Success in Counter-Insurgency is about Defeating the Enemy Not Gaining and Maintaining Popular Support

Subject: Health Care
Type: Critical Analysis Essay
Pages: 11
Word count: 2827
Topics: Health Insurance


In this paper it is elucidated how counter insurgency is extremely important for defeating the forces pertaining to insurgents. Undoubtedly, wars are considered to be one of the several consequences of behaviors of human beings. On the contrary, it is not easy to model as well as predict human behavior. As a result, success of any counter insurgent related step is invariably dependent upon consequences of the human interactions. Other things discussed in this study include two case studies related to United Kingdom and United States’ counter insurgency. Former one was quite successful while the second landed up to stalemate situation. Apart from these, simply exerting military effort is not enough in counter insurgency. In fact, blending of military and nonmilitary actions can only lead to success of counter insurgency. Reasonable goals of armed forces are equally important for counter insurgency’s success. After all, counter insurgency is the answer for insurgent acts or forces that prevail in any state. Two main terminologies used in this paper are Weberian notion and counter insurgence. Small wars that occur between two developing nations or within a nation are difficult to resolve without the interventional efforts of developed and resourceful nations. The success of United Kingdom can be witnessed in the Malayan Emergency because of its nonmilitary policies that were robust enough; for example, United Kingdom demonetarized Japanese currency in case of Malayan emergency. Japan on the other hand rolled out many hostile policies that led to its failure as per the first case study. 


Since post 1945 era several internal wars have remained unresolved because of surging modern arms’ availability; rising number of politically and organized leaders; hostile neighbors supplying arms and adequate military training.  To be more precise, protracting and small wars are actually causing suffering as well as pain to several people around the world. Counter insurgency was previously adopted as the last resort but its popularity is growing in leaps and bounds as a means of expression. Adoption of guerilla tactics in warfare is quite old, which the armed forces of various nations embraced at one or the other point of time. The main focus of this essay will be to depict how rate of success pertaining to counterinsurgency is measured more in terms of defeating various enemies of a state. However, with changing geopolitical scenario of the world and surging counter insurgencies success rate of counter insurgency is measured in terms of popular support and maintenance of the same. It is quite evident in history how ethno nationalist armed groups defeated and challenged various superior states. The challenge was given for controlling other territories. A theoretical framework will be used in this case to understand the underlying causes of counter insurgency. The potential framework which will be incorporated is Weberian notion; it is applicable for a state. The timeframe considered for this paper is the era of post 1945. 

Key terms

Counter insurgence: It can be defined as the actions taken by states to counter struggle pertaining to politico-military aspects. 

Weberian notion: As per Max Weber a state must be free from coercing and retain its independence at any cost. Other three main elements that must be exhibited by a state are legitimacy, minimum violence and sense of territory. 


Asymmetric warfare that occurs in the international system can also be referred to as small wars. In earlier centuries states have encountered several security-related and existential threats. Policymakers also remain involved in campaigns related to counter insurgency; it can also be witnessed in case of two campaigns conducted by United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. In recent times policy makers’ decision for counter insurgency measures drastically differs from state’s motive of large-scale developments. 

Strategic understanding of various counter insurgencies is integral to dissect how both non-military and military actions can shape a state’s sovereignty. Arguably, counter insurgency can be addressed phenomenally via state-centric model.  For instance, in Weberian notion a state is mostly considered to be a monopoly force that operates in a given territory. Furthermore, the above framework in instrumental in deciphering the key relationship that is prevailing between the ruled and the ruler, which is also engrafted in the Weberian definition of state.  

Two case study examples will be portrayed to understand the state’s success in counter insurgency. When the states are able to defeat their enemies the same can be regarded as successful counter insurgency. Both the cases have been taken from the period after 1945. First example is related to United Kingdom’s successful campaign in Malaya that took place in between the period 1948 to 1989. Second example corresponds to United States’ mixed campaign on Afghanistan that can be witnessed since 2001 and continuing till date. 

Case study 1: The Malayan Emergency

It is one of the most prominent counter insurgency victory recorded in the history. The well managed response was possible only for blending both non-military as well as military policies.  However, after previewing the past it can be understood that insurgency is deeply rooted in World War II. Regional powers have substantial part in shaping the political landscape development in Malaya. Before the World War II, Malayan Union was indirectly controlled by various regional sultans.  U.K. focused mostly on its own territory to politically strengthen the same, especially during 1943. Meanwhile, at the end of 1944 Japan was ready to leave Malayan territory abruptly due to counter insurgency campaign failure. Arguably, it can be observed that Japan’s guerilla campaign was rough enough and thus it was doomed to fail. Within the years 1945 and 1948 forces of Britain tried to reestablish pre-colonial Malayan rule although they failed to achieve their objectives (Schuurman, 2013). On the other hand, several policies were implemented during that time period for counter insurgency campaign; some of these policies include Japanese currency demonetization, rampant corruption in the administration system and steps to decrease unemployment rate in Malayan territory. The surging unemployment rate was actually breaking down the economic backbone of Malaya. British intelligence residing in Malaya consisted of almost 12,000 fighters, out of which 60 percent of them belonged from regional parties of Malaya. National emergency was thereafter declared by Malayan government, where it invited Britain to get involved. MCP’s armed wing renamed itself to attract other ethnic groups. Between the years 1948 to 1950 several local industries were attacked by MNLA. On the contrary, there was hardly any strong effort to disarm their attacks. British High Commissioner was compelled to intervene in the process because Malayan and U.K. security forces together were not able to tackle the emergency situation judiciously. The security situation was portrayed between paramilitary forces and preexisting police. Arguably, in this case Malayan occupancy by Britain did not portray any distinct counter insurgency strategy during the initial years. Contradictorily, counter insurgency strategy was required to defeat the violent power of organized terrorist group, MNLA. However, British High Commissioner’s involvement gave birth to British-Malay coalition so that insurgent force use can be proportionally countered as much as possible. Arguably, military strategy implemented was more tactical in nature than strategic. The primary reason for coalition force was nothing but to restore security. Post transition period also led to different conflicts that were originated from World War II.  Only a handful of British battalions were deployed mostly to carry out several strikes in the semi-urban and rural regions, which were related to both political and financial limitations. Arguably, it can be observed when military counter insurgency policies are deployed discriminately any territory is bound to free itself from insurgent force. After Malayan High Commissioner was assassinated British-Malay collation had to change both the strategic and bureaucratic policies to disarm insurgency. The group was actually existential threat for the peninsular region’s national security. On the contrary, counter insurgency was embraced as an effort to properly reorganize assessment of the policy adoption. Ad hoc approach pertaining to counter insurgency policy was necessary during that time. The services provided during the times of emergency also determine how the military forces will act in upcoming war. Similarly, in this situation British troops were increased to a large extent so that peace and order can be restored in Malaya. The war effort was administered by the High Commission himself. Most of the committees were connected to constabulary agencies and preexisting local police. On the contrary, local police’s interference also hampered their progress of peace restoration. Even Malayan population tried to hasten security restoration process. The approach thus adopted for this case study by the British military force was quite discriminate in nature, which helped to create a fortified and stable environment in Malaya. Arguably, even though coalition took place Malayan government’s investment was more compared to that of British government. The economic cost of counter insurgency for Malayan government was twice than that of United Kingdom. State victory was never possible without the joint counter insurgency effort of British and Malayan government. 

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Case study 2: War in United States against Afghanistan 

The most imminent conflict that can be witnessed where United States participated is Taliban attack. Almost 9800 armed forces of United States were deployed but there was hardly any strong exit strategy. Mostly, it was administered by Obama. International policies and their implications are also evident for this case, especially when things are related to counter insurgency. Arguably, in the previous case success of counter insurgency can be witnessed; on the other hand, this case is more of a scenario where stalemate situation can be witnessed for counter insurgency due to lack of adequate exit plan (Enterline, Stull and Magagnoli, 2013). As a result, it can be inferred that on one hand counter insurgency may correspond to implementation of the same to defeat and on the other hand, it is adopted just for the sake of gaining immense amount of support from the relevant stakeholders. Arguably, some policies will definitely lead to counter insurgency but others may not fructify in due course of time. 

