Foreign internal defense
Foreign internal defense (FID) is the U.S. military doctrine for counterinsurgency. It describes an approach to combating actual or threatened insurgency in a foreign state called the Host Nation (HN). The term counter-insurgency is more commonly used worldwide than FID. This article focuses on the principles, models, and nonmilitary steps that underlie a FID program. See Foreign internal defense operations for the specific steps for military support to HN forces.
According to the US doctrinal manual, Joint Publication 3-07.1: Foreign Internal Defense (FID), FID specialists preferably do not themselves fight the insurgents. Doctrine calls for a close working partnership between the HN government and military with outside military, diplomatic, economic, and other specialists. The most successful FID actions prevent actual violence. When combat is needed, it is best done by HN personnel with appropriate external support, the external support preferably being in a noncombat support and training role alone.
Formally, FID is defined as "Participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency." It is the main area for United States counterinsurgency doctrine. The new counterinsurgency Field Manual, defines counterinsurgency as (italics in original)
Insurgency and its tactics are as old as warfare itself. Joint doctrine defines an insurgency as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict. Stated another way, an insurgency is an organized, protracted politico-military struggle designed to weaken the control and legitimacy of an established government, occupying power, or other political authority while increasing insurgent control. Counterinsurgency is military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency.. These definitions are a good starting point, but they do not properly highlight a key paradox: though insurgency and COIN are two sides of a phenomenon that has been called revolutionary war or internal war, they are distinctly different types of operations. In addition, insurgency and COIN are included within a broad category of conflict known as irregular warfare.
In many respects, it is the mirror image of the U.S. doctrine for guerrilla warfare, which in U.S. special operations doctrine is called unconventional warfare. When American advisors were sent to Laos and South Vietnam in the early sixties, the major problem was not to create guerrilla units, but to fight existing Laotian and Vietnamese guerrilla forces. It seemed logical that soldiers trained to be guerrillas would have a deep understanding of how to fight guerrillas, so Special Forces was given that mission. The White Star mission in Laos was initially covert, and used Special Forces and other personnel under Central Intelligence Agency control. Whether the mission is called counterguerrilla, counterinsurgency, or foreign internal defense, it involves assisting a friendly government -- the "foreign" in FID -- to defend against guerrillas acting inside its borders. FID can also involve training a foreign government to deal with a future internal guerrilla threat.
Note well the use of "external source" above. Foreign internal defense may also involve defense against infiltrators, or even conventional military forces, crossing national borders. FID, however, is focused primarily on situations when the major conflicts will take place inside the national borders.
There are various structures for U.S. military assistance to a Host Nation. When the threat is from conventional warfare, a Military Assistance & Advisory Group (MAAG) may be more appropriate than some pure special operations joint task forces. If American combat troops become involved, in situations with both conventional and guerrilla warfare, it may be necessary to set up a more complex headquarters, such as Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.
Effective FID is a Partnership
FID exists only within a context of host nation (HN) internal defense and development (IDAD), where it can be a force multiplier for regional commanders concerned with counterinsurgency. Insurgencies today are more likely to be transnational than in the past.
Political power is the central issue in insurgencies and counterinsurgencies; each side aims to get the people to accept its governance or authority as legitimate. Insurgents use all available tools—political (including diplomatic), informational (including appeals to religious, ethnic, or ideological beliefs), military, and economic—to overthrow the existing authority. This authority may be an established government or an interim governing body. Counterinsurgents, in turn, use all instruments of national power to sustain the established or emerging government and reduce the likelihood of another crisis emerging.
- Real security dialogue at the bilateral and regional level means listening and last personal relationships.
- Security cooperation should focus on security and stability, notpolitical or social reform. Such efforts should recognize the legitimacy of different values and be the subject of a separate dialogue.
- Build trust by clearly seeking friend or allies security.
- Focus on building local self-defense and deterrence capabilities, not presence or dependence.
- Help friends and allies build forces in their own way; do not “mirror image.”
- Recognize the reality that other nations define threats and allies differently from the US.
- Arms sales must clearly benefit the buyer, not just the seller.
- Ensure sustainability, capability to operate own forces in own way.
- Responsive, time sensitive aid, deployment, sales, and transfers.
