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Report from FOI: How is the counterinsurgency method working in Afghanistan?

Until 2014 Swedish forces will remain in Afghanistan as part of ISAF. In order to bring about security there, ISAF is using COIN, counterinsurgency, as its military doctrine. How is it working and what happens afterwards?

According to the COIN doctrine, the basic ideas in combating  the Taliban are to break the loyalty of the local population to the insurgents, to create security, to legitimise the state in providing services to the community and to strengthen economic development by supporting the state. In a report from FOI these central ideas behind ISAF’s method of working are discussed, examined from the viewpoints of theory and experience, and considered in relation to the current situation in Afghanistan.

- The COIN doctrine, seen from a theoretical point of view, offers good prospects of success but there are certain problematic uncertainties, says Stefan Olsson, an FOI scientist and author of the report “Stability in Afghanistan”.

In 2014 The Afghan state is due to take over responsibility for security through the Afghan Army and the police, but as yet these forces have not been fully built up for the task. There is also the major problem that it is difficult to persuade the citizens to trust the state bearing in mind the widespread corruption that exists. The plan may be for the state to create trust through the provision of social services, but what the Afghan people really want is order and security.

- Building up the Afghan security organisation is not enough, peace talks with the Taliban are also needed. They are not simply a guerrilla group, but rather a social movement. A political settlement is essential, says Stefan Olsson.

According to the report, ISAF’s strategy contains a number of question marks that make the state of affairs post-2014 appear somewhat uncertain. How far will the work of building up the Afghan national security forces have progressed? What should Sweden and other ISAF countries do if the security situation in 2014 is not as favourable as hoped for in the plans?

- The next step is urgently needed. The plan on paper can work but we must be prepared and plan for a range of different future scenarios, says Stefan Olsson.

He and his colleagues are now working to produce a range of scenarios for how the situation in Afghanistan might turn out to be post-2014.

FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency

Swedish Defence Research Agency
SE-164 90 Stockholm

Phone +46 8 555 030 00
Fax +46 8 555 031 00

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