Small Wars Journal

The Importance of Developing Government in Afghanistan

Tue, 11/01/2011 - 3:13pm

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While at RAND Corporation, Robert Komer was commissioned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1972 to develop an understanding of the organization and management of the counter-insurgency (COIN) campaign in Vietnam.  The main finding of his report, publicly available on the web, is that the United States’ focus on building a strong military for the Government of the Republic of Vietnam came at the expense of recognizing the importance of the country’s culture and building a functioning bureaucracy.  He indicated that an Army without a functioning government became our undoing.    That is, the country unraveled because it did not have the capacity to provide government services to its people.  In this vein, the “Ministerial Development” mission being conducted by the Department of Defense (DoD) on behalf of the people of Afghanistan is of paramount importance to the outcome of the campaign.  While the DoD is also focused on rapidly generating and training viable military (171,000) and police (157,000) forces to the tune of approximately one billion dollars per month, ultimately, it is the Ministerial Development mission with which our long-term success lays. 

This article will walk through the current state of affairs, limiting factors and elements of reform of the Ministerial Development mission in Afghanistan.  The premise is that legitimate government is aided by police who serve and protect the public.  In turn, building the public’s trust is the key ingredient to stability and therefore an important component of COIN strategy.  The police are the public face of government as they are the ones who interact with the citizens each and every day.  They have unique capabilities in achieving the goal of good governance even when confronted by violence and insecurity.   On this last point, the article will explain the importance of the Ministerial Development mission, the challenges to these efforts, and some of the reform efforts that will help advance the Ministry of Interior Affairs.  While it is very important to appropriately develop and manage the requisite forces, it is equally important to develop a functioning and sustainable ministerial system.

What does Ministerial Development mean?  It is the effort of building a legitimate government, one that is able to provide essential services and security to the population.  In the case of the DoD, it means creating a self-sustaining Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI) that can project an internal security capability across the country and its borders as well as providing law and order to the citizens in each of the 365 Districts of Afghanistan.  Growing and maintaining effective leaders, teams, and processes to support and sustain military and police forces are the critical components to this mission.  These are reflected in the shape of logistics centers, recruiting centers, training academies, criminal investigation units, riot control teams, emergency first responders, medical professionals, and civilian specialists in many fields such as budget, procurement, information technology, intelligence, public affairs, and facilities.  With the challenges of rampant corruption, continued insurgency, wide-spread illiteracy, and an inconsistent existence of security and rule of law, this mission is a tall order.  While the U.S. government has provided significant support over the past ten years, the specific focus on Ministerial Development has only existed in the last three.  Additionally, the United States and its Coalition partners have pledged continued support through 2014, when the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) will complete its transition and take responsibility for its own security.

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About the Author(s)

Mr. Scott R. Lewis is a Senior Management Analyst with the Office for the Secretary of Defense.  He recently returned from a 12-month tour in Kabul, Afghanistan as a part of the Ministry of Defense Advisors Program where he served as the Director for Ministerial Development and Transition for Police Development at the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan.