Ron Capps’ op-ed (read the article here) highlights an alarming issue nearly every deployed Soldier or Marine has asked at least once while deployed, “Where are all of the civilian specialists and why aren’t they spearheading the stabilization/reconstruction campaign and operations?” While the military has plenty of intelligent leaders who can and will figure out how to execute, combat Soldiers are by no means trained to support reconstruction efforts on the level in which we now are forced to support. Units with supporting Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) should be able to draw upon the PRT for its non-lethal expertise (in fields like agriculture and rule of law) and their subsequent support when drafting campaign plans and operations to enable host nation (HN) success. By and large, this is not happening. (side note: I asked the dozen other Captains in my class what their experiences with a PRT were, and only one answered positively)
Unfortunately, it will likely take a loud (and frequent) uproar from DoD leaders to effect policy change in Washington that actually makes our diplomatic efforts a priority instead of an after-thought; as the military currently bears the brunt of our failing DoS/USAID concept. It will likely take several subsequent years to build Department of State and US Agency for International Development capacity and capability to not only support their expanded partnership with the military in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but to also have the wherewithal and experience to drive operations overseas. These efforts will not be in vain, even if operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan end before we reach full DoS & USAID COIN capability. The simple fact is that there is always another Iraq or Afghanistan.
Ensuring the host nation government can stand on its own two feet is THE end-game of COIN. We’re making it a lot harder and more costly than it has to be by forgetting the other half.