Permissible Arms

Remembered Heyday

Posted in iraq by Karaka on 19 August 2010

Captivating post in the NYT At War blog from Yasmine Mousa, highlighted as this week marks the nominal draw-down of US troops in Iraq.

While driving along 14th of Ramadan Street in Baghdad recently, I remembered that street’s heyday. It was a jubilant street, with an assortment of boutiques, cafes, and toy shops. I saw that some of the shops had been closed since the worst days of 2006 and 2007.

The driver frowned at my remark.

“You did not see what it was like during the years of anarchy,” he said. “It is a fiesta now. It is evening now, and look how crowded the streets are with pedestrians and cars. Back then it closed at noon and you did not see a bird in the highway, because snipers were on both sides of the street. It was a street of horror. We are blessed now.”

Over coffee, my friend’s face had gradually taken on a look of appalled horror. It is no surprise. She lives in a country where human life is sacred and cherished.

I think it is appropriately the Age of the Diplomat in Iraq from this point onward; but Mousa’s post suggests how far those civilians have yet to go.

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Friday Miscellany

Posted in afghanistan, united states, us defense, us military by Karaka on 25 June 2010

Two bits from the Guardian. First, records from soliders in the Boer War have been put online at Ancestry.co.uk, which allows for a database search for information on specific individuals. I don’t know how useful this might be to anyone not looking for specific individuals, but I still think it’s neat. I’ve been reading on and off about the Boer war for a couple of months now, and it’s a fascinating conflict.

The Guardian also reports on US Military women in combat:

If you are one of the more than 235,000 women who have been on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade, then the idea that you are being shielded from the brutality of direct warfare may sound to you like a pretty sick joke. As Laura Browder, an academic at the University of Richmond in Virginia, puts it: “When women are serving as handlers of explosive-sniffing dogs, kicking down doors, doing searches, conducting IED sweeps, then yes, they are very much in combat.”

Until the 1970s, there was a quota on the proportion of women in the military of 2%. Since that was ended their presence has grown steadily, and now it stands at 14%.

As the numbers grew, so did the remit. The 1991 Gulf war created huge extra demand for personnel, and that in turn led to the lifting of bans on women flying combat missions and serving on combat ships. The Clinton presidency opened up more than 90% of tasks across the services to women.

In the latest reform, the secretary of defence Robert Gates announced in February that he would allow women to serve on nuclear submarines. Pending congressional approval, the first women are expected on submarine crews by early next year.

Which just leaves the final taboo: the full exposure of women to bloody frontline warfare. There is clearly a debate to be had about the desirability or otherwise of ending the 1994 proscription, except that what is happening on the ground is an answer in itself.

Mostly this just serves to put in circulation an already known idea, one that I believe the Department of Defense is moving closer and closer towards. Women on subs is a long-delayed step in that direction, but I appreciate the thrust of the article that anyone who thinks women haven’t been serving in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan exist in bizarro-world.

DoDBuzz has Gates talking about Petraeus and Afghanistan, Foreign Policy interviews Peter Mansoor on Petraeus, and this speech by Eikenberry to the Command and General Staff College Graduation Ceremony at Leavenworth on June 11th takes on some new resonance given the events of this week.

Now, our civ-mil partnership isn’t perfect, but it is the only path to success. As Secretary of State Clinton said in December: “The task we face is as complex as any national security challenge in our lifetimes. We will not succeed if people view this effort as the responsibility of a single party, a single agency withfin our government, or a single country.” I can tell you that the civ-mil partnership has definitely improved since 2007 when I was last in Afghanistan. Our closer collaboration is already having an impact, and I look for even greater results in the months ahead. Like the military, we are experiencing a tremendous civilian surge. By January 2011 we will have tripled the number of civilians we had on the ground as recently as August 2009. These civilians work at Embassy Kabul to improve critical ministries and institutions at the national level, and in the field to help the government deliver essential health, education, justice and agricultural services in areas with the greatest insecurity.

