The Commanders Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan: Refining U.S. Military Capabilities in Stability and In-Conflict Development Activities - Working Paper 265

August 25, 2011
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The U.S. military has become substantially engaged in development and stabilization and will likely continue to carry out these activities in in-conflict zones for some time to come. Since FY2002, nearly $62 billion has been appropriated for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan. A large portion of this assistance is committed to economic and social development efforts, which are seen as critical to counterinsurgency efforts and U.S. military Stability Operations. Funding for one component, the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP), currently equals about 5 percent of Afghanistan's GDP.

In this paper, we describe the emergence of Stability Operations over the past two decades and discuss how economic development has become a key goal of counterinsurgency. Analyzing CERP in Afghanistan, we look at the scope and rationale for development-related activities carried out by the U.S. military, which, through CERP, is operating in the same space as traditional development actors such as USAID.

The overarching question is whether it makes sense for the U.S. military to engage beyond the limited aims of stabilization. While acknowledging the tensions between the military and traditional development players, we take a practical view, arguing that the U.S. military is already substantially engaged in both stability and development activities in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We discuss the scope for improving the military’s capabilities in carrying out development-related activities in in-conflict zones, where it is playing a significant role because of security concerns or the inability of other U.S. government entities to carry out development assistance.

Specifically, we propose five policy changes for the U.S. military: (1) improving education and training for military officers, (2) reforming authorities and doctrine, (3) understanding the dominant sectors of the economy, (4) monitoring outcomes, and (5) increasing awareness of unintended consequences. We conclude by describing the need for further research and evaluation of the U.S. military’s use of CERP in in-conflict situations.

Published: “CERP in Afghanistan: Refining Military Capabilities in Development Activities,” PRISM 3(2)

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