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“It Takes a Network”: The Rise and Fall of Social Network Analysis in U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine

“It Takes a Network”: The Rise and Fall of Social Network Analysis in U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine (PDF)
Source: Connections (International Network for Social Network Analysis)

During the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, a group of warrior-thinkers developed a new U.S. Army counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine to fight modern “jihadist” insurgencies. Drawing heavily on social network analysis ideas, COIN principles emphasized population protection and organizational learning and adaptation. As implemented in Iraq by General David Petraeus, the doctrine greatly reduced intercommunal violence although other factors also contributed. But, COIN in Afghanistan under General Stanley McChrystal was unsuccessful in ending the Taliban insurgency. Although the Obama Administration substantially diminished the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency capabilities, social network analytic ideas persist in military policy and practices.

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