What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Download our Afghanistan policy paper! Now! Special offer! Totally special! Totally free!

I should have written about this before, but better late than never. So I have co-authored, together with Hungarian colleague of mine Péter Wagner, a newsletter (effectively a policy paper) on Afghanistan, for the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs. In it we discuss the Netherlands and Hungary's contribution to operations in Afghanistan (pdf). Regular readers of this blog will know which of those two countries was assigned to me in this project. I hope even those of you may find it interesting to read this paper though - this is a different genre, differently structured, so you never know. You might want to give it a try. My Uruzgan Series, presented in a totally new form.
For an appetiser, however, I'll insert here an excerpt of Péter Wagner's passages on Hungary's role, since that's a topic much more rarely discussed over here at this blog. This part is about the calamities of interagency cooperation in Hungary's case (p. 11.).

" We think it’s a good sign that the mutual lack of confidence, originally characteristic of the relationship between civilian and military actors, is melting away. But it might be very illustrative of how yet more of a constant dialogue is necessary among the parties, how at a recent conference they still appeared to use widely incompatible vocabularies. Military and Ministry of Defense speakers tended to call everyone who is not a soldier a ‘civilian,’ but in fact tended to restrict the notion of a ’civilian’ to ministry staff from the MFA, MARD or the MoH, not comprehending as belonging within the same category the nowadays conventional agents of development, i.e. NGOs’ staff. Meanwhile, NGOs tended to refer to themselves exclusively as ’civilians,’ identifying everyone else as representing the state as opposed to being civilian.
It is perhaps not to come as a surprise, however, since all three parties (military, ministry and NGO) are new to this sort of situation, and so lack the experience in handling it. For the Hungarian military this is the first international mission whereby it enjoys a high degree of autonomy in its decisions, but whereby it is also required to coordinate well with other actors in carrying out its tasks. The same can be said of ministries’ staff and the NGOs. Although they all have valuable experience in their own competences, they haven’t previously ever had to operate together, in close coordination, with the country’s armed forces. Quite relevantly to this, a disadvantage of Hungary, compared to Western European states, is to a degree a lack of the culture of the debate and dialogue, which significantly hampers getting to know other parties’ thinking and any learning from each others’ mistakes.
Based on discussions with Canadian and Dutch development experts, it seems fair enough to say that it’s not unique to Hungary’s case that the military leadership feels perfectly competent to deal with development matters. For them this means primarily infrastructure development, e.g. digging wells, building a school wall, or repairing the roof of a mosque. These are mostly quick-impact projects (QIPs). Their main purpose is to ensure the security and the popularity of the military’s mission. Regions where the security risk is considered elevated or high tend not to figure on the military’s ’development maps,’ and long-run capacity-building programs that don’t yield instant results, but may take years before they bear fruit (and even then not necessarily in a quantifiable sense), are largely missing from their repertoire. We are not looking to create here the impression that these CIMIC-type projects are not necessary, but they are only necessary to a degree, while at the same time real development projects ought to be prioritised. "

Like it? Go read the rest of our paper here. Just one note in advance: we finished updating the manuscript with developments towards the end of last year. So the new plans for Marines' deployment to Afghanistan, or the additional Polish contribution of 400 more troops for that matter, haven't been incalculated. Anyway, the conclusions, mostly I mean the "more troops needed" part here, are still valid I think.

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