4.3 A more integrated approach to post-conflict reconstruction
There has been a number of well publicised ‘issues’ between the MoD, DFiD and civilian aid agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the paper says ‘we need a step change’
The current arrangements of DFiD, MoD, FCO and NGN’s means that inevitably there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians and those chiefs are usually too focussed on procedure rather than outcome.
To say a more integrated approach is needed is the understatement of the decade.
The proposed strategy to take forward an integrated comprehensive approach includes;
- Unity of purpose and common strategies between military, police and civilian organisations
- Clear command and control within and between military and civilian agencies, both at national and international levels;
- The ability and willingness on the part of civilians to deploy and operate in dangerous environments
- Joint training facilities and exercises for military, police, intelligence and civilian personnel.
The core proposal in this section is to create a Stabilisation and Reconstruction force that is capable of operating in high threat environments, able to carry out crucial activities that create stability and win hearts and minds (I hate that phrase but it is in the document)
These activities might include bridge building, repairing power supplies and helping to create governance structures. The force would comprise military personnel, specialists from DFiD, FCO and a range of other government departments. There are large hints that it will be funded partly through the aid budget.
Enter stage left, a considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth from the aid and development industry (make no mistake, it is an industry) so as a sop to the righteous the document restates the Conservative pledge to increase overseas aid to the magic 0.7% of GDP (or more commonly known as a Bono)
The fundamental idea of using military capability such as water treatment, sanitation, building and civil engineering, enhanced with civilian expertise in areas such as policing, governance, economic development and farming is an obviously good one, but introducing yet another organisation into an already overcrowded space is simply a recipe for confusion and inefficiency, however much it is claimed that it will create the fabled ‘unity of purpose’
The ability to erect a structure out of Hesco or drill a well is a dual use capability. That structure could be used as a sangar or school, a well might be used to provide water for a village or water for a FOB. The strength of the Royal Engineers and other supporting units is their flexibility so by creating artificial distinctions we simply duplicate activity and create conflict, pleasing nobody and actually reducing capability at a time when resources are scarce.
Without security there can be no effective development so whilst the military are still deployed, by definition, there is a lack of security and it is not ‘post conflict’
Where the military is deployed then to create a single unity of strategy and command structure then the answer is plain, the military should be taking the lead with the ability to apply reconstruction effort as simply another component that supports the military and political objective. It may have advice from the FCO and others but if the aim is to create a single unified strategy then it requires a step change in military thinking.
The key to success is flexibility and simplicity.
Currently, the military do not have this capability yet it should be a key objective to ensure that it has both the resources and backing to create such a capability using what it already has. The Royal Engineers and other supporting force elements are eminently well suited; we should enhance where necessary and provide greater resources whilst ensuring that the detailed staff and planning expertise is put in place to support the capability. Anyone involved, with a few limited exceptions, should be in the military chain of command.
The reserve forces might provide this supplementary capability, operating as sponsored reserves in specialist units but firmly within the military chain of command. The TA and other reserve forces have a wide range of experience, these should be actively exploited and the private sector might also play an active part, telecommunications and utility organisations for example.
Obviously the Conservatives do not want to raid the ring fenced overseas aid piggy bank to pay for an increase in for example, military bridging, because this would infer dual use and draw away from the 0.7% holy grail.
Instead of having the political balls to say that we are not going to reach anything like 0.7% because, you know, we are at war and skint, the policy seems to engage in a spot of shifting wooden dollars between one spending department and another, keeping everyone happy but actually being ineffectual, divisive and overly complex.
Our proposal is very simple, when the military is deployed; it should be the military that does the reconstruction.