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Thread: How do we say the Afghan Surge is not just mil when civilians are not participating?

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    Council Member Charles Martel's Avatar
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    Default How do we say the Afghan Surge is not just mil when civilians are not participating?

    Looked at the new plan for Afghanistan and there is lots of rhetoric about rebuilding, governance, rule of law, etc, but the latest DoS statements indicate that very few civilians are actually being sent to support the 17k troops. PRTs, even in relatively safe areas are still led by the military. To all my DoS brethren, don't complain that foreign policy has become militarized, when you don't step up to the plate. Understand the resource issues in DoS, but if this is indeed "an international security challenge of the highest order" as the President says, aren't there embassies that can go without so Afghanistan and Pakistan can be properly manned with the experts on building the social structures required to win (yes, win) this war?

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    Default

    I'm curious about the organizational culture in DoS, in regard to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other austere/dangerous places. This is me looking in from the outside, but it seems that PRT work and similar jobs, by necessity, give people a little more prestige within the organization. Those jobs involve the hottest issues and arguably the most important work done by the organization. But it also seems that many of the established people who chose to pursue a career at DoS are not too keen on venturing into dangerous or uncomfortable places. This seems to create a situation where those who have "done their time" in the organization face the choice of losing their prestige to some up-and-comers who are willing to venture into those places -OR- maintain the status quo and maintain their sense of importance by fighting against any suggestions for greater shoes-on-the-ground DoS involvement in those countries. Again, this is from the outside looking in - I hope that my impressions are wrong.

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    Default Civilians not Participating

    The old "why aren't there more birkenstocks on the ground?" Blame the DOS for all ills.


    Well, let's take a look at what is really needed. First, more FSOs? Absolutely. Anyone with access to the DOS OpenNet knows that the Afghan surge is on the way, including consulates in Herat and Mazar. There will also be more FSOs in PRTs.

    The problem is, FSOs only possess a slice of the skill sets needed to engage in Afghanistan. We need many more civilians, clearly, the paradox is that while the military is currently the most urgent element, it is ultimately the least important. In addition to State and USAID, we need people from Justice, USDA, Department of Commerce, experts from the legislative branch, experienced community organizers, city planners, electrical engineers, civil engineers, small town mayors, city officials, all of whom need to be spread liberally around the country. These are the people with the skill sets - not the DOS or the DOD (or its many parts).

    The question isn't whether Embassy London should be shut down. The real issue is will the Obama administration take on the challenge that was ignored for the last seven years: Is America at war or not? Who will make the call (at long last) for middle America to mobilize?

    As for the military being in charge: well as long as there are more military musicians than there are diplomats, as long as DOD rounds off greater sums than are in DOS' budget, it ain't gonna happen.

    Instead of pointing the finger and blame the lack of success on the absence of an extra 300 FSOs, let's all take a big step back and view this through a framework of leveraging all of the elements of national power.

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    Default Schmedlap's question

    There are no lack of volunteers. The issue is one four letter word: Iraq. Up until this year the Administration's priority was Iraq, plain and simple. The DOS personnel system was slanted to make it easier, more attractive and more rewarding to go to Iraq. There were (publicity aside) never any shortage of volunteers for Iraq or Afghanistan. It's all been an issue of what the Administration thinks is important. Now, finally, Afghanistan will get its due. The word on the street is 900 more civilians for Afghanistan. Let's wait and see what the response is. As a DOS veteran of two wars, I'm willing to lay money that the DOS response will be up to the numbers needed. ( Now that the great sucking sound of Iraq seems to be quieting down.)

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Skills needed?

    If Afghanistan and Pakistan are seen as long term national security interests, what provision is being made for language and cultural training by DoS and others? From this armchair faraway having some language skill and understanding enhances other skills and reduces the need for an interpreter (nay HTT).

    This article (many other topics covered) illustrates the potential gains, rather surprisingly cites an Irish diplomat serving with the EU in Afghanistan: http://entertainment.timesonline.co....cle5992800.ece

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-29-2009 at 09:40 PM. Reason: Add link and text

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    Default Not so surprising, David ....

    tribalism, faction fighting and switching sides run in an Irishman's genes.

    All very useful talents on the Astan scene.

    So, the story of Mr Frog and Mr Scorpion - "I can't help it, it's in my nature."

