The Seven Deadly Sins of the Human Terrain System: An Insider’s Perspective
The Human Terrain System (HTS) – a U.S. Army program aimed at helping U.S. and allied military forces understand the people around them in Iraq and Afghanistan – is dead. And anthropologists are dancing ritualistically around its corpse.
The idea behind HTS was simple and promising: embed social scientists with military units and give them the resources to unearth operationally relevant socio-cultural data and findings. Its founders, Dr. Montgomery McFate, an anthropologist by training, and former Army officer Steve Fondacaro stood the program up and served as its leaders and missionaries for its first few years of existence. At the height of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan most ground-holding brigades and special operations units had Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) supported by Human Terrain Analysis Teams (HTATs) at the division level.
So what went wrong?
Ryan Evans is the editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks. He worked as a Human Terrain Team social scientist in 2010 and 2011 in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
Image Credit: Ryan Evans, Lashkari Bazaar.