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Transcripts and Remarks

Remarks by Ambassador Eikenberry in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

June 11, 2010

"Shona Ba Shona - Building an Effective CIV-MIL Partnership in Afghanistan"

Lieutenant General Caslen, Faculty, Students, other distinguished guests.

Thank you and good morning.  I'm honored to be here with you today.  I bring you a warm salaam from the over 1000 men and women serving proudly with the U.S. diplomatic Mission in Afghanistan.  They send you their best, and asked me to let you know that they look forward to serving with a great many of you very soon.  ISAF Commanding General Stan McChrystal and Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, who left here last fall, also send their best -- and the message, as well, that they look forward to having you join our combined team.

On behalf of my wife Ching, our colleagues at Embassy Kabul, and myself, I want first to say thank you.  I know a vast number of you have spent much of your military careers in Afghanistan or Iraq - and in many cases, both.  You and your families have my own and your country's deep appreciation for the sacrifices you are making to keep our country safe.

For many of you, September 11, 2001 was a defining moment.  It was for me too.  I was at the Pentagon that morning, in the outer ring, when the plane crashed through the wall just underneath my office.  Although throughout the military we'd certainly exercised terrorism-related scenarios before, the reality was almost unthinkable -- terrorists had struck our homeland on a massive scale.  They tried to destroy not just our buildings, but our institutions and our national spirit.  Clearly, if they thought they could intimidate us, they didn't know us very well.

When I finally made it home to my wife at the end of that long, long day, I knew, as we all did, that we would have to fight a new kind of war, against a new kind of enemy, with new strategies and tactics. Since that time, we have made significant changes in the way we fight those who would harm our country and our people again.  One of the most significant changes is the unique partnership that has developed between the military and your civilian counterparts, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about today.

Afghanistan has been at the center of my career most of the last eight-plus years.  Throughout that time, I have led and lived and worked with courageous Americans who are absolutely committed to defending our nation under the most difficult and dangerous conditions.  My professional experiences there have brought home to me the truth in President Obama's words when he said, "Only the coordinated application of diplomatic, economic and military means can deliver lasting success when faced with international security threats and challenges." And that means we need warriors, diplomats and developers to accomplish our mission.

In Afghanistan, we use a Dari language term to refer to the close, mutually supportive partnership that exists between ISAF and Afghan forces:  "Shohna ba Shohna," or "Shoulder to Shoulder."   I think that term, that commitment to support each other, also applies to the way our military and civilians must partner to bring enduring security - and the accountable governance and economic development that anchors it – to Afghanistan.  Our military and civilian personnel do not and should not play identical roles in Afghanistan, but none of us can accomplish our mission there without our partners in the fight.

So let me tell you a bit about our civilian team in Afghanistan – those men and women who work in Kabul alongside the military commands, and who staff soon-to-open consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.  Let me also tell you about those civilians serving bravely alongside their uniformed brothers and sisters "down range" as members of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in places like Helmand and Kandahar, and with District Support Teams in remote locations like Arghandab and Khogyani, extending America's efforts in those places as needed throughout Afghanistan.

These civilians make up a remarkable - and remarkably diverse - group of experts from across the interagency community.  Fourteen different government agencies are represented at our Embassy.  We have experienced diplomats and development professionals from the State Department and USAID.  We have air traffic experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and financial institution advisors from the Department of Treasury.

We have hard-nosed investigators from the FBI, drug interdiction experts from the Drug Enforcement Administration, attorneys from the Department of Justice, and border control specialists from the Department of Homeland Security, all working closely with our military and our Afghan partners to fight corruption, narcotics trafficking, crime and terrorism. We have veterinarians, agronomists, ecologists and water management experts - all from the Department of Agriculture and all working to revitalize Afghanistan's crucial agriculture and livestock sectors.   Some of our civilians are career government professionals.  Others are short-term appointees or contractors who have answered the call to serve.  Together they form a world-class force - and a strong partner for our military. 

Now in any partnership, there are bound to be differences in perspective, in outlook, and in approach. That is certainly true of our U.S. military and civilians in Afghanistan.  As someone who literally took off his uniform one day after 36 years in the Army and put on the diplomat's suit the next, I have some first-hand knowledge of the vexing nature of those cultural differences.  But after more than a year on the job, I claim to be bilingual - I speak both infantry and diplomatese. 

