A Civilian Surge?

July 23, 2009

A recent publication by Daniel Korski of the European Council on Foreign Relations entitled Shaping Europe’s Afghan Surge is a very readable account of recent developments in Afghanistan, and is especially informative on recent developments in troop numbers.

Korski points to a lack of a coherent European strategy for Afghanistan – a similar situation to New Zealand’s – and therefore¬† suboptimal performance in placating and stabilising the country. He goes on to make numerous policy recommendations which are not necessarily relevant to New Zealand, however some of his broad points are.

One is that there has already been a large increase in troop numbers in Afghanistan – and this is not even including the additional 20,000 promised recently by the United States. Troops from European Union countries increased by almost 10,000 between November 2006 and March 2009. Even the German army, normally hamstrung by popular opposition to overseas troop deployments, concedes that it has no lack of fighting men on the ground.

Therefore Korski recommends following this military surge with an equivalent surge of civilian experts such as police, military advisors, and observers for upcoming democratic elections. This civilian surge should serve to add a new nonmilitary dimension to the conflict (which Korski sees as a stalemate which cannot be won militarily), complement the ongoing military surge and lay the foundations for enduring political progress.

These recommendations are broadly echoed by Christia and Semple in a recent article in Foreign Affairs.

Debate in New Zealand around a new overall strategy for engagement in Afghanistan should take these contributions into account and ask where New Zealand’s scarce resources are best spent.