During early 1990s, a power vacuum was created right after abrupt termination of United States, withdrawal of Afghanistan and a havoc need for internal assistance. USSR was expelled from Afghanistan by majahideen, who quickly devolved into various factions which were based on ethnic, tribal and geographical distinctions. When Najibullah’s regime was collapsed violent conflicts also started. On the other hand, most conflicts occurred between Afghanistan’s armed groups. Two most prominent and well known tribes of Afghanistan are Taliban and Northern Alliance. The latter one intends to establish feudal system of government. On the contrary, former one is more prevalent in Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan. The attack on World Trade Center made Taliban target for United States largely. In the year 2001 President Bush ordered the armed forces to eliminate and dismantle terrorist organization, al Qaeda, along with the transnational network. Relying on 100 CIA officers and 350 special officers for operation United States decided to invade Afghanistan for al Qaeda dismantling and Taliban expulsion. Even though initially both Northern Alliance and Taliban lost tactically and territorially thereby dispersing from there itself, they soon regrouped judiciously and traversed in Pakistan. In Pakistan they waited for second round of foreign intervention. At that juncture Bush wanted to isolate Afghanistan from Pashtuns in order to fortify transnational authority that was executed via the Bonn agreement. However, the agreement brought forward an unclear blending of different governing systems such as tribal code, Western style democracy and lastly, sharia law. As interim authority, United States’ role was actually more negligible. Its approach was more detached in nature, especially in terms of new political system’s expectations (Souleimanov and Huseyn, 2015). On the contrary, occupying force as well as interim authority was not able to protect human rights, maintain security and create an environment, where population of Afghan remained unaddressed. Both political and economic grievances of Afghan’s were not looked after in this policy itself. Strategic and tactical position of Taliban was assessed by them in Pakistan so that invasion of United States can be countered. On the other hand, Pakistan government’s efforts were not much evident in respect to counter insurgency campaigns by the West and United States for restricting Afghanistan’s actions. The government was not able to do so because constantly military forces of Pakistan meddled and interfered in United States’ counter insurgency campaign. Nevertheless, United States occupation’s early period was much more stable comparatively; demand for large commitment was also less and thus cost incurred got to be invariably less. Only 10,000 troops in Afghanistan were required for handling the situation. NATO member states such as Canada, U.K. and Germany heavily contributed in stabilization of both ground and air personnel. United States and NATO members’ heavy investment to establish democratic process was manifested to some extent in 2005’s election (Bell, 2012). The problem still existed as participation of only a handful of trained police forces and national army can be witnessed. There was considerable amount of air and ground personnel’s absence to secure situation even further that existed in the nation.  Deteriorating legitimacy and security of the Afghani government provided scope to the Taliban to assert in Afghan’s politics as a relevant actor. On the contrary, loop holes can also be witnessed in case of United States’ intervention as well. The attacks that took place during 2007 to 2008 were mostly from provinces existing in the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The regions from where United States was attacked also correspond to poor counter insurgency places. Talibans were also heavily responsible for civilians’ causalities and attacks. Undoubtedly, the victims as well as local residents always blamed occupying forces alongside with the host government. The national security also deteriorated largely. State alienated the residing population by ineffective governance. In fact, basic need for security was not provided as all. Population-centric counter insurgency was adopted by United States in every other time since Afghan conflict. In case of nonmilitary policies that were implemented in Afghanistan became more of indirect approach rather than direct military attempt for engaging in counter insurgent actions. Nonmilitary forces were more effective in abolishing disputes related to infrastructure, public institutions and other political problems. Administration of Obama also funded other nations which were weak to establish their own governmental system. However, their assistance never resulted in any internal development that is tangible in nature. The provisions for extension in security assistance as well as international finance prevented development of security apparatus and self-sufficiency economy in Afghan. Even at present Afghan’s economic, political and security systems is also not enough fortified. Afghan’s policies for counter insurgency also acted as the catalyst in peace talks with various neighboring countries. During heavy occupation Pakistan enabled Taliban to invade missions related to ISAF (Hakimi, 2013). Pakistan is mostly the recipient of dollars from different states that are engaged in counter insurgency. 

State victory is conceived in nonmilitary alongside with military actions. Definitely, nonmilitary actions are more long term in nature while military actions are short terms. The first step created an insecure environment in Afghan, where counter insurgency strategy was more evident politically. Intra-state conflict and counter insurgency increased post-World War II. It also associated more intra-state insurgencies that challenged existing state control and legitimacy. Counter insurgency is going to continue for longer period of time as stated by Max Boot. 

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In recent era it can be witnessed how more than 30 states are involved in asymmetric warfare that is conventional in nature. On the contrary, most of these states are losing in the face of adversary. Well organized insurgencies are not facing adverse scenarios, in front of which the states are not able to successfully implement their counter insurgency strategies. Countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations are struggling to establish peace by taking interventional help from rich and developed nations. However, from case study 2 it is evident that nation like United States which is extremely powerful has also reached a situation where stalemate condition is encountered largely. Counter insurgent policies’ efficiency is questioned in this way. Moreover, defeat of insurgent power is more important for the states, especially when counter insurgency policies are concerned. On the contrary, the way United States established its power and interfered in Afghan’s emergency situation without any concrete exit plan portrays most of the developed nations do so for the sake of establishing themselves in front of the world mass and enhance their popularity. Humanitarian actions of United States are quite popular throughout the world. Similarly, United Kingdom’s colony-acquiring spree is also evident in the first case study. However, its strategies were fortified enough to become successful in counter insurgency. Counter insurgency is definitely important for developed nations to showcase their powers in front of the world but not at the cost of common people’s interest. For example, Afghan people’s political and economic demands were not fulfilled during President Bush’s intervention in emergency situation. 

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  1. Hakimi, “Getting savages to fight barbarians: counterinsurgency and the remaking of Afghanistan.”Central Asian Survey, vol32, No. 3, 2013, pp. 388-405.
  2. Souleimanov, and A. Huseyn, “Asymmetry of values, indigenous forces, and incumbent success in counterinsurgency: evidence from Chechnya.”Journal of Strategic Studies, vol38,  No. 5, 2015,  pp. 678-703. 
  3. A.J. Enterline, E. Stull, and J. Magagnoli, “Reversal of fortune? Strategy change and counterinsurgency success by foreign powers in the twentieth century.” International Studies Perspectives, vol 14,  No. 2, 2013,  pp.176-198.
  4. Schuurman, “Defeated by popular demand: Public support and counterterrorism in three western democracies, 1963–1998.”Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol36, No.2, 2013, pp.152-175.
  5. Bell, “Hybrid warfare and its metaphors.”Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development,vol 23, No. 2, 2012, pp. 225-247.
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