Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bush to pump another $8bn into Afghanistan

Nothing if not consistent, the trend of partnering war-fighting and reconstruction assistance is again reinforced in with the latest 'surge' in Afghanistan.

"Billions of dollars are to be pumped into Afghanistan to help build up the army and for reconstruction projects such as roads, water, schools and clinics."

There seems to be a lingering question of whether one can build and construct armies in the same way one does roads: what are such blueprints known as? Security Sector Reform? Democratization?

Monday, January 29, 2007

'...the military no longer understands what business it is in.'

An interesting clip from the blog of an officer in Iraq, posted on With some sarcasm, it states that the US military simply does not know what business it is in any more, focusing on robust policing tactics and not war-fighting. It presents a very 'policy' way of operating in Iraq, with what must be astronomically high operating risks:

"In simple terms, the military no longer understands what business it is in. We're in the capturing business, not the killing business. We've gravitated to (heavily armed) police tactics because we are rightfully focused on the population, no matter what they think of us, even while fighting an enemy that thrives on collateral death. So we don't overpressure whole city blocks; we roll in in Humvees, accept the risks each screwed up neighborhood poses, and then walk the streets. We don't enter houses with grenades; each day we knock on perhaps fifty doors, waiting on the street, exposed, until the nervous owner unlocks the gate. We use sting operations (ambushes), neighborhood watches (presence patrolling), snitches, and DUI checkpoints (vehicle searches). We don't shoot unarmed enemy combatants. The Iraqi soldiers hunt them down like seasoned detectives and zip-tie them. These pu#$&es never fight back. Once detained, we treat them better than my college roommates treated each other.
The problem is, we haven't armed our soldiers with the necessary tools to fight this crucial stage of the war and at the highest levels we have abdicated responsibility where we most need to embrace it..."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Call for extra Afghanistan troops

A new twist in the calculus linking military action (i.e. security) with the success of development and humanitarian aid.
This BBC article quotes NATO's Commander in Afghanistan, General Richards, as he turns the table on the civilian actors for not having done enough:

"We need to put more military effort into the country," he added. "We must apply ourselves more energetically for one more year in order to win."

"Military effort alone" was not enough to win the battle, Gen Richards said.

"Our civilian partners must improve the speed and scale of their reconstruction and development effort, sufficient to keep pace with the people's expectations," he added.

He added that he would not "conceal our frustration" with the speed of the DfID's (Department for International Development) delivery on the ground as well as "an occasional reluctance to join with us as necessary planning partners".

The article goes on to present a somewhat defensive DfID who underlines that they have been in fact quite successful....

Monday, January 15, 2007

UK’s CIMIC helps disadvantaged

A well-worded article on the role of UK CIMIC Group.

The quotes try appropriately soften and round out CIMIC as a 'liaison' role, and a support to the military mission- "we are not humanitarians, we don't do Red Cross work," as the Commander is quick to point out.

In describing how UK CIMIC Team interface with other British Ministries, I do wonder whether DFID entirely agrees with this statement:

"In operations like Iraq and Afghanistan that support to the local community will be in support of the wider development agenda, so the liaison between ourselves and, for example, DFID (Department for International Development), who lead on development, will help to guide the military in their delivery of assistance."

Rebuilding Teams Would Swell Under Bush’s New Iraq Plan

The NYT published an article giving a few 'hints' on what the civilian reconstruction component of the Iraqi surge will in fact look like. Beyond the very pragmatic comments on how difficult it will be to expand this civilian presence ten-fold, given the difficulties to staff the already very lean PRT structures, the article admits some ambiguity on the role these civilians will have:

"A summary at the beginning of the document indicates that beyond their purely civil duties, the teams will also be expected to support the counterinsurgency efforts by the United States military. There is no description of how that support would be carried out.

Nonmilitary duties relegated to the teams, according to the document, would be to promote moderate political groups and to further reconciliation in Iraqi society."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A road cuts to heart of NATO's troubled Afghan campaign

Further glimpses of the rocky relation between war-fighting and reconstruction in Afghanistan:
"Yet so far not much has gone according to plan in this area. There has been little coordination between the military operations and reconstruction projects, a fact that has frustrated international aid workers and diplomats almost as much as local people."

Friday, January 12, 2007

In Africa, Aid or Air Strikes?

Short article, more on the question of US military priority being focussed on Africa.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Bush Reconstruction "Surge"

This article statistically digs into the reconstruction spending in Iraq since 2003, and makes some comment on the PRT and CERP approach for creating non-sustainable work. It's conclusion comes back to much of the criticism yesterday's article on President Bush's proposed 1 billion USD humanitarian surge- "If the administration wanted to make a difference, the Iraq reconstruction funds would have to be much larger. Even then, given the chaos in Iraq, a large package of support would probably also be wasted."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

U.S. Counterterrorism Force Works Africa

A short piece on the US Horn of Africa Task Force, paying the necessary homage to 'providing aid to civilians' in their mission statement. This structure will apparently be transformed into the new US Africa Command.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bush $1bn jobs plan to draw Iraqis into fold

The battle to win the war in Iraq will apparently be not only include a surge of 20-30,000 US troops, but will include an absolutely massive hearts-and-minds campaign:

"The other sweetener will be a doubling of reconstruction efforts. Up to $1bn is to be spent on a programme in which Iraqis are employed to clean the streets and repair and paint schools.

The Pentagon-run scheme would try to draw young men away from insurgent groups and back into the mainstream economy. It would be administered by officials embedded in US combat brigades in a bid to persuade Iraqis that the Americans were there as a force for good and not just of occupation."

The 'embedding' issue will clearly be one for humanitarian organizations to fume about; more importantly, even the least-experienced development worker would ask about the sustainability of spending 1 billion US dollars on ad hoc employment generation projects....