Especially when the HN government, the insurgency, and the FID force come from different cultures, careful thought needs to be given both to the way the parties perceive the rules, and the ways the communicate their agreement to one another. Steven Metz, of the U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, observed:
After the Second World War, the United States initially framed insurgency in Cold War terms, the most successful insurgencies were ones which became more and more "state like," controlling ever larger swaths of territory and expanding their military capability to the point that they could undertake larger operations. They developed organizational specialization and complexity with separate leaders, combatants, political cadre, auxiliaries, and a mass base. U.S. thinking tended to gravitate to the Maoist insurgent strategy of "people's war" which held that the rebels sought the internal formality and differentiation of a state. Insurgency, in other words, began as an asymmetric conflict but became less so as it progressed. The American notion of counterinsurgency rejected the brutal "mailed fist" approach (e.g., Trinquier's Modern War) used throughout history in favor of methods more amenable to a democracy.Derived from British, French, and American experience in "small wars," this stressed simultaneous actions to neutralize or destroy insurgent armed formations, separate the insurgents from "the people," and undertake political-economic reform. The American approach was to support a partner government, strengthening it and encouraging it to reform: foreign internal defense...[in which] ... U.S. involvement began at a low level, escalated until the partner state could stand on its own and had institutionalized political and economic reform, then receded once the insurgents were defeated and the government controlled its territory.
Metz warns that the paradigm may have changed. "Insurgency matters today because it is linked to the phenomenon of transnational terrorism. Insurgents have long used terrorism in the operational sense, deterring those who supported the government and creating an environment of violence and insecurity to erode public trust in the regime. But now terrorism plays a strategic role as well. Insurgents can use terrorism as a form of long-range power projection against outsiders who support the government they are fighting. This could deter or even end outside assistance. It is easy to imagine, for instance, that the already fragile backing for American involvement in Iraq would erode even further if the Iraqi insurgents launched attacks in the United States. Even more important, an insurgent movement able to seize control of a state could support transnational terrorists. The idea is that insurgents have demonstrated an affinity for violence and extremism which would flavor their policies if they came to power."
He rejects the idea that transnational terrorism is uniquely Islamic. "It is less the chance of an insurgent victory which creates a friendly environment for transnational terrorism than persistent internal conflict shattering control and restraint in a state. During an insurgency, both the insurgents and the government focus on each other, necessarily leaving parts of the country with minimal security and control. Transnational terrorists exploit this. And protracted insurgency creates a general disregard for law and order. Organized crime and corruption blossom. Much of the population loses its natural aversion to violence. Thus a society brutalized and wounded by a protracted insurgency is more likely to spawn a variety of evils, spewing violent individuals into the world long after the conflict ends."
Participants in FID programs
No external force can guarantee success against an insurgency unless the people regard the Host Nation (HN) government as legitimate. Limited external support helped Ramon Magsaysay defeat the Hukbalahap insurgency in the Philippines, with one of the most important parts of that support being the availability of air transport so he could be visible in remote areas.  The Vietnam War showed that even a superpower cannot make an unresponsive and corrupt government succeed against insurgents. especially when the superpower has significant conflict in its internal decision making.  An ineffective HN government guarantees the failure of counterinsurgency.
The first part of this discussion discusses two parts of the "McCormick Magic Diamond" terms the "counterinsurgency force" (i.e., principally the HN government and closely aligned FID units) and the "international community" (i.e., nongovernmental organizations (NGO)) and other nation-states).
There will almost always be a variety other participants, which can include friendly neighbor states, states sharing a coalition, and nongovernmental organizations. At the intergovernmental level, the highest decisions will be reached between diplomats at the HN foreign ministry or department of state, with the ambassadors of the nations providing FID being key players. The diplomatic level sets the highest policies.
States that are generally strong still may need FID assistance for well-defined problems, especially problems where they lack skill and resources that they can, over time, acquire. For example, ASEAN is a Southeast Asian regional alliance including highly competent states such as Singapore. Nevertheless, they may need to develop additional resources ranging from port inspection to sea surveillance to advanced intelligence.
From the U.S. perspective, nonmilitary foreign aid is the responsibility of the Agency for International Development (AID). Depending on the particular country, AID might work more or less closely with the military. In a country with poor transportation infrastructure, delivery of humanitarian supplies might need military transportation resources. In other situations, the overall political situation makes an arms' length relationship between military and nonmilitry aid to be desirable.
Economic assistance often involves multinational organizations such as the World Bank.
The very conditions that may necessitate a stability operation or support operation—widespread human suffering, population movements, famine, human rights violations, and civil war—are also the conditions that attract the services of nongovernmental organizations (NGO). To work with them effectively, HN and FID personnel need to understand that each organization or agency has a different mandate, set of capacities, organizational design, and cultural orientation. Some may prefer not to work with military organization.