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    Default Bruce, oddly enough

    the only place in the USG where all the skills you call for are found - and found in a readily deployable form ie can be ordered to deploy - is in the Civil Affairs units of the US Army Reserve. Maybe it's not so odd, give the history of CA. When it was founded in WWII GEN Marshall had planned to transfer the CA/Mil Gov units lock, stock, & barrel to the DOS at the end of the war for occupation duty. But State wouldn't have them. Short version of a long story, CA (97% anyway) found its place in the USAR where it remains with exactly the skills needed (but still not enough numbers).

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce View Post
    There were (publicity aside) never any shortage of volunteers for Iraq or Afghanistan.
    I think that I know what you are referring to regarding the publicity thing (see here). That was what impacted my impression. If that reporting on the State Department was an instance of the typical disingenuous reporting that the DoD is often subjected to, then I am both glad that I was wrong and a bit frustrated with myself for having been snookered by it, especially since I am so often annoyed that others are snookered by crappy reporting on the DoD.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce View Post
    The word on the street is 900 more civilians for Afghanistan. Let's wait and see what the response is.
    Agreed. In the mean time, have you heard any rumblings as to what capacity those numbers will serve in? As someone who spent OIF III seething at the knowledge that my company was undermanned and doing a mission appropriate for a battalion, while a nearby FOB had 10,000 idle personnel doing basically nothing, I am always more curious as to the utility of the personnel rather than their quantity.

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    Default Civilians

    A couple of points:

    DOS trains the majority of the people going to Afghanistan in either Dari or Pashto. The course lasts 44 weeks and includes area/cultural studies as an integral component. While this does not make them fluent, it allows them to interact without interpretation on a reasonable level. For example, last year the DOS officer in an Eastern Afghan PRT was a Pashto speaker. In military terms, this is an impressive force multiplier that wracked up significant achievements. This, despite being a younger woman working in the heart of "Manistan."

    Regarding the qualities/utilities issue. I couldn't agree more. It seems that much of the civilian component in Iraq was built around the concept of having as many people there as possible, regardless of their skills or tasks.

    This gets to my original point of why we need the proper skill sets. Army/Marine CA are great, there just aren't enough of them (which is why you have PRTs in Afghanistan that are run by SWOS, nukes and F-18 jocks). If we want to be serious, we're going to have to ask the American people to get into the war in a way that the previous administration avoided doing.

    That said, there is a large role for FSOs at the PRT/BCT/CJTF level as Polads, as negotiators, as the human face of the US. The issue is force protection. 900 more civilians will need security. Does this mean more military, more Triple Canopy, ANA/ANP? Or will they be expected to go out with no armor, kevlar, up-armored vehicles? Will they be expected to assume an "outside the hesco" level of risk that others don't? I think they should, to some extent, but it's a difficult call.

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    Council Member Charles Martel's Avatar
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    Default Can't ignore the fact that DoS has not stepped up

    Bruce,

    The career FSOs bleating about being sent "to their deaths" in Iraq when it looked like volunteers wouldn't fill the numbers weren't media hype. There are lots of skills that FSOs have gained along their careers that would be useful in RoL, Governance, Economic Development, etc.

    Should the other agencies step up too? Sure. But they don't continue the drumbeat that our foreign policy is "too militarized" or that their agency should be in charge. I'll welcome all their help, but let's not say its a whole-of-government approach when it is DOD and some others. Can't blame that on Bush. State has had lots of opportunity to step up.

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    Default Fsos

    With over 1/3 of the Foreign Service having served in Iraq and Afghanistan you'll understand if I take a different view.

    Blaming State for what the previous administration did is kind of like blaming the military for having abandoned southern Afghanistan to go to Iraq in 2003. We all follow the instructions and priorities of the national command authority.

    As for Jack Croddy whining last year, the fact is that even when the DOS positions were increased virtually overnight by 25%, all the billets were filled by volunteers within 3 days.

    Yes, I have picked up many skills over 24 years as an FSO. City planning? Agronomy? Electrical grid planning? My experience does cover two wars, one as a more junior officer, one as a senior.