Definitely read the whole thing–I would have liked to hear it spoken–but I wonder how effective civilian and military relations are going to be after all this. Especially when the civilian presence is still vastly underpopulated in Afghanistan, even if it is supposed to further increase over the rest of the year.

The World, Viewed from a Hotel Basement

I’m hoping to write more on CNAS’s fourth annual conference tomorrow, when my entire day doesn’t get devoted to live-tweeting the event! To read through the day, check out the #CNAS2010 tag on Twitter. But here’s a couple of my particular notes from the day.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Tellis: Mutual suspicions between Pak & Ind over Afgh continue unabated. #CNAS2010 The existential battleground is emplaced in Afgh today.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Okay, Richard Fontaine wins points for addressing Madam President. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Fontaine “…Accepting that a US presence in South Asia has become the new normal.” #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

India is unwilling to push Iran to the point where they might lose a potential ally; but India doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pendkarakapend

Flournoy: We are still trying to face 21st century challenges with Cold War systems and projects. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Flournoy: “We cannot keep spending more and more to get less and less.” #CNAS2010 as with everything, money talks.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Fick: Rule #4 for future questions: No quoting TS Eliot! #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Flournoy: “We have never resourced State to build an expeditionary civilian capacity.” #CNAS2010 There is not enough “word” in the world.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Sanger: You tend to view the engagement strategy through the most challenging country…it’s only interesting if it’s difficult. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Cronin: We have a growing mismatch between our means and needs. #CNAS2010

There’s more at the hashtag, but that gives you a good idea of how the day went. I think overall it was a very strong series of panels, asking difficult questions and providing something of a roadmap towards answering them. We’re still left with a lot of uncertainty in a many different directions–how do we build up a civilian reconstruction program that we’ve never funded or incentivized, how do you balance talking to repressive regimes with the less accessible citizens of repressive nations, what will our conflict environment look like in the next several decades and how should we incorporate lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan–but I think it lived up to its playbill slogan of “Shaping the Agenda.”

More tomorrow.

Government in a Box

Posted in afghanistan, united states, us defense by Karaka on 9 June 2010

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?

Impossible to be sure

Posted in afghanistan, kyrgyzstan, united kingdom by Karaka on 21 April 2010

Getting to this a bit late. Work ate me whole today, and has only just spit me out the other side.

First off, two bits on Kyrgyzstan and Bakiyev. Seems Bakiyev still considers himself President despite, you know, resigning; and the interim government has decided to extradite him to answer charges.

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government has said it will demand the extradition of the country’s ousted president from Belarus once the investigation into the bloody massacre of April 7 is completed.

“The Kyrgyz people will never know rest until the bloody dictator is brought to justice,” the chief of staff of Kyrgyzstan’s new government Edil Baisalov said.

I have to wonder if the Kyrgyz people are actually that into watching the guy sit in a witness box, or if it’s a little more “hey, let’s vote for a new government now!” But I could most certainly be wrong on that call.

This report on Kabul’s restaurant raids just makes me heartsick. What a terrible, terrible thing.

I’ll admit, I’m not following the British elections nearly as closely as I would be if I were still living in Northern England, but the Guardian’s posting of excerpts of each of the major party candidate’s positions on UK national security and defence, particularly with regard to Afghanistan is worth reading, even if they’re canned. You can download a full text of the remarks in PDF here.

Via Akinoluna, these photos of a FET in action are pretty awesome. I’ve been wondering how effective the FET deployment has been since I was first reading up on them several months ago. If you have any helpful links they’d be well appreciated.

I found this post from al-Sahwa on COIN and culture to be fascinating; I’m still trying to figure out what to say in response but I found it provocative. And in mind-boggling counter information, this FP post titled, misleadingly, Lady GaGa vs. the Occupation set my eyes rolling so hard I think they’ve hit the Sisters by now.

On a far different note, the State Department is apparently looking for freelance writers (via Diplopundit). There’s a second job for you.

Veni, Vidi–then what?

Posted in afghanistan, isaf, united states, us defense, us military by Karaka on 4 November 2009

As we wait and wonder what number of troops will be allocated for the US engagement in Afghanistan, several pieces have come up all wondering the same thing: how will we staff this war?

In General Casey’s Doubts at FP, Robert Haddick touches on the real requirements of pulling 100k+ troops out of Iraq and upping tens of thousands in Afghanistan:

In May, prior to the Obama administration’s latest review of Afghan policy and McChrystal’s report, Casey declared the current deployment practice of “12 months deployed, 12 months home” unsustainable. The Army now considers a routine of 12 months deployed, 24 months home sustainable in the long run. The Army believes it can implement this routine if it limits its commitment to Afghanistan and Iraq to no more than 10 brigades.

But according to this open-source estimate of the current U.S. order of battle in Afghanistan, one Marine and six Army brigades are currently serving in Afghanistan. These seven brigades are part of the 68,000 U.S. troops in the country. McChrystal’s 40,000-soldier increase would bring the U.S. brigade count in Afghanistan to at least 11 and probably more.

Assuming the U.S. really does evacuate all of its troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, the Army and the Marine Corps would find a way to sustain the larger effort in Afghanistan while also increasing home-station time — assuming that this would be McChrystal’s final escalation of the war.

Paula Broadwell at KOW picks up the thread as it pertains to officers as well:

Retaining officers from all sources is essential to the health of our military. “Unlike the corporate sector, which can expand or contract quickly in response to market needs, pulling talent from various sources such as the military or various industries,” there is no lateral entry in the Army because our developmental structure and “industry-specific” training limit the ability of even a successful corporate leader to assimilate quickly into the culture.

The good new is that the Army is no longer hemorrhaging junior officers, due in part to the state of the economy and incentives like the G.I. Bill. But the underlying bad news is that it is only holding steady at a rate that is 15-20% under required strength, and there is no comprehensive Army strategy to correct the market.

Good stuff in the comments there, too.

As Danger Room reports, the problem isn’t simply retaining existing personnel but recruiting new personnel:

More than three-quarters of the nation’s 17- to 24-year-olds couldn’t serve in the military, even if they wanted to. They’re too fat, too sickly, too dumb, have too many kids, or have copped to using illegal drugs.

The armed services are willing to grant waivers for some of those conditions – asthma, or a little bit of weed. But the military’s biggest concern is how big and how weak its potential recruits have become.

And it’s not only the military. The Department of State may be undergoing the beginnings of its QDDR, but there is a more immediate question, as Diplopundit notes: where will civilian staff come from?

2007 is still remembered by some as the year when a muddy “near-revolt” happened in Foggy Bottom and diplomats were publicly threatened with directed assignments to Iraq. Just about everyone enjoyed the target; this one was the only one I remembered who tried to understand the fuller picture.

In the waning days of Secretary Rice’s tenure at the State Department there was understandably a big do to separate facts from myths (it’s harder than you think). AFSA tried to help. In it’s AFSANet message it also says that “Congress, at AFSA’s urging and with this Administration’s support, did include some FY-08 and FY-09 “bridge” funding for additional positions in the Iraq/Afghanistan War supplemental that was passed last summer. To our knowledge, State has not said how many new Foreign Service positions that funding permitted.”

In the long life of a bureaucracy, a well resourced agency like the Defense Department has hundreds of proud parents and godparents who can claim responsibility for its successes; but who claims responsibility for an underfunded/understaffed agency that must constantly wrestle with — well, people and paperclips?

Without Congress authorizing an increase in foreign service personnel, without the Department of State restructuring to provide more and easier in-roads for potential FSOs and other civilian positions into their ranks, there simply will not be, nor does really exist now, a class of trained, able civilian personnel to implement the necessary development programs in Afghanistan, or for that matter, Iraq.