NGOs and PVOs (as well as coalition partners) may require services from combat service support (CSS) units. The assistance may have been negotiated before the organization arrived in the area of operations, or the situation may create a sudden demand. responsibilities may also include support of coalition members, representatives of nongovernmental organizations.
For example, recent multinational operations involving U.S. forces have at times included representatives from nations unable to fully support their deployed forces. Calls by coalition members for U.S. support have in other instances been due less to an inability to provide assistance than to a desire to take advantage of superior U.S. capabilities (e.g., medical care). Urban operations put coalition forces in closer proximity to each other. The number of such requests is therefore likely to be greater during such contingencies. Operational readiness or coalition politics may dictate that they be granted despite the resultant burden on U.S. CSS units. U.S. Marine Corps forces found themselves providing various types of assistance to members of the media during their 2002 operations in and around Kandahar, Afghanistan. Already tasked with requirements beyond those initially expected, scarce resources were further stretched by having to support fifty members of these various commercial organizations
Western special operations forces are considered strategic assets with core missions including FID and UW. They may have other capabilities relevant to specific situations, such as demining. United States Army Special Forces are among the most versatile organizations, but not all their capabilities:
|Foreign internal defense||coalition warfare and support|
|Unconventional warfare||combat search and rescue (CSAR)|
|Special reconnaissance||security assistance|
|direct action||humanitarian demining|
may be needed for a specific FID situation. For example, the most urgent need might be for public health specialists or airfield construction crews, which operate on a level far beyond the medical or engineering specialists of a U.S. Special Forces unit. Superb public health or construction organizations, however, have limited or no self-defense capability and will need protection in insecure areas.
See foreign internal defense models for a discussion of the concepts on which FID is planned.
Advisers also need to understand the motivations of the HN troops. It may be culture or history, not incompetence or cowardice, that fighting soldiers do not act as would U.S. troops.
National Problems and Transnational Spillover
One of the reasons that the U.S. and developed countries operate counterinsurgency programs is to prevent transnational spillover from insurgency. Problems in a weakened HN can spill beyond its borders, into regions or worldwide. See transnational spillover from insurgency for a general discussion; U.S.-specific doctrines for spillover issues are discussed below.
Illicit drug trade
Drugs also are high-value and low-volume. When a country's legitimate government is weak compared to its drug trade infrastructure, part of FID may be defeating that infrastructure, or, minimally, reducing its ability to corrupt or destroy government institutions.. The role of FID forces involves intelligence sharing, logistics and communications, assistance in planning operations, and training and equipping HN forces. Properly trained and equipped police and military forces can help close the security gap. Work with the World Health Organization and regional health groups work with the capacity gap. Regional HN operations to interdict drug traffickers, destroy labs and seize drugs helps close the legitimacy gap by reducing the bribery of local officials.
Within the limitations of the U.S. Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents military forces for being used for civilian law enforcement, homeland and FID personnel can cooperate with partner nations (PN) in their counterdrug (CD) effort to disrupt the transport and/or transfer of illegal drugs into the US. Counterdrug (CD) is a high priority national security and international cooperation mission, with DOD functions and responsibilities based on statutory authority. Counterdrug activities in FID help partner nations (PNs) in their CD efforts. Illicit drug trafficking, smuggling of every sort, and the regional and global movement of terrorists are closely linked by financial, political, and operational linkages.
US military resources can be used as part of a counter-drug (CD) component of a FID program. While these are most often focused on supply, they also can be used to interfere with drug shipment. Since the United States Department of Defense is the lead government agency of the USG for the detection and monitoring (DM) of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs into the US, the DM mission is performed with regularly appropriated funds, notwithstanding the possibility of incidental benefit to the HN. Such activities may include nonconfrontational intercepts for intelligence or communication purposes and gathering and processing of tactical intelligence from a variety of sources, including fixed and mobile surveillance assets and certain intelligence sharing. In a CD support role (subject to national policy and legislative guidance) DOD may offer certain direct support to HN CD personnel, and certain enhanced support to US civilian law enforcement agencies that may be operating in the HN, and to the Bureau of International Narcotics Matters of the United States Department of State.
Without explicit direction from the Secretary of Defense, US forces engaged in CD activities may not engage in direct law enforcement activity. They may not directly participate in an arrest, search, seizure, or other similar activity. DOD personnel are not authorized to accompany HN forces on actual CD field operations or participate in any activities where hostilities are likely to occur. Other nations participating in the CD aspects of FID may operate under more permissive rules of engagement.
