Tuesday, June 21, 2011

U.S. peacebuilding in Afghanistan: not setting ourselves up for long-term success

A few months ago, I was asked, through a friend who couldn't do it but was originally asked, to write and present a paper on U.S. peacebuilding in Afghanistan. It was one case study for an Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis workshop (in conjunction with the Osaka School of International Public Policy) on examining the current U.S.-Japan relationship when it comes to peacebuilding. Papers were presented on the U.S. and Japanese governments in the larger sense, Afghanistan, and Sudan, with a paper written from each perspective by academics and practitioners from both the U.S. and Japan. The idea was to look at what both nations have done and hope to determine the possibility and mechanics for a whole-of-alliance (in the bilateral sense) approach to peacebuilding. All in all, it was a very interesting workshop.

I looked at three aspects of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan: ANP development, ANA development, and DDR. Our readers are probably familiar with most of the challenges involved with these programs, but if you're not I laid out the very basics of them. The bottom line to all three of these programs, though, is that we're focusing on short-term gains in a counterinsurgency context at the cost of long-term stability and peace building. And all of this in spite of a growing set of knowledge of best practices in similar situations. One of the reasons I suggest this is the case is that the U.S. military is the biggest foreign player in the country (in personnel and money) and without other guidance is attempting what it is trained to do: win wars. Of course, without setting the conditions for a lasting peace, it will be hard to "win" the war. And this paper doesn't even get into other things like economics or politics.

I recommend reading through all of the papers - all of them are informative. Professor Yuji Uesugi, from the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center, wrote about Afghanistan from a Japanese perspective and came to similar conclusions as I did (huzzah for validation!), but from a different and very interesting angle. I know virtually nothing about Sudan, but those papers are pretty interesting as well. The first paper by Weston Konishi and Charlie McClean is a winner, too. And thanks to these two guys - they did a great job putting this workshop together.


  1. Hey! Interesting paper, Jason, especially the part about disarmament. I'll try and blog it at CBz when I get a chance :)

    - Madhu