Books Worth Reading
  • Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    by Robert C. Orr
  • Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    by Ashraf Ghani, Clare Lockhart
  • The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    by Rupert Smith
  • Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    by John Robb
  • Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    by Paul Collier
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    by Francis Fukuyama
  • When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    Princeton University Press
  • Building States to Build Peace
    Building States to Build Peace
    Lynne Rienner Publishers
  • Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    United Nations University Press

Entries in Post-Conflict Stabilization (4)


Post-Conflict Stabilization Doctrine and Training Resources

Here are two interesting resources available for you to further develop your knowledge and skill sets when it comes to post-conflict stabilization and state-building . . .


The first is a joint venture from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute to develop a manual for those involved in post-conflict stabilization.  The 244 page document  is entitled “Guidelines for Stabilization and Reconstruction,” and is available for download here




It is not unlike the recent cooperation between the U.S. Army and Marine Corps on Field Manual 3-07: Stability Operations, and before that, Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency Operations, which is much more famous.  Together, these three documents should be considered the key texts when it comes to U.S. government policy as it relates to post-conflict stabilization and stability operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. 


Ambassador John Herbst, who is the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, wrote about the Guidelines in his office’s Winter 2009/2010 newsletter, calling it “doctrine” for “civilian planners and practitioners involved in peacebuilding missions.”


According to Herbst:


[The] manual offers two important contributions: 1) a comprehensive set of shared principles and 2) a shared strategic framework. Both rise directly from the enormous wealth of knowledge and experience that has accrued across the global peacebuilding community over the last two decades. The development of the manual involved intensive vetting and consultation sessions with NATO planners, British stabilizers, UN peacebuilders and other key partners. It also involved a thorough review of hundreds of doctrinal documents produced by the very institutions that have toiled in these difficult environments. [Emphasis mine]


The second resource is a set of courses you can take from USIP that deals directly with post-conflict stabilization.  The only issue is they are all based in Washington, DC.


Below are descriptions of two sample courses being held in June . . .


Peacebuilding Organizations and Institutions

Covers the missions, cultures, operating procedures, and other essential characteristics of key international organizations, regional organizations, government organizations, militaries, and nongovernmental organizations in peace operations and stability operations. Inter-organizational planning, communication, and coordination in hostile environments are also addressed.


Economics and Conflict

Participants explore the analytical links between economic activity and conflict as well as the practical constraints and rewards of using economic instruments of conflict management. Case studies and simulations set in Kosovo, Haiti, and Sudan encourage participants to formulate economic instruments within a strategic framework for economic development in vulnerable and conflict-affected states.


Those who wish to work in post-conflict stabilization often find it difficult to get their foot in the door unless they’re already a U.S. government employee and deployed into one of these areas, or have worked for an NGO in another area and brought in.  Those who already work in this area find there are not many training opportunities and most of what you learn is either on the job or through self-study.


In both cases, by internalizing the above manuals and taking some of these courses, individuals can better position themselves for finding positions and working successfully in conflict and post-conflict environments. 


Eventually, USIP says all the courses will be online.  Three are already up and are available for free.  I’ve taken their online certificate course in conflict analysis and thought it well worth the time.


Does the U.S. Need a Special Office for Nation-building?

Recently the Special Inspector General for Iraq (SIGIR), Stuart Bowen, testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting on the need for a new “U.S. Office of Contingency Operations” to oversee future American efforts at post-conflict stabilization and nation-building (really state-building, but that’s another post).


Bowen, who since 2004 has investigated and exposed much of the corruption and incompetence in the Iraq reconstruction effort, argues the new office is necessary to prevent poor coordination and planning among U.S. government agencies, two problems which have been a distinguishing feature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The main reason the new office is needed, he says, is that there is no one U.S. government agency charged with responsibility for stabilization and reconstruction efforts and “there is no central point of planning and management," which has "bred the problems of poor coordination and weak integration we’ve encountered” in Iraq.


