by SWJ Editors
Counterinsurgency and a Comprehensive Approach
Helmand Province, Afghanistan
by Peter Dahl Thruelsen, Small Wars Journal
The point of departure of this article will be the situation in Helmand Province as of summer 2008. The article will provide an exclusive focus on comprehensive approach (CA), the complex context of Helmand Province and the international setup there. Fighting an insurgency like the one in Afghanistan is not just a job for the military. Experiences from previous and present insurgencies have shown that a variety of measures including political, economic and developmental play a significant role in gaining progress and success in what can be called state-building. In Afghanistan, the term 'comprehensive approach' has been used to underline the need for a more cross-ministerial interagency approach when fighting the insurgency. A recent report to the US Congress views the importance of CA in the following way "success will never be achieved through military means alone, but through a comprehensive approach that involves all elements of power: military, diplomatic, and economic. Above all, it will require a sustained effort to continue to develop the capacity of the Afghans themselves." In this article the focus will be on local capacity building and the fact that CA by definition involves more than one player, and that one of these is often a military one.
The article will try to go in-depth regarding the current situation in Helmand Province and it will look into the current British approach to the engagement. The article is based on several field researches conducted in Helmand since 2006, with the latest in May 2008 and it is inspired by the earlier contribution to Small Wars Journal by Dr. Daniel Marston on "British Operation in Helmand Afghanistan". The main argument will be that when implementing a fully integrated civil-military counterinsurgency strategy in the context of Helmand Province extensive resources must be identified and allocated in a fast pace. Together with this the rapid deployment of civilian advisors to theatre will be crucial for success in the complexities of counterinsurgency in Helmand Province. In sum, the article is meant to contribute to the constant ongoing debate on Afghanistan, by providing, to some extent, a detailed picture of the situation as of summer 2008.