After months of deliberation, urgent appeals from his top generals and resistance from members of his own party, President Obama announced a troop surge in Afghanistan. While he’s sending in reinforcements, he said they are a short-term solution. Combined with help from NATO allies, the deployed troops will come close to the amount requested by General McChrystal to wage a counterinsurgency campaign. Troops will take the fight to the Taliban in an attempt to provide breathing room for Afghan forces to develop the competence necessary to secure their country.
Success will be defined with much more than just boots on the ground. Victory requires a civillan force to help Afghans cultivate their land, build government institutions and deliver public health. The administration has emphasized that development is a high priority for foreign policy beyond conflict zones, like Afghanistan and Iraq. From Secretary of State Hilary Clinton:
A personal priority for me as secretary is to elevate and integrate development as a core pillar of American power. We advance our security, our prosperity and our values by improving the material conditions of people’s lives around the world.
But over the last two decades, US foreign assistance has faltered. There were once tens of thousands of people with expertise in farming, engineering and governance. Staff cuts have made the US Agency for International Development (USAID) little more than a grant-making institution. President Obama has ordered a civilian surge which places USAID right in the center of success.