Foreign Policy Blogs

'People Surge' Update

In the below one question daily briefing by the US State Department, Spokesman Ian Kelly attempts to describe the ongoing process of the so-called civilian surge in Afghanistan. Though the ‘people surge’ is considered an integral part of the Obama administration’s Afghan strategy, many have wondered where exactly they were going to obtain the necessary civilian experts. Kelly states that 50 civilians are ready to get to work in the country this summer and that ‘hundreds’ more are on the way, but one comes away still curious as to how and if the US can fulfill the many civilian-level needs of the Afghan conflict. Here is the transcript of the curt and rather shallow overview of the ‘surge’ so far:

Question: How many (new and increased) civilian personnel will the State Department be sending and what is the timeline for their arrival?

Answer: The primary mission of the civilian staff in Kabul and the field is to build the capacity of the Afghan government at all levels and help strengthen the ties between the government and the governed. The civilian plan is totally integrated with the military plan and reflects the strong partnership between U.S. civilians and military. The deployment of civilians is timed to synchronize with the deployment of the military units with which they will be working, beginning in early this summer and extending into early 2009. We already have identified more than fifty civilians who will be in position by early summer. These committed men and women represent a 50 % increase to our current civilian staffing outside of Kabul. They will deploy in the east and south, the same areas which are the focus of U.S troop increases. Hundreds more will follow. The State Department is already assigning additional U.S. Foreign Service Officers and hiring highly qualified Americans from the private sector, many of whom have extensive experience in Afghanistan or civil-military operations. Civilians will receive tailored training, including with US military, to ensure maximum effectiveness upon arrival in country. The United States is working closely with the Afghan government and its international partners on determining the right number and mix of civilians throughout Afghanistan. We will continue to review the U.S. civilian deployment plan to determine whether additional civilians are required to meet needs identified in the field. We will be using all hiring authorities and creative mechanisms to ensure that the right people are in place at the right time.