Complex operations


The course aims to provide the cadets with a thorough understanding of wars and conflicts outside the traditional realm of high intensity conflicts. The course studies low intensity and complex conflicts, what characterizes such conflicts and how officers should think about and design operations in them.

The course will initially explore the distinction and relationship between the terms of high and low intensity, what characterizes the different types of conflicts and the emergence of the term complex conflicts. The course will then explore the two most common forms of low-intensity warfare as pertains to Norway: peacekeeping and insurgency/counterinsurgency.

The course is taught in English and available to students from other programs, including international students.

The subjects English, PT and leader development will be integrated with the course program and will have assigned classes in each academic week. The contents of these subjects will be adapted to the contents of the module as far as possible. Students not part of the professional program may participate in these subjects if appropriate and safe.

  1. Knowledge

    Upon the completion of the module the cadets:

    • Have knowledge of significance and prevalence of low-intensity and complex conflicts, and how these differ conceptually from and relate to high-intensity conflicts.

    • Have broad knowledge of the main academic and military theories of irregular warfare, peacekeeping and insurgency/counterinsurgency operations.

    • Have knowledge of the role of land forces in low intensity and complex operations

    • Are familiar with the historical development of the study of low intensity operations and its place in the wider field of strategic and military studies.



    Upon the completion of the module, the cadets:

    • Can find, analyse, and evaluate challenges concerning counterinsurgency and peacekeeping operations and present well-founded solutions as part of an MDMP-process.


    General competence

    Upon the completion of the module, the cadets:

    • Can plan and lead military operations, as a leader or member of a staff at the tactical level, within the framework of peacekeeping and counterinsurgency operations.

    • Can convey central elements and aspects of low intensity and complex operations to political and civilian actors.

    • Can exchange opinions and experiences with others with a background in the field of low intensity operations.

  2. The course consists of three parts. Initially the course addresses the differences between high- and low intensity warfare, as well as irregular and complex conflicts. Part two is devoted to insurgency and counterinsurgency with an emphasis on understanding the premise, practice and criticism of population centric counterinsurgency. Part three focuses on peacekeeping operations, its inception and its four stages of development.  A particular attention will be given to protection of civilians.

    The academic parts of the course utilize individual studies, cadet-driven study groups, lectures and seminars. The curriculum, and understanding the ideas and logic encompassed within it, is the key to the course. The main principle is to give the cadets as much time as possible to read, analyze and understand the different topics. Lectures are an arena where the cadets can discuss the topics raised by the syllabus, or to explore specific topics in-depth. During the seminars, the cadets have the opportunity to test and exchange knowledge with their fellow cadets, and thus expand each other’s knowledge. The seminars require that cadets are prepared and that they are able to convey the main ideas of each piece of the curriculum to their fellow cadets, including an introduction of the overall thematic on the week’s required reading. The cadets run the seminars, but instructors will support if needed.

    The practical parts of the module will utilize a variety of map-exercises, war-games and a field training exercise. The purpose of these is to give the cadets the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge on practical and realistic exercises.

  3. Assessment

    The students are required to write an essay of maximum 2,500 words during the module. Questions for the essay will be handed out at the start of the course and will cover the various module topics. The students are expected to hand in their essay at the end of the module. The essay will be graded A-F and will count as 100% of the module grade.

