Will the Afghanistan Civilian Surge Go Super Surge?

It looks like the much touted 974 figure is just a “down-payment” to the “total” civilian surge to Afghanistan. SRAP deputy Paul Jones is now talking about more civilian advisers to Afghanistan beyond the 974 expected to get there in early 2010. Ambassador Holbrooke’s deputy was over at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday and had this to say:

The President will soon request from Congress the resources needed to implement this focused civilian effort. His request will include not only a sizable increase in civilian assistance, but also funds to support deployment of additional civilian experts beyond the roughly 1,000 U.S. government civilians who will be on the ground by early next year. These civilians will help build Afghan governance and private sector capacity. In the field, they will work from District Support Teams and PRTs, side by side with our military. Some will also extend our permanent diplomatic presence outside of Kabul by staffing new consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat.

We are now in the midst of the civilian surge. I spoke last Thursday at the Foreign Service Institute with a class of 90 experts from USAID, USDA and State who will be deploying before Christmas; the next such class is in two weeks, so our tempo is quick. On Friday, I met with a packed room of Foreign Service Officers looking to sign-up for tours in 2010 and beyond. Next week, I’ll travel to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where every civilian deploying to the field undergoes a week-long, realistic, intensive field exercise with our military counterparts.

Secretary Clinton is proud of noting that among these civilians are our top experts from 10 different U.S. government departments and agencies. And once deployed, they report to our Embassy in Kabul through a unified civilian chain of command, with senior civilian representatives at every civ-mil platform. In short, our selection, training and leadership is better than ever before. The result is improved civ-mil coordination at all levels of our effort in Afghanistan, and gives us the civilian expertise out in key districts that will allow our locally-focused strategy to succeed. Admiral Mullen attested to the quality of the civilians during his appearance before the Congress last Thursday.

See Mr. Jones’ full remarks at the AEI here.

Although we now know that there are 10 participating agencies, we still do not have a breakdown of which agencies are going to Afghanistan, and how many staff they are contributing to this effort. We also still do not have the breakdown sector-wide of these civilian experts.

And – some of you may know this, but I still have no idea where the larger part of the 974 are coming from. See my previous post 974 to Afghanistan for the Civilian Surge. Or where are they going to get the “beyond” 1,000 civilian experts now planned.

I also almost forgot to mention – this OIG report from August 2009 indicates that there are “nearly four life support and personal security contractors to every one U.S. Government staff member at these Regional Embassy Offices and Regional Reconstruction Team.” That report was on the regional embassy staffing in Iraq. Note that Mr. Jones above has the “District Support Teams and PRTs” in Afghanistan –different name but I suspect, functionally similar to REOs in Iraq.

Afghanistan is in a far worse state than Iraq, of course, but if we go by the Iraq calculation rounded down, that 974 civilian surge number actually means additional life support and personal security personnel of 2,922 or a total surge of 3,896 individuals (life support and protective services normally handled by contractors).

On a related note, Laura Rozen of Politico has posted a December 5 memo from retired General Barry R McCaffrey, who is now adjunct professor of International Affairs at West Point. The memo “provides a strategic and operational assessment of security operations in Afghanistan.” In it the general says that the “civilian agency surge will essentially not happen” – see below:

“The international civilian agency surge will essentially not happen —although State Department officers, US AID, CIA, DEA, and the FBI will make vital contributions. Afghanistan over the next 2-3 years will be simply too dangerous for most civil agencies.”

A bunch of folks would have something to say about that from Foggy Bottom to Pennsylvania Avenue.