Archipelagos of death: the assemblage of population-centric war in Afghanistan

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US_Army_51738_Balancing_kinetic_effects_of_Airpower_with_Counterinsurgency_objectives_in_Afghanistan_Wikimedia Commons_Sgt. Matthew Moeller
DOI: 10.1080/14702436.2020.1776614
Defence Studies: Journal of Military and Strategic Studies


Julien Pomarède (2020): Archipelagos of death: the assemblage of populationcentric war in Afghanistan, Defence Studies, DOI: 10.1080/14702436.2020.1776614

Abstract: How is the notion of success rearticulated in the contemporary context of endless counterinsurgencies (COIN)? To answer, the paper engages the thesis that the recent COIN campaigns were founded on a dysfunctional disconnect between the “hearts and minds” principles and the reality of the indefinite use of force. I show that this tension (called the “tactical trap”) is not a pathology of COIN, but one of its productive sites. The tactical trap is an assemblage of violence that brings together the endless use of force and the population-centric narrative through the principle of futurity, i.e. an indeterminate horizon of “progress.” Taking inspiration from the Critical War Studies and the Afghan warfare as a case study, I highlight the paradoxical nature of population-centric war: it is founded on a violence that makes COIN both a permanent state of failure and a probable success. The indeterminacy of violence is then analyzed as a new ordering of risk-management warfare, based on the everyday (re)invention of the potentiality of “progress.”