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Role of Airpower for Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas)

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Master's thesis

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This thesis examines the role of air power in Counterinsurgency COIN operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The direct use of air power is a kinetic application whose aim is to physically destroy the insurgents. The indirect use of air power involves support roles such as transportation, logistics, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The former requires near-perfect intelligence and precision strikes to minimize unintended damage the latter complements information warfare and supports ground mobility. This thesis focuses on how the direct application of air power affects COIN in Afghanistan and in Pakistans Federally Administered Tribal Areas FATA. Excessive use of sophisticated U.S. air power and predator strikes has produced undesirable collateral damage and civilian deaths in the FATA region, and has caused an increase in anti-American sentiment throughout Pakistan, even though it also has caused significant damage to the insurgent safe havens and degraded their ability to coerce the local population. The Pakistan Air Force PAF operates under operational, technological, and cultural constraints. The use of drones in FATA by the United States, conducted without adequate coordination, planning, and political sensitivity, has added to the trust deficit between crucial allies, making the use of air power controversial and counterproductive. The thesis concludes that air power produced tactical gains, but was strategically costly it destroyed enemies, but it also lost friends in the process. An appendix to the thesis describes the social structure of tribal societies and its role in the evolution of insurgency in Afghanistan from 1747 to the present.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Weapons Effects (Biological)
  • Unconventional Warfare

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