If counter-insurgencies are popularity contest, who is winning it in Kashmir?

David Michôd’s War Machine was released in 2017 was one of the first films released on Netflix. Netflix has become more powerful medium than billion dollar studio movies. Starring Brad Pitt, it had a massive star appeal.

The film didn’t do well on the Box-Office. But it has relied heavily on how counterinsurgencies work overseas. The film can be seen as a satirical take on America’s war on terror.

Brad Pitt is General Stanley McChrystal who is given charge to lead the United States’ counter insurgency campaign in Afghanistan. His approach is the Hearts and Minds approach to the war-torn country. He counts nation-building as an essential weapon to tackle the insurgency.

One of the lines in the film goes, “this is counterinsurgency. It’s a popularity contest.”

While giving a presentation to convince the French of their participation in Afghanistan. McChrystal gives a lecture on what counter-insurgency is, and how it’s an unwinnable war.

Let’s say you have ten insurgents.
Now, let’s say you kill two of ’em.
Now, how many insurgents do you have left?
Hmm? Hmm?
Well, you’d say eight, of course.
Eight. Right?
In this scenario, ten minus two equals 20.
Let’s say the two insurgents
you just killed, uh…
each had six friends or brothers
or some such,
who are hovering on the brink of…
of joining the insurgency.
They’re thinking
about this insurgency thing.
“Looks interesting. But, you know,
for one reason or other, not for me. “
But… So, then you go
and kill their friend.
Now you’ve just made up
their minds for ’em.
Those hovering friends are now
full, paid-up members of the enemy.
And so, in the math of counterinsurgency,
ten minus two…
equals 20.


In the latest report by Indian Express on the logic behind Ramadan ceasefire, it states, “After the killing of Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, 121 militants have been killed and 216 local youths joined militancy.”

It validates the fact that in the popularity contest in Kashmir, the rebels are definitely winning. Despite the killings of over 250 rebels, the recruitment to armed rebel groups hasn’t stopped. The amount of ‘collective punishment’ by the Indian armed forces have only hardened the resolve of these potential recruits.

India’s new policy of Doval doctrine, much like the Dahiya doctrine employed by the Israeli’s in Beirut during the Lebanon war in 2006, has only become a marketing tool for Kashmir’s rebel cause.

Despite being under-armed and without any guerrilla warfare training, the rebels have found themselves at the heart of Kashmir’s Tehreek (the movement). With civilians coming in droves to help the rebels break military cordons, most of them unsuccessfully. Participation of civilians in funerals are akin to rock-concerts with the colleagues of slain rebels firing bullets in the sky, despite what’s being reported as scarce supply of ammunition.

India’s dialogue talks are merely to test the waters. Kashmir’s chief minister’s call for cease-fire seems to be carefully choreographed for the face-saving of India’s military operations in Kashmir.

The question remains, what will it take for Indian government to state its failure in asymmetric warfare in Kashmir. The cost of the dead has been too high, the damage is beyond repair.

Joint Resistance Leadership has also come out with their statement that they’re ready for dialogue, if the offer from India is unambiguous and clear. The ball is in India’s court, will it pursue peace or continue its war against an increasingly hostile population.