    The other point is: before the military arrives, and, then, long after it goes, the FSOs are there. A single case in point: In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, a small group of FSOs volunteered to stay trapped behind enemy lines. One of these was a woman, who, as consul, was responsible for the well-being and safety of AMCITS. For this she ended up spending five month as an Iraqi human shield. After she was released, she volunteered to go back in and spent the war in Saudi, flying into Kuwait the day the war ended. She spent the next 18 months breathing oil smoke, living tactically and serving her country. She was there before the military arrived and was there long after. She is my wife.

    So, having lived it, having seen the facts, knowing the ground truth, all I can say is that I'm confident in my views on the subject.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce View Post
    With over 1/3 of the Foreign Service having served in Iraq and Afghanistan you'll understand if I take a different view.

    Blaming State for what the previous administration did is kind of like blaming the military for having abandoned southern Afghanistan to go to Iraq in 2003. We all follow the instructions and priorities of the national command authority.

    As for Jack Croddy whining last year, the fact is that even when the DOS positions were increased virtually overnight by 25%, all the billets were filled by volunteers within 3 days.

    Yes, I have picked up many skills over 24 years as an FSO. City planning? Agronomy? Electrical grid planning? My experience does cover two wars, one as a more junior officer, one as a senior.

    The other point is: before the military arrives, and, then, long after it goes, the FSOs are there. A single case in point: In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, a small group of FSOs volunteered to stay trapped behind enemy lines. One of these was a woman, who, as consul, was responsible for the well-being and safety of AMCITS. For this she ended up spending five month as an Iraqi human shield. After she was released, she volunteered to go back in and spent the war in Saudi, flying into Kuwait the day the war ended. She spent the next 18 months breathing oil smoke, living tactically and serving her country. She was there before the military arrived and was there long after. She is my wife.

    So, having lived it, having seen the facts, knowing the ground truth, all I can say is that I'm confident in my views on the subject.
    Most excellent response and have any number of FSO friends who have had similar experiences as you and your wife. What I have found is the ones who have had the experience tend to accept more of the same. I can also say the same thing applies within the military.

    Best

    Tom

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    Default I'll tag onto Tom and concur with all his points.

    What should also not be forgotten is that if State is, in the eyes of some, not doing their fair share, it is because the current, the just previous and most prior Administrations have not properly resourced the mission or the Department. In fairness, that is due in large measure to a venal Congress which is more concerned with pork and reelection than they are with the good of the nation and properly resourcing foreign affairs.

    As has been said, DoD has filled the gap, due partly to necessity but also, we should admit, partly to selfish parochial concerns. The DoD attitude needs to change, Congress needs to be responsible and State needs to insist on the tools to do its job and hire more people that are as willing as the majority of FSOs to do just that. State employees are to be commended for operating as well as they have on a shoestring.

    Be nice if the NSC, State and DoD could agree on what constitutes a 'region. It would help if USAid and a USIA were reconstituted as well.

    Last time I checked, we were supposed to be in this together...

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    Default Charles Martel ....

    which is an interesting choice of handle; if you please, you might want to introduce yourself briefly in this thread, in the About Me section of your User CP or here. Thanks.

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    Default Synchronicity

    (If that is a word)

    Tom/Ken, I agree entirely about bringing the world/regional views together. My understanding is that this is about to happen. When I received my degree from the Naval War College, the issue of harmonizing the regional definitions was a constant theme. With Jim Jones as NSA, I have some hopes that much more will happen to bring all elements of national power into convergence.

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    Default Felicity.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce View Post
    ... When I received my degree from the Naval War College, the issue of harmonizing the regional definitions was a constant theme. With Jim Jones as NSA, I have some hopes that much more will happen...
    On the latter, me too. My gut feel is that he will be one of the few bright spots in the next few years.

    Re: the former. A friend of mine finished the Army version at Carlisle in the early 80s -- he said it was a dominant theme then and there. Moral of that, I guess, is that we're good -- but we sure are slow...

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    Council Member Charles Martel's Avatar
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    Default I'm fully prepared to be wrong

    Let's hope that I am. When the non-military agencies start flowing in to fix what the President says is the most important challenge we face as a nation, I will be the happiest guy around. Just don't think that our plans match the rhetoric. 17k soldiers, 250 non-DoD civilians (plus a similar number of local hires). Here's to hoping that the plans change.

