Territorial disputes, armed ethnic and religious conflicts, and civil wars are often accompanied by natural or manmade disasters resulting in widespread human suffering. The United States is often called upon to respond to these complex contingency operations. On April 2nd the Wilson Center's Conflict Prevention Project joined with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), to discuss “Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Enhancing U.S. Capabilities.” A bipartisan commission is developing specific proposals to address gaps in the current capabilities of the U.S. government and international community to conduct reconstruction efforts in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo (http://www.pcrproject.org.). The meeting, the first in a series, discussed the Post Conflict Reconstruction (PCR) framework being developed to identify and organize the range of tasks common to reconstruction efforts. Participants also examined specific areas including the division of labor between civilian agencies and the U.S. military, and interagency planning and coordination.

Updating a National Intelligence Council study examining complex humanitarian emergencies published in August 2001 (http://www.cia.gov/nic/pubs/other_products/global_humanitarian_pub.htm), Enid Schoettle, Special Assistant to the Chair, National Intelligence Council, suggested a bleak outlook, saying that the four priority cases for the United States are Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, and North Korea, combined with other related terrorist-induced emergencies. She noted interventions into emergencies in places like the Caucasus, South Asia, Middle East, and Africa would be complicated because many people in those countries distrust the West and would resist outside intrusion.

Despite over a decade of experience, the international community continues to struggle with the challenge of laying the groundwork for sustainable peace and lasting stability in countries emerging from conflict, said Robert Orr, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Even when the United States has intervened militarily and invested significant material, human and political resources, the lack of sufficient reconstruction capabilities among local actors, international institutions, and U.S. civilian has often prohibited timely exit conditions for military forces. The Post Conflict Reconstruction Framework is an attempt to assess the division of labor among various organizations (civilian/military, national/international, government/non-governmental, public/private) with rigorous analyses of their respective core competencies, limitations, and comparative advantages. However, Orr stressed that the framework is not intended as a checklist or specific set of requirements, saying that the authors are aware that each situation presented its own unique set of issues and challenges. In his critique, Mark Lagon, Professional Staff Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee suggested that the framework might lead to a rationalist approach. That is, we might be lulled into assuming falsely that completing these tasks would necessarily lead to a successful intervention. Howard Wolpe, a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, further underscored this point by stressing that even if those tasks were completed, the lack of civil society participation or “buy in” by the indigenous warring parties would be a recipe for further conflict. Based on his experiences in Central Africa, Wolpe said that trust and acceptance by the indigenous actors would decide whether the peace agreement is sustainable.

Responses by the United States to international crises reveal the important yet often incongruous roles of the civilian and military communities during post-conflict reconstruction, said Johanna Mendelson-Forman, a Senior Fellow at the Association of the U.S. Army. Forman presented a paper on the key civilian rapid response gaps. She said there is a need for greater budget flexibility, and better coordination between CINCs, U.S. embassies, and U.S. agencies. Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, the Former Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces, Southern Europe from 1996-
98 and all U.S. and Allied Bosnia Peacekeeping Forces in 1996, suggested that a national strategy document address these elements in a more proactive manner. Through his experiences Lopez has learned that a crisis is defined as a “normal day accelerated.” Upfront coordination will work better, cheaper, faster, he said.

Employing what he called a comprehensive campaign plan, the sectors and civil-military should be integrated into plans such as the one in Afghanistan, said Gene Dewey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Migration, and Refugees at the U.S. Department of State. While he agreed with the propositions outlined in the paper, he argued that reconstruction efforts should shift to include more multilateral cooperation. Although the United States is the single most indispensable actor, countries should not act unilaterally. Burden sharing with the United Nations, such as the ongoing mission in Afghanistan, has enabled the U.S. military to focus more on security issues and less in the humanitarian area, Dewey said.

Because the United States can’t and won’t engage everywhere, it must prioritize and select based on national interest, said Matthew McLean, a Senior Policy Coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Post September 11 there is a window of opportunity to make a cogent argument for increasing US contributions for PCR and development, as illustrated by President Bush’s recent speech on making foreign assistance a policy priority, McLean said.

Michèle Flournoy, a Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies outlined a paper on strategy development and planning at the Washington interagency level for U.S. participation in post-conflict reconstruction operations. It suggests six key elements of success: 1) accountability, 2) leadership, 3) responsiveness, 4) shared frame of reference, 5) adequate capacity, 6) rehearsals and training and offered nine specific recommendations: 1) sign and implement the new NSDP, 2) charge and resource a NSC office for this, 3) include all agencies with implementation responsibility, 4) establish common, generic interagency planning template and rehearsal process, 5) integrate planners into regional staff at DoS and other agencies, 6) review all funding authorities and budgets for PCR to ensure the proper alignment of responsibilities and capacities for different agencies, 7) develop a secure intranet for participants, 8) create mechanisms for early and regular consultation with other actors, 9) consult frequently with key members.

It is important to maintain a distinction between contingency plans and ongoing operations, especially since contingency planning involves advanced preparation for a potential crisis, said Tony Banbury, the Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations, at the National Security Council yet. In unplanned situations like Afghanistan clear divisions of responsibilities exist, yet it is difficult to keep plans updated and relevant with the actions in the field. Banbury agreed with most of Flournoy’s recommendations, saying that the new NSPD will be shorter and more tightly focused on the initial stages of a crisis. Headed by the NSC, the directives will identify national interests, create a policy strategic framework, and delegate authority to the respective agencies.

Lateral responsibilities, such as providing humanitarian assistance security and military security, will determine the long-term well being in post-crises situations, stressed Colonel Jay Houston, of Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5, at the Joint Staff. In fact, security affects the momentum of PCR actions. While Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is the national security objective of the United States, other security concerns, such as the need for an army and police, are crucial to sustainable peace.

Anita Sharma, Deputy Director, Conflict Prevention Project, 202-691-4083