When Obama Administration officials started talking about a “civilian surge” for Afghanistan ahead of the President’s formal plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan last month, it had all the fingerprints of the new Democratic hawk/COIN (counterinsurgency) set at work: Clear, hold and nation-build. And do it better than the Bush Administration ever could.
Top aides to President Barack Obama are recommending that the United States combine a boost in military deployments with a steep increase in civilian experts to combat a growing insurgency in Afghanistan, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Several hundred civilians from various U.S. government agencies — from agronomists to economists and legal experts — will be deployed to Afghanistan to reinforce the nonmilitary component in Kabul and the existing provincial reconstruction teams in the countryside, officials said. (snip)
The move to add hundreds of civilian aides under [U.S ambassador to Kabul Gen. Karl] Eikenberry and his top staffers is similar to President George W. Bush’s “surge” in Iraq but will be on a smaller scale, the officials said.
To the general American audience, I’m sure the plan sounded reasoned and balanced and not all that radical — hadn’t the Democrats drilled endlessly on the theme that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan couldn’t be won with military force alone? But already, the administration is having to take it down a notch. The New York Times reports tonight that there just aren’t enough diplomats and civilians trained for this business, and those who are cannot be compelled to travel to a bloody war zone to engage what has become one of the most corrupt bureaucracies in the world.
Obama cannot force them. But he can call up the military reserves, and hire private contractors. It sounds like he doesn’t have a choice if he wants to pursue this part of the strategy in earnest.
The need to identify military personnel as one of several interim options to carry out the civilian mission in Afghanistan was foreshadowed this week by Michele A. Flournoy, the under secretary of defense for policy, who served as a director of the inter-agency strategy review.
“We’re going to be looking to our reserve components, where we can tap individuals based on their civilian skill set,” Ms. Flournoy said during a speech on Tuesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan policy institute here.
She said the government was still “playing a game of catch-up” after years of not setting aside money to create this civilian expertise, and she described the reliance on reservists as among “a whole host of stopgap measures” necessary until teams of civilian experts could be created.
Back where we started.