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Afghan Strategy Marks Soft Power Shift


If you read the tea leaves around Washington the beginning of the shift in power from the Pentagon to the State Department, US AID and other centers of soft power is easy to see.

First leaf: The Obama administration decides to send 4,000 soldiers to Afghanistan to train and help rebuild the national police and military and committed to beefing up the civilian forces to help rebuild the country. A key House Democrat immediately pledged to help fund a beefed up State Department and AID. “For far too long, we have failed to provide adequate funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the civilian national security and stabilization agencies that will be at the forefront of our efforts in Afghanistan," said Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Second leaf: When Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy helped to unveil the Army's new stability operations doctrinal manual, FM 3-07, she made it very clear today that USAID and other civilian agencies must grow substantially in size and capability so that the US can handle the demanding job of stabilizing and eventually leaving Afghanistan.

When Flournoy, who played a major role in designing the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, discussed it at the Brookings Institution today, she listed the means for achieving the three Ds: disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda and its allies. Few of those means had much to do with kinetics: the US must reverse the Taliban's gains (OK - this will mean some dead people); provide the Afghan security forces with training and resources and provide Afghans with a secure environment.

"Defeating the insurgency will also mean breaking the link between drugs and the insurgents," she said. Improving Hamid Karzai's government will be crucial as well, combating corruption and improving transparency so that Afghans gain trust in the government. "This is not just America's war," Flournoy said, adding that administration representatives will soon be "fanning across the globe" to build support for this big push.

The Army leader who oversaw creation of the stability operations manual, Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, said that at least 70 percent of what commanders are doing on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan "is helping to provide services and a stable environment." Caldwell made the case very clear when he said "the military is necessary but it's not sufficient" to accomplish national security goals.

Flournoy put the case simply when she said the country must answer the question to each war: how does this end. Soft power is most of the answer. No doubt that kinetics -- AKA hard power -- will continue to be a crucial instrument of national power. But watch for the money and policy focus to begin migrating to soft power.

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