The U.S. Surge and Afghan Local Governance, a special report recently issued by The United States Institute of Peace, examines the U.S. military and civilian surge into Afghanistan beginning in late 2009. Despite policymakers’ claims that the mission’s goals – to stabilize Afghanistan through interconnected security, governance, and development initiatives – were “modest,” the surge’s stated objectives amounted to a complete transformation of the subnational governance landscape. Even with the gains on the ground and within local governance, US officials continued to seek a sustainable “game change” in subnational Afghan governance. The surge failed to meet these objectives because it was based on the following assumptions that inevitably proved unrealistic:
- Governance progress would accrue as quickly as security progressed;
- “Bottom-up” progress in local governance would be reinforced by “top-down” reform from the central Afghan government; and
- The absence of power was fueling the insurgency.
The report examines the aforementioned shortcomings and possible ways forward for local governance in Afghanistan and post-conflict countries. Potential strategies for future progress include:
- Using limited leverage to influence resolving district council makeup;
- Improving line ministries’ recurring services; and
- Bolstering provincial administrations while avoiding the creation of additional central government structures.
For more information, find the complete report here.