Piracy is very real in the international waters of weak and failed states, such as Somalia. FID personnel may gather intelligence on pirate locations, and transmit this to warships able to intercept the pirate vessels. When pirates are active, providing FID supplies by water is impractical unless the transport vessels are armed, or travel in convoy.
Military health specialists, as distinct from special operations forces, can have an enormous impact. Training and equipping health and education facilities are key FID capabilities. While Special Forces medical personnel can deliver clinic services and train local workers, there is an entire spectrum of ways to use FID to enhance public health. As one example, the US Navy's Medical Research Unit No. 3 has been active in Egypt since the Second World War. Located next to the Abbassia Fever Hospital, the oldest and largest fever hospital in the Middle East, it does research with Egyptian personnel and scientific clinicals throughout Africa and Southwest Asia. It works closely with the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the U.S Agency for International Development and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NAMRU-3 is a WHO Collaborating Center for HIV and Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Organized transnational terrorists can flourish in weak states. A globally-oriented group using terrorist methods can coexist with a local insurgency, or perhaps in the country that offers sanctuary to a border-crossing insurgency in a neighboring state. Developed country terrorism programs can benefit from FID in weak states, by strengthening those states, with due regard to human rights and the rule of law. FID can complement the global war on terrorism by reducing these contributing factors. The defensive measures of anti-terrorism (AT) and offensive counterterrorism efforts can be part of the FID program developed for a HN.
Motivating states against global terrorist groups is, in the US, principally the responsibility of the Department of State. Effective FID programs, however, can improve public perceptions of both the HN and the country(ies) providing FID resources. and facilitate more active HN policies to combat terrorism. Military-to-military contacts can help
Nonmilitary Actions in Closing Gaps
While the usual focus is on the military component of FID, the US FID joint doctrinal manual makes it clear that FID must be coordinated with all parts of a host government's scope. Doctrinally, the overall program should be under the United States Department of State, or equivalent Foreign Ministry for other countries' FID programs. In the sixties a presidentially appointed ambassador, otherwise known as chief of mission (COM), heads the embassy. But as multiple U.S. agencies have moved into embassies over the years, the COM’s authority has actually declined. Not many Army officers realize that COMs have little or no staff in the military sense; often they have little oversight of funds moving through other agencies in the embassy, and they have little or no planning capability, which sometimes leads to culture clashes with U.S. military forces in country. More worrisome, under current rules COMs often have little to say about military operations in their countries, overpowered as they are by regional combatant command planning staffs and military teams that move in and out. Under President John F. Kennedy, COMs had explicit authority over Military Assistance Advisory Groups (MAAG), which were part of the ambassador’s “country team.” That authority has disappeared over the years...
"Every authority on counterinsurgency emphasizes the need for unity of command in the threatened area and emphasizes the primacy of political planning over military. But for various reasons having to do with U.S. intragovernmental rivalry, U.S. policy perpetuates competing lines of command and competition between military and political leaders in insurgency and preinsurgency theaters." In Iraq, Multinational Force Iraq reports to United States Central Command, not the Ambassador.
"Much must be done to rebuild the Department of State’s capacity to reestablish balanced country teams and strong COMs in threatened areas. A strategic shift of this magnitude will not happen overnight. ... A whole rethinking of embassy staffing and of professional development for Foreign Service officers must begin; the good news is that State is awake to the challenges and is addressing the problems, though with mixed success to date.
In the US context, many of these functions, when provided by government, are the responsibility of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), whose main missions are grouped as:
- Global Development Alliance
- Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade
- Global Health
- Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance.
There are at least two components of economic development: debt relief and new development. Most of the debt relief activity will be by nonmilitary personnel, other than perhaps an occasional audit. New development, however, can involve engineering and other relevant military skills.
Not all models consider economics a key gap. The World Bank observes, however, that "low-income countries are about 15 times more susceptible to internal conflict than countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Helping poor nations to stabilize and diversify their economies—empowering them to fight poverty and meet popular expectations—must be a vital facet of the developed and developing world's efforts to avoid state collapse. The role of trade, along with the issues of protecting nascent economic sectors, is a true challenge. "Agricultural trade disputes were a key issue in the stalled Doha Round. At the same time, the United States must unilaterally give poor countries access to its markets through initiatives such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act."
"The governments of major developing countries must play a large part in designing and carrying out new strategies. For proof, one need only look at the radically different international responses to the locally initiated New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) (which was embraced) and the Bush administration’s Greater Middle East Initiative (which was not)."  Reconfigured, the G-20 (i.e., members of the G-8 and major emerging markets such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa) could play a vital role in brokering consensus on a wide range of intractable political and security issues. The G=20 has already established itself as a key voice in global economic policy, and with an elevated profile it could address political and security affairs as well.
