SSWG e-Conference Series Archive:
"The Future of Fighting"

Conference VI Transcript:
"The Militarization of Aid"

Original e-Conference date: June 8, 2012
(oldest comments first)


Hi everyone, and welcome to the CIC and CDFAI's Future of Fighting discussion, "The Militarization of Aid," with Lieutenant-General (Ret'd) Andrew Leslie, former Deputy Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and the Canadian Forces' former Chief of the Land Staff and Chief of Transformation. I am an assistant professor of public and international affairs the University of Ottawa and the moderator of the Future of Fighting Series. I will be moderating this discussion - and the five that follow. We’re looking forward to bringing in questions from the online public, so please add them to the live-chat or, for those on Twitter, use #CICLive.
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:28 PM


Aid is very much a civil activity, and very few militaries are any good at it. But there are various categories of aid from strategic (highways, large dams and hydro facilities) to operational (district-wide irrigation, massive distribution of food) to tactical (the local well, the repair to the roof of the house, a bag of rice to the family beside the road. Armies often distribute aid where civilians can't or won't; i.e. where the fighting takes place
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:31 PM


Hello General! Thank you for your opening comment.
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:32 PM


Ok, folk! Time to ask LGen (ret'd) Andrew Leslie about the militarization of aid over at @TheCiC. Ask using the #CICLive tag.
by pmlagasse via twitter June 8 at 12:35 PM


Gen. Leslie, thanks for your participation. Could you comment on how aid delivered by partisan organizations - like militaries - for strategic purposes could contribute to sowing the seeds of future conflict? This was an undercurrent to the piece I wrote for CIC on aid militarization, but I didn't have space to get into it there, so taking advantage here! Thanks.
by jennifersalahub June 8 at 12:36 PM


As you know, one of the main concerns about the relationship between armed forces and aid NGOs is the fear that the neutrality of the latter is undermined when they are helped by the former. What are your about this particular issue? Is it a fair critique? Is there anyway around it?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:36 PM


Thanks Jennifer for your question and your op-ed!
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:37 PM


Here's Jennifer's question: Could you comment on how aid delivered by partisan organizations - like militaries - for strategic purposes could contribute to sowing the seeds of future conflict?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:37 PM


very often soldiers deliver aid to help ease the suffering of those around them, or to appease the locals and convince them that the soldiers are there to help and could the locals please stop shooting at them. A key point. Most often soldiers are not impartial, nor are we always neutral.
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:40 PM


Hello General. I would love to hear your thoughts on the best way for aid agencies to work productively with militaries in war zones and still be neutral?
by Jane June 8 at 12:41 PM


We have a question from Jane: I would love to hear your thoughts on the best way for aid agencies to work productively with militaries in war zones and still be neutral?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:42 PM


the follow on is that the aid soldiers deliver is usually tactical, immediate and done for a variety of reasons. But if the aid is not delivered by the soldiers in the areas of immediate danger, where civilian aid agencies won't go, who will help the locals when they need it most

by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:43 PM


Gen. Leslie, I am assuming that we are not only talking of post-conflict humanitarian assistance but also post-natural disaster. Does the requirement of smaller states to pool resources for disaster response increase military to military cooperation? Do disasters in a way become common enemies?
by terrar June 8 at 12:43 PM


We have a question from Antoine: Does the requirement of smaller states to pool resources for disaster response increase military to military cooperation? Do disasters in a way become common enemies?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:44 PM


in my experience, the sooner the aid organizations can talk through with the local military commanders as to who will what to who in terms of aid the better. The civilians are the experts, but one hundred experts each running their own program can lead to confusion with non experts, ie the soldiers such as I
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:46 PM


Follow-up: in my experience, there aren't too many places civilian aid agencies won't go. Could you tell us in your experience where those might be? Could not the military work with aid agencies to help them get there? (Assuming that civilian delivered aid is more neutral than military delivered aid.)
by jennifersalahub June 8 at 12:46 PM


A follow-up from Jennifer: in my experience, there aren't too many places civilian aid agencies won't go. Could you tell us in your experience where those might be? Could not the military work with aid agencies to help them get there? (Assuming that civilian delivered aid is more neutral than military delivered aid.)
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:47 PM


