Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Civilian Surge

While reading one of the many excellent milblogs over at Slate's Sandbox, I came across a line that is both true and unfortunately, utterly unhelpful:

Last year, I wrote that there are many things in Afghanistan that are not best addressed by the Army or Marines. Stability Operations, and their subset, COIN Operations, require actions that are not typically military. As I pointed out before, Afghanistan has governance and economic development issues that the Army is not best suited to addressing. Other organizations, such as the State Department and USAID, had not been leveraged in Afghanistan. Just as we needed a military "surge," we needed a "civilian surge" as well.

This is so very true. The DoD cannot do everything. Combat troops aren't the best choice for improving governance and infrastructure in a shattered country. The counterinsurgent needs to do more than kill the insurgents, he must win the trust and respect of the populace. That's a role that USAID or State could certainly provide a big assist on.

So what's the beef? It's simple. The DoD has a budget north of $650bn, 700,000 civilian employees and over 1.4m military employees. The State Department, by contrast, has a budget of $16.4bn, 11,500 Foreign Service Officers, and 7,400 employees in the civil service. State and foreign affairs overall have a budget of a bit under $50bn, over $10bn of that from supplementals. (It's worth noting, as well, that virtually the only popular spending cut is one to Foreign Aid, which is to say USAID.) A civilian surge would be far more likely if there were any FSOs to surge. Unfortunately, right now the State Dept can't even keep its embassies staffed, much less surge a bunch of experienced and talented FSOs into Afghanistan.

The "civilian surge" is intended to promote a working, relatively free of corruption, and helpful Afghan government, which is obviously key to a successful COIN operation. Right now the Afghan government is far from that ideal, and we don't have all the resources we need to change that. Not only that, the resources don't even exist. Instead we're stuck with soldiers doing the work of diplomats and aid workers, and contractors doing the work of all of the above.

That said, the post is an excellent view of how things are progressing in one small corner of Afghanistan. Not all that confidence inspiring, but certainly moreso than my recent posts on the subject.

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