I'd like to share some of my thoughts about these differences with you - why they genuinely strengthen us, why they enhance our ability to accomplish our collective mission, and why your challenge, as a leader in the finest fighting force in the world, is to be a catalyst for integrating these disparate and highly-talented pieces into a cohesive whole.
First, let's talk about differences in size and speed.  When we speak about the military, we talk about mobilizing platoons, companies and battalions to accomplish a mission.  Soldiers define a mission and move out, ready to cross the line of departure, create facts on the ground, produce results and produce them right now.  Like our soldiers, our diplomats are focused first on preventing wars, but when we must, we fight the same war as you do, but we use different tools, and fight on a different scale.

As for size, you've probably heard Secretary Gates' comment that the military has more uniformed band members than the State Department has Foreign Service Officers.  The entire Department of State numbers under 40,000.  The number of Foreign Service Officers - our line personnel, if you will - is only 8,000.   With those 8,000, State staffs not only our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world.

Here's an illustration of how that size and speed disparity works in Afghanistan.  When ISAF wants to work on developing an approach to a complicated policy or operational issue - to take a real world example, finding a way to ban the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer used in the vast majority of IEDs in Afghanistan - ISAF can easily mobilize 50 staff officers to form an Operational Planning Team.

I am fortunate to be Ambassador at the only U.S. Embassy in the world with a full-time staff of State Department planners.  I have, on a good day, five of them - plus an Army SAMS planner, a graduate of this fine institution whom General McChrystal assigned to me in one more instance of close civ-mil cooperation.  I could afford to deploy one or two Embassy planners to that counter-IED OPT.  Now, my planners are a formidable group with sophisticated insight into the impact of different courses of action related to trying to ban or restrict ammonium nitrate.

They knew how to find and draw upon the right expertise from all the agencies represented at the Embassy.  They move deliberately to examine all aspects of the issue, including how to partner on the issue with the Afghan government, and how to ensure that any solutions adopted were sustainable; wouldn't anger or further impoverish the farmers or mining companies legitimately using this substance; and wouldn't alienate neighboring countries whose factories had benefitted from the sale of this dangerous substance.

It's a different style, at a different pace, and it is effective – but it can sometimes frustrate military partners, who always want to move ahead now.  But while the military is ready to advance at mach speed, diplomats must, at times, take a more nuanced approach - we move at the speed of trust.   Sometimes it is better to say - "don't just do something, stand there," and take the time to build relationships with local partners, to persuade them of the validity of a new idea, and to nurture the relationships that will lead to sustainable security even after our troops have marched back over the ridge.

Tactical patience and the strategic pause can be productive.  It takes time for field commanders and their civilian counterparts to convince Afghans in impoverished villages that their government can and will, in time, deliver the basic services they need, so that in the long run they will be better off supporting their government rather than the insurgency.   Afghans have witnessed too much to become convinced on the strength of slogans.  Promising development in unrealistic timeframes can outpace and undermine Afghan capacity, and lead to broken promises.

There is an inherent tension between the urgent need for stability and the need for long-term sustainability.  Our soldiers move into unstable areas with Afghan National Security Forces partners at great risk.

There are casualties; people die.  But once some degree of security is in place, our civilians - and the critical development and governance projects that allow security to take root - come in right on the heels of their military comrades; increasingly, they bring Afghan specialists as well.

In order to enhance security and stability, our civil-military teams on the ground employ Cash-for-Work programs to provide employment opportunities, jump start a rural economy, and demonstrate an attractive alternative to that offered by the enemy.  But stability must be balanced against the imperatives of sustainable development.

An illustration:  In one district, after significant combat activity, our combined civil-military team utilized Cash-for-Work programs to further stabilization efforts.  It was later learned, however, that many of the Cash-for-Work employees were laboring on farms owned by absentee landlords - landlords whose abuses had made it possible for the Taliban to gain a foothold in the district in the first place.  The economic and political consequences of stability programs need to be considered lest we unwittingly create dependencies or social disequilibria.

On the other hand, long-term sustainable programs that would help improve pomegranate yields or build the roads that get these crops to market can help cement the military gains - especially when endorsed by legitimate local representative bodies.

So my first piece of advice to you is to understand and appreciate these differences in approach and perspective.  Throttling back to consult fully with your civilian partners - not to mention our Afghan friends, upon whom success in Afghanistan must, of course, ultimately rest – will prove in the long run to be the faster way to lasting victory.  You will have different emphases, you will disagree, but you have to have the debate so that you can determine the most genuinely workable solutions.

