Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Civil-Military Coordination in Peacebuilding: The Challenge in Afghanistan. (toward the Future)

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Civil-Military Coordination in Peacebuilding: The Challenge in Afghanistan. (toward the Future)

Article excerpt

"... prevention and rebuilding are inextricably linked at the societal level, leading to the conclusion that a formal agreement ending a civil war is meaningless unless coupled with long-term programs to heal the wounded society."

The engagement of the international community in Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States opened a new phase in the evolution of multinational peace operations. World leaders' swift recourse to international organizations to frame a global response to unanticipated threats revealed multiple avenues for coordinated strategy. One imperative for a joint response was the heavy humanitarian price of the military campaign initiated in prompt retaliation against Afghanistan for harboring terrorist networks. Even more than in recent crises in the Balkans, Africa and East Timor, the need for coordination of military and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan was palpably evident from the outset.

Yet despite ostensibly auspicious conditions for launching peacebuilding in Afghanistan, the magnitude of the Afghan challenge and the numerous apparent pitfalls confronting interveners are overwhelming. As a result, no matter how well thought-out plans for coping with security, humanitarian and political challenges may be, there are many different ways in which these plans may go awry.


The sheer ambitiousness of the concept of peacebuilding reflects the varied activities involved in repairing a fractured society in the wake of sustained civil conflict. The basic distinction between the security and humanitarian dimensions of peacebuilding conceals many layers of complexity within each dimension. (1) In effect, security encompasses the role of the professional military in deterring and responding to armed attacks and training an indigenous army, as well as the functions of police in maintaining law and order in closer contact with civil society. The humanitarian dimension embraces an even more amorphous set of functions, ranging from the delivery of emergency food and medical relief to the planning of short- and long-term economic policy and strategies for sustainable development, significantly including the need to transform former combatants into gainfully employed civilians.

In a sophisticated application of social science methodology, Michael Doyle and Nicholas Sambanis have developed an extensive data set of 124 civil wars fought since World War II. (2) Their goal is to formulate overall guidelines for peacebuilding, which they define as "an attempt, after a peace has been negotiated or imposed, to address the sources of current hostility and build local capacities for conflict resolution." (3) The authors argue that the probability of peacebuilding success reflects three critical dimensions--the local roots of hostility, local capacities and the degree of international commitment--the assigned values of which constitute the sides of a triangle whose area defines the "political space" for effective peacebuilding. (4) Their data indicate that the probability of success in peacebuilding is enhanced by introducing a UN peace operation, preferably a multidimensional operation addressing the economic and social roots of conflict. (5) While the insights afforded by these hypotheses are well substantiated across the board, reliance on this analytical method alone will not provide adequate guidelines to policymakers in a specific case, and surely not as complex a case as Afghanistan's.

The evolution of multidimensional peace operations is quite recent, reflecting a broader vision of international engagement after the end of the Cold War. In the early decades of peacekeeping, beginning with the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force in the Sinai in 1956, international forces were deliberately restricted to the static role of buffers separating former combatants and guided by restrictive rules of engagement. …

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