Small Wars Journal

The American Military Advisor

"The American Military Advisor" - Michael J. Metrinko, Middle East Quarterly

In the post-9/11 world, an advisory position at the political and strategic level in the Islamic world can have great and immediate consequence for US interests, and can make the American advisor a prime figure in the decision-making process of foreign leaders. The advisor is as likely to be dealing with a civilian counterpart as he is with a foreign military officer, and the range of duties will go far beyond mere military tasks. The position has become a critical one in today's world where stability, peacekeeping, and obtaining civil support are considered equally important to kinetic offensive and defensive operations, and where "nation-building" has become a de facto and integral part of the military mission.

The American advisor must take care not to let himself be regarded as just another person who has come to pass out gifts in order to curry favor. He must not be regarded as simply a source of material assistance, supplies, high tech presents, and trips abroad under the rubric of training. In resource-strapped Afghanistan, for example, local and even senior officials became accustomed to requesting telephones, office furniture, office supplies, security accessories, equipment of all sorts, vehicles, and a wide variety of other items from Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) commanders, American officials, and other foreign visitors and donors. On many occasions, the Afghans would request the same items from multiple sources. The advisor must look at himself through local eyes and the local culture. If the American officer's "can do" attitude is too highly developed, he may just seem ill-mannered and abrasive to the official and his staff, who often operate at a different tempo than that in US military circles. If he appears to be too young and lacking in authority, the American may be regarded simply as a decorative foreign staff aide who tags along to add luster to the official's entourage...

More at Middle East Quarterly.