Amid a new and violent insurgency in Iraq, our working paper spells out the options for the country and the international community. Based on research in 104 districts in Iraq from 2004-2009, the paper focuses on three counter-insurgency strategies: 1. Increasing troop numbers; 2. Investing in local development programmes; and 3. Cooperating with ethnic / tribal councils.
Author Pui-hang Wong, a PhD Fellow at UNU-MERIT, finds that insurgents are highly responsive to counter-insurgency interventions. He says that troop surges, including the one in 2007, had large side effects, such as driving insurgents to neighbouring regions and countries.
Now, to bolster the Iraqi Government, the USA is considering drone strikes against ISIS militants. According to Wong, this action is likely to produce similar results: spreading insurgents to other regions while making the situation harder to control.
In terms of ethnic / tribal partnerships, research shows that these strategies only have short-run effects. During the US-led occupation, tribal councils mainly cooperated to gain protection in the short-term rather than to eradicate terrorism per se.
By contrast, Wong finds that development initiatives, like the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) for education, health and transportation, are more likely to create positive synergies alongside troop surges. The latter relate not only to US but also Iraqi Army surges, including (military) national police and border enforcement.
Wong concludes that development projects plus troop surges — without playing the ethnic / tribal card — are most effective in countering insurgencies. See the paper and interview below for more details.
WORKING PAPER (32 pages)
AUTHOR INTERVIEW (2.39 minutes)
Images: UN Photo P. Sudhakaran
Flickr / J. Gordon; S. Heap
Video: UNU / H. Hudson