Fair point! Aid coordination is challenging in easy circumstances. Add insecurity, and it becomes even more so! Thanks.
by jennifersalahub June 8 at 12:48 PM


The increasing tempo and cycle of disasters often forces competing militatries to cooperate for the greater good, and that can only be a good thing. For the samller states such tragic events can act as a forcing function to get their armies to work alongside each other, without hostilities, which does wonders to breaking down barriers. And never underestimate the barriers militaries can raise to preserve or protect internal cultures....
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:49 PM


General, how well equipped are NATO militaries to deliver aid? A number of commentators have stated that NGOs are often better positioned to fulfill this role, even in times of emergency and crisis. What are your thoughts on this question? Should the military deliver aid only when NGOs clearly cannot? Or should we expect armed forces to intervene at the outset, too?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:51 PM


If guys with guns get aid to those who need it, what is the problem? #CICLive
by fauthsie via twitter June 8 at 12:51 PM


well, the best and most recent case in poujnt where civilian aid agencies won't and can't go (with several notable exceptions) was the region 25 Km West of Kandahar, where most of Canada' s fatalities occured from 2006 to 2011. Soldiers and a very few CIDA folk had to distribute the aid because it would have been fatal for others to do so
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:51 PM


What about cases such as the tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti? What is the right balance between the military and NGOs in those types of scenarios?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:53 PM


Soldiers are very organized and have amazing flexibility and equipoment, but delivering aid is not what we do for a living. Armies are experts at delivering large volumes of supplies, but the art of figuring out waht aid goes where, whem , why and in what priority is beyond most of us. After 10 years in Afghanistan and after lots of hard work and mentoring from CIDA, Foreign Affairs and the UN we got Ok at it; we delivered aid because we had to and nobody else could
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:54 PM


What kind of role does CIDA play in terms of coordinating between aid agencies and the military? Do they help, or are they just another level of complexity?
by Jane June 8 at 12:56 PM


@fauthsie this might answer that in part: www.opencanada.org #CICLive. Gen Leslie's answer also very important.
by jennifersalahub via twitter June 8 at 12:56 PM


We've got a question from Jane: What kind of role does CIDA play in terms of coordinating between aid agencies and the military? Do they help, or are they just another level of complexity?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:56 PM


General, in terms of the 'whole of government' question, what could be done to improve the deployability and security of aid agencies? And would this be a way keeping military aid delivery within stricter bounds?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:58 PM


Gen. Leslie, you've served in quite senior roles in the Defence Staff. In your experience, how is the Whole-of-Government Approach working out for Canada? Is it an effective means of coordination? Is it achieving better results on the ground?
by jennifersalahub June 8 at 12:58 PM


the earthquacke in Haiti was a great example of what supoerbly trained and equipped soldiers can do to help. The returning soldiers from Afghanistan out of Valcartier hooped aboard massive C17 aircraft and were in Haiti in a matter of hours, where they provided a range of capabilities. But when they landed they wer met by hundreds of civilian aid experts already there, and who had been there for months and years. The military provides an immediate and highly visible surge that can inspire hope (and it is very expensive, by the way), but as soon as possible they should be pulled out to aloow the experts to get on with it. Which is excatly what happened
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 12:59 PM


We have a similar question from Jennifer: In your experience, how is the Whole-of-Government Approach working out for Canada? Is it an effective means of coordination? Is it achieving better results on the ground?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 12:59 PM


What are the ethics of military aid in regions with sectarian conflict? #ciclive
by naomi_joseph via twitter June 8 at 1:00 PM


My spekling is awful. Anyways, if it is a true crisis then using military aircraft or ships to transport aid teams or supplies works very well, though a lot of aid agencies want nothing to do with being seen to be getting on or off military vehicles.
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:01 PM


A question from Naomi: What are the ethics of military aid in regions with sectarian conflict? #ciclive
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:01 PM


Gen Leslie: "My spekling is awful. Anyways,..." HA! cc @TheCIC #CICLive
by jennifersalahub via twitter June 8 at 1:02 PM


Thoughts on potential adverse effects (post-op recipient community alienation) when using aid funding for COIN ops in Afghanistan? #CICLive
by joshuagillmore via twitter June 8 at 1:04 PM


