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So About That ‘Civilian Surge Uplift’…

The McChrystal strategy review already presents something of a lacunae between an assessment of the damage done to the mission by Afghan governmental corruption and the importance of yielding results mitigating that corruption. But there’s another such discrepancy: between the stated importance of civilian U.S. advisers and their provision.

In the brief section on resourcing the war effort, which is far from the lion’s share of the review but has received the most press coverage, there’s this note on civilian capacity:

ISAF** cannot succeed** [my emphasis] without a corresponding cadre of civilian experts to support the change in strategy and capitalize on the expansion and acceleration of counterinsurgency efforts. Effective civilian capabilities and resourcing mechanisms are critical to achieving demonstrable progress. The relative level of civilian resources must be balanced with security forces, lest gains in security outpace civilian capacity for governance and economic improvements. In particular, ensuring alignment of resources for immediate and rapid expansion into newly secured areas will require integrated civil-military planning teams that establish mechanisms for rapid response. In addition, extensive work is required to ensure international and host nation partners are fully integrated.

If you feel like you’ve just read the fine print on the medicine bottle, that’s understandable. NPR’s Jackie Northam reported yesterday on the overwhelming problems with deploying civilian experts into Afghanistan. Basically, the corps of deployable State Department diplomats and development professionals remains at the 50 or so people that the department identified months ago. That’s 50, compared to the nearly 1000 that the Obama administration says it needs for the so-called “civilian uplift.” Northam quotes Jack Lew, the deputy secretary of state for management, as saying that the administration is just now getting the funding necessary to support the uplift, a comment echoing Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s assurance at the St. Regis last month that the administration couldn’t send more civilian advisers in until Afghanistan held its elections and the political situation settled. (That didn’t work out too well.)

But now the situation is this: McChrystal is saying that the United States has 12 months to reverse the insurgency’s momentum or “failure” will set in. ISAF “cannot succeed” without a civilian cadre to, among other things, ensure “alignment of resources for immediate and rapid expansion into newly secured areas.” And that civilian cadre is not in Afghanistan right now, and it remains to be seen how 850 experts can be found for deployment into Afghanistan over the next year.

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