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Time for a Civilian Surge in Afghanistan

Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post reports that all of that “whole-of-government” stuff coming from the Obama administration about (among other things) bolstering civilian efforts in Afghanistan is coming to pass:

Hundreds of additional U.S. diplomats and civilian officials would be deployed to Afghanistan as part of the new civil-military regional strategy that President Obama’s top national security advisers plan to present for his signature next week, according to administration officials.

Leading this proposed civilian expansion will be two veteran senior diplomats: Peter W. Galbraith, who will be the deputy to the top United Nations official on the ground; and Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., who will get the unprecedented title of “deputy ambassador” to boost the diplomatic heft of the U.S. Embassy.

These are two serious heavy hitters. Galbraith — who basically uncovered the Kurdish genocide of 1987-8 (read about it in now-White House aide Samantha Power’s first book) — is one of the leading lights of the global human-rights movement. Ricciardone, a former ambassador to Egypt who’s a foreign-service rock star, helped establish the post-Coalition Provisional Authority composition of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Iraq. What’s more, they’re going to be joined by Tim Carney, a former ambassador to Sudan and another diplomatic eminence with Iraq experience. These are people you go to when you want to send a message about the importance of diplomacy.

According to DeYoung’s piece, this isn’t just a diplomatic plus-up, it’s a plus-out. (Ugh. Sorry I sound like Tom Friedman.) That is, these diplomats (and agronomists and legal experts and others) aren’t going to be clustered in Kabul. They’ll be sent around the country, including down south in Taliban and insurgent strongholds. The idea, evidently, is to roll back the insurgency’s ability to outgovern the Kabul government in those areas. That’s a big cultural shift toward a more deployable, activist State Department.

As David Petraeus might say, this is good counterinsurgency stuff right here. (Probably because he helped come up with the plan.) Whether or not the goals for Afghanistan get “reduced” to jihadist safe-haven destruction, it’ll be hard for anyone in the Afghan government to argue that this massive civilian infusion — 300 people! — isn’t support for improved governance.

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