Where Are the Women? The Unfortunate Omission in the Army’s COIN Doctrine

Where Are the Women? The Unfortunate Omission in the Army’s COIN Doctrine by Megan Anderson, Modern War Institute

… In a COIN environment where the population is the center of gravity, access to the entire population is an obvious necessity for operational success. But this poses a serious problem for counterinsurgency campaigns that are conducted within societies that uphold strict cultural norms forbidding the interaction of men and women. How does one begin to win the hearts and minds of a population when half of its members remain unreachable? Although FM 3-24 acknowledges that women hold significant influence over the social networks that lend support to insurgencies, it provides very little advice on how to co-opt local women into the US military’s counterinsurgency efforts. Throughout the entire 282-page manual, the word “women” appears only eight times (the singular “woman” never appears at all). A single paragraph dedicated towards the engagement of local women notes that “when women support COIN efforts, families support COIN efforts. Getting the support of families is a big step towards mobilizing the local populace against the insurgency.” Questions regarding how to garner the support of women during a counterinsurgency campaign, however, are never addressed. By neglecting to recognize how women impact the social networks from which insurgencies derive their support, how can we truly understand how these insurgencies function and successfully operate? …

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I have no idea what FM3-24 contains, but it would be foolhardy to ignore the role of women in COIN. Yes, perhaps in current conflicts the US military is involved in women do not play a significant combat role. The big exception being with the Kurdish YPG, which has women-only combat units; even if it currently is a partner.

There are plenty of historical and contemporary conflicts where women have played a significant role, both in combat and support roles. In Latin America women were present in Colombia's long insurgency and in Peru's struggle with Shining Path.

This is complete nonsense. Women are irrelevant to COIN. Resistance leaders and the vast majority of fighters are invariably men. Even if women had a major role to play in an insurgency FM 3-24 is delusional when applied to foreign occupation and simply common sense if applied by a local government i.e. stop doing what's making so many people take up arms.

What's most vexing about this is that US tax dollars are funding this sort of wasteful faux academia and it could lead to some female soldiers being harmed while out on fruitless "women's empowerment" missions in the next dung heap the US decides to invade.