One aspect of counterinsurgency doctrine which is not often talked about is trust.
In the United States Army seminal doctrinal manual FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency (December 2006) in paragraph 5.84, establishing trust is the key to successful combined action.
Combined action unit members must develop and build positive relationships with their associated HN security forces and with the town leadership. By living among the people, combined action units serve an important purpose. They demonstrate the commitment and competence of counterinsurgents while sharing experiences and relationships with local people. These working relationships build trust and enhance the HN government’s legitimacy. To build trust further, U.S. members should ask HN security forces for training on local customs, key terrain, possible insurgent hideouts, and relevant cultural dynamics. HN forces should also be asked to describe recent local events.
The whole notion of fighting “wars amongst the people” requires that those conducting counterinsurgency operations establish trust with the people they seek to protect and whose hearts and minds they wish to win. Trust that cannot be won overnight, which cannot be bequeathed to the individual or the unit that follows, trust which allows those we seek to protect to identify with us as humans.
The picture at the beginning, was taken from Army Knowledge On Line. It shows a soldier, inside a building providing humanitarian assistance items to an Afghan woman. Good you say that what we should be doing. Look closely at the picture what do you see. You see a man in full battle kit. In fact in many respect he reminds me a Stormtrooper from Star Wars (picture on the below).
It is my observation that the United States military has become so fixated on force protection and uniformity of appearance they have lost sight that the appearance of a man or women interacting with indigenous locals in full battle rattle does not convey a message of trust. We are more likely seen through the eyes of the locals at the Stormtrooper and not the benevolent benefactor that we picture ourselves as being.
This is not to say we should not be concerned about force protection, and given the number of shootings of Americans in recent months by members of the Afghanistan military and police, we must remain vigilant. However in situations where we control the environment and how the locals interact with our forces it would seem that by putting a human face on our interaction it would go a little ways towards establishing trust. Ditch the helmet, ditch the ballistic eye wear, ditch the ballistic armor vest, keep your weapon and kit close at hand, and present a human face.
 For a full discussion of what is meant by the term “wars amongst the people” see The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World by General Sir Rupert Smith KCB (Knight Commander of the Bath), DSO & Bar (Distinguish Service Order with bar equivalent to our Oak Leaf), OBE (Order of the British Empire), QGM (Queens Gallantry Medal).