‘Getting COIN’ at the Tactical Level in Afghanistan: Reassessing Counter-Insurgency Adaptation in the British Army

This article reassesses the extent to which the British Army has been able to adapt to the counter-insurgency campaign in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. While adopting Farrell’s definition of bottom-up military adaptation, this article contends that the task force/brigade level of analysis adopted by Farrell and Farrell and Gordon has led them to overstate the degree to which innovation arising from processes of bottom-up adaptation has actually ensued. Drawing on lower level tactical unit interviews and other data, this article demonstrates how units have been unable or unwilling to execute non-kinetic population-centric operations due to their lack of understanding of the principles of counter-insurgency warfare.