Sooner or later the military will go home, but the civilian work will continue.  Your job is to synchronize the military need for speed and the diplomat's and development expert's need for anchored, long-term impact.

By the way - that is not to say that soldiers can't and don't use diplomatic tools as well.   The hyphenated warrior-diplomat is a new and necessary breed, but one who delivers the best results when working in partnership.  In Afghanistan, our military attend local shuras with tribal and village elders, and listen to their grievances.  These are valuable engagements and help establish trust.  But take your civilian counterparts with you to these meetings. 

An Afghan farmer who looks at a soldier sees the uniform, sees the weapon, and is understandably uncomfortable, no matter how adept that soldier may be at drinking tea and establishing rapport.  The civilian in jeans and tennis shoes may well be able to set the tone for a less threatening, more productive engagement.  And he or she can bring years of specific expertise to bear when speaking with Afghan interlocutors.  So my second piece of advice is to see your civilian counterparts as empowered partners who complement your work, and welcome them as part of your engagement team. Take them with you, and provide the security they need to do their jobs.

Now, in Afghanistan, we've developed a number of mechanisms to partner and harmonize our military and civilian efforts.  For example, at the Embassy-ISAF headquarters level, we've developed over a dozen National Level Working Groups to identify issues and solutions, and link military and civilian approaches to them.  On everything from Population Security, to Rule of Law, to Border Coordination, both boots and suits deliberate together.  Each has a unique and valid perspective, and each has ideas for finding effective, workable solutions.

We've also helped ensure strong partnership in the field through our parallel, unified civilian structures.  In every Regional Command, the military commander has a civilian counterpart known as the Senior Civilian Representative, or SCR, who directs the activities of all civilian personnel assigned in his or her area of responsibility.  The respective teams live, work and interact daily with each other, helping to ensure unity of effort. This same organizational construct holds true all the way down through brigade to battalion, and sometimes even to company level, and is having a positive impact on our civ-mil collaboration.

Another difference I'd like to talk about is language. Speaking from first -hand experience there is a real civ-mil language barrier, and, trust me, it has nothing to do with Dari or Pashto.  Use English, not professional jargon, when speaking with your civilian counterparts.

Avoid saying things to your civilian partners like "I'm the BSO in this AO, and you're just a TDY SME chopped to my TACON, so you need to drop everything and answer Falcon 6's RFI by 0600."  Because if you do, you will find yourself on one battlefield where the State Department has you outgunned:  the battlefield of government-ese.

Your State or USAID counterpart is going to come back with "I'm not your SME; I'm a 3161 DST rep with a sui generis reporting chain through my SCR to IPA and CDDEA to the COM, and, by the way, USAID gave a thumbs down to your CERP proposal because F and L thought it contradicted the MSRP and the CBJ.  Any questions, Major?" So my third piece of advice is build personal relationships.  Talk often and communicate.  Before you deploy, train together.  Drink coffee with the civilians who share your battlespace, and remember they work with you but not for you.  Once you're in country, invite civilians to your meetings, and go to theirs.  Remember that, like you, they are professionals far from home, applying their skills to build a safer world.  You'll like them - and as in any other aspect of life, reaching out is the best way to build the relationships that allow us to become genuine partners.   You might even get used to having them brief at joint conferences without PowerPoint slides. 

Now, our civ-mil partnership isn't perfect, but it is the only path to success. As Secretary of State Clinton said in December: "The task we face is as complex as any national security challenge in our lifetimes.
We will not succeed if people view this effort as the responsibility of a single party, a single agency withfin our government, or a single country." I can tell you that the civ-mil partnership has definitely improved since 2007 when I was last in Afghanistan.  Our closer collaboration is already having an impact, and I look for even greater results in the months ahead.  Like the military, we are experiencing a tremendous civilian surge.  By January 2011 we will have tripled the number of civilians we had on the ground as recently as August 2009.  These civilians work at Embassy Kabul to improve critical ministries and institutions at the national level, and in the field to help the government deliver essential health, education, justice and agricultural services in areas with the greatest insecurity.

Let me illustrate.  In Laghman Province, our civ-mil team is sponsoring a project where farmers learn how to use an inexpensive drip irrigation system to grow greenhouse tomatoes and significantly boost the product they have to sell.  That team is also helping Afghans to build roads connecting once-isolated villages, and refurbish canals through various development programs.  When I visited Laghman in May, one tribal elder told me, "People join the Taliban so that they can provide for their families.  But with sufficient water and work, Laghmanis will support the government."  So you can see that for the Afghans as well, both the civilian and military aspects of our partnership are vital to lasting success.
But I understand that there are those who are wary of truly partnering with civilians in the battlespace. One reason is the misconception that civilians only get in the way when the going gets rough.   Yet civilians share the dangers of indirect fire and IEDs.  When necessary, they are right there in the fight with the military, and soldiers in the field have recognized this.

