According to the status of forces agreement signed by Iraq and the United States in November 2008, US troops are to be withdrawn entirely from Iraq by the end of 2011. A few days later it was also revealed that the British force in Iraq, numbering about 4,100 troops, will be reduced to a contingent of just a few hundred military advisors by summer 2009. The counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, on the other hand, is to be intensified in the form of a ‘surge’ in military and political effort. Counterinsurgency operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq have long been at the centre of the security policy debate in the United States and elsewhere; a debate which seems unlikely to be resolved in the near future. But what exactly is counterinsurgency? This article offers some reflections on the practice and the politics of an especially complex form of military engagement. All military activity should be understood through the prism of politics, and counterinsurgency particularly so.