As security improves, the population turns its back on the insurgency and, without support, insurgents' operations become impossible. They can no longer hide in plain sight, they cannot coerce the population into supporting them with supplies, or money, and they can no longer conduct operations clandestinely.
Add the continuous disruptive effect of tens of thousands of conventional forces living among the population in every city and town, maintaining a watchful eye, and the impediment to insurgent operations becomes overwhelming.
As a counterinsurgency campaign gains momentum, the most difficult aspects of the campaign become easier as the single example of intelligence gathering should illustrate. At the height of the surge, when my infantry company was in the al-Qaeda hotspot of Dora, a neighborhood in southern Baghdad, we lived among the people and over time built relationships. As trust grew and security improved, I collected intelligence with the support of the entire population of the district. Often, as soon as the information was known to the community, it was passed to us and usually there were only minutes, sometimes only seconds, between the moment I learned of an insurgent's location and the raid that followed.
Counterterrorism elements, isolated on remote installations, have no such interactions and have to rely on intelligence that is often unreliable or out of date. Further, even if their intelligence gets to them quickly and accurately, they are at such a remove from the battlefield that they often cannot hit a target in time.
Our counterterrorism elements are the envy of the world for their training and resources. In the end, though, there are no shortcuts. The campaign in Afghanistan demands a complete approach to combating a deeply entrenched insurgency that has historically supported terrorist organizations dedicated to America's downfall. That approach is not the counterterrorism model put forth, but the fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy advanced by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Read why counterinsurgency will fail, by Gian P. Gentile of West Point.
What do you think? Is counterinsurgency the way forward in Afghanistan?