Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 7 News List

US must revise stabilization planning: reports

NYT NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

Two new studies by independent panels are harshly critical of the way the US government prepares for stabilization missions after major combat, like in Iraq, and they place the blame on an interagency process that does little to harness the various departments and agencies for unified action.

One study, released on Wednesday by the Council on Foreign Relations, lays out a series of steps that should be taken by the military and the government in order to plan for the postwar period with the same degree of seriousness given to planning for war.

Another report, scheduled to be released yesterday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), proposes measures to assure that efforts of all government departments be coordinated and more effective -- similar to the way the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 ordered the four armed services to move toward joint military operations.

The council study, In the Wake of War: Improving US Post-Conflict Capabilities, was led by two former national security advisers, Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger. The council, based in New York, is a non-partisan research organization that studies foreign policy.

It urges the president and the secretary of defense to make clear to the military that stability operations "are a strategic priority," and that such missions are as critical to national security as major combat.

The National Security Council (NSC) must, in a more muscular way, establish policy and coordinate civilian and military actions in these postconflict missions, the report added.

The State Department should take the lead in all civilian efforts of stabilization and reconstruction missions, with the Agency for International Development in charge of those day-to-day operations on the ground.

The report also urges the US to push for the creation of a multilateral reconstruction trust fund of about US$1 billion to be managed by the G8 member nations.

The report notes that the military's proven ability for speedy combat offensives now outpaces the ability to carry out reconstruction plans, and the authors warn that, in cases like Iraq, it might take more troops to stabilize and rebuild a nation than it does to topple its leadership.

The report by the CSIS, an independent public policy research group, urges a more integrated national security apparatus and promotes broad institutional changes within the executive branch.

The CSIS urges a more active role for the NSC, arguing that it should be recast "from its traditional role of preparing decisions for the president to more active involvement in ensuring that presidential intent is realized" through government actions.

It cautions that the NSC should not be involved in conducting operations, but recommend that a new position of senior director be created to ensure that interagency planning is fully integrated.

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