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The Human Terrain System (HTS) was a program established by the U.S. Army in 2006 to provide sociocultural research and analysis to coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The intent was to offer a viewpoint outside the normal military decision-making channels that sought to reduce violence through “socio-cultural understanding” and consideration of second- and third-order effects of proposed courses of action and, in some cases, to represent the voice of local people among coalition counterinsurgent forces. Ralph Peters used the term human terrain as early as 2000 to describe the social fabric of a community in a conflict zone, its cultural framework, and the relationships that compose social networks.

The brainchild of Montgomery McFate, Andrea Jackson, and Steve Fondacaro, the program began as a special ...

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