Afghanistan: SLO Strategy Design, Implementation Planning
In Afghanistan, Minerva staff advised senior political and diplomatic officials and military commanders on how counter-narcotics operations could affect the social licence to operate of multiple competing actors (eg government, Taliban, national and international militaries, warlords, police) and thereby support or undermine their respective wider missions.
Coalition military forces sought to isolate their missions from the narcotics issue, for which they had no mandate and few resources. In particular, they avoided counter-narcotics operations, which they perceived narrowly as eradication missions likely to alienate them from the population. This approach failed to understand the diversity of the narcotics industry, its impact across society and the range of intervention options available to the coalition.
Minerva staff managed a unit charged with studying the nature and impact of the narcotics trade and advising civilian officials and military commanders on its implications for policy, strategy and tactical operations. In particular, the unit examined, on one hand, the social, political and economic root causes of the trade, the mechanisms by which it persisted and the impacts it had on the multitude of affected stakeholders; and on the other hand, the local, national, regional and international political contexts, agendas and initiatives that were shaping disjointed responses to the trade.
Analysing the issue through an SLO lens (among others), Minerva staff recognised that the SLO of coalition partners could be maintained only through integrating narcotics matters into the planning and executing of operations at all levels. The unit used its insights to advise political and operational decision-makers on how mis-handled counter-narcotics policies and operations could generate second and third order effects that might run contrary to the overarching goal of coalition efforts; and how to avoid or mitigate these.
The unit played a significant role in alerting senior military and civilian decision-makers to the understanding that the narcotics industry might be more of a threat to the stability of Afghanistan than the insurgency alone; and convinced them to treat narcotics issues as an integral part of wider campaign and operational planning.