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The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,527 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
David Kilcullen is one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare. A Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, his vision of war dramatically influenced America's decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement "the surge."

Now, in The Accidental Guerrilla, Kilcullen provides a remarkably fresh p

Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 384 pages
Published March 16th 2009 by Oxford University Press, Inc. (first published March 2009)
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While some may say that Kilcullen's theories on the Accidental Guerrilla are not revolutionary, I believe that to the date of the book being published they, in a manner of ways, were.
In fact the author himself says "The ideas are not new; implementing them effectively would be". And that is what this book is all about.
Implementing conceptual frameworks that quantify best practise in the field of Accidental Guerrilla syndrome (ad hoc fighters with little interest in Jihadic motivations) and in co
Faced with unsuccessful military interventions in several conflicts, some of our own making, the U.S. military leadership seconded Lt. Col. David Kilcullen of the Australian Army to work with them on devising a and testing a new strategy that might allow them to withdraw from their engagements without complete failure. Kilcullen is a military officer, but also an anthropologist. This book is his attempt to explain his thinking on the worldwide Islamic insurgency and the best methods to try and c ...more
Mar 27, 2009 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military
The Accidental Guerrilla is indeed not an easy read, but is rich with the life experience and thoughtful analysis of one of the world's foremost counterinsurgency experts. Kilcullen meanders from Iraq to Afghanistan to Timor to Thailand, stuttering and stopping to share insights on counterinsurgency best (and worst) practices. He then moves on to Europe to explore how best to understand (and engage) disconnected Muslim communities. The US Army advisor does not limit himself to an assessment of c ...more
I gave this one four stars since I disliked the Accidental Guerrilla aspect of all the discussion. It summarized to a fine point...if you are in someone else's are going to piss him/her off. That someone may wind up shooting at you. Yep, been there done that. Hence you have accidently created a guerrilla.

Ok let's get onto the next aspect. The author is very spot on with many of his discussions.

Over-response. AQ/Hezbollah/Mahdi Army/Radical Freaks want to cause some damage to us to
Jul 29, 2011 Corto added it
This is the book I've been waiting 8 years to read. To date, this is the most clear and concise assessment of our current conflict environment told through the eyes of an anthropologist, counterinsurgency theorist and soldier.

The analysis and prescriptions are reality-based and anyone wanting to gain real insight into the wars we're fighting would profit by reading this book. When I was about halfway done with the book I complained to a friend (a Vietnam Vet who'd served in a Marine CAP platoon)
Professor Mary Kaldor of LSE has chosen to discuss David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla on FiveBooks as one of the top five on her subject - War , saying that:

“… Kilcullen was really the thinking behind the “surges” in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. He thinks we face a global insurgency of Takfir terrorists, basically Al-Qaida, who are trying to attack the West. They infiltrate areas like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, marry locals and both intimidate and bribe people in order to mo
Feb 03, 2013 Simon rated it liked it
Review Part 1

The nice people in the G7 Branch at the Army's HQ Land Training and Doctrine Group loaned me a copy of David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla to read on the promise that I would give them a book review in return – fair trade, I think, and one which provides me an opportunity to assess the actual time required to review and read a book for future jobs. I missed David Kilcullen’s briefs when he visited NZ in October '09, having been required to attend another commitment in the UK that
Apr 06, 2009 Grey rated it it was amazing
Although LtCol/Dr. Kilcullen has his detractors -- mostly those with no actual experience or cogent arguments -- this book ranks as one of the most important at this juncture in our several wars.

He starts with an overview of the "accidental guerrilla" phenomenon. Explained this way, many seemingly anomalous events start to make sense. It's just a thesis, but I think he's onto something. See, too, Steve Metz's work on the psychological vs political roots of insurgency. Reading Kilcullen's book, M
A fine introduction to the basic concepts of counterinsurgency warfare by one of its leading theorists--- a former Australian Army officer with a PhD and combat experience in East Timor as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, the man who was a key player in the restructuring of the American war effort in Iraq. Kilcullen offers a non-technical introduction to COIN as well as a thoughtful tour of some of the world's insurgencies.