But as Spencer Ackerman notes, neither the Departments of State nor Defense support the proposal . . .


“In formal responses appended to the USOCO paper, two senior administration officials praise Bowen’s effort and endorse his diagnosis that civilian and military efforts in stabilization and reconstruction missions suffer from an ad hoc planning and implementation structure, saying he “correctly identifies under-funding [and] lack of capacities” within State and the U.S. Agency for International Development as a key weakness. But both reject USOCO as a solution. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy writes that the problem is “one of capacity and not of structure” and observes that congressional support for a restructuring “in today’s fiscally constrained environment seems unlikely.”


Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, presenting State’s lengthy formal response to USOCO, pledges to Bowen that the USOCO proposal will receive “full consideration” from an ongoing State Department and USAID comprehensive review of development and diplomacy known as the QDDR. But he says Bowen’s fix is “problematic on several fronts,” and that USOCO would take too much policymaking responsibility away from the Secretary of State and the department’s regional bureaus.” 


Bowen has publicly stated the he will try and sell the idea to Congress, but considering the two agencies primarily charged with the post-conflict stabilization missions are not on board with the proposal and will actively fight against, it means the chances of it coming to fruition are unlikely.


I’m a big fan of Bowen for his work uncovering corruption in Iraq and I’m glad he’s stuck around since first being appointed in 2004, but I’m against the new proposal for a couple reasons. 


First, the main cause of the screw ups in the initial post-war period had to do with political choices made at the highest levels of government, primarily the decision to not start planning for the post-war period until just a few months before the war began.  What made it worse was the planning was based on a series of false assumptions that were tailored not to the situation at hand, but on a politically expedient notion that the war would be easy (a view that made it easier to sell to Congress and the public), so ergo, not much planning would need to be done.  The problem in this case wasn’t the lack of a special office to do planning and coordination, but the lack of sound strategic decision-making by a bunch of incompetent senior government officials.  These officials were also blinded by ideology and a desire to remake Iraq into some democratic redoubt which resulted in them ignoring the complex realities on the ground that didn’t fit into their magical thinking and ended up resulting in needless deaths and lost resources.


Another problem is that the office won’t solve the issue of interagency friction.  Having spent over four years in Iraq, with that time split almost evenly between roles with State and Defense, I can tell you that employees seconded to interagency organizations (like Provincial Reconstruction Teams) will have allegiance first to the organization and leadership that evaluates, pays and promotes them.  That means working against the interagency team's objectives if they are not in the interest of that person’s organization.  I’ve seen it happen.  A special office that draws on personnel from various departments won’t be able to do combat this problem unless it can create disincentives for failing to play nicely, such as the ability to write negative performance reports or dock pay.  But this is a power home agencies are never going to give up. 


The solution to problems of planning and coordination in future missions are quite simple:  begin planning and coordinating for them early.  Planning for the post-war occupation of Germany was several years in the making before Hitler killed himself and the country surrendered.  Personnel and resources were specifically prepared for that eventuality and a special School of Military Government was even established.  This meant that once the combat phase of the war was over both military and civilian officials were ready to move in and successfully help rebuild, de-Nazify, and democratize the country.  



U.S. Government Jobs in Post-Conflict Stabilization, State-Building, Humanitarian Aid, and Development

Here are a set of links to various USG departments and agencies you can join if you want a career (or at least part-time gigs) in war zones or developing nations carrying out diplomacy, defense, and development related activities.

U.S. Agency for International Development

USAID is the premier USG agency charged with disaster response and international development.  It’s tied with the U.S. military when it comes to post-conflict stabilization since so much of the “war after the war” is handled by troops on the ground.  Click here for descriptions of the various career tracks and employment opportunities being offered.  You can also click on these links for the currently available Civil Service (DC-based) positions, and both Junior Officer and Mid-Level career opportunities with the Foreign Service.  USAID is also offering a couple Foreign Service Limited (temporary) appointments to send General Development Officers to Afghanistan, which you can find here.


