Government in a Box
Perhaps I’m beating an old drum here, but weren’t we supposed to see a civilian ramp-up in Afghanistan, oh, last year? From the NYT:
Instead, the emphasis has been placed on strengthening provincial reconstruction teams, once run by Canadians, with American employees — from the embassy, the Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture — in six crucial districts around Kandahar.
The Kandahar civilian operation increased to 110 Americans from 8 last year, with 50 more on their way this summer, United States officials say. They are providing subsidized seeds and tools, carrying out cash-for-work programs and even hiring employees for Afghan government offices here.
The program for agricultural vouchers alone has been given a quarter of a billion dollars to spend in southern Afghanistan, $90 million of that in Kandahar. “It’s huge,” said one official. “We’ve employed 40,000 people in cash for work.”
The idea, said Frank Ruggiero, the senior United States Embassy official in the south, is to make sure “the government at the most basic level, the district level, is able to provide some services so that people who are sitting on the fence are able to say, well, the government has something to offer.”
From this GAO report issued last month:
In addition to the ongoing expansion of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the United States has also significantly increased its civilian presence in Afghanistan. State’s Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy identifies additional civilian expertise as a key element of stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Overall, the total U.S. government civilian presence grew from about 360 in January 2009 to approximately 1,000 as of March 2010, including an increase of about 200 civilians since December 2009. According to State’s Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy, the United States anticipates increasing civilian staffing by an additional 20 to 30 percent over the course of 2010. The strategy also identifies expanded civilian presence in Afghan ministries and outside of Kabul as a key initiative, and states that several hundred personnel are being assigned to more than 50 locations outside of Kabul.
I guess it’s the chicken-egg thing all over again. You need a secure environment to bring civilians into service, but civilians working on reconstruction projects helps establish security by helping to establish trust and services. Is it also a question of having enough civilians tapped to work in Afghanistan? At least, at the government level (rather than contracting)? I could use some data on that if anyone has a link.
Obama said, in March of last year:
At a time of economic crisis, it’s tempting to believe that we can shortchange this civilian effort. But make no mistake: Our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don’t invest in their future. And that’s why my budget includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs. These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run — because it’s far cheaper to train a policeman to secure his or her own village than to help a farmer seed a crop — or to help a farmer seed a crop than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility.
It’s been over a year, and while the number has nearly trebled, it’s still terrifically small. Especially compared to the number of troops. Where the expletive are the civilians?