• The Accidental Guerrilla

  • Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
  • By: David Kilcullen
  • Narrated by: Peter Ganim
  • Length: 15 hrs and 35 mins
  • Categories: History, Military
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (239 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

David Kilcullen is one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare. A senior counterinsurgency advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, his vision of war dramatically influenced America's decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement "the surge". Now, in The Accidental Guerrilla, Kilcullen provides a remarkably fresh perspective on the War on Terror. Kilcullen takes us "on the ground" to uncover the face of modern warfare, illuminating both the big global war (the "War on Terrorism") and its relation to the associated "small wars" across the globe: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Chechnya, Pakistan, and North Africa.

Kilcullen sees today's conflicts as a complex pairing of contrasting trends: local social networks and worldwide movements; traditional and postmodern culture; local insurgencies seeking autonomy and a broader pan-Islamic campaign. He warns that America's actions in the war on terrorism have tended to conflate these trends, blurring the distinction between local and global struggles and thus enormously complicating our challenges. Indeed, the US had done a poor job of applying different tactics to these very different situations, continually misidentifying insurgents with limited aims and legitimate grievances (whom he calls "accidental guerrillas") as part of a coordinated worldwide terror network. We must learn how to disentangle these strands, develop strategies that deal with global threats, avoid local conflicts where possible, and win them where necessary.

Colored with gripping battlefield experiences that range from the jungles and highlands of Southeast Asia to the mountains of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to the dusty towns of the Middle East, The Accidental Guerrilla will, quite simply, change the way we think about war. This much anticipated book will be a must listen for everyone concerned about the war on terror.

©2009 David Kilcullen (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"This book should be required reading for every American soldier, as well as anyone involved in the war on terror. Kilcullen's central concept of the 'accidental guerrilla' is brilliant and the policy prescriptions that flow from it important. And that's not all; the book has many more insights drawn from various battlefields." (Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek)

What listeners say about The Accidental Guerrilla

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent if advanced

A must read for anyone interested in the incredibly complex conflicts we face now and will likely face in the future. Few have the experience or pedigree in counter-insurgency that Kilcullen can boast. A great follow up to Tom Rick's "The Gamble", which might be considered an introductory text. Kilcullen's work is significantly more complex, yet manages to remain engaging.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A must read for military and politicians

Kilcullen makes sense of the asymmetric battlefield: what works, what does not, and why. Anyone who has been or will be going to Iraq or Afghanistan will appreciate this work. All of our politicians need to read this book. Others may find it boring in part because the reader reads very precisely (slowly), including a painful reading of hundreds of acronyms at the beginning that no one will remember anyway – this makes sense in the written version as a reference, but should not have been included in the audible version. Minor error: MNFI is Multi National Forces Iraq, not Multi National Forces One. Kilcullen deserves 5 stars – packaging of his spoken version cost him a star.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Must Read For Students of Warfare

Highly recommended! The author is a major player in developing military strategy in today's US wars. His theory and recommendations are just now being implemented by the US military and the US government. This is a must read for anyone deploying in support of today's military conflicts around the world. You will want to listen to the conclusions several times!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Facinating Insight

An enjoyable and easy to follow audio book which provided remarkable insight into counter insurgency tactics. The book was well read and laid out. Highly recommended for anyone trying to make sense of insurgencies in play across the globe.