The bulk of the groups fighting against American and allied forces, Kilcull
Apr 07, 2011 Marks54 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an Australian who combines a career as a military officer with that of an anthropologist. He is one of the Ph.D.s in General Petraeus' brain trust that was assembled to implement the new counter-insurgency strategy put in place to save the US from defeat in the second Iraq War -- the "surge". The point of this book is to come up with a theory of insurgency that explains how new "global" terrorist groups such as al-Qaida can prosper and link up with more conventional national liberation g ...more
Bucky McMahon
Dec 22, 2009 Bucky McMahon rated it it was ok
The author warns the reader that the book is too informal for the academic and too academic for the layman. I found that to be accurate; my interest in the content didn't survive the demands on my time and aattention, alas. Still, his main point, about how precarious the balance of loyalty can be--do the locals shoot at us or join us in "protecting" them--is fascinating and revelatory.
May 05, 2009 Chris rated it liked it
Reads like a dissertation at times. Only got to page 37. The type of book the boss will have someone do an executive summary on it as he is too lazy to read it. If I were on active duty or deploying I would read it and reread it. Good to know they finally started listening to the author.
Nov 20, 2013 Phoenix rated it really liked it
This book has much merit by adding to the existing base of knowledge. While Kilcullen's model is unique and well worth further investigation it is not possible to automatically apply it automatically to other insurgencies, since each insurgency is unique in the variables which compose it. David, much to his credit, seemed to be seeking the common core or the unifying thread within the composition of insurgencies as an phenomenon. The idea of comparing terrorism with a plague (infection, contagio ...more
Peter Stuart
Jan 11, 2017 Peter Stuart rated it really liked it
A complex and multi layered work. A brilliantly written anthropological study of the psychology, drivers, outcomes and behaviors caused by "modern" conflicts at the tribal and personal level.

Whilst conflict throughout history has always likely driven by a few of extreme views that result in masses following. The ease and prevelance of modern communication and enforced "one world globalization", makes the spread of minority ideas into a wider audience easier to instigate than ever before.

Feb 11, 2010 Damon rated it it was amazing
It's rare to read a book that you kind of agree with all the way through, but I did with this. Kilcullen is an Australian soldier who for many years has worked for the US advising on counter insurgency. His relationship with Petraeus is referenced in the Iraq section but you get the sense that he and Kilcullen share a common thinking about how to deal with insurgency in Iraq and perhaps helped form US policy into the relative success that it is now.

Kilcullen says at the beginning that he thinks
This book should be required reading for every military leader, and for every political leader involved in decisions on military policy and economic development in other countries. The author is both a skilled researcher and a savvy soldier with experience in several parts of the world. Recruiting him as an advisor was a very smart move by General Petraeus. I am, seriously, considering buying copies for all the members of my state's Congressional delegation.
Dr. Kilcullen's themes would be instan
Nov 05, 2011 Jan rated it it was amazing
A must read instant classic for anyone seriously interested in present day conflict.

A dense, thoughtful, empirically well founded and challenging analysis of how we ourselves unwittingly have played into the hands of takfiri terrorism by simplified conflict framing (GWOT) and overly kinetic approaches to conflict intervention in complex societal contexts eluding our comprehension and unsuited to our traditional Western way of war.

And a solid suggestion for how and whether we should consider in
Jan 29, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it
Excellent book describing what is happening in the world from a terrorism and counterinsurgency perspective. His recommendations and conclusions should be examined by policy makers on all levels.

Book was hard to digest at times but the insights that he has from a variety of conflicts allows Kilcullen to fully analyze the strategic and tactical issues impacting the the global environment. His case study on Afghanistan should be examined further in light of current military operations in that cou
Tin Wee
Dec 05, 2011 Tin Wee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an insightful book which draws on field experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq to articulate the theory of the 'accidental guerilla' , and also backs up his view that the current conflict in the world is inter-related and cannot rely on military solutions alone. His proposed solutions make sense and are food for thought. He also hints at how the current conflict may develop - where extremists make use of legislative loopholes to have safe havens in developed countries. I found this a good rea ...more
Feb 02, 2010 Gordon rated it really liked it
Shelves: iraq, afghanistan, coin, islam
Took me a while to pick this book up as I didn't like the title. In the end, I loved the book - although very academic and you have to wade through Dave's barely disguised self praise at times. However, I have found no better analysis of the issues we face in Iraq and Afghanistan and no better or more succint recipe for success anywhere. Dave nails it! If you are headed to or very interested in Afghanistan, read Chapters 2 and 5. Should be required reading for anyone involved in our two wars.
Apr 09, 2009 Bobby rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Overall, I felt this book was quite informative regarding one of the greatest threats we face in the 21st Century. I did, however, find the section on Timor somewhat difficult to follow. (Perhaps because I haven't followed this situation much in the news in recent years. I do intend on re-reading this section of the book.) David Kilcullen's is definitely worth reading if you are interested in getting one expert's perspective on how western societies should deal with terrorism for the next fifty ...more
Jun 01, 2011 André rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anybody interested in the subject.
One of the very few well written books delivering a wide range of respectful background information on the different populations, ethnic groups etc. involved while at the same time giving an as wide range of suggestions on how to deal with the locals to get satisfying results for everyone involved.
Includes many in depth reporting/detailed descriptions of missions and their results.
Comes with my highest possible recommendation.