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    Default I don't disagree

    Our plans haven't matched our rhetoric. Full stop. Having been involved in the PRT program in Afghanistan, I would love to see the Administration push hard on getting all the civilian expertise from across the board. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I just hope that this Administration does a better job of a troops to rhetoric ratio than did the last. I'm hopeful, but we'll have to re-visit this conversation this time next year. See you then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce View Post
    Blaming State for what the previous administration did is kind of like blaming the military for having abandoned southern Afghanistan to go to Iraq in 2003. We all follow the instructions and priorities of the national command authority.
    That has been questioned. Obviously if the President says, "go to Iraq" or "go to Afghanistan" then you can't really parse those orders into something resembling, "stay stateside." But the mechanics involved in those endeavors can suit the desires of the organizations, rather than the spirit and intent of the orders from the CinC. Leaks from the Pentagon seemed to stop as soon as Secretary Gates took the helm. It has been stated more than once in this forum that the Pentagon tends to resist change by waiting out SECDEFs' limited time in tenure. A complaint about the Bush administration is that it failed to overcome the institutional inertia of DoS - that the President was pulling the levers of diplomacy, unaware that they were not attached to anything, because DoS allegedly had its own ideas of how to guide our foreign policy.

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce View Post
    A couple of points:

    DOS trains the majority of the people going to Afghanistan in either Dari or Pashto. The course lasts 44 weeks and includes area/cultural studies as an integral component. While this does not make them fluent, it allows them to interact without interpretation on a reasonable level. For example, last year the DOS officer in an Eastern Afghan PRT was a Pashto speaker. In military terms, this is an impressive force multiplier that wracked up significant achievements. This, despite being a younger woman working in the heart of "Manistan."
    Then where the hell are they? I work for DoS as a contractor, and I haven't met a DoS regular employee who speaks anything but English, yet. And some of them can't even do English very well.

    Regarding the qualities/utilities issue. I couldn't agree more. It seems that much of the civilian component in Iraq was built around the concept of having as many people there as possible, regardless of their skills or tasks.
    I was raised on a farm, and the ADT guys are great, the Ag guy for the PRT is ok, but the DoS guys are freaking lost when it comes to any "real" ag issues. I've heard more DoS guys bull#### agriculture than I care to, though.

    This gets to my original point of why we need the proper skill sets. Army/Marine CA are great, there just aren't enough of them (which is why you have PRTs in Afghanistan that are run by SWOS, nukes and F-18 jocks). If we want to be serious, we're going to have to ask the American people to get into the war in a way that the previous administration avoided doing.
    CA is voluntarily a small community. I spent most of the '90s trying to get in, without luck. And now, during a time of war, they want you to mobilize for a year and then be unemployable for the next however many until you get mobilized again. Either that, or divorce your wife and abandon your family and volunteer for back-to-back-to-back tours. How are you guys going to get quality people again?

    That said, there is a large role for FSOs at the PRT/BCT/CJTF level as Polads, as negotiators, as the human face of the US. The issue is force protection. 900 more civilians will need security. Does this mean more military, more Triple Canopy, ANA/ANP? Or will they be expected to go out with no armor, kevlar, up-armored vehicles? Will they be expected to assume an "outside the hesco" level of risk that others don't? I think they should, to some extent, but it's a difficult call.
    Gee, I've rolled around in Afghanistan in an unarmored Ford pickup for the last 2.5 months. ANA/ANP make excellent security. And that's in a role where people have a huge self-interest in killing me/us. It's just not that risky, here. But that's my mind-set vs. the typical guy in a tie.

    The problem as I see it is that the DoS is made up of the type of guys who don't know their heads from their butts in an agrarian/pastoral/sectarian setting. But I get the impression that State wants to grow their own from fellow Ivy Leaguers and Biff's tennis buddies and is actually frightened by people with real experience. The State guys I meet almost universally meet that model. Good on them for being here, but in practical terms, they might know office infighting, but don't know jack about the things Afghans care about.

    Here's the deal: Show me a way to do this while staying married to my wife, and I'd do the job. Heck, I'd do 6 months on and 3 months off for the rest of my natural life. But don't making me fricking move to that hell-hole known as DC. Now THERE is your other problem....
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-05-2009 at 07:10 PM. Reason: OPSEC re location and role, plus inte,perate words re DoS

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