As a result of his visits to southeastern Afghanistan, Tom Brokaw identified the incompatibility for the U.S. military to perform two missions -- winning the peace in the fight against the Taliban and winning the hearts and minds of locals [op-ed, Aug. 14]. He urged the State Department to create a "Peace Corps plus" -- a cadre of Foreign Service officers who, while serving with the military in remote areas, would help remedy the social and economic problems too sensitive for uniformed troops to address.
Although the State Department does not have a "diplomatic special forces" as Mr. Brokaw outlined, for more than two years State Department and Agency for International Development diplomats have been assigned to U.S.-led Coalition and NATO military-civilian Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. These teams provide stability, help with economic and social development, promote governmental rule of law, and, yes, attempt to win hearts and minds.
As of July, 22 such teams were operating