice and access to U.S. development funding for projects, as needed. HNDTs should concentrate on conducting stability surveys, mobilizing the population to prioritize the community’s needs in a systematic way, and providing the community members with necessary training for follow-on infrastructure projects.

At the operational level, U.S. development experts work within key HN government development ministries. They advise the HN government departments, train civil servants, and act as liaisons between the U.S. chain of command and the HN government, as well as between the tactical development teams and central government. In addition, they advise the government on strategic messaging and help it navigate the complicated financial rules of U.S. funding. Just as tactical developers seek to gain the trust of the people at the community level, operational developers seek to gain the trust of HN government officials.

Phase 2: Build. This phase begins as the environment becomes more consistently secure and trust develops between the HNDTs and populace. At the tactical level, HNDTs continue to collect stability data, but their emphasis transitions to resolving the sources of instability using the previously collected and analyzed information. During this phase, HNDTs utilize the construction of new infrastructure projects as a vehicle for mentoring communities through the development process by training, advising, and monitoring the community’s efforts. HNDTs also begin to interact more frequently with experts from the political mission element in anticipation of the upcoming political thrust. Throughout this phase, PRTs continue to distance themselves from the day-to-day mission, and PRT expertise either moves from the tactical level to the operational, or prepares to move to the next community.

At the operational level, U.S. developers concentrate almost exclusively on building long-term capability. They emphasize their role as advisors rather than implementers and seek to transform tactical successes into broader government legitimacy by helping the government with its information operations. Former PRT members with unique development skills (for example, civil engineers, agricultural specialists) move from the tactical level to the relevant operational ministries, further increasing HN government capacity. At some point in this phase, the HN government should attain sufficient legitimacy and capability to act with minimal U.S. technical assistance.

Phase 3: Transfer. This phase must be an overall COIN decision, not just an economic development decision. It is the least complicated phase to explain but potentially the most difficult to complete. U.S. COIN planners, in conjunction with the HN government, should agree upon a timetable and criteria for an area’s readiness, as well as long-term U.S. commitments regarding advisors and financial resources.


In his 1963 book on COIN, David Galula conceded that some insurgencies simply could not be defeated, regardless of the COIN methods employed.35 This article may have created an impression that an economic development strategy that employs the four-phase model and the five principles of government legitimacy, mission synchronicity, simultaneous tactical and operational development, HN capacity-building, and responsiveness to local input is guaranteed to bring success. Unfortunately, it is not so. As Carl von Clausewitz warned years ago, wars are fought against living opponents with strategies and counterstrategies of their own, and they are fought in the context of complex factors that exist outside the counterinsurgent’s control.36 This is especially true when supporting another state’s counterinsurgency effort. The one truth U.S. COIN planners must keep in mind is that no amount of external U.S. assistance, modern firepower, development expertise, or sound political advice can save a country from eventual defeat if the HN refuses to govern legitimately. Consequently, the United States should invest more effort into evaluating the HN government, as well as the criticality of long-term U.S. objectives, before agreeing to augment another government’s COIN campaign.37

Nevertheless, when counterinsurgency operations on behalf of another government are required, planners must concentrate on building the HN’s capacity and legitimacy. COIN expertise and development projects do not matter if they fail to enable the HN to provide for the needs of its population and govern legitimately. Therefore, the United States should focus its efforts at the operational level as soon as possible. Developers must quickly extricate themselves from the tactical mission or else risk encouraging an unhealthy dependence within the HN government and a “recipient mentality” within the local population. Only when the HN government is required to meet the public’s needs will it be able to demonstrate the capability and persistence required to earn the trust of the population. The development model presented here is not guaranteed to generate COIN success, but utilizing the principles contained within it increases the probability that development can be an effective tool toward that end.

About the author
*Colonel Patrick H. Donley, USAF
, is a Security Forces Officer assigned as the J34 Division Chief overseeing Force Protection, Antiterrorism, and Critical Infrastructure Protection for Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea.

This article was published in the Joint Force Quarterly 81, which is published by the National Defense University.


1 David J. Kilcullen, “Three Pillars of Counterinsurgency,” remarks at the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Conference, Washington, DC, September 28, 2006, available at <>.

2 While many people have discussed government legitimacy as the key to counterinsurgency (COIN) success, Conrad Crane’s “COIN of the Realm? The Role and Importance of Legitimacy in Counterinsurgency,” a presentation at the Future Defense Dilemma Seminar of the 21st Century Initiative and the Strategic Studies Institute, April 2, 2008, was an excellent discussion on the topic.

3 David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2006), 4.

4 Eliot Cohen et al., “Principles, Imperatives, and Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency,” Military Review, March–April 2006, 49.

