16 March 2017

Where Are the Women? The Unfortunate Omission in the Army’s COIN Doctrine

… In a COIN environment where the population is the center of gravity, access to the entire population is an obvious necessity for operational success. But this poses a serious problem for counterinsurgency campaigns that are conducted within societies that uphold strict cultural norms forbidding the interaction of men and women. How does one begin to win the hearts and minds of a population when half of its members remain unreachable? Although FM 3-24 acknowledges that women hold significant influence over the social networks that lend support to insurgencies, it provides very little advice on how to co-opt local women into the US military’s counterinsurgency efforts. Throughout the entire 282-page manual, the word “women” appears only eight times (the singular “woman” never appears at all). A single paragraph dedicated towards the engagement of local women notes that “when women support COIN efforts, families support COIN efforts. Getting the support of families is a big step towards mobilizing the local populace against the insurgency.” Questions regarding how to garner the support of women during a counterinsurgency campaign, however, are never addressed. By neglecting to recognize how women impact the social networks from which insurgencies derive their support, how can we truly understand how these insurgencies function and successfully operate? …

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