Responding to Instability (1 of 2)

Afghan men ride bicycles as they pass newly constructed buildings in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The United States has been involved in or contributed significant resources to more than 17 post-conflict operations since the end of the Cold War, and over the last 15 years has spent over five times as much on stability operations as compared to major combat. The results of our participation and resources expenditures have been mixed at best. Experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even the crisis in Georgia reinforce the need for more integrated responses to instability. When a crisis unfolds, US departments and agencies need to be ready to respond effectively and efficiently.

In an effort to improve US responses to instability, NSPD-44 designated the Secretary of State as the lead for reconstruction and stabilization missions. Within the State Department, the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) is charged with developing and managing interagency planning, doctrine, training, and operations related to this mission. S/CRS leads an interagency team in all activities from preparation through response. Finally, S/CRS has been charged with building a rapid response and civilian reserve capability to provide needed civilian personnel and expertise to this mission.

Instability can result from political or economic collapse, military conflict, increased ethnic or sectarian tension, or severe environmental degradation. The primary objective in any reconstruction and stabilization operation is to identify and reduce the drivers of conflict and instability and strengthen the legitimate local institutional capacity. Some operations will require actions that address immediate problems, such as direct governance, but operations should always be conducted with a view towards creating sustainable host government capabilities. The decision to respond to instability is almost always made by the President and usually depends on the impact to US national security, the magnitude of the instability (e.g., displacement, mortality, genocide), the response capability of the host nation or its neighbors, and the availability of US resources.