On the night of 1 May 2011, four helicopters containing a task force of SEAL (US Navy special forces) commandos flew from Afghanistan to raid a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, 71 miles from the capital, Islamabad. At around 1 a.m. on the morning of 2 May the raiders stormed their target, killing the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. The outcome of the raid was hailed by US President Barack Obama as a major success, as the individual responsible for authorising 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities worldwide had finally been eliminated. But bin Laden’s death has also been a source of controversy, concerning not only the legitimacy of what critics term an extra-judicial killing, but also the question of whether the Pakistani authorities knew that the founder and former leader of al-Qaeda was hiding in a city that houses their own military academy, and which also is a popular residence for senior military and security force personnel (Drehle 2011; The Economist 2011b). The opening quote from Sir Robert Thompson’s Defeating Communist Insurgency alludes to three important points relevant to any state, or coalition of states, involved in counterinsurgency (COIN) and counter-terrorism. The first is that regular armed forces configured for combat against equivalent formations from adversarial states are at a disadvantage in internal wars, where insurgents and terrorists mingle with the civilian population. The second is that military and security forces involved in such conflicts – whether at home or in an intervention operation overseas – require accurate intelligence on their enemies in order to combat them effectively (Kitson 1991: 95-6). The third, which is of particular importance for liberal democracies, is to ensure that irregular adversaries should be fought in a manner that minimises civilian casualties, as the killing and maiming of non-combatants is not only ethically abhorrent but politically counterproductive (Sheehan 1990: 317). This chapter will be mainly concerned with the second

of Thompson’s points, namely intelligence in relation to the successful prosecution of COIN although the discussion will also focus on the use of special forces and air strikes by counterinsurgent forces Theorists and practitioners of COIN debate the respective merits of enemy-and populationcentric approaches. In the former, the state focuses on the physical destruction of insurgents and terrorists, while in the latter the government side concentrates on protecting the population against violence and alleviating the political and socio-economic grievances which its adversaries have exploited (Kilcullen 2009: 180-1; US Army/USMC 2007: 41). However, efforts to persuade insurgents to lay down their arms or change sides have their limits, as in successive campaigns ending in a government victory a hard-core of the state’s adversaries has fought to the bitter end, requiring government forces to eliminate, capture or expel them (Hughes 2009: 274-5, 285-6). As this chapter shows, there are both practical and normative problems inherent in both the generation of human intelligence (HUMINT) on an adversary, and the use of special forces and air power to combat insurgents.