How to fight insurgents? Lessons from the French





The Pentagon held a screening in 2003 of "The Battle of Algiers," a movie about French troops winning control of the Algerian capital. President Bush says that he recently read Alistair Horne's authoritative history on the war, "A Savage War of Peace." And last fall, Christopher Harmon, who teaches a course on the Algerian war at the Marine Corps University (MCU) in Washington, lectured marines in Iraq about the Algerian model.

Here in Algeria, some of those who participated in that war find little use in the comparison. But the US military - and the American public - continues to study the 1954-62 Algerian war of independence for lessons on how to fight the insurgency in Iraq.

"There are very, very few examples of modern insurgency, and for urban [insurgencies] it's basically this [war]," says Thomas X. Hammes, a US insurgency expert and author of a book on guerrilla warfare, "The Sling and the Stone."

While France ultimately withdrew from Algeria, "the French did much of the counterinsurgency very skillfully," says Mr. Harmon, who is the Kim T. Adamson Chair of Insurgency and Terrorism at MCU. "The American military has been intrigued by the case study for a long time ... it's a very good parallel."


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