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The search for common ground: civil–military relations in Afghanistan, 2002–13

Research reports

Written by Ashley Jackson

The belief that development and reconstruction are central to stability and security is not new. It is, however, also highly contentious, perhaps nowhere more so than in Afghanistan, the longest running experiment in stabilisation.

Experiences in Afghanistan have irrevocably shaped how aid agencies regard and relate to military forces during conflict and, arguably, vice-versa. Through the Afghanistan case, this Working Paper seeks to better understand the challenges of civil–military dialogue – dialogue between military forces and independent humanitarian actors – in the context of combined international and national military forces pursuing stabilisation. In particular, it looks at the challenges posed by military forces that actively seek to pursue development and reconstruction – traditionally the domain of aid agencies – as a central component of a military strategy.

Based on extensive interviews with actors from all sides and a review of literature, this analysis aims to uncover lessons from Afghanistan about what can be achieved through structured engagement, at various levels, on civil–military issues.

Findings from this working paper are also available in a policy brief.

Ashley Jackson and Simone Haysom