What happens to 'civilian surge' as military surge ends?
As U.S. troops start heading home, many civilians will stay behind to help Afghans stabilize their country. Photo: Getty Images
June 22nd, 2011
06:44 PM ET

What happens to 'civilian surge' as military surge ends?

As U.S. “surge” troops start heading home, the State Department’s “civilian surge” will stay on in Afghanistan, at least for another three years. Currently there are approximately 1,300 State Department and USAID experts working out of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and in the Afghan provinces, advising Afghan citizens on agriculture, the rule of law and governance.

Their mission: to help Afghans to govern themselves effectively so they won’t turn to the Taliban for help that the Afghan government should be providing.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls their work “crucial” and the man who developed the idea, General David Petraeus, thought civilians were a key element in stabilizing a country.

But at a time of tight budgets in the U.S., some critics question why U.S. taxpayer dollars should pay for programs to help Afghans.

Thursday, Secretary Clinton has to make the case before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for continuing the “civilian surge” even as the troops that provide protection for them in the field are being drawn down. A senior State department official tells CNN “of course, it’s a tough sell.”

President Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, at his Congressional hearing, cited a litany of challenges: “... the rule of law including corruption which undermines the credibility of the Afghan state, narcotics, sustainable economic development including employment…”

What’s more, a report from the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations committee warns that many U.S. aid programs are unsustainable once U.S. forces withdraw.

Development expert Clare Lockhart, Director of the Institute for State Effectiveness, tells CNN “I think a lot of the criticism has been valid and where it applies to a model that sees the money go to essentially to the contractors.”

The money, she says, “It goes to one contactor and then it goes to another and you get this long contractual chain and actually most of the money stays in the Beltway. It creates American jobs but it doesn’t change the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.”

But Lockhart says some programs do work, like the National Solidarity Program, which gives block grants directly to Afghan villages.

“One of the things that is great about this kind of program,” she says, “is that it doesn’t need foreigners to be at their villages, the Afghans run it themselves and as part of this program, for example, there are now over 100,000 women as part of these village councils, so for the sake of women its had a huge transformative effect.”

Another example she points to is the Afghan telecom system. “For a $20 million investment from the US through OPIC, the Overseas Investment Corporation, this catalogues $4 billion in private sector investment into the sector and there are now more than 12 million mobile phones across the country whereas there were none 10 years ago. This shows a very small comparative amount of money, very well applied, can catalyze development.”

Lockhart says the key issue is moving from an aid economy to an entrepreneurial economy where Afghans themselves run the system and create jobs. She says Afghanistan could pay for its own security – if the right kinds of investments are made now.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. funny post

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    August 5, 2012 at 2:19 am | Reply
  2. Scott

    Just admit it. Our government is basically as incompetent and corrupt as the Afgans. Its just hidden better. Nothing of significance is being done in regards to Afgan "civil society". Those in power and on the "inside", in both Afganistan AND the US, are just pocketing most of what is being expended. Just wait a few years and it will be obvious what has happened. But by then, Washington elite's will have distracted us with some new con game.

    July 3, 2011 at 7:12 am | Reply
  3. Kerry Bedford, TX

    It takes a lot of courage to stay on. I wonder where these people find it in them.

    July 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  4. Don

    the unspoken issue here is the half million contractors paid by the govt that are in iraq, and at least the same in afghanistan. sure for the campaighn the politicians want draw down troops because they cost to much. guess what contractors get paid 2 to 3 times the pay of a soldier and thats half of what their company gts paid. all paid for by our taxes. the politicians are taking aim at the military budget that means cutting soldiers pay and incentives to include retirement pay. this article only talks about the govt employees that is a good sleight of hand for hiding the truth
    the waste and fraud going on in afghanistan and iraq is intense if we are going to stay here then employ americans to run the dfacs , sanitation, construction ect, there are a lot ofwelfare recipients who could do these jobs.

    July 2, 2011 at 12:27 am | Reply
  5. C.Cantu

    The Devil tempted Jesus by offering Him the kingdoms, their wealth and all the pleasures of the world as long as Jesus worshiped him. Precisely that is what Islam offers to Muslim monarchs and leaders as long as they worship the Anti-Christ and do whatever it takes to keep Him above all things. Islamic monarchs/leaders owe their wealth, absolute power, their hundreds of concubines and pleasures to Satan, it is logical to maintain, glorify and expand Satan' rule over the world providing all the necessary means to his followers to execute their evil commands.

