U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide

What are the characteristics of insurgents?

Insurgents usually have less conventional military capacity than the government (at least in the early stages of insurgency) and so tend to use guerrilla tactics to inflict damage without allowing their fighters to be engaged by equal or larger govern-ment forces. Tactics such as raids, ambushes, assassinations, sabotage, booby traps, and improvised explosive devices take advantage of mobility, stealth, deception and surprise to weaken, discredit, or paralyze the less agile government security forces. Insurgents try to manage the tempo and intensity of their activities to permit a level of effort they can sustain indefinitely. By prolonging the conflict, they hope to exhaust the opposition, seeking to impose unsustainable costs on the government to force capitulation. Although the permutations of insurgent activity are context-driven, historical analysis shows that insurgents typically apply four basic tactics, or variations of them, to defeat stronger security forces. 


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