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Lew: No surge of civilians in Afghanstan after review

Don’t look for a huge "civilian surge" of State Department personnel to Afghanistan, no matter what the pending strategy review says, according to Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew. The State Department is increasing its presence in Afghanistan and is responding to some increased requests from Amb. Karl Eikenberry, but other than that, State is ...

Don't look for a huge "civilian surge" of State Department personnel to Afghanistan, no matter what the pending strategy review says, according to Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew.

The State Department is increasing its presence in Afghanistan and is responding to some increased requests from Amb. Karl Eikenberry, but other than that, State is not planning currently to match any escalation of troops with a huge increase in its presence there.

Don’t look for a huge "civilian surge" of State Department personnel to Afghanistan, no matter what the pending strategy review says, according to Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew.

The State Department is increasing its presence in Afghanistan and is responding to some increased requests from Amb. Karl Eikenberry, but other than that, State is not planning currently to match any escalation of troops with a huge increase in its presence there.

"I would not expect radical changes," Lew told reporters at a briefing Monday, "To the extent that there’s a thickening of presence in an area, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you would increase the civilian presence in the area. To the extent that there are new areas that are being covered by the military, that could raise either a redeployment of civilians or a need for additional civilians."

The current plan is to have 974 civilians in Afghanistan, 423 of those would be from State and 333 from USAID, a number that stands in stark contrast to the approximately 68,000 military personnel there, not to mention the tens of thousands of more that could be on the way.

There are 603 civilians currently on the ground in Afghanistan, Lew said, up from 320 in January. Another 282 are in processing to go there and 89 positions are currently being recruited, both from government and outside experts.

"We are going to have, when we’re fully deployed, 388 civilians outside of Kabul," Lew said, noting that right now, there are exactly 157 civilians not stationed in the capital city.

He also responded to the question of how hard it might be to get civilians to go to Afghanistan, in light of protests in 2007 when talk of forcing Foreign Service officers to go to Baghdad caused an open revolt.

"It’s not for everyone," Lew said. "Some people sign up and by the time they get through training, don’t decide it’s for them. Some people go out and come back. But that’s really very few, compared to the total. And there’s no compulsion in this."

The budget for such programs rose from $2.2 billion in fiscal 2009 to $2.8 billion for fiscal 2010, as a result of the strategic review completed in March. Since fiscal 2009 supplemental funding was dispersed so late, there could be a windfall in storewhen the fiscal 2010 money comes through, although there is no telling when that bill will be completed.

The programs in Afghanistan are all managed at the top by Assistant Amb. Tony Wayne, Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs, who was appointed only in June.

Lew also talked about the ongoing effort to transfer nongovernmental aid programs in Pakistan away from Western organizations and toward Pakistani groups.

"The idea of getting our foreign assistance as directly to the people who are going to use it as efficiently as possible is central to the way we’re thinking about foreign assistance and development generally," Lew said, adding that since many of the contracts were up for renewal at the beginning of October, it gave the impression this transfer was more immediate and widespread than it necessarily was.

Robin Raphel, the former Ambassador now a part of Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke‘s staff, is in Pakistan right now leading a case by case review of all of these projects, Lew said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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