If General McChrystal’s assessment is generally integrated into US foreign policy in the US under the Obama administration, and the terms of his project are implemented, there will be a significant need for human personnel, both military and civilian. But I wonder if the realism needed in assessing the situation in Afghanistan is not so much what can and should be accomplished in-country, but what can in fact be resourced by the US Departments of State and Defense with current recruitment and retention numbers. Or, put more simply, this graph courtesy Schmedlap via zenpundit:

And the Y axis is still under 100,000. There’s a lot of shortfall to make up on all sides.

Thursday Collection

Posted in afghanistan, iraq, pakistan, united states, us military by Karaka on 22 October 2009

Even the most adorable kitten in the world can’t defeat my grump today, so here’s the stuff I’ve been reading when I haven’t been shuffling through meetings.

Ackerman covers the QDDR:

Clinton put Slaughter, senior USAID official James Michael and Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew in charge of creating the document — a process of managing five working groups chaired by top-level agency heads to produce an interim report in January and a final document by next September. Last week, in an address to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Lew defined the nascent QDDR process as an attempt to redress “a serious imbalance” in funding over decades that has left the “military but not civilian agencies resources to support expanding international roles.”

Rajiv Chandrasekaran has reportage out of Helmand:

In the three months since the Marines arrived, the school has reopened, the district governor is on the job and the market is bustling. The insurgents have demonstrated far less resistance than U.S. commanders expected. Many of the residents who left are returning home, their possessions piled onto rickety trailers, and the Marines deem the central part of the town so secure that they routinely walk around without body armor and helmets.

“Nawa has returned from the dead,” said the district administrator, Mohammed Khan.

Diplopundit covers more on S.Amdt. 2588, which is now known as the “Anti-Rape Amendment.”

PRT-Kunar is building a bridge.

AAN has some remarkable quotes from Afghans about the run-off:

“A second round is difficult, because there are so many places you cannot vote. And if we use the same voter cards, the vote will be as fraudulent as the first time… A coalition government is also not a solution. It will have no legitimacy and it is not the people’s fault that there was so much fraud. You cannot just give them a government they don’t want… The authorities should announce the results and address the fraud. They should prosecute the people who are responsible for the fraud. But it will not happen: the people who did the fraud are also the people who were in the campaign teams. They will instead be rewarded for their work… Karzai and his people are saying that it is normal to have fraud, but it is not true. If it is normal, then why do we have laws?” – former PC candidate from Nangarhar

Britain is sending members of its Navy back to Iraq to continue training the Iraqi navy:

Mr Rammell said: “Training of the Iraqi Navy has been paused since June and it is important to resume this activity as soon as possible to ensure that they quickly develop the capacity to protect their own territorial waters and the offshore oil platforms which are so vital to Iraq’s economic revival.

And General Sir David Richards has indicated that British troop reduction would likely not occur in Afghanistan until 2014:

He called for a bridging force, to contain the Taliban, while we “much more aggressively” grow the Afghan army and police. Gen Richards said: “If we get it right, our estimation is that by about 2011, 2012 we’ll see an appreciable improvement, and by about 2014 we will ramp down our numbers as they ramp up and you’ll start to reduce the overall risks of the operation.

“It is an ambitious target, which is why… I caveated slightly by saying I’m expecting Nato to ask us to put more into the training pot to allow that force to grow more aggressively. “But if I’m half-right we’ve got five years of declining violence as we get that formula right and then we’ll go into what might be called a supporting role.”

Interesting to hear a non-US general’s perspective.

The DOD is starting a program to compensate stop-loss troops:

The Defense Department will implement a new program this week to compensate former and current servicemembers for each month they involuntarily served from Sept. 11, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2009, a defense official said. Congress approved an appropriation bill last summer, giving the department $534 million over the next year for an estimated 185,000 servicemembers affected by the “Stop Loss” authority since 9/11, said Sam Retherford, director for the department’s officer and enlisted personnel management office.

In an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Retherford explained that qualified servicemembers will receive $500 for each month served past their contracted end-of-service, resignation or retirement date.

Fred Kaplan does additional research into his recruitment article which kind of walks back his point, but his point was based on the released information, so this is more accurate but still kinda funny looking:

Finally, just today, I got a phone call from a lieutenant colonel who works with the raw numbers every day. (He phoned me at the request of his higher-ups; this was not a hush-hush leak.) He told me that I had good reason to be confused by the numbers in the Pentagon’s original report and in the chart I was sent later. Those numbers, he said, oversimplify the situation; they don’t really tell what’s going on.

For instance, the numbers in the Pentagon’s report and the officers’ chart indicate that the Army recruited 70,049 new soldiers in FY 2009. That’s right, as far as it goes. But this figure, he said, accounts only for enlisted personnel. It does not include 11,003 soldiers who entered active duty as officers. Nor does it include 2,212 enlisted soldiers who either entered active duty through the Army National Guard or returned to the military after a brief absence (usually for disciplinary reasons).

If you include these categories (and a few others of this sort), you find that 98,877 people joined the Army in FY 2009, while 89,478 people left. Do the math, and you find that the Army grew by 9,399 soldiers.

Tom Schaller at Five Thirty Eight turns a cynical eye to a correlative action given lack of heath care reform:

Military service is noble. But let’s be clear: It comes with housing, health care and a very generous pension earned after just 20 years of service. And that’s true whether you are on the front line dodging sniper fire and tip-toeing around land mines in Afghanistan every day, or driving a desk at a recruitment center in Albany. Wherever the Wisconsin father ends up, there is something seriously wrong with our system of government when a guy pushing 40 with three kids has to sign up for a four-year enlistment in order to save his wife’s life. At that point ours ceases to be a fully volunteer army.

Refraining from commenting, but it stuck out to me this morning, so there it is. And finally, Af/Pak had an earthquake today. 6.2 on the Richter. Buildings shook in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and the capital Islamabad, and the quake was felt as far east as Lahore near the Indian border, Pakistani television stations reported.

Wednesday Errata

Posted in afghanistan, american media, iraq, pakistan, united nations, united states, us politics by Karaka on 21 October 2009

H/t Dawn Patrol, Obama’s press conference with Maliki:

From the Times of London, Violence threatens Barack Obama’s pledge to pull troops out of Iraq:

General Ray Odierno said that militant groups were likely to conduct a bloody campaign in the months ahead, as Iraqis prepare for national elections at the beginning of next year.

“It’s clear that al-Qaeda and other groups do not want the elections to occur,” he said in an interview. “What I think they will try to do is discourage people from voting by undermining the authority of the Government of Iraq with attacks, so that people lose faith in the democratic process.”

As the fourth of five parts of David Rohde’s account is published, Noah Schachtman at Danger Room draws this criticism from it about the use of drones in Pakistan: But, in the next breath, Rohde also validates some of the criticisms of the robotic assaults — that the drones are handing the Taliban a propaganda win, and driving fresh jihadists to their ranks. Interesting. Also, on Pakistan, Ahsan Butt makes four good points about what we don’t know about Pakistan’s offense against the Taliban in Waziristan.

Starbuck collects a couple thoughts on terrain and the Battle of Wanat; I read Hershel Smith’s post at The Captain’s Journal this morning and think he has a point, though I remember reading somewhere that the placement of those bases had as much to do with usable MSRs as anything else. Though I can’t remember where I read that, so I might be misremembering.

The UN says Afghan opium fuels ‘global chaos’, which seems to be a surprise to squarely no one:

Afghanistan produces 92% of the world’s opium, with the equivalent of 3,500 tonnes leaving the country each year.

Most of the opium that leaves Afghanistan makes its way through Pakistan, Central Asia and Iran, leaving a trail of addiction, criminality and death in its wake, according to the report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

It says more people die globally from Afghan opium than any other drug but just a tiny percentage of what is produced is seized on route.

From Afghanistan–My Last Tour, I found the account of Drinking Tea with the Sgt. Major to be illuminating:

As we sipped our tea, the conversation switched to the HA drops in the villages. The CSM gave me some insight about how people steal these items and who to trust and who not to trust. I was totally dumbfounded when he said, “Please don’t give me any of those items, because I would be tempted to steal them too.” I explained our process on how we hand out items. We do not give them to select families, instead we provide to an entire village or school. He nodded in agreement.

