Unity of Effort, Agriculture Edition

by Joshua Foust on 6/15/2011 · 2 comments

Max Fisher of The Atlantic kindly links to my post on Afghanistan’s Secret White Farmers. He raises an interesting question:

The Pentagon isn’t the only group trying to help Afghan farmers; and the U.S. military, owing to the fact that it also spends a lot of time launching raids and drone strikes, does not always have the best access to skeptical Afghan civilians. This clearance requirement creates a new barrier between the military and civilian effort, making their joint mission to help Afghan farmers more difficult.

This is more true than he realizes. Overnight, I had the thought: where the hell is the USDA? They have agricultural specialists throughout the country (pdf), and more specialists working in Kabul. USAID, too, has a fairly robust agricultural development program in Afghanistan. I am not arguing that either agency is effective at what they try to do—I really don’t know—but what concerns me is the blithe assumption that the Pentagon should just step in and fund its own agricultural development program.

I thought, in COIN, we’re supposed to have a unity of effort. Does the DOD ever try to deconflict its programs with USAID or other agencies of the U.S. government? Because sometimes I get the impression they don’t.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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marc June 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm

The civilian agencies try to use their funds to design projects for long term sustainability. The military uses it’s vastly superior financial resources as a weapon to gain short term tactical advantages. The military spent an ungodly sum of money for a power plant in Kandahar. The only consideration was that it be up and running quickly. It uses fuel that the locals will not likely be able to supply themselves so when the U.S. eventually leaves it will become a very expensive but useless piece of junk.

Jeffry June 16, 2011 at 4:54 am

I worked with a US Army BCT Commander over 3 years ago who was diligently lobbying for USDA to help. He wanted to support agricultural development, but wanted experts to take the lead. I think almost every agency out there looks first at how difficult a task is, while the US Army and USMC just get to work and try to make something happen. S/F

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