Was the Dhofar War of 1965-1975 a British victory?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The Dhofar War in Oman was one of the few successful counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns carried out against Marxist-inspired insurgents during the Cold War. The orthodox historical view is that the Dhofar War was an ideal or ‘model’ British COIN campaign. Later revisionist scholars have asserted that the campaign was neither particularly ‘British’ nor successful. The reality is, however, more complex, and nuanced. This study reinterprets a divided scholarly narrative to present a more balanced and considered verdict of the history of the Dhofar War. It does this by putting forward a neo-orthodox perspective that although the conflict was on balance not a UK-fought campaign to the extent of previous British post-World War 2 classical-era COIN operations, it was a decisively British-facilitated win.
The study attempts this by putting forward the view that although far from model, and not British-controlled to the same extent as previous UK COIN operations, the UK was the prime driver behind, and facilitator of final victory in Dhofar. This was the case even though Britain’s influence in many areas diminished significantly over the course of the war because control over military strategy, command and control aspects of operations, tactics, and numerous support functions was, in effect, fully maintained.
The study concludes that it was the UK’s role that was the predominant factor in achieving the war win, and therefore that the success in Dhofar was essentially a victory achieved both by, and for Britain. Although perhaps not optimal, and despite the waning of UK influence in certain areas over the duration of the conflict, the Dhofar War was ultimately one of Britain’s most significant historical COIN wins. The sui generis nature of the COIN campaign that was implemented meant that success was ultimately achieved not by sovereign UK prosecution of the war, but instead via a more discreet, supporting or consultancy-type role.
Date of Award1 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorWalter Ladwig III (Supervisor) & Simon Anglim (Supervisor)

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