Our conversation continued to revolve about the corrupt government and how millions if not billions of dollars of foreign aid have been siphoned off by corrupt government officials. But he put it into perspective and compared it to the United States. Afghanistan doesn’t have the lobbyist organizations like the US. Instead it utilizes tribal connections and nepotism. Enterprising businessmen and government officials who receive the money subcontract out using inferior quality and then pocket the rest. As a result, individuals who are illiterate become millionaires over night. We also discussed about US contractors working in Afghanistan. Most of them get paid over $100,000 and then the parent company charges the US government double or triple this rate, but nobody in the US seems to complain about this. It’s just a different way of doing business.

Well, not nobody.

Stratfor’s account of the US Challenge in Afghanistan is well worth the read, as is Tom Ricks’ article at the Daily Beast. See also Gilles Dorronsoro’s op-ed and Diplopundit’s following of the Department of State’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.

I’m going home to the dog and chicken alfredo over homemade pasta. Take it easy, blogosphere.

The State Department has a mission, if they choose to accept it.

Posted in us politics by Karaka on 15 October 2009

I still haven’t figured out what to do with the Valour-IT widget, so I’m just going to kick it old school html-tag style and just include a link to the Navy Team page at the bottom of every post. Yes, it will be spammy. But will it work? That’s the question.

Steven Metz has a column criticizing the civilian personnel, or lack thereof, within the State Department available to go to work in Afghanistan in the advisory capacity Richard Holbrooke claims to need:

There are only two solutions. We could belly up and provide the resources for a serious expeditionary civilian corps. But a few hundred or even a couple of thousand people is not enough. We would need many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of advisers with linguistic skills and cultural knowledge willing to leave home and live under risky conditions for years at a time. And we are not talking about 20-somethings paid a pittance and fueled by idealism, but skilled professionals demanding serious pay for their expertise and sacrifice. (The difficulty that the State department had convincing even its hardened professionals to volunteer for duty in Iraq showed what a challenge this is.) Of course, if the pay is high enough, the experts will come. But, at a time of massive government budget deficits and a persisting national economic crisis, this is simply not in the cards.

Matt Yglesias responds a bit, and thinks achieving that CRC (Civilian Response Corps) personnel might not be as difficult as Metz suggests.

For one thing, the massive government budget deficits and a persisting national economic crisis really shouldn’t be a barrier to doing this. If the things that leading Pentagon officials claim to believe about American national security are true, what we ought to do is draw up a bill of what it would cost to properly finance the civilian side of things and cut that much money from the Defense Department budget in order to pay for it. But of course the Pentagon won’t actually agree to that, which sets up the more realistic option of the Pentagon paying lip service to the need for civilian capabilities while in practice building those capabilities in-house.

Relatedly, Mark Safranski at Zenpundit rakes the State Department over the coals for being remarkably ineffective:

No, the hidden problem for the State Department is that in an age of failing, failed and fake states, diplomacy means less than it once did and accomplishes less in a greater number of places. You could replace Hillary Clinton with Talleyrand as SECSTATE and give him $ 100 billion to play with and he’d still be stuck with a collection of chaotic Gap states without effective internal governance, eroding sovereignty and multiplying non-state actors freebooting across international borders. The problem for State is the global evironment and their disinclination to adapt effectively to it as an institution. It’s foreign interlocutors frequently cannot deliver on any deals, even if they wanted to do so. When that is the reality, what role does diplomacy have in policy or strategy?

Which I thought was pretty accurate:

[Metz] strikes exactly what you and I seem to agree on: that there not only needs to be a much, much, much larger corps of civilian officers, but they need to be trained and staffed to positions appropriately. I don’t think anyone has looked at the State Department’s views of personnel and FSO seriously in years, which I find deeply troubling.If all the branches of the military can meet/exceed their recruiting goals for what is arguably a more dangerous career than civil service abroad, why don’t we have a similar recruiting program for FSOs/CRC personnel? Seems like there is a pool of people willing to serve.

