Snapshot: Af/Pak Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Strategy, Funding and Staffing

Via the OIG Review of the Af/Pak “Bureau” under the  Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP):

The Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy follows four pillars: expand media engagement, counter extremist voices, build communications capacity, and strengthen people-to-people ties.

To implement that strategy, Embassy Islamabad runs the Department’s largest bilateral exchange program, and Pakistan has the largest Fulbright program in the world. The public diplomacy budget for Pakistan grew from a base public diplomacy budget of approximately $1.5 million in FY 2009 to $58 million in FY 2010 for public diplomacy and strategic communications from Department and USAID funds, not counting strategic communication funds from the Department of Defense. Funds limited to public diplomacy that were spent in Pakistan in FY 2010 totaled $41.4 million (FY 2010 base of $1.6 million; FY 2009 supplemental, 2-year funds of $31.1 million; and FY 2010 supplemental regularization funding of $8.7 million). The FY 2011 budget request is for up to $110 million.

The public diplomacy budget in Afghanistan grew from a base public diplomacy budget of $1.5 million in FY 2009 to over $87.5 million in FY 2010 for public diplomacy and strategic communications from Department and USAID funds, not counting significant strategic communication funds from the Department of Defense. Funds used only for public diplomacy that were spent in Afghanistan in FY 2010 totaled $46.7 million (FY 2010 base $1.3 million; FY 2009 supplemental 2-year money $22.1 million; and FY 2010 supplemental regularization $23.3 million).

These budget increases at Embassies Kabul and Islamabad have been accompanied by a doubling of the number of public affairs officers at the two missions and by SCA/PPD staffing up to support grants management. Neither the S/SRAP unit nor SCA/PPD requires further staff augmentation to manage this increased workload.

Active links added above. Is the informational effect worth all that money?

Countering extremist voices in English is not the same as countering it in the local language or dialect.  Right there, the State Department has a problem not just in the Af/Pak super bureau but in US missions in the large swath of the world where English is not the principal language.

If extreme voices calls you a dog in American English, you should be able to call them back a dog in their language, and explain what kind of dog and why, even debate about it. No translators required, no mistranslation, no misunderstanding just what you mean. But if you can’t speak their language … well, um …. see why that’s a problem?

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