Why are counterinsurgency campaigns able to overpower some insurgencies and not others? Amit Ahuja’s lecture will compare two counterinsurgency campaigns in India with divergent outcomes: the counterinsurgency in the Punjab was able to subdue the insurgency, whereas the counterinsurgency in Kashmir has had limited success. Drawing on 105 interviews—54 with security force personnel and 51 with family members of insurgents—Ahuja will highlight the ability of the security forces to target a key vulnerability of an insurgency—insurgent family ties. Family ties bolster an insurgency. They are used to socialize an insurgent and offer a network of trust and emotional support. But as the phenomenon of insurgent family targeting by counterinsurgency campaigns indicates, family ties are also a vulnerability for an insurgency. Counterinsurgents target families to limit the exposure of civilians to violence, threaten active insurgents and deter potential insurgents, gather information on the insurgency, and encourage insurgents to leave the rebels. Ahuja’s lecture will highlight three findings: (1) when insurgent families are accessible to counterinsurgents, they are targeted; (2) counterinsurgents rely on three unique yet interwoven insurgent family targeting mechanisms: coercion, inducements, and surveillance; (3) when an insurgency is unable to evolve mechanisms to resist family targeting, it is more likely to be overpowered, whereas when the insurgency evolves successful mechanisms to counter family targeting, it is able to prolong its lifespan.
Amit Ahuja is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research focuses on the politics of inclusion and exclusion in South Asian multiethnic societies, specifically within the context of ethnic parties and movements, military organizations, intercaste marriages, and skin color preferences. His publications include Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements (Oxford University Press, 2019) and a second monograph in progress on Building National Armies in Multiethnic States.