Especially poor nations are under a crushing debt load, and international organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have worked on debt relief, within a well-managed economic framework, to allow those countries to reallocate funds from debt service to development activities. Under this IMF program, 22 nations have shown sufficient development progress that they have passed the "completion point" at which lenders have agreed to forgive loans.
Kilcullen's economic pillar includes:
- near-term component of immediate humanitarian relief
- longer-term programs for development assistance across a range of agricultural, industrial and commercial activities.
- Assistance in effective resource and infrastructure management
- Construction of key infrastructure systems.
All these components need to be tailored to the HN capacity to absorb spending, as well as efforts to increase absorptive capacity, underpin other development activities. "One of the fundamental reasons for the U.S. military's success in reacting to emergencies is its almost limitless supply of contingency funding. U.S. development agencies have no comparable capacity. Congress should give the president a “country-in-transition” fund to finance unforeseen reconstruction or peacekeeping operations...[the world needs] cohesive rapid response unit, a centralized pool of interagency experts on state building—the rule of law, governance, and economic reform—trained to work together and able to deploy rapidly, unencumbered by bureaucratic inertia, to crisis spots." Language and cultural knowledge gaps alone mean that this cannot be a unilateral US operation.
Economic support can include the provision of foreign military financing under security assistance. Providing military equipment, however, must be done in a manner that the insurgents cannot exploit in their propaganda, calling the country or countries supporting the government "merchants of death" or the like.
All special operations personnel have medical training beyond basic first aid, with the United States Army Special Forces medical specialists closer to the paramedic or physician assistant levels. The engineering specialists often can construct wells and irrigation systems.
Additional deployment of health services have, historically, proven to be a valuable low-risk asset to support FID programs. These are usually noncontroversial and cost-effective. The focus of such initiatives are not curative, but rather long-term developmental programs that are sustainable by the HN. These activities are targeted toward the health problems facing the HN military in conjunction with other US agencies, civilian health initiatives.
While it can be entirely appropriate to provide medical supplies to local clinics, there have been cases where either local personnel diverted some of the supplies to the insurgents, or the insurgents expropriated them. The FID or HN health specialists should periodically audit medical supply inventory and compare them with health records, to see if use is consistent with the record. The records and supplies may differ for simply administrative reasons, which can become a teaching opportunity for medical records.
When mass immunization programs are part of the health services in FID, it can be wise to avoid extreme measures to keep insurgents from receiving immunization. Increasing overall population immunity benefits all in the country, especially if the insurgency ends. In disaster situations, it also can provide long-term benefits not to check identification as closely as might be done in other situations.
For countries that have had long civil wars or other conflicts that left a legacy of land mines, prosthetic services, regretfully, may be necessary -- and leave long-term friendships.
Agriculture and Nutrition
A lesson learned by accident came from the Marine Combined Action Platoons in Vietnam, where young Marines who came from 4-H Club farm competition turned out to be experts on animal husbandry. In some FID situations, there can be an enormous benefit, both for health through proper diet and for economic development, to bring in experts on sustainable agriculture, and resources that the local inhabitants can use independently, such as improved breeding stock.  In a developing country, some approaches to improving agricultural productivity may have short-term benefits but long-term problems. Inappropriate use of antibiotics, as animal growth stimulants, both makes the local economy dependent on outside drug manufacturers, and also can increase bacterial resistance to treatment. Genetically modified seed that will not propagate itself also makes an agricultural economic sector dependent on indefinite outside assistance.
Public Health, Research and Advanced Treatment
Special operators, as well trained as they may be in community health, are not professional epidemiologists. A number of infectious diseases are increasing (see CIA transnational health and economic activities for projections(, and, without aggressive prevention, may destroy developing economies. A critical FID role may be to bring the appropriate specialists where they are needed, and to give them physical security.
A major worldwide goal of public health is eradication of infectious diseases, eradication being a technical term meaning that the disease is extinct in the wild, and may or may not exist in laboratories. One disease, smallpox, has been eradicated, and that took close to 200 years. Eradication of other diseases, however, is closer, and mass immunization programs as part of FID may be a major tool. Trained FID and HN personnel also may be able to identify and quarantine sporadic cases.
Polio, for example, is close to being the second disease, after smallpox, to being eradicated. It is endemic in four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, but has been eliminated from Europe, the Americas, the Western Pacific (including China) and Australia. Apparently, a Nigerian strain managed to get into Sudan, and appeared in displaced persons camps in Kenya.
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