February 11th, 2010
08:47 AM ET

Civilian teams follow military to battlefield

WASHINGTON – They call it "hot stabilization." Hot, as in battlefield-hot.

As soon as U.S. and NATO forces can clear Afghanistan's Marjah region of Taliban and other insurgent fighters, a civilian team plans to hit the ground – possibly within hours. Its mission: help the Afghan government get services for its citizens back up and running.

That team, called a District Support Team has been pre-positioned along with the military. It includes two State Department governance advisors, one USAID development expert and a British stabilization advisor.

Because of the danger, the DST team embeds with the military, relying on them for security, transportation and a place to sleep at night.

Even before the fighting began, the State Department was involved in the planning and execution of the civilian operation. Its team will work alongside coalition forces, the Afghan military and the Afghan government. In the field, the five staff co-ordinate with Afghan non-governmental organization and civil-society groups, acting as what the military calls a "force multiplier."

Part of their job is political.  They help the Deputy District Governor-designate for Marjah who, security situation permitting, plans to immediately hold a series of tribal meetings, called "shuras," in cleared areas trying to connect the Afghan people to their government.

 The team also plans to identify and carry out immediate cash-for-work projects, employing members of the local community in things like canal dredging, sanitation and repairing any damage that may have been caused during the military operation.

Money for that comes from USAID's Afghanistan Stabilization Initiative program which provides quick access to funds for immediate post-fighting projects. The first-year budget is $100 million, spread across approximately 10 key districts in Afghanistan.

Marjah is the epicenter Afghanistan's narcotics trade which is a key source of funding for the Taliban. It's also the largest remaining safe haven in Central Helmand for Taliban, insurgents and narco-criminals. Showal in northern Nad Ali has been a seat of the Taliban shadow government.

The civilian team will work with the Afghan government to identify agricultural projects to replace poppy-growing with legitimate agricultural activities. The Afghan government has been helping farmers in Helmand make the switch through the Food Zone program which distributed seed to 36,000 farmers in 2008 and 40,000 in 2009.

When the fighting is over the military move on to new operations; civilian teams, according to the State Department, are in it "for the long-haul." Officials say if they don't make a difference in Afghan citizens' lives, the areas cleared could fall right back into the hands of the Taliban.

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Filed under: Marjah • Operation Moshtarak • Taliban
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. mike

    why in the world would anybody want to have a first hand look at a aftermath of a firefight(lack of better term)? not to offend anybody or to make a loved one feel helpless but why why do we keep sending out pic's ect ect ect... i am all for expressing best wishes to all of the young men and woman of all nations who have loved ones taking a vacation in h#** in all honesty i used to be one of them... just like several uncles... two grandfathers and severel other family members both past and present. i guess what im trying to say is... let em do what need's to be done and get the heck out of there and back home where ya belong with out all of the media buzzards keeping a running tally. just my humble opinion.

    mike b/co 1st/505th pir

    February 13, 2010 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mr. X

    So why does the US Army still have Civil Affairs teams? They seem obsolete with this type of coordination so close to the fight.

    February 12, 2010 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. Teresa

    Sending love and support to our troops. I am a mother of 2 active duty deployed soldiers. No matter your politics these soldiers from US and Nato deserve our prayers and to their families waiting for them to come home.

    I am sick of this war and the Jihadists. So many young people in our country addicted to herion, get help and stop using and supporting terror. I know your addiction is really not about supporting terror in your minds and has different roots, but it does indeed fund the weapons.

    Peace to the innocent Afgan people, I wish your women the freedoms I enjoy.

    Troops stay safe come home soon, you all rock, your the best. Thinking of you everyday. Miss you so much.

    Love, Mom

    February 12, 2010 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. PR

    How can you have checkpoints outside of a city we HAVEN'T secured yet? these checkpoints would be getting hit with suicide bombers consistently from the taliban within the city.....think people.

    February 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joyce

    Something is happening to me and I don't like it. I find myself looking forward to Operation Moshtarak in the same way I look forward to a new Hollywood blockbuster. I am looking at satellite maps of Marjeh and trying to figure out the strategy. I am reading about the players ( Taliban, Tribal Leaders, Afghan army, Nato forces, Marine units, Karzai) weapons and terrain. It is like my team is going to to play a big game amd I'm getting fired up. I want to see the Breachers "Joker" and "Iceman" in action clearing out all the IED's. Coach Nicholson is talking smack "We're going in hard and fast" and experts are making predictions. We are so good we are giving them a month to get ready. And now I read in this story that after an easy win we will be ready to quickly rebuild and accept the adulation of the people. Not so fast my friends. Giving the "innocent civilians" time to leave also gives the tribal leaders time to get out all their opium and heroin making supplies. The Taliban also has time bo bring in reinforcements like Checnyan Jihadists equipped with OSV-96 sniper rifles. This is not a movie or a game. I don't want to see any soldiers die. I remember Vietnam and Fallujah.

    February 11, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sharon M.

    $100,000,000 of U.S. tax dollars to be spent on rebuilding a country that doesn't care about the destruction they cause to the lives of billions of people with substance abuse problems, and their extended families.

    I am the only one who used to be a proud American, and now just feels like the decisions of my government on how to spend American tax dollars just makes me feel like a sucker?

    February 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Clive

    i completely agree. Without checkpoints with gaurds properly trained, the taliban will just escape to other countries as Al-Qaeda did to Yemen. We do not need the Taliban spreading anymore than they already have. Especially into countries where the government will no cooperate with NATO forces. I would consider a lack of vehicle inspections a dramatic failure to this massive operation. This is make it or break it for the war in Afghanistan, we can't just let the leaders slip away before our troops get there, capturing them would increase our morale, and decrease resistance in the area. Time to nut up or shut up

    February 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Seeing the pictures of the numerous families leaving Marjah recently, I get the impression that the leaders of the Taliban are right there in those family cars. Who is insuring that every car is thoroughly inspected? I remember the film of World War II, where Mussolini was caught while trying to escape with a German contingent, from the partisanes. He just sat among the soldiers, acting as if he was asleep, but was recognized by the violet [fascist] strips on his pants. I would not allow any criminal leaders of the Taliban to escape, dressed as a family man! The pictures coming froim the Marjax "exodus" show many unsavory faces in those cars. Some even appear scared. I hope that our commanders will know how to tell good guys from the bad ones, and will not allow the criminals escape in the hours preceding the battle!

    February 11, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |