General Petraeus Shows Support for Building Civilian Capacity

June 24, 2010 By Hannah Kaye

Looking at the background of the soon to be commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, General David H. Petraeus has consistently aligned himself with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen on the importance of rebuilding US civilian capacity.  At a recent Senate Armed Services hearing on progress in Afghanistan, Gen. Petraeus said, “In addition to military programs, this will also require increasing the civilian capacity in the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.” This echoes Secretary Gates’ recent comment, “I never miss an opportunity to call for more funding for and emphasis on diplomacy and development.”

Early this year, the USGLC was honored to host General Petraeus, Commander of U.S. Central Command, before a standing room only Town Hall meeting in Tampa, Florida. He used the opportunity to reinforce his long-standing views on the need for civilian capacity. “I’ve testified as one of the biggest proponents of more funding for the Department of State” he told the audience, emphasizing that, “tens of thousands of civilians are working closely with their military counterparts in the Central Command region to achieve the conditions we hope to establish, and this is obviously a hugely important aspect of our operations.”

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In talking about his work in Iraq, General Petraeus said that he and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were “very much partners” and consciously decided to “work together in everything we did.”  He also spoke about a deliberate effort to describe their mission as a “comprehensive civil-military approach”.

General Petraeus appears to bring a strong commitment to strengthening civilian capacity to his work as the likely new Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. In his current role at U.S. Central Command, General Petraeus “…both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place,” according to President Obama, which relies upon a “civilian surge” to provide expertise on local governance and development.

We are hopeful that General Petraeus, as he assumes this critical post, will continue to advocate for resources for development and diplomacy.