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Ellison pushing for a ‘civilian surge,’ too, in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Keith Ellison today renewed his call for a “civilian surge” in Afghanistan, praising the work done by U.S. civilians so far in that country while questioning whether more need to be sent to the war-torn nation.

After the proposed troop level surge, about 100,000 U.S. troops will be on the ground in that country, compared with just 1,000 civilian personnel. While the military focus is largely on securing the country, civilians are tasked with strengthening civic institutions in Afghanistan, such as increasing access to education, promoting non-drug-related agriculture and establishing an Afghan equivalent of the FBI.

“As I look at what we’re trying to arrive at with a civilian number, and what we’re trying to arrive at with a military number, it’s like 100 to 1,” Ellison said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this morning. “Shouldn’t we have, if we’re trying to stabilize the country, harden the country so it’s more impervious to these forces that would overthrow the government and hurt the country, shouldn’t the proportion be a lot greater when it comes to civilian representation?” Ellison asked Karl Eikenberry, the American ambassador to Afghanistan.

“Numbers are important at one level, but you have to look at what they’re going to be achieving,” Eikenberg responded, adding that just three U.S. civilians working in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture could “help transform” the nation’s agriculture sector.

Video of the hearing is here: Ellison’s question time begins at about the 75th minute and lasts for five minutes.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Steve Clemens on 12/15/2009 - 01:52 pm.

    I agree with Ellison as long as they are true “civilians” and not mercenary “contractors” which are part of the problem. Even PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Teams) efforts, when under the control of military forces like the Red Bulls from MN in southern Iraq, smack of imperialism when conducted under conditions of military occupation.

    What is really needed is reconstruction by groups like the Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee, and other non-profits who have a track record of non imperialist work. We have a moral and legal obligation to rebuild both Iraq and Afghanistan and we should be using primarily residents of those countries to be employed in that work with our funding it.

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