Firm plans for post-conflict reconstruction needed, say MPs

18 March 2010

When troops are committed to operations in future there must be robust plans to coordinate military and reconstruction efforts from the earliest stages, says the Defence Committee in its report published today

The report recommends that the next Government lay out the requirements of the "Comprehensive Approach" (the combination of civilian and military actors in a counter-insurgency operation) in order better to preserve all the lessons learned in the complex operations of Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them having been painfully re-learned from Bosnia, Kosovo and even Malaya.

The Committee looks to the recently formed Stabilisation Unit (owned by the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence) to maintain a capacity to deploy significant numbers of personnel for post-conflict reconstruction and to ensure that vital knowledge and skills gained during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are retained and built on.

Chair of the Committee, James Arbuthnot MP, says:

"At the start of operations like these, the Government should formally announce what government departments are to have what responsibilities. We would want to see leadership, clear objectives, a defined end state, strategy, tactics and details of the nature of civilian and military personnel required."

The Comprehensive Approach requires close work with local nationals to build up their capability and confidence in all fields including security, governance, law and order and development. This must include women at all levels. The Government needs to find better ways to draw on the expertise of NGOs without compromising the effectiveness and safety of aid workers on the ground.

Mr Arbuthnot says:

"Communication is a key component of the use of the Comprehensive Approach and any strategy must include plans for conveying the strategic intent of the mission to local nationals and also to the British public in an informative but fair and balanced way."

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