Introduction Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies scrambled to respond to what were seen as increasingly global circulations of insecurity. These circulations were, above all, thought to emerge from the world’s ungoverned spaces and were viewed as putting the very stability of the international state system at risk. A number of policymakers and military top brass, as well as civilian academics from both the United States and allied nations – most notably the United Kingdom – stressed that these threats called for more ‘population-centered’ and ‘communityoriented’ military strategies (see for example, Gompert et al. 2009; Kilcullen 2005, 2009, 2010; Long 2006; Nagl 2005; Ucko 2009). One prominent and widely publicized response was a shift in US military strategy, from conventional firepowercentered warfare towards counterinsurgency (COIN) and stability operations, even though this strategic realignment met with a lot of resistance from within the US military establishment and still remains contested (Ucko 2009). US and allied forces’ difficulties in effectively pacifying and stabilizing postinvasion Iraq and Afghanistan brought counterinsurgency and stability operations, which had fallen into doctrinal oblivion since the end of the Vietnam War, back onto the top of the Pentagon’s agenda in 2004/2005. The renaissance of counterinsurgency started under the Bush administration but gained additional momentum under President Obama. In his speech about the new Afghanistan strategy on 1 December 2009, Obama (2009) stressed that the United States was engaged in a protracted unconventional conflict with al-Qaeda that ‘extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan’:
[U]nlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the twentieth century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies. So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict – not just how we wage wars. We’ll have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power. Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold – whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere – they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.