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Focus Targeting in a Coin Environment

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Technical Report

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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As the United States finds itself in the 10th year of conflict in Afghanistan, it was not until the fall of 2009 that counterinsurgency became the centerpiece of US strategy. Whether they realized it or not, the coalition was fighting an insurgency ever since they pushed the Taliban back into Pakistan in 2003, well before the violence in Iraq and the introduction of the Army and U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Prior to the adoption of this new strategy, ground forces at all levels made many mistakes. First and foremost among these mistakes was how to see and understand the environment and how to target the enemy. The second mistake and probably the most important was that coalition forces became too focused on the enemy. In a counterinsurgency, the focus at all levels from strategic to tactical should be on the entire population and how it interacts with the insurgent. At the operational and tactical level, this understanding of the social network, coupled with a dynamic targeting process, will eventually lead toward success.

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