Despite fighting counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq for the better part of the past decade, counterinsurgency, or COIN, remains a tense subject for the U.S. Army, and it has not embraced the topic in its educational institutions. There is no single cause for this shortfall. Culprits include institutional bias toward conventional warfighting, an Army training and doctrine command stripped of active-duty talent to fill more critical warfighting skills, a lethargic education bureaucracy staffed largely by retirees and contractors, and confusion over the nature of counterinsurgency. Despite sporadic and halting efforts to incorporate the subject as a core competency, such instruction remains uneven in both quality and quality throughout the Army, to the detriment of operational performance.
Educating the Army in its Own COIN
Counterinsurgency and conventional warfighting doctrine are both core competencies essential to the Army, and its schoolhouse curricula should balance the two.
By Major Niel Smith, U.S. Army