Gary Tait
Kilcullen presents quite an academic approach to Hybrid Warfare in this wonderfully rich account of conflict in the modern age. A deep read for those who may only have a general interest in the subject but an absolute must for those who wish to test the theories of Hybrid and Insurgency/Counterinsurgency warfare against contemporary events. Superb and engaging with a fall out which presses you to read more on the subject.
Jun 06, 2009 Christopher rated it really liked it
Truly superb. Anyone with an interest in contemporary military history, the "War on Terror" in general, or the situation in Afghanistan & Pakistan will benefit from reading this field-driven study. Kilcullen's real-world observations shatter the wet dream macho fantasies of the "let's go kick some ass" crowd, and illustrate how real warriors win these real wars.
Jan 20, 2010 Joseph rated it it was amazing
A concise and well written explanation of global terrorism, and U.S. involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan in historical context. Well written and impeccably sourced. Kilcullen manages to takes a logical common sense approach which is remarkably insightful. As an added bonus I found this to be as politically neutral as a book on this topic can be.
Jun 11, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Is Al Queda bankrupting our government? Can it be proved that we are actually doing good with our aid money or just fueling corruption? Does our aid and projects support our COIN doctrine or do the people now just see their government as puppets? Thank you Mr. Kilcullen for fueling my already jaded view of our "GWOT". I just bought his next book "Counterinsurgency" and can't wait to read it.
Fredrick Danysh
Mar 13, 2014 Fredrick Danysh rated it liked it
Shelves: political, history
The Accidental Guerrilla is mainly about the role of small anti-government and/or anti-Western movements with the goal of preserving their way of life as opposed to the global Islamic movement for one world under Islam. The author was a senior Australian military officer who studied several of these movements.
May 06, 2009 Evan rated it it was amazing
This is a very good book, although it can be dense at times, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's interested in national security issues. Check out the NYT review here:
Sep 13, 2010 Jess rated it really liked it
Interesting, decently written. A lot of intriguing evidence. The theory is laid out pretty well in the first chapter, though the rest of the book does not stick to it too closely. Still, a worthwhile read.
Sean Vangordon
Oct 17, 2010 Sean Vangordon rated it it was amazing
Very good read. Increased my understanding of the two wars we are in.
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“My personal position on counterinsurgency in general, and on Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, could therefore be summarized as "Never again, but..." That is, we should avoid any future large-scale, unilateral military intervention in the Islamic world, for all the reasons already discussed. But, recognizing that while our conventional war-fighting superiority endures, any sensible enemy will choose to fight us in this manner, we should hold on to the knowledge and corporate memory so painfully acquired, across all the agencies of all the Coalition partners, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And should we find ourselves (by error or necessity) in a similar position once again, then the best practices we have rediscovered in current campaigns represent an effective approach: effective, but not recommended.” 3 likes
“Some terrorism analysts have seen the southern insurgency as an Islamic jihad that forms part of the broader network of AQ-linked extremism, with Islamic theology and religious aspirations (for shari’a law or an Islamic emirate) as a key motivator.73 This surface impression is reinforced by the facts that the violence is led by ustadz74 and other religious teachers, that the mosques and ponoh (Islamic schools) have a central role as recruiting and training bases, and that militants repeatedly state that they are fighting a legitimate defensive jihad against the encroachment of the kafir (infidel) Buddhist Thai government. Clearly, also, the AQ affiliate Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI) has used Thailand as a venue for key meetings, financial transfers, acquisition of forged documents,75 and money laundering and as a transit hub for operators.” 0 likes
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