The High Value of Targeting: A Conceptual Model for Using HVT against a Networked Enemy

John Hardy, Paul Lushenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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A swath of negative media attention throughout 2010 and 2011 has seenthe coalition military tactic of High-Value Targeting (HVT) in Afghanistancome under intense scrutiny.1 United States Army doctrine definesa high-value target as an asset that an enemy commander requires for thecompletion of his mission. Within the context of Special OperationsForces (SOF), the process of HVT involves precision raids and/or airstrikesto either capture or kill specific assets or individuals required by aclandestine network to achieve its expressed aims.2 This process has beendeclared as ineffective in virtually all mediums for debate. The reasons offered often stem from three fundamental lines of argument: that HVT is too aggressive for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations and undermines overarching strategic goals;3 that HVT only works against hierarchical organizations and not decentralized network opponents,such as Al-Qaeda or the Haqqani Network,4 faced in current operations;and that coalition forces lack the requisite understanding of enemy organizations to successfully apply HVT. 5 These lines of argument draw on assumptions about the decreasing utility of force in contemporary operations,6 the concomitant centrality of ‘soft’ or non-kinetic approaches to security in COIN operations, expectations of decisiveness when using force, and the elusive nature of clandestine networks. These assumptions are attractive, but they are flawed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-433
Number of pages21
JournalDefence Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


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