RELEASE: New Assessment of the United States’ Civilian Surge Into Afghanistan Finds Pockets of Success but Minimal Strategic Impact
Washington, D.C. — In 2009, the largest surge of civilian representatives in U.S. history was deployed into Afghanistan alongside the U.S. military to address the political and economic drivers of the insurgency. Civilians from the U.S. Department of State; the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID; and several other departments provided support for Afghanistan’s political and economic transition toward a democratic and stable country. Despite thousands of U.S. civilians, the results in Afghanistan were very mixed. A new Center for American Progress report released today uses firsthand interviews with civilian representatives, finding that, while there were pockets of success, the overall nationwide effort did not add up to strategic shifts for a more stable Afghanistan.
“Despite the efforts of thousands of dedicated and talented public servants, sustainable, nationwide progress in improving Afghanistan’s political and economic stability remains in doubt,” said Ariella Viehe, former Council on Foreign Relations Fellow at CAP and co-author of the report. “Overall, civilian representatives generally achieved small albeit significant changes in confined areas—a functioning school, a capable bureaucrat—but not systemic changes that established self-sufficient governance or economic growth. The recent withdrawal of most civilian representatives from Afghanistan’s provinces provides a critical moment to take stock quantitatively and qualitatively of civilian representatives as a foreign policy tool.”
Despite these challenges and the need for future suggestions, the report concludes that civilian representatives are integral to any conflict and postconflict endeavor—particularly those conflicts without a purely military solution. But any future endeavor can and should learn from the experience in Afghanistan, improving the civilian tools that the United States can use to improve our national security.
Click here to read the report.
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