How do U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department staff members sent to Afghanistan prepare for their deployment? Through a series of simulated activities, training sessions and workshops at various U.S. facilities, Kristin Henderson writes in an article for the Washington Post.
The U.S. is boosting the number of USAID and State Department representatives in Afghanistan as part of its attempt to introduce a more civilian focus in its approach to helping the country rebuild itself. The civilian surge, which was ordered in 2009 by U.S. President Barack Obama, includes USAID development specialists, State Department diplomats, Justice Department lawyers and Agriculture Department agronomist among other experts, Henderson says.
Before being sent to Afghanistan, civilian staff members undergo trainings to equip them with necessary skills to survive in the hostile and dangerous situations they may be subjected to.
These trainings usually include lessons on USAID operations and bureaucracy, a crash course on provincial reconstruction teams, workshops about U.S. military and political strategy and lessons on Afghan culture, history, religion, geography and politics. All civilian staff members also undergo a “crash-bang” course where they learn how to fire a weapon and drive their way out of ambushes, Henderson narrates.
Training is mandatory, Henderson notes. She describes it as part of the U.S.’ effort to improve the quality of staff it sends to Afghanistan as part of the civilian surge.
“For years, civilians were shipped off to Afghanistan with, at most, a few days of training,” Henderson notes. “Just adding more unprepared civilians to the mix wasn’t going to solve that problem.”
Training recruits was one problem, says Henderson. Finding recruits was another, she adds.
“Finding civilians with the appropriate skills who were willing to leave home for a year or more of grueling days doing difficult work in a dangerous place, often while living in primitive conditions, has not been easy,” Henderson says. “Finding those civilians fast has been impossible.”