Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Civilian Component of COIN

The New York Times has a dour report on the civilian component of COIN operations in Afghanistan. One of the many difficulties of counter insurgency is that it necessarily implicates non-security disciplines, technical and governance capacity building. Without those components, the security component of COIN is simply tilting at windmills. Without providing security stability is impossible, effective governance and technical capacity building become irrelevant—and, particularly in the American division of labor, results in gross stagnation of those efforts. The two prongs of COIN are bound-up together and both are necessary for any successful effort.

The Times report describes a deteriorating situation, though it reads as it may be a bit of hyperbole. More worrying is that the civilian efforts themselves—aside from the question of those efforts reaching the Afghan people due to security concerns—may be insufficient:
Henry Crumpton, a former top C.I.A. and State Department official who is an informal adviser to General McChrystal, called those stepped-up efforts inadequate. “Right now, the overwhelming majority of civilians are in Kabul, and the overwhelming majority never leave their compounds,” said Mr. Crumpton, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan. “Our entire system of delivering aid is broken, and very little of the aid is getting to the Afghan people.”
While the number of civilian advisors seems doubtlessly anemic, the harsh Afghan winter and the regularized annual fighting season gives the United States nearly a six month window of opportunity to not only revise the strategy brought to bear in Afghanistan but to deploy the troops and technocrats necessary to implement that strategy effectively.

No comments: