The End of an Insurgency

What President Obama Can Learn From Peru, Angola, and Colombia

Courtesy Reuters

By the start of next year, the Obama administration will unveil its plan for ending U.S. counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. The plan will likely entail one of three options: an aggressive counterterrorism campaign paired with a speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces beginning by July 2011; counterterrorism combined with a phased troop withdrawal starting in 2011 and a transition to Afghan control by 2014; or a full counterinsurgency campaign that would require an active and costly U.S. commitment well beyond 2014.

As the Obama administration weighs its strategy, it would be wise to consider the history of 89 insurgencies in the second half of the twentieth century. How governments manage to defeat -- or be defeated by -- insurgencies reveals a number of lessons for Washington today.

First, each citizen in a country that is home to an active insurgency chooses whether to join, tolerate, or reject the insurgency. To decide to join

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