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A nation must think before it acts.
As Hal Brands and Peter Feaver have described it, America has tried “a heavy-footprint counterinsurgency strategy meant to decisively defeat terrorist groups while enabling the creation of effective government institutions — in other words, nation-building.” It has also tried “a very-light-footprint approach, relying on drone strikes and the occasional special operations raids.” But circumstances in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have led America toward “a medium-footprint strategy” in which several thousand U.S. troops help to destroy terrorist safe havens and work to strengthen local partners, without the duties and risks of full-scale occupation.