Urban Insurgency and the Search for a Solution: United States Counterinsurgency Strategy for the Twenty-First Century

Date of Graduation

Summer 2005


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

C. Walton


Given that the United States continues to intervene regularly in various states on humanitarian, peacekeeping, and nation-building missions, as well as in the course of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), the need for an appropriate counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine is imperative. The urbanization of the Third world and the inability of many of its governments to cope with rapid social change, as well as the advantages that the urban environment provides for the insurgent who employs asymmetric warfare, making designing an urban COIN doctrine particularly important. Despite its significance, little doctrine exists for urban COIN, and the conventional culture of the U.S. military is resistant to the development of such doctrine. Moreover, insurgent strategy of the Cold war, to which the United States is accustomed, has changed. This thesis advocates that the U.S. military look to the relatively successful urban COIN campaign waged in Northern Ireland by Britain. Additionally, U.S. COIN forces must train for military operations on urban terrain (MOUT), include cultural assessments in the intelligence process, and prepare to operate in a law enforcement capacity. This thesis offers recommendations intended to help decision makers craft an effective COIN policy.


counterinsurgency, urbanization, Third World, terrorism, security

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Andrew C. Katen