A question from Joshua: Is there are risk that there will adverse effects on populations of being recipients of aid during counter-insurgency operations?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:06 PM


I cannot speak for other militaries in terms of ethics, but in Canada's case the rule of law reigns supreme; where sectarian violence occurs we are can be fighting alongside one side (the Karzai Government in Afghanistan), but we hope to always give aid or asistance to those who need it most. Viilages with known Talib families were not kept from military delivered aid, though at times aid may have been distributed with the express understanding that the locals would stop shooting at or trying to blow up our soldiers. The tactical aspect of military
aid, as it were
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:06 PM


billions have been spent of Afghanistan, and I am told (I have not been back in almost 18 months) by local friends that the disparity in standards and quantities of aid being delivered to various communities (very often in direct correlation with the influence of the local warlord or power broker) is causing enormous frustration between the haves and have nots. This can only make local tensions worse than normal in an area which is renonwed for its tribalism and fierce pride in being different from the other guy....
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:11 PM


To follow up on that, how successful were the CF's effort to use aid as an incentive to reduce attacks against them in Kandahar?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:11 PM


hard to quantify beyond an informed opinion. I think local/military delivered aid helped reduce certain types of violence (local job creation schemes wer quite good at hiring the young men and getting them to reduce their attacks on us), but when we left it was still one of the most violent places in the world, so...
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:15 PM


Fair point!
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:15 PM


Article from an ISA conference underpinning my question, and addition to our discourse: bit.ly #CICLive
by joshuagillmore via twitter June 8 at 1:16 PM


How would you evaluate the DART and its performance over the years? It is good enough? Do we need to expand it? Could it be complemented by other units?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:17 PM


From your experience, is there a difference in the level of cooperation between the military and non-for profit humanitarian and private companies that offer humanitarian assistance?
by terrar June 8 at 1:18 PM


What would you say are additional outcomes beyond violence reduction indicating successful outcomes for the militarization of aid? #CICLive
by joshuagillmore via twitter June 8 at 1:18 PM


Antoine has another question: From your experience, is there a difference in the level of cooperation between the military and non-for profit humanitarian and private companies that offer humanitarian assistance?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:19 PM


i missed one. The whole of government approach (once you get beyond the various personalities and egos) is now a model for how it should be done. Where it gets unpleasant is when either or any of the many contributors to the team strat to think they can do the other persosn job better than they. Strong commanders or ambassadors can quickly put a stop to that nonsense. All in all, it works an awful lot better now than it did back in Croatia or ....
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:20 PM


Another question from Joshua as well: What would you say are additional outcomes beyond violence reduction indicating successful outcomes for the militarization of aid?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:20 PM


Thanks for coming back to the WGA question, General. Encouraging to hear it's working better than it did in 2006. That said, I'd be interested to know if someone from CIDA views it as positively as someone from CF/DND...
by jennifersalahub June 8 at 1:22 PM


The range of competencies and degrees of professionalsim of the many different aid agencies is matched only by the range of professionalism of the many different armies that work in Afghanistan, or in any large and complex mission. In terms of cooperation, I never found any measurable difference between not for profit and private aid organizations. Most were full of wonderful people doing their very best to help. Only a very few were not, and in almost every case the irritating factors could be traced back to the one or two flaming idiots who always cause tension when least desired..... which can happen in the military as well, by the way....
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:26 PM


I suspect there are such people in all organizations!
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:28 PM


Any closing thoughts for us, General?
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:28 PM


It has been a pleasure, and I am very sorry about my typing skills on this (rude word) tiny keyboard. Thanks for moderating, Best wishes to all
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:29 PM

Many thanks and best wishes
by Andrew Leslie June 8 at 1:30 PM


This has been a really interesting discussion. Thanks very much to General Leslie and to Prof Lagasse.
by Jane June 8 at 1:30 PM


@jennifersalahub 1/2 said article doesn't answer my question... Politicization and militarization are different things IMO #CICLive
by fauthsie via twitter June 8 at 1:30 PM


Thanks to all!
by jennifersalahub June 8 at 1:30 PM


Thanks very much, General! And thanks to all those who participated.
by pmlagasse June 8 at 1:31 PM

 

 

 


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