Engaging with tribal structures in military operations: The Royal Netherlands Army in Iraq and Afghanistan

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This thesis explores how the Royal Netherlands Army developed theoretical and practical knowledge on and engaged with tribal structures in Iraq and Afghanistan to influence their military operations. Through secondary analysis based on academic literature, policy reports, and Army documents, this thesis first zeroes in on tribal structures in theory and practice. By interviewing military researchers, intelligence officers, and military commanders, this thesis secondly zeroes in on how the Dutch Army developed knowledge of and engaged with tribal structures. Where the level of knowledge about tribal structures in Uruzgan was relatively good, the level of knowledge about tribal structures in Iraq was limited. However, during both the SFIR and ISAF missions, the Dutch Army lacked true understanding of tribal structures. Also, the Dutch Army’s efforts to develop theoretical and practical knowledge on and engage with tribes only had limited effect. The successes of engaging with tribes were only marginal and lasted no longer than the duration of the Dutch missions. This research thus identifies the limitations and effects of the Dutch Army’s efforts to engage with tribes in Iraq and Afghanistan. It opens possibilities for future learning and identifies practical recommendations for the Dutch Army’s future operations in tribal environments.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen