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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
NOVEMBER 2012
59
the country were violat-
ing the rules almost daily
to avoid being rendered
immobile and inefective.
Tis situation led to a wink-
wink, nod-nod culture
up and down the chain of
command (I have the sto-
ries to back this up) and a
consequent risk of security
lapses.
A truly efective security policy would set forth a short list of
absolute prohibitions and a much larger list of guidelines to be
followed where practicable. Tat said, those who consistently
exercise bad judgment can and should be withdrawn, for they
endanger not only themselves but those who might be sent to
recover them.
n
Tird, Mission Kabul’s senior leadership owes it to feld
personnel to fully understand and acknowledge the situations
in which it is placing them. Our people have operated under
extremely dangerous conditions, unarmed and poorly trained.
One possibly apocryphal tale that has made the rounds: a
newly arrived civilian with two full suitcases, an umbrella
and no briefng is dropped by helicopter in a muddy feld in
Marja in early 2010. Before he can get his bearings, his Marine
companions have taken of and are yelling at him from behind
blown-out walls to “move his ass.” Sadly, the truth is not too far
from that.
Civilian personnel have become separated during frefghts,
have found themselves alone with armed Afghans, and have
been involved in downed aircraft incidents. Tey have taken
an active part in frefghts, have driven through improvised
explosive devices, have had their armored SUVs penetrated
by rocket-propelled grenade rounds, and have been caught in
violent prisoner escapes. While we must aggressively deploy
civilians to all locations where they can be of use, including
those that are dangerous, we must carefully select, train and
then adequately arm those ofcers.
n
Fourth, overstafng PRTs and so-called regional plat-
forms does not enhance efectiveness. We will never be able
to match the military’s manpower, and that is not where our
strength is to be found in any event. (Te civilian surge in
Afghanistan was a grand political notion, but it was in many
ways counterproductive.) Often, our small numbers give us the
very nimbleness that we need to balance the military’s bureau-
cratic juggernaut.
n
Fifth, as we shift from
a PRT model to something
more suited to a reduced
military footprint, we should
deploy feld personnel
as advisers to individual
military elements—then let
them determine precisely
where civilians can be most
useful. Tis will encourage
initiative and bring bang for
the buck.
n
Finally, as we wend our way toward military withdrawal,
we should remain attuned to how we can help assure the
success of those forces that, along with the U.S. diplomatic mis-
sion, are likely to remain behind. Press reports and congres-
sional testimony continue to indicate that Afghan Local Police
units and Village Stability Operations personnel, along with
their Special Operations implementers, will remain corner-
stones of our eforts in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Reports of
civilian-military frictions over these programs must, if true, be
addressed.
Postscript
Since I frst drafted this article earlier this year, much has
changed—but much more has remained the same. Te Afghan
Local Police program continues to garner headlines, and many
continue to see this inherently sensitive initiative as the back-
bone of any future U.S. military eforts in Afghanistan. Te need
for highly adaptable, mobile civilian advisers remains acute,
as does the importance of seconding the vast majority of those
ofcials to feld units, rather than command stafs.
Concern over the safety of our civilian personnel—particu-
larly in light of our recent losses in Libya—is stronger than ever,
and this may continue to render us less efective than we might
otherwise be. But I am happy to hear reports that Embassy
Kabul and the State Department leadership have begun tack-
ling the problem of “civilian surge” overstafng.
In the end, the well-intentioned bureaucracy we con-
structed in Afghanistan hindered eforts in the feld and
severed the vital, direct relationship that feld ofcers once
enjoyed with the senior embassy leadership. Let us hope the
current restructuring eforts end better.
n
As the surge recedes, the
Afghan Local Police program
may well be the backbone of
any future U.S. military eforts
in Afghanistan.