A must.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Not What I Expected

I purchased this book in part because of the distinguished pedigree of the author. I was looking for a factual, unbiased look at the insurgency and counterinsurgency strategies and techniques employed in the local conflicts of the past two decades. While I acknowledge the authors experience, I was extremely disappointed in the way he chose to “interpret” the experiences.
I find it very difficult to learn from authors who have a need to tell me how accurate they have been in the past with regard to opinions about events and the conduct of US Foreign Policy. If I am interested in US Foreign policy strategies over the last decades, this author would certainly not be the one I would turn to so I found this a very difficult read when I had to wade through the many self-accolades and declarations of brilliant advice that permeated this book. As I read the first half of the book I was looking for this author’s experiences and factual reporting of recent insurgencies, but by the second half of the book I was convinced that there was a coloring of these experiences and that I was not reading an totally unbiased view of historical events.
By the end of the book, “Iraq was a conflict that never should have happened”, the authors agenda was clear and without doubt bolstered the concern that I had up to that point to the level of disappointment that I had spent the time to read most of this political essay.
If you are looking for a description of events through the viewpoint of a particular political lense, you may enjoy this read. If you are looking for unbiased insight into insurgency and counterinsurgency strategy and tactics, you too will be disappointed in this book.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • A
  • 08-07-10

Must read (listen)

Quality of audio: excellent
Quality of Narration: superb (Peter Ganim)
This is not the same narrator who read the acronyms at the beginning. There was another narration on Audible a while back that was awful. This narrator is great.

This is so good, I bought the hardcover.


Kilcullen provides a very thorough and comprehensive study of why we have so many zanies fighting us. The text flows nicely, but there are many details so this book is probably for people who have a pretty good understanding of Islamic fundamentalism, the situation in Afghanistan/Iraq, and geography.

The quality of writing is excellent, and this means long complex sentences. So listening to this book means paying close attention. I listen on long drives and if I have to pay too close attention to the traffic, I find I've got to rewind to catch what I've missed.


Did you notice that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs recently started the AfPak Hands program??? That program would be the obvious next step to take if you read Accidental Guerilla. Concur with previous comment that this book is a natural follow on to The Gamble for those who are students of Counterinsurgency (COIN).

The good news is that there are brilliant soldiers like Kilcullen who not only serve their nations, but go on to serve the world, AND take the time to write about it so the rest of us can be in the loop. And he's not just a ground pounder, but a brilliant thinker who can express himself beautifully in the written word.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Legitimate

Who would have guessed that a strategy based on cultural respect and supporting power structures that both sincerely care about the people and are seen as legitimate by the people would bring more stability than napalm. An important work. An alternative to fear based policies. Thank you.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Content excellent, though dry. Narration terrible

I'm trying to figure out if this is a human or a computer narrating. He ruins the book. Not the easiest book to narrate, but he fails.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Very insightful, intense perspective for conflicts

Improved my understanding of terrorism issues, the cause of, what events can lead up to it, and some of the actors at play during a 30 year span or so. -I've studied International policy, terrorism, security strategy and a bunch of other things, and am Australian, so hearing David Kilcullen explain different theatres of conflict, the history of how they got to that situation, and then how they were handled, with a relation to both the US & Australia was thoroughly interesting. -As a member of the military, this would be a fascinating read, people who are majoring in security strategy and warfare as well, and it should be a MUST for politicians. -This book, is a compiled and condensed account of the experienced amassed by David Kicullen who is a respected member of not just the military, but also in the realm of conflict resolution. I've heard him referenced by many other books, including 'Inside Delta Force', 'Strategy a history' and a couple of others. -He provides that much needed different perspective for doing the job that politicians and members of the public think is so easy to say 'yes to intervene' 'no to intervene' and the huge range of costs, information to learn and time spent. -I think if more people read this book and took on board the insights, they would be less impulsive in their decisions regarding war & security strategy. The narration is a bit dull and dry and times, and the information is very dense, which is why it took me so long to finish. A couple of long car journeys you can get through this, but it's also the kind of book you want to take notes.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting Topic, Good Performance

This was a very fine academic work. Not flashy or particularly exciting, but well thought out and calculated. Grasping this demanding topic is much simpler with the author's style. While I do not agree with all of the content, it's certainly worth a read and discussion.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Hector Chub
  • Hector Chub
  • 10-15-11

Stop. Please stop!

Kilcullen is obviously incredibly intelligent, well informed and on the ball when it come to insurgency. The go to guy, but I couldn't listen to more than a couple of hours of this tortuous political science babble. Sorry. I know this is important stuff - but I just couldn't take it anymore






1 person found this helpful