5 Authors differ in the terms they use for the building blocks of government legitimacy, but nearly all use terms that fall within these three general categories. Cohen et al., 49, cites “a culturally acceptable level or rate of political, economic, and social development” as one of their five key indicators of legitimacy. Galula discusses security, political, social, and economic measures as key enablers of popular support throughout his work; for instance, see Galula, 52, 54–55, 62–63, 84. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defined counterinsurgency tasks as follows: “One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win: economic development, institution-building and the rule of law, promoting internal reconciliation, good governance, providing basic services to the people. . . . these, along with security, are essential ingredients for long-term success.” See Robert M. Gates, Landon Lecture, Kansas State University, November 26, 2007, available at <>.

6 Kilcullen, 4–6.

7 U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 3-24 and Marine Corps Warfighting Publication (MCWP) 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency (Washington, DC: Headquarters Department of the Army and Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, December 15, 2006), foreword, available at <>.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., para. 5-7, page 5-3.

11 Ibid., 5-18.

12 Anthony Cordesman points out the following regarding U.S. COIN strategy: “The British have used the phrase: ‘Shape, clear, hold, and build’; while senior U.S. NSC [National Security Council] officials have used the term ‘Clear, hold, build, and transfer.’ None of these terms have yet been defined in detail, or in the form of clear operational plans and goals, and they would have to be implemented in different mixes and phases in virtually every major region and population center in Afghanistan.” Anthony Cordesman, “Shape, Clear, Hold, Build, and Transfer”: The Full Metrics of the Afghan War (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, February 18, 2010), slide 117. See also C. Christine Fair, “Obama’s New ‘Af-Pak’ Strategy: Can ‘Clear, Hold, Build, Transfer’ Work?” Asian Affairs: An American Review 37 (2010), 115, available at <>.

13 Kilcullen, 4.

14 See, for example, Paul Fishstein and Andrew Wilder, Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship Between Aid and Security in Afghanistan (Medford, MA: Feinstein International Center, January 2012), 67–71, available at <>; Andrew Wilder and Stuart Gordon, “Money Can’t Buy America Love,” Foreign Policy, December 1, 2009, available at <>; David Kilcullen, Greg Mills, and Jonathan Oppenheimer, “Quiet Professionals: The Art of Post-Conflict Economic Recovery and Reconstruction,” RUSI Journal 156, no. 4 (August–September 2011), 101. See also Eli Berman, Jacob N. Shapiro, and Joseph H. Felter, “Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq,” Journal of Political Economy 119, no. 4 (August 2011), 766–819, available at <>.

15 Fishstein and Wilder, 41–50; Kilcullen, Mills, and Oppenheimer, 102.

16 Wilder and Gordon; Fishstein and Wilder, 67–68.

17 Wilder and Gordon.

18 “Winning ‘Hearts and Minds’ in Afghanistan: Assessing the Effectiveness of Development Aid in COIN Operations,” Wilton Park Conference Report (WP1022), March 11–14, 2010, 2, available at <>.

19 Ibid., 2.

20 Commander’s Guide to Money as a Weapons System: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, Handbook No. 09-27 (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Center for Army Lessons Learned, April 2009); Fishstein and Wilder, 59; Wilton Park Conference Report, 3.

21 According to the Wilton Park Conference Report, “Researchers and practitioners described ways in which aid had been used effectively to legitimise interactions between international forces and local communities (i.e., ‘to get a foot in the door’), which had proven useful in terms of developing relationships, and gathering atmospherics and intelligence. But these were relatively short-term transactional relationships, and there was little evidence of more strategic level effects of populations being won over to the government as a result of development aid,” 2.

22 Trevor Hublin, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) field worker, interview by author, February 4, 2012; Mohammed Ehsan Zia, former Afghan Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, interview by author, January 30, 2012.

23 Daniel Weggeland, “Civil Partnering: Enabling Afghan Civil Government Assumption of Risk and Responsibility,” Special Report for the International Security Assistance Force Commander, Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, Kabul, August 2011, 3.

24 This is a general rule of thumb and an oversimplification. It is not meant to suggest that the COIN effort will progress in a smooth, unidirectional fashion from start to finish or that mission elements have only one period of primary emphasis. There are times when unforeseen complexities will force the counterinsurgent to return to a previous phase or spike the influence of a particular mission element outside the normal period so as to deal with a particular contingency.

25 According to Cohen et al., “The cornerstone of any COIN effort is security for the populace. Without security, no permanent reforms can be implemented, and disorder will spread,” 50. Similarly, Galula stated, “Political, social, economic, and other reforms, however much they ought to be wanted and popular, are inoperative when offered while the insurgent still controls the population,” 55.

26 Ibid., 4.

27 General David Petraeus made the following observation, “[T]he liberating force must act quickly, because every Army of liberation has a half-life beyond which it turns into an Army of occupation. The length of this half-life is tied to the perceptions of the populace about the impact of the liberating force’s activities. From the moment a force enters a country, its leaders must keep this in mind, striving to meet the expectations of the liberated in what becomes a race against the clock.” David H. Petraeus, “Learning Counterinsurgency: Observations from Soldiering in Iraq,” Military Review, January–February 2006, 3, emphasis in original.

28 Hublin, interview. In Afghanistan, USAID is seeking to implement the District Stability Framework and its successor program, Stability in Key Areas, an approach that trains and utilizes host-nation personnel to collect data on sources of instability. See USAID, Office of Military Affairs, “District Stability Framework: Social Science Underpinnings of Complex Operations, MORS Mini-Symposium,” PowerPoint Presentation, October 18–21, 2010, George Mason University. According to an unpublished report from Hublin, the Tactical Conflict Assessment and Planning Framework was administered effectively by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Rapid Deployment Teams. In his report, Hublin stated, “[Local] citizenry openness in passing information to the [Afghan] Stabilization Team throughout the week was the single most important factor contributing to its success.” Trevor Hublin, “Stabilizing Rural Areas of Afghanistan: A Proposed Model for National and Provincial Partnership with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Farah Province Case Study,” October–November 2009, unpublished report, 9.

29 Ronald E. Neumann, “The Hole in the Whole of Government Needs Leadership and Learning Organizations,” unpublished paper, 5.

30 “Nowhere to Turn: The Failure to Protect Civilians in Afghanistan,” Joint Briefing Paper by 29 Aid Organizations Working in Afghanistan for the NATO Heads of Government Summit, Lisbon, November 19–20, 2010, 19, available at <>; Michael Young, “Development at Gunpoint? Why Civilians Must Reclaim Stabilization Aid,” Foreign Affairs, December 19, 2010, available at <>; Fishstein and Wilder, 48.

31 Wilton Park Conference Report, 15.

32 Hublin, interview; Zia, interview; Fishstein and Wilder, 46–47.

33 According to the National Solidarity Programme’s (NSP’s) Weekly Status Report from December 3–9, 2011, the program has mobilized 28,745 communities, presided over the election and training of over 28,521 Community Development Councils, and funded 47,721 community-selected subprojects worth over $964,000,000 since its inception in 2002. Moreover, the approach increases popular ownership over a project and builds long-term partnership capacity at the tactical level. Marwa Mitra, NSP, email to author, January 29, 2012, “National Solidarity Programme Weekly Status Report,” Kabul, Afghanistan, January 21–27, 2012. Especially impressive is the fact that the NSP has achieved these results when the maximum dollar amount for any village is $60,000. The NSP is not designed as a rapidly deployable program but a deliberately planned program that takes 2 years from initiation to project completion. A modified version of this program that can immediately respond to post-kinetic situations could create the conditions for longer term development and stability.

34 Among others, see Hamish Nixon, Subnational State Building in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit Synthesis Paper Series, April 2008, 38; Friedrich W. Affolter et al., “Transformative Learning and Mind-Change in Rural Afghanistan,” Development in Practice 19, no. 3 (May 2009), 326; Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program has Reached Thousands of Afghan Communities, but Faces Challenges that Could Limit Outcomes, SIGAR Audit-11-8 Economic and Social Development/NSP (Washington, DC: SIGAR, March 22, 2011), ii; Gregory Warner, “The Schools the Taliban Won’t Torch,” Washington Monthly, December 2007, available at <>; John A. Nagl, Andrew M. Exum, and Ahmed A. Humayun, A Pathway to Success in Afghanistan: The National Solidarity Program (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, March 2009); Andrew Wilder, “Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan,” Middle East Institute, April 20, 2012, available at <>; Paul Fitzgerald et al., Introduction to Afghanistan, 1979–2009: In the Grip of Conflict (Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 2009), 143–146, available at <>.

35 At the end of his book, Galula concedes the following: “Is it always possible to defeat an insurgency? This work, through a common intellectual accident, may have given the impression that the answer is a strong affirmative. . . . Obviously, it is not always possible to defeat an insurgency,” 96.

36 Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 75–78, 85–86, 89.

37 For an interesting discussion on the topic of partnership evaluation, see Michael C. Veneri, “The Partner Predicament: U.S. Building Partnership Capacity, the War on Terrorism and What the U.S. Cannot Overlook,” Synesis 2 (2011), available at <>.

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