Christopher D. Kolenda

The Counterinsurgency Challenge: A Parable of Leadership and Decision-Making in Modern Conflict

Written by one of the world’s premier practitioners, an officer General David H. Petraeus described as a “tactical genius,” The Counterinsurgency Challenge is a fascinating journey through the mind of a commander in combat. The Counterinsurgency Challenge offers unique insight into how U.S. military practice has evolved, and continues to evolve, over the course of the war in Afghanistan – and how it is likely to evolve in the future. Using the form of a parable to illustrate the chaotic and dynamic
the complexity of modern conflict, Kolenda provides a highly practical tool that takes the reader through a learning process toward developing the mental courage and toughness necessary to win in the face of a deadly and resilient enemy.

Kolenda has been a critical reformer in the Afghan Campaign. Commanding a combat battalion in northern Kunar and eastern Nuristan in 2007-2008 – at that time one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan – Kolenda and his unit defied the conventional wisdom of the day and focused on armed diplomacy, conflict resolution, and both violent and non-violent leverage to
break apart the insurgency and turn the population against the insurgency. Over the course of fifteen months, 1-91 CAV (173rd Airborne) and their Afghan partners turned a widespread popular insurrection into a relatively stable, albeit fragile, environment.
Since then, Kolenda has been deeply involved in shaping every major strategic effort in the war in Afghanistan. He has served as a strategist and senior advisor to Generals McChrystal and Petraeus in Afghanistan and to the most senior officials in the Department of Defense, leading efforts to reform counterinsurgency practices in Afghanistan while developing the critical
strategies for success. He retired from the Army in order to stay involved in prosecuting and winning America’s longest war.
Christopher D. Kolenda brings all of this knowledge and experience together in this gripping work that is certain to shape how military and civilian practitioners prepare themselves for small wars in difficult places. His well-noted caution, “there are two laws that operate with iron consistency in counterinsurgency: the law of gravity … and the law of unintended consequences,” should serve as a warning to those overly eager to start wars in the future.