Here's just one example:  Matt Sherman, a State Department officer, was traveling in a convoy last year when an IED flipped the lead vehicle, wounding three soldiers.  Matt immediately went to the aid of the wounded, helping to extract them from their burning vehicle.  The Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, nominated him for the Department of State's Award for Heroism, which Secretary Clinton presented to Matt at our Embassy in Kabul.

As the Ambassador, I make a point of calling our civilians when I hear they have been in a convoy under attack or on the receiving end of rocket fire.   When I ask them how they're doing, the answer is always humbling, typically, "Thanks for calling, Ambassador, but I'm just here doing my part." So my fourth piece of advice is:  don't worry that diplomats, or development or agriculture experts won't step up to the plate when you need them; they will.

As with any undertaking as vast and complex as in Afghanistan, we have made our fair share of mistakes. Some were unavoidable, some were understandable, and some were self-inflicted.  Challenges remain.
Together with our Afghan colleagues we must help them build the capacity of their government, Army and Police, and strengthen their fight against corruption.

But I believe that we now have the right pieces in place.  We have the right strategy, we have the right balance of troops, and we have the right resources available or on the way.  And we have the right partnership between our military and civilians, and with the Afghan Government.

When Pierre Eugene du Simitiere was designing the Great Seal of the United States in 1776, he included the now famous motto "E Pluribus Unum" - Latin for "out of many, one."  It originally meant that out of many colonies emerged a single nation, but I think it is also useful for describing civ-mil integration - that despite our differences we have a unity of purpose - we have one team, one fight.  The roles are different, and the balance will change over time.  As the military effort in Afghanistan ratchets down our civilian efforts will ratchet up.  As our U.S., Afghan and Coalition Forces create stability, our civilians will expand the governance and development efforts that will allow lasting stability to take root.

Both the civilians and military must rely on each other - without one, the other can make no lasting headway.   So, I advise you to embrace this partnership, because without it, you may be spending a lot more time away from home.

Let me offer you two final pieces of advice. Seize your opportunities to learn everything you can about the far-flung places where you will serve.  Our Army, from general to private, is placing an increasing emphasis on cultural sensitivity, and this is the right thing to do.
Just last month I travelled with President Karzai, Secretary Gates and General McChrystal to Fort Campbell, and I was struck by the lengths the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) went to in preparing culturally for their Afghanistan deployments.  Under the careful coaching of Afghan-Americans in a replica Afghan village, soldiers exercised key leader engagements, trained to negotiate over three cups of tea, and practiced simple, courteous ways of greeting Afghan villagers.  Our civilians do the same thing, training right beside their military partners at Camp Atterbury, in Indiana. 

But at the end of the day, despite this training and with a few exceptions, we're not Afghans, we're not native Dari or Pashto speakers, and we can't hope to fully understand their incredibly proud and complex nation.  But we can be sensitive to their culture and to their ways. Learn all you can, and apply what you learn every day.

And, my last piece of advice - no matter where you go - even to a place like Afghanistan where you will certainly know you are not in Kansas anymore - hold on to, live up to, and honor the old-fashioned values you've learned as Americans, and as officers in the United States Army.
Learn what you can about Afghans and Afghanistan, but never forget who you are - that you are an American, that you represent a kind and generous people, and that you stand for the very best of our nation.
You may well be the only American some Afghans will ever meet.  Who you are, and how you represent yourself, will define America for them, and that is a tremendous responsibility.  When things get confusing, and when you get things wrong - as will surely happen in any place as dynamic and as complex as Afghanistan - fall back on your Army values, fall back on your American values; and remember that you share them with your civilian partners.  If you live up to these values, your Afghan partners will understand your unintentional mistakes.  Your ability to adapt respectfully to new and literally foreign conditions, while holding fast to your individual truths and our collective values, will see you through.

In closing, please remember that we have a lot of work to do, but I believe that with commitment, with courage, shoulder to shoulder with all our partners - and with civ-mil unity of effort - we will succeed in Afghanistan.

Thank you, and once again, congratulations.  Shona ba shona.  See many of you soon on the far side of the Hindu Kush.