ISW Releases New Report: Operational Art in Counterinsurgency

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In his latest report, “ Operational Art in Counterinsurgency: A View from the Inside” Lieutenant General James M. Dubik (U.S. Army. Ret.), Senior Fellow at ISW, draws on his experience accelerating the growth of the Iraqi Security Forces during the surge in 2007-2008 to define “operational art” and examine its critical role in counterinsurgency campaigns, using those in Iraq and Afghanistan as a case study.

The term “operational art” describes the practice of using tactical military forces in battles and maneuvers in a campaign or series of campaigns to achieve strategic aims.  In conventional war success will be visible and measurable--a front line that progresses or enemy capitals that are seized. In contrast, in a counterinsurgency campaign the successes will be more complex and impressionistic and will require the military, political, economic, and diplomatic “forces” in sequence and simultaneously.

In the study, Dubik offers insight into the front lines of counterinsurgency tactics and uses particular examples from Iraq and Afghanistan to highlight important changes and recommendations for future operations. LTG Dubik discusses his personal leadership of the Iraqi Security Forces and the challenges he and other leaders such as General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker faced during the surge.

Given the evolving nature of warfare over last few decades, LTG Dubik’s detailed study can serve to better inform policymakers, strategists and all those wishing to understand the counterinsurgency model.

Click here to read the full report or an executive summary.

LTG Dubik assumed command of the MultiNational Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) on June 10, 2007.  He later worked with the Afghan National Security Force before retiring from service in September 2008. In February 2012, Dubik was named the next General Omar N. Bradley Chair in Strategic Leadership, shared by the Army War College, Dickinson College, and Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law and School of International Affairs. For more on General Dubik, click here.

To speak with General Dubik, please contact Hilary Polak at or at (202) 293-5550.