The 'McChrystal effect' helping to turn the tide in Helmand

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British operations in Helmand Province are showing signs of significant progress, thanks partly to the success of the counter insurgency strategy and the leadership of General Stanley McChrystal, argues a new report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

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The RUSI Briefing Note, 'Appraising Moshtarak, the Campaign in Nad-e-Ali District, Helmand' identifies that there are clear signs of success in the British led campaign in the Nad-e-Ali district. The initiative is one half of Operation Moshtarak, the simultaneous US-UK offensive that was launched in February 2010.

Stanley McChrystal US Army PhotoAlthough recent US media reports have noted the slow advancement of the US-led operation in Marjah, they have failed to recognise the 'encouraging progress' in Nad-e-Ali, according to the author of the report, Theo Farrell, Associate Fellow at RUSI. Professor Farrell indentifies that insurgents have been pushed to the outskirts of the district; that freedom of movement for civilians and security forces has been 'dramatically improved'; public services and the police are getting better and there is even an effective governor and representative community council in place.

This study combines analysis of documents, interviews, and observation in the field.

Farrell attributes the British success in Nad-e-Ali to 'strategic patience': British military and civilian advisors have been working hard for the last 18 months to develop local governance and push the Taliban out of the district. Farrell also highlights the importance of 'the McChrystal effect' in reinvigorating the campaign under 'clear strategic direction'.

The report identifies the success that the political-led, population-centric counter-insurgency campaign is having in Nad-e-Ali and the added value of executing it in full partnership with the Afghan security forces. It suggests that the Moshtarak counter-insurgency characteristics of close engagement with the national, provincial and district authorities, combined with a focus on gaining and maintaining population support, is proving effective.

'The number of significant violent events in Nad-e-Ali has fallen to 15 per cent of that before Operation Moshtarak. Freedom of movement for civilians and security forces within the district has dramatically improved. The district has an effective governor, and relations between the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army have greatly improved. Most important of all, as a key indicator of progress, there was excellent local turnout (some 3,000) at the three election shuras for the District Community Council, and a new, enlarged and more representative body was elected on 12 May'.

appraising moshtarak'Operation Moshtarak demonstrates that in Southern Afghanistan, ISAF is practising what it preaches - a political-led, population-centric approach to counter-insurgency that is generally well integrated with Afghan national security forces (ANSF). It also shows how 'the McChrystal effect' - the reinvigoration of ISAF's campaign under clear strategic direction' has been amplified in the South by a beefed-up Regional Command (South) under Major General Nick Carter and his UK 6 Division HQ.'

'The evidence from Operation Moshtarak suggests that COMISAF has been successful in this endeavour. General McChrystal has also sought to improve unity of effort across ISAF, and to this end he established a new three-star command, ISAF Joint Command. 'The McChrystal Effect' has been widely reported, and indeed is palpable in ISAF HQ.'

To view in full 'Appraising Moshtarak, the Campaign in Nad-e-Ali District, Helmand', and learn more about RUSI please visit our website


1. For all enquiries please contact Chris Mansell +44(0)20 7747 4957 /

2. The RUSI Briefing Note 'Appraising Moshtarak, the Campaign in Nad-e-Ali District, Helmand' is available at:

3. Professor Theo Farrell is an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and Professor of War in the Modern World at the Department of War Studies at King's College London.

RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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