Petraeus Touts Civilian Power

January 28, 2011 By Richard Parker

 width=In a recent letter to NATO forces, General David Petraeus again highlighted the critical role of civilian efforts in reconstruction and stabilization. Reflecting on 2010 and assessing his objectives for 2011, he cited successes in furthering security in Kabul such as advances in supporting the Afghan Local Police initiative and security gains in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

General Petraeus noted that achieving of the core military objective of ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a sanctuary for Al Qaeda “requires the conduct of a comprehensive civil-military campaign, carried out in full partnership with our Afghan counterparts, to improve security, develop Afghan security forces, and support the establishment of good governance and economic development.”

General Petreaus’ letter reaffirms what other military leaders have long said—civilian led efforts are critical to our military operations in frontline states. Secretary Gates observed last fall, “without development we will not be successful in either Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Last year the mission in Iraq began a transition from a military to civilian leadership, and President Obama said in his State of the Union address that Afghanistan is on track for a similar transition in the summer of 2011. General Petraeus noted that these transitions will require adequate resources for civilian efforts. The successes of 2010, he wrote, were not only due to the addition of more coalition forces, but also because of “an increase in the number of our civilian partners, and the associated funding to enable it all.”

As Congress begins its work on the FY2012 budget, hopefully they will heed the advice of military leaders and provide the resources our civilian agencies need to succeed in frontline states.