Integrating Economic and Social Aspects into Military Operations

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ON 25 NOVEMBER 2008, the Financial Times reported that "NATO forces, the United Nations, and the Afghan government are to implement a new strategy in the coming months that targets the 30 Afghan districts thought likely to slip into Taliban hands." (1) The strategy, dubbed the "integrated approach," involves military support, economic aid, and a more effective way of working with local communities to help ensure their stability and effect a visible improvement of living standards.

The Financial Times went on to note that this "reflects a sea change in the thinking of U.S. commanders, who just last year ruled out plans to tap traditional tribal power structures to boost local security." (2)

In fact, the change of thinking represents a radical change in U.S. military doctrine as we enter an era of "persistent conflict--a period of contracted confrontation among state, nonstate, and individual actors increasingly willing to use violence to achieve their political and ideological ends." (3)

As U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put it, "It is hard to conceive of any country challenging the United States directly on the ground--at least for some years to come. Indeed, history shows us that smaller, irregular forces--insurgents, guerrillas, terrorists--have for centuries found ways to harass and frustrate larger, regular armies and sow chaos.... We can expect that asymmetric warfare will remain the mainstay of the contemporary battlefield for some time." (4)

In this new era, winning a war without winning the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of the people may provide the occasional battlefield victory. However, achieving sustained success will not follow without them, an important lesson learned from the American military experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. Supporting the Afghan Social Outreach Program, which funnels money to local chiefs in Afghanistan to "revive the traditional relationship between village communities and the government," is certainly a different approach to warfare in the 21st century.

The February 2008 edition of U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, "provides the intellectual underpinnings that lie at the core of how our Army will organize, train, equip, and conduct operations in this new environment. It recognizes that we will achieve victory in this changed environment of persistent conflict only by conducting military operations in concert with diplomatic, informational, and economic efforts." (5) It also reflects the need to integrate counterinsurgency efforts with stability operations, an idea tried successfully by the U.S. Army in Vietnam in the 1960s. "Knowing the population and dealing with their 'real beliefs' and needs are fundamental to managing the security, intelligence and progress factors in successful insurgency and stability" or what the authors of this article have termed "COINSTAB," the nexus between counterinsurgency and stability. (6)

In October 2008, FM 3-07, Stability Operations, followed the publication of FM 3-0, attempting to put the intent of the operations manual into an operational framework. While FM 3-0 was in many respects a revolutionary document, FM 3-07 is much more conservative and traditional. In fact, FM 3-07 suffers from a number of challenges that may undermine the implementation of FM 3-0:

* In an era when international efforts appear to be more effective than national ones, even by a country with the resources of the United States, FM 3-07 essentially focuses on the role of U.S. government agencies. Much of the operational advice to military commanders concerns how to navigate through the American bureaucracy. (7)

* Stability operations are now the transition from war to peace rather than an integral part of the conflict.

* The lessons learned about stability come from a limited number of U.S. experiences with situations of conflict and fragile states and the U. …