Going to War With the Allies You Have: Allies, Counterinsurgency, and the War on Terrorism

  • November 01, 2005
  • Dr Daniel Byman

Washington must recognize that its allies, including those in the security forces, are often the source of counterinsurgency problems as well as the heart of any solution. The author argues that the ally's structural problems and distinct interests have daunting implications for successful U.S. counterinsurgency efforts. The nature of regimes and of societies feeds an insurgency, but the United States is often hostage to its narrow goals with regard to counterinsurgency and thus becomes complicit in the host-nation's self-defeating behavior. Unfortunately, U.S. influence often is limited as the allies recognize that America's vital interests with regard to fighting al-Qa'ida-linked groups are likely to outweigh any temporary disgust or anger at an ally's brutality or failure to institute reforms. Training, military-to-military contacts, education programs, and other efforts to shape their COIN capabilities are beneficial, but the effects are likely to be limited at best.