And still there is no USAID administrator. *bangs a broken gong*

Tuesday Errata

Relevant interesting links:

Judah Grunstein over at the WPR blog tackles the lack of response from NATO in regard to the tactical review going on in the White House. Michael Cohen also takes an angle on the McChrystal drama, and Greg Jaffe at the Washington Post does an op-ed comparing McChrystal to Petraeus.

These similarities were a big selling point for the Obama administration, which this summer decided it wanted its own Petraeus — a creative wartime commander and gifted manager who could push the military in Afghanistan into unfamiliar realms, such as economic development and tribal politics…These days, the last thing that the White House and the Pentagon brass want is a general who can bypass the chain of command; a general who speaks directly to the president; a general who emerges as the dominant American voice on the war. The last thing they want, in other words, is another Petraeus.

You know, I always find the USNI blog very interesting and educational, and today it and I wish the US Navy a happy birthday!

H/t Diplopundit for this article on the State Department’s conflict over aid to Pakistan, which continues my media watch on USAID.

Also regarding Pakistan, the Pakistani army launched its offensive today, in response to the significant array of attacks last week.

George Packer has a really interesting post about Rufus Phillps, Vietnam, and the Obama administration:

About to turn eighty, Phillips was contemplating a trip halfway around the world to Kabul. He was worried about the war in Afghanistan and thought that the presidential election, set for August 20th, would be a critical event. An independent Afghan group, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, had invited him to come over as an unpaid adviser. Having seen America try and fail to win a war without a political strategy once before, he thought he had something to contribute in Afghanistan. He asked me for advice on what to wear, what kind of cell phone to bring, how to get into the city from the airport. I asked him why he was going to put himself through it, and he replied that he believed in putting your money where your mouth is. “I’ve still got the fire,” he said as he walked me to the elevator.

Well worth your time, that.

Via S&S, AP covers the continuing conflict over the Afghan election, including the resignation of Afghan election commissioner Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai and the acknowledgment–finally–by the UN of the problems with the election process.

U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique called the resignation “regrettable” but said the U.N. continues to trust that the group will produce a fair outcome. “We have full confidence in the ECC as the important work continues,” Siddique said, adding that the U.N. “stands by the work that they are doing on behalf of the Afghan people.”

Barakzai’s resignation was the latest in a series of problems that have confounded the electoral process since the election, the first run by the Afghans since the war began in 2001.

The NYT reports that Secstate Clinton and Secdef Gates are working on the same side of the tactical review, which seems to have surprised everyone but me. I guess I was the only one who listened to that panel from GWU last week; they seemed pretty similar-spirited then.

Khaleej Times printed an op-ed by Ehsan Ahrari today (h/t SWJ) which doesn’t necessarily offer anything new to the debate, but does summarize a couple things nicely:

What most Western observers are missing when they offer their expert advice regarding Afghanistan is an absence of a strong sense of history and an understanding of the culture of that country. Stewart is an exception to 
that observation.

The decision to add more troops in Afghanistan cannot be made purely by couching it in the requirements of American domestic politics, and by viewing it from the perspective of what is appropriate and acceptable inside the United States. I say that because, as more troops are inserted in Afghanistan, that will be seen as an evidence of commitment by outsiders, but not necessarily by the Afghans. They need more persuading than mere escalation troops for now.

The abruptness by which the United States left Afghanistan after the redeployment of the Soviet troops in 1989 leaves them no reason to believe that we are likely to stay there. This time there is no much difference. All they have to do is to watch the current debate regarding Afghanistan inside the United States.

Mind you, I am not questioning the legitimacy of these debates. They are quite genuine in the sense that, before more US young men and women are sent there and before more money is invested, we need to debate the nature of our commitment. However, that is precisely why the Afghans are skeptical that we mean to stay there for a long while this time.

And there went my Tuesday morning.

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