  4. Total pages on required reading list are 961 pages. 

    • Amnesty International (2016). If Men Are Caught, They Are Killed, If Women Are Caught, They Are Raped. pp 4-25. 
    • Annan, Kofi (1999), "Two concepts of sovereignty", The Economist (18 Sept).
    • Beadle, Alexander William (2014). Protection of civilians - military planning scenarios and implications (Oslo: Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt), pp 7-21, 66-67.
    • Berdal, M. (2000). Lessons not learned: The use of force in ‘peace operations’ in the 1990s. International Peacekeeping, 7(4), 55-74.  
    • Berdal, Mats (2008), "The Security Council and Peacekeeping" in Lowe, Vaughan, The United Nations Security Council and War (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp 175-204.    
    • Clausewitz, Carl Von. (1976). On War, red. and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, Book I, chapter 1, pp 75-8 
    • Crane, Conrad (2010) Thomas Rid and Thomas Keaney (Eds.), Understanding Counterinsurgency pp. 59-72. London: Routledge.     
    • Erskine, Emmanuel A (1989), Mission with UNIFIL: An African Soldier's Reflections (New York: St. Martin's Press), pp 20-49. 
    • Findlay, T (2002). The Use of Force in UN Peace Operations. (New York: Oxford University Press.), pp 9-49, 87-123  
    • Findlay, T. (2002). The Use of Force in UN Peace Operations. (New York: Oxford University Press.), pp124-165. 
    • French, David (2012) ’Nasty not Nice, British Counterinsurgency doctrine and practice’ Small Wars and Insurgencies (23:4-5) 
    • Galula, David (2008) Counterinsurgency Warfare - Theory and Practice. Westport: Praeger, pp 1-28.   
    • Galula, David (2008) Counterinsurgency Warfare - Theory and Practice. Westport: Praeger, pp 49-74.  
    • Giustozzi, Antonio (2007) Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan. London: Hurst & Company, pp 98-133.   
    • Government of the Netherlands. Final Evaluation - Netherlands contribution to ISAF, 2006 - 2010 (The Hague: The Government of the Netherlands 2011) ch 3 (pp 19-31) and 4.3.6 (pp 37-43).   
    • Hazelton, Jacqueline (2017). "The "Hearts and Minds" Fallacy - Violence, Coercion, and Success in Counterinsurgency warfare", International Security 42, no. 1  
    • Hazelton, Jacqueline (2021). Bullets not Ballots: success in counterinsurgency warfare. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp 8-28 and 147-154   
    • Headquarters of the Army (2014) FM 3-24 Insurgencies and countering insurgencies pnts 7-1 - 7-34 and 7-45 - 7-98 NOTE: required reading is marked in paragraph points, NOT pages.           
    • ICISS (2001), The Responsibility to Protect, s.xi-xiii, 1-9. 
    • Jones, Adam (2006), "Bosnia and Kosovo", in Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction (London: Routledge), pp 212-224.  
    • Kaldor, Mary, Old Wars, Cold Wars, New Wars and the War on Terror, lecture at London School of Economics (Feb 2005). 
    • Karlsrud, John and Osland, Kari M (2016), "Between self-interest and solidarity: Norway’s return to UN peacekeeping?", International Peacekeeping, 23:5, 784-803
    • Kelly, Max and Giffen, Allison (2011). Military Planning to Protect Civilians: Proposed Guidance for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (Washington: Stimson Center), pp 13-35.    
    • Kilcullen, David (2010) Counterinsurgency. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 1-13, 29-49 and 147-161 
    • Kitson Frank, (1971). Low-intensity operations, London: Faber & Faber Limited, pp 1-9.   
    • Kjeksrud, Stian, Beadle, Alexander og Lindquist, Petter (2016). Protecting Civilians from violence, Oslo: FFI/ NODEFIC, pp 1-26.   (
    • Nagl, John A (2022) "Why America’s Army Can’t Win America’s Wars," Parameters 52, no. 3    
    • Navias, Martin and Moreman, Timothy. (1994). Limited war and developing countries in Freedman, Lawrence (ed). (1994). War, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 309-351     
    • NODEFIC. Human security and the military role. E-learning course: Human security and the military role - Norwegian Armed Forces (
    • Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence (2016). "A Good Ally: Norway in Afghanistan 2001-2014." In Official Norwegian Reports NOU. Oslo. Chapter 8, pp 121-151   
    • Porch, Douglas (2011) "The dangerous myths and dubious promise of COIN" in Small Wars and Insurgencies (22:2)   
    • Schlichte, Klaus and Schneckener, Ulrich, "Armed Groups and the Politics of Legitimacy", Civil Wars 17, no. 4 (2015), pp 409-424 
    • Sewall, Sarah in Headquarters of the Army (2006) FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp xxi-xliii.     
    • Shy, John and Collier, Thomas "Revolutionary war" in Paret, Peter (eds) Makers of Modern Strategy - from Machiavelli to the Nuclear age, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp 815-862.     
    • Smith, Rupert (2007). "Thinking about the utility of force in war amongst the people", in On New Wars, ed. John Andreas Olsen, pp 28-43.  
    • Strachan, Hew (2010) Strategy or Alibi? Obama, McChrystal and the Operational Level of War, Survival, 52:5, pp 157-182 
    • Tharoor, Shashi (1995), "Should UN peacekeeping go 'back to basics'?", Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 37(4), pp 52-64.  
    • Thompson, Robert (1966) America Fights the Wrong War. Spectator, (217:7207) 
    • Thompson, Robert (2005) Defeating Communist Insurgency. St. Petersburg, Florida: Hailer Publishing, pp 21-49. 
    • Thompson, Robert (2005) Defeating Communist Insurgency. St. Petersburg, Florida: Hailer Publishing, pp 50-62. 
    • Tse Tung, Mao (1967) On protracted war. Peking: Foreign language press pp 30-46 and 57-64.    
    • UN Doc. UNSC Res/1291(2000), pp 1-6.   
    • UN Doc. UNSC Res. 425, 426 and 427.  
    • United Nations (1978). Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978). 
    • United Nations (1996), "UNPROFOR" in The Blue Helmets. (New York: UN Department of Public Information), s. 556-563.    
    • United Nations (1996). "United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)" in The Blue Helmets. (New York: UN Department of Public Information), pp 83-85, 88- 96.
    • United Nations (2000), Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations [Brahimi Report], pp 9-12, 14-20. 
    • United Nations (2008). United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Principles and Guidelines. pp13-40, 47-52.  
    • USMC (1940). Small Wars, Washington: United States government printing officer, pp 1 and 11-16.