Galula in Algeria

Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory

by Grégor Mathias
Translated by Neal Durando
Foreword by David H. Ucko

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Abortion in the United States

October 2011


Pages 143
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Security Studies/Conflict

This groundbreaking investigation uncovers serious mismatches between David Galula's counterinsurgency practice in Algeria and his counterinsurgency theory—the foundation of current U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given the centrality of David Galula's theory to U.S. Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is striking that there has been no independent evaluation of Galula's recollection of his COIN operations in Algeria. Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory delivers just such an analysis, exploring the colonial French counter-insurrectionary theoretical milieu of which Galula's COIN theory was a part, the influence of Galula's theory on U.S. COIN doctrine, and the current views of Galula's theory in France and other NATO countries.

French defense researcher Grégor Mathias compares each of the eight steps of Galula's theory set out in Counterinsurgency Warfare against his practice of them as described in his writings and now, for the first time, against the SAS archives and those of Galula's infantry company and battalion. The study shows that Galula systematically inflated his operational successes to match his theoretical scheme and that he left problems unresolved, causing his work to unravel quickly after he left his command. Mathias concludes that, however heuristically fruitful Galula's theory might prove for U.S. COIN doctrine, it must be interpreted and implemented under the caveat that it was not successfully field-tested by its author.


  • Maps
  • A glossary
  • A bibliography


  • Provides the first objective description of the human, security, administrative, and doctrinal dimensions of the Algerian combat environment in which David Galula claimed to have applied, tested, and refined his COIN theory
  • Draws on archival research, utilizing French Army and SAS records from the Algerian War that have never before been cited in published work on Galula's COIN theory and practice
  • Makes the controversial case that the theory on which the U.S. Army bases its counterinsurgency doctrine was not, in fact, successfully field-tested by its author as he claimed
Author Info

Grégor Mathias is Service Historique de la Defense researcher specializing in the Algerian War and professor of history and geography at the College Foch a Haguenau, Bas-Rhin, France. He was a lecturer on the French army in the Algerian War at the St. Cyr military academy. Mathias is the author of David Galula et la Contre-Insurrection: La Theorie a L'epreuve des Faits au Djebel Aissa Mimoun,forthcoming from the French defense ministry's Service Historique de la Defense, and of Sections Administratives Specialisees en Algerie, Entre Ideal et Realite 1955–62, the definitive study of the SAS, the French military-civilian pacification program during the Algerian War published by L'Harmattan. Mathias has collected extensive oral histories of Harkis, the Muslim Algerians who served as irregular local auxiliaries of the French Army during the Algerian War.

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