The Accidental Guerrilla
Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
With a new foreword by Sir Hew Strachan
‘The Accidental Guerrilla has an anthropologist’s sense of social dynamics and a reporter’s eye for telling detail. If T.E. Lawrence evoked the means of waging irregular warfare in his 1926 classic, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Mr Kilcullen describes the practitioner’s art of combating insurgents.’ — The Economist
This landmark book—a Washington Post bestseller—transformed the theory and practice of counterinsurgency.
Colouring his account with gripping battlefield experience from the highlands of Southeast Asia, the mountains of the Afghanistan–Pakistan border, and the dusty towns of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, David Kilcullen argues that neither counterterrorism nor traditional counterinsurgency is the appropriate framework to fight the enemy we now face. Traditional counterinsurgency is more effective than counterterrorism when it comes to entities like Al-Qaeda, but, as Kilcullen contends, our current focus is far too narrow, concentrating on only one geographical region and one state. Today’s wars present a much different situation: stateless insurgents and terrorists operating across a large number of countries and only loosely affiliated with each other. Western armies have done a poor job of applying different tactics to different situations, continually misidentifying insurgents with limited aims and legitimate grievances as part of a coordinated worldwide network. The Accidental Guerrilla identifies the problem and suggests workable solutions.
This highly readable and closely argued book is essential for all those thinking about and fighting wars today.
David Kilcullen is an ASU Future of War senior fellow at the New America Foundation. A senior counterinsurgency adviser during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, he was one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2009. His books The Accidental Guerrilla; Out of the Mountains; and Blood Year are all published by Hurst.
‘For a wider perspective on the lessons drawn over the past seven years of the ‘war on terror’, the reader can do no better than turn to Mr Kilcullen’s excellent book. The Accidental Guerrilla has an anthropologist’s sense of social dynamics and a reporter’s eye for telling detail. If T.E. Lawrence evoked the means of waging irregular warfare in his 1926 classic, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Mr Kilcullen describes the practitioner’s art of combating insurgents.’ — The Economist
‘At the heart of this significant book is the author’s declaration that terrorism cannot be addressed by military means alone: that for American or British soldiers merely to kill insurgents is meaningless. He urges policies based upon securing and succouring populations, not on enemy body counts. . . . Kilcullen is an influential man. A former Australian army officer, he became a key adviser to General David Petraeus and then Condoleezza Rice’s principal counter-terrorist strategist at the State Department. His book synthesises lessons that America has learnt by bitter experience and that, hopefully, will continue to influence its politics in the Obama era. . . Almost everything the author says makes sense. His work reflects wisdom purchased by eight years of western military and political folly.’ — Max Hastings, The Sunday Times
‘This book should be required reading for anyone involved in the war on terror. Kilcullen’s central concept of the “accidental guerrilla” is brilliant and the policy prescriptions that flow from it important. And that’s not all; the book has many more insights drawn from various battlefields. — Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek
‘David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla is a richly reported and well written account of the new way of war of the twenty-first century; how those “small wars” will differ from previous conflicts and what they have in common with past insurgencies and counterinsurgencies. Analytically very sharp and also an engrossing read, Kilcullen’s book is destined to become a classic study of warfare in our new century.’ — Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst and author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I Know
‘Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla is a perceptive, argumentative handbook on how to fix a problem. […] His argument is that while “there is a global enemy”, it amounts to “only 2 per cent to 5 per cent of the people we’ve been fighting since 9/11”. many of the others are “Accidental terrorists”, provoked into retaliation by intrusion into their territory or disputes. […] His strength is in knowledge of the different enemies and their motivation, and it is his case that without understanding those subtleties, the battle is lost.’ — The Times
‘this book is essential…. Kilcullen skillfully interprets the future of counterinsurgency, the proper use of military force and what we must learn from our losses and mistakes. After reading The Accidental Guerrilla, one is left to wonder why the pentagon did not listen to his sage advice back in 2003.’ — New York Times Book Review
‘Kilcullen’s influence on how the U.S. military thought about counterinsurgency campaigning cannot be overstated.’ — Thomas E. Ricks, author of The Gamble and Fiasco
‘There are some standard texts on [counterinsurgency]. The Accidental Guerrilla is sure to become one.’ — The Wall Street Journal