Insider Quote: How size and speed disparity works in Afghanistan….

AgFair tasting Tomato Paste May 20, 09Image by USAID Afghanistan via Flickr

Before the McChrystal flap unfolded, the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry gave a speech at the Command and General Staff College Graduation Ceremony in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on June 11. Below is an excerpt:

Like our soldiers, our diplomats are focused first on preventing wars, but when we must, we fight the same war as you do, but we use different tools, and fight on a different scale.

As for size, you’ve probably heard Secretary Gates’ comment that the military has more uniformed band members than the State Department has Foreign Service Officers.  The entire Department of State numbers under 40,000.  The number of Foreign Service Officers – our line personnel, if you will – is only 8,000.   With those 8,000, State staffs not only our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world.

Here’s an illustration of how that size and speed disparity works in Afghanistan.  When ISAF wants to work on developing an approach to a complicated policy or operational issue – to take a real world example, finding a way to ban the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer used in the vast majority of IEDs in Afghanistan – ISAF can easily mobilize 50 staff officers to form an Operational Planning Team.

I am fortunate to be Ambassador at the only U.S. Embassy in the world with a full-time staff of State Department planners.  I have, on a good day, five of them – plus an Army SAMS planner, a graduate of this fine institution whom General McChrystal assigned to me in one more instance of close civ-mil cooperation.  I could afford to deploy one or two Embassy planners to that counter-IED OPT. 

Read the whole thing here.

Related Link:

Blog | Michael Hastings at Rolling Stone