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The Integration of Special Operation Forces and USAID in Afghanistan
by Sloan Mann, Small Wars Journal
The publication of FM 3-24 (Counterinsurgency) was a major step in the evolution of military thinking about unconventional warfare. It provides a useful guide to military commanders, soldiers, and civilians as they face a determined enemy interwoven within foreign cultures in Iraq and Afghanistan. It further recognizes that the military cannot counter insurgency alone. This multi-dimensional form of warfare requires the advice, expertise, and resources of civilian agencies that can focus on the political, social, and developmental aspects necessary to undermine support for insurgents.
Despite there being an entire chapter dedicated to the integration of civilian and military activities in the COIN manual, it does not address how to work with and integrate civilian agencies. Different organizational cultures, values, and sensitivities to risk create challenges to integration. Misunderstandings about methods of operation, timelines, and authorities can create friction. Managing expectations and working with idiosyncratic personalities, on both the military and civilian sides, can create frustration. Fully integrating military and civilian agencies down to the tactical level, however, can enhance operational effects and speed the process of creating stability in COIN operations.
In Afghanistan, USAID and Special Operation Forces are working together in a successful interagency model to address the myriad of challenges posed by a growing insurgency. USAID representatives working with SOF are integrating principles of development in creative ways with COIN principles to develop appropriate interventions in select communities. This paper will examine USAID's relationship with CJSOTF-A, describe a successful interagency process for selecting strategic communities, and cover best practices associated with interagency operations. Examples of holistic planning and joint operations in insecure areas will highlight what can be achieved when expertise and combined resources are brought to bear in a COIN environment.
Sloan Mann of the United States Agency for International Development is a Development Advisor to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force -- Afghanistan.