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Afghanistan's 'civilian surge' fizzles

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This points to a serious flaw in US counterinsurgency efforts. Developing local government, rooting out corruption, improving education, and building economic opportunity are cornerstones of US strategy in Afghanistan, and civilian expertise is crucial to each. One measure of Obama's commitment to the Afghan mission is how well he musters civilians to contribute, some say.

There are some reasons to be optimistic about the future, with the State Department developing an expeditionary "­civilian response corps" ready to deploy quickly to hot spots around the world. But that effort will take time. For now, America's apparent inability to deliver a robust civilian surge threatens to undermine any military progress.

That was apparent to Col. Alan Mangan, who was the deputy commander of a provincial reconstruction team working in western Iraq last year. He and his team tried to help the local government better serve its own people. But few of the civilians on the roughly 30-member team were the right fit, says Mangan, now a distinguished fellow at the Project on National Security Reform and a Marine Corps reservist.

"One of them was brilliantly qualified," Mangan says pointedly, suggesting the others were not up to scratch.

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