If you have grad degree, you may want to consider the relatively recent Development Leadership Initiative.  It’s a program that seeks to add 600 new Foreign Service officers to the agency by 2010.  In the 1990s USAID was in many ways hollowed out and ended up more or less becoming a contracting agency that outsourced its work to NGOs and for profits that make up Development, Inc.  DLI seeks to correct this, but the clock is ticking for those of you who want to get in while jobs are plentiful (relatively speaking).


Finally, there’s the Personnel Service Contracts.   These are employment contracts between individuals and USAID and are used throughout the globe.  You can choose a country where there is an AID mission and I’ve met some PSCs who are the entire AID mission, reporting to a regional office in another country.  Click here for the FedBizOpps site that lists all the opportunities. 


The Military

By which I mean the real military, such as the Army and Marine Corps.  The Navy and the Air Force do good work, no doubt, but when it comes to post-conflict stabilization and state-building missions, their assistance falls mostly under logistical and other support services.  This is not to say they aren’t on the ground at all, it’s just that for these two branches their primary missions involve air and sea dominance, and since humans don’t live in either of these places, most of the work is done by Soldiers and Marines.


If you really want to interact with the locals the best branch (as far as the Army is concerned) is Civil Affairs.  You can join the CA branch immediately as an enlisted soldier, but as an officer you have to spend a few years in one of the basic branches.  I recommend the Infantry, followed by Armor, since you’ll get to interface with the population a lot more than in a branch like Quartermaster or Adjutant General.  If you’re female, the Military Police or Engineers are the best choices since being in the first two aren't options, and because MPs and Engineers do have a large number of responsibilities outside the wire.   Click on the links to find the recruitment pages of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps.


Department of State

Despite what many people claim or think, DOS is not really in the business of post-conflict stabilization or state-building.

As with USAID, there are several different ways to join.  Your two main options are as a Foreign Service officer, or by joining the Civil Service, though there’ are other ways which you can read up more on at the DOS Career’s page.   You can also take a non-career appointment as a direct hire, which has positions in the U.S. and abroad.


If you join the Foreign Service you’re going to spend your first few years sitting at a window processing visa apps and performing other consular services, which is a gate through which all FSOs must past.  After that, depending on your “cone” (career field), you’ll be engaging in a variety of work overseas, including analysis (cables are the bread and butter of the Foreign Service) and “public diplomacy” activities to increase America favorability rating. 


If you join DOS’s Civil Service, there’s a wide range of things you can do that are similar to what FSOs do overseas, but you be doing so domestically, and you’ll be avoiding the visa work.  The main problem though is that you’ll be somewhat of a second-class citizen . . . DOS prioritizes the work and careers of FSOs over those in the Civil Service, and poor leadership and management skills help exacerbate the problem.  The benefit is you get to remain in the U.S. and can spend your entire career in one location, and if you’re DC-based, can likely network your way up. 


For immediate openings in Iraq and Afghanistan, (what’s known as 3161 positions, after the legislation authorizing the practice), you can go to USAJOBS and do a query by location.  You can also just click here for Iraq, and here for Afghanistan.  


The Peace Corps

If you’re young, joining the Peace Corps as a volunteer is a great way to get some local level development experience that you can leverage into a career appointment with State or USAID, or to get a job with non-governmental organization.  You don’t even need a college degree . . . just be 18 and a U.S. citizen.  You can even be a retiree.  Joining the Peace Corps has some other benefits . . . you get free foreign language study and the opportunity to use it in your duty location, and there are also student loan repayment programs.


Being a Peace Corps volunteer isn’t necessarily easy, however.  You’ll often be the only American in your village or town, and will be living amongst the people, which mean you’ll likely have the same quality of life standards.  This isn’t a bad thing as it will help you bond with those you’re helping and better understand their needs (and appreciate how lucky one is to live in the U.S.).  It also means you’ll have the sort of cultural immersion experiences few Western expats ever get to have.  Click here for the how to apply and become a volunteer.


USDA Foreign Service

Until I started working for the Department of State, there was one facet of the U.S. government that I never even knew existed: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service


Their mission is to “improve foreign market access for U.S. products, build new markets, improve the competitive position of U.S. agriculture in the global marketplace, and provide food aid and technical assistance to foreign countries.”


Right now there are USDA FAS personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan helping to assess agricultural needs and advise on projects to support agricultural reconstruction, as well as build the capacity of local agricultural officials to develop and implement agricultural extension and development programs.  Since both countries have populations that rely to a large extent on subsistence farming and are capable of growing crops but don’t export them due to cost concerns, the work they’re doing is incredibly important.


Click here for specific Iraq FAS job information, and here for Afghanistan. 


The FBI, Homeland Security, or CIA

All these agencies have personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan and they are all intelligence focused.  You’re not going to be doing humanitarian or traditional development work though you may engage in state-building via Security Sector Reform (SSR), which includes training and providing advisory support to local institutional leaders.  For the most part though, you’ll be handling assets, conducting investigations, and analyzing information. 


Click on the following links for the career opportunities pages of the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security.


That’s all I have.  I’ll be doing more jobs posts this week and next.  If anyone reading thinks I’m forgetting any opportunties, go ahead and let me know in the comments section.


Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy

The Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (Holbrooke) just released its regional stabilization strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to Secretary of State Clinton:

The challenges in both countries are immense. The Afghan government is under assault from the Taliban and struggling to provide security, jobs, and basic justice to a society devastated by 30 years of war. Across the border, the Pakistani people are victim to regular suicide bombings despite their military’s increasingly determined efforts against extremist elements. And while al-Qaeda’s safe-haven in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area is increasingly disrupted, its senior leaders are still planning attacks against our homeland and our Allies.


We shaped our political, economic, and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan with these realities in mind. Far from an exercise in "nation-building," the programs detailed here aim to achieve realistic progress in critical areas. They are aligned with our security objectives and have been developed in close consultation with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, as well as our international partners. When combined with U.S. combat operations and efforts to build Afghan and Pakistani security capacity, these programs constitute an innovative, whole-of-government strategy to protect our vital interests in this volatile region of the world.

Here's a summary of the reports key initiatives for Afghanistan:

  • Increasing significantly the number of civilian technical advisers in key central government ministries and in the provinces and district centers to help make Afghan government institutions more visible, effective, and accountable. Additional ministries and Afghan institutions will be certified to receive direct U.S. assistance, enhancing ministerial capacity, improving the effectiveness of our assistance, and decreasing reliance on contractors.

  • Implementing a new civilian-military agriculture redevelopment strategy that will sap the insurgency not only of foot soldiers, but also of income from the narcotics trade.


  • Expanding sub-national capacity building efforts, focused mainly in key population centers in the East and South, through new civ-mil initiatives, such as the District Development Working Groups and District Support Teams, and supporting programs that give Afghans a greater stake in their own government, such as the National Solidarity Program. A key emphasis will be assisting Afghan efforts to reduce corruption.


  • Creating space for traditional dispute resolution mechanisms to re-emerge in areas cleared of the Taliban, while also strengthening the formal justice system.


  • Reducing the drug trade by interdicting drug traffickers and disrupting their networks, instead of targeting poor Afghan farmers through eradication.


  • Supporting Afghan government efforts to re-integrate Taliban who renounce al-Qaeda, cease violence, and accept the constitutional system.


  • Redoubling international efforts to target illicit financial flows to the Taliban.


  • Countering al-Qaeda and Taliban propaganda, while also empowering Afghans to challenge the insurgents’ narrative by improving access to mobile phones, radio, and television.


  • Improving coordination of international assistance. We are consulting with Allies and partners to strengthen the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and to enhance civilian coordination among ISAF partners.

You can download the entire thing here.