    June 26, 2011 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • Peter

      I love when one invisible friend in the sky cultist gets so upset over the other types of invisible friend in the sky cults and is so sure they are wrong because thiers is the REAL invisible friend in the sky. I think the fact that religions are taken seriously is the problem how about we try getting along because we all live here?

      June 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Reply
      • sambo

        iIn the last 300 years we didn't have a religion problem. There were political problems and religious arguments; but when islahm stepped in we had death and destruction beyond belief. This is truly a CULT of hate and must be removed so the earth inhabitants can" live long and prosper"

        July 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  6. StanCalif

    Aren't we really just wasting lives and huge amounts of money? Karsai has done little to "clean up" the government, now he bad mouths us! Pakistan is just as bad, if not worse! Pakistan actually aids and supports al-Quada! Are we idiots or what?

    June 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  7. JOE

    Why not send John Boehner, GWB and the GOP and their families to Afghanistan to help build their infastructure? After all, its there stinking war. And by the way, while they're at it, they should send Michelle Bachmann too so she could adopt some of the Afghan orphans and add to the 23 foster kids she claimed to have adopted. Songs to me like she's trying to run a "nanny state" or perhaps she's just trying to be a community organizer.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:46 am | Reply

    Any one left behind will be called "TARGETS"!

    June 24, 2011 at 8:29 am | Reply
  9. Jesse

    It takes a different breed to work out here. I've worked both on and off base for both american and afghan contractors. Most of the money earned by american contractors in afghanistan is being sent right back home to make house payments and put food on tables. I don't know that we're really making any progress over here, but it would be kind of pathetic and cowardly of us to turn our backs on the afghans that sided with us and let them slip back into chaos.

    June 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      Cowardly? Really? How long exactly are we supposed to stay there? It's been a decade already.

      June 24, 2011 at 8:29 am | Reply
  10. Moudo

    Boys coming home from the war will be looking for employment. Many will not take jobs that require labor plus they get Veteran preference on job hiring. Add the fact there will be 10 thousand hitting the job market near the same time. I was told by employers when I came home from War that my
    experience in the Service didn't apply to civilian jobs.

    June 23, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Reply
    • kman02

      In many cases, an honorable discharged veteran of foreign wars gets preference. It seldom hurts. All civilian government positions grant veteran preference...though most agencies can't hire.

      June 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • John

      When the President says he will be bringing home 10,000 troops it does not exactly mean that 10,000 troops will pick up their bags and immediately come home. What it means is that when their tour of duty has been completed they will not be replaced when they redeploy to the States. When these men and women come home they will not all hit the job market at the same time. Very few will get out when they redeploy – enlistment contracts don't end when you come home from a tour. Some will leave the service when their enlistment contracts are up, some will stay in the military. Those who are in the National Guard or Reserves will likely return to civilian jobs they left when they were deployed.

      As for the civilian surge:1,300 civil servants no matter how well intentioned or dedicated will make much of a difference in a country of 30,000,000. I am not sure if their work will become any more or less dangerous when the troop level goes down. Many of them work apart from the military with private security firms providing protection if at all.

      June 26, 2011 at 10:25 am | Reply
  11. truefax

    No one cares about what actually happens there. We should just bring them all over here and employ them as feild labor and domestics. Their life would be many times better, and we would have a new source of cheap and non mexican labor to exploit.

    June 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Reply
    • kman02

      I hear they are very good at growing heroin.

      June 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  12. Jerry

    I think most folks have a short memory. Remember when the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan? The U.S did nothing to help rebuild or improve the infrastructure, that is what we are cleaning up now. History does tend to repeat and I for one do not want troops back there in a few years.

    June 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  13. the_dude

    Since the civillian surge has no benefit for either political party who really cares what happens to them? Take my advice.....find your own way out of there if you can and GTF out. Don't count on obama to bail you out.

    June 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  14. Mitch

    Once the troops leave there will be a whole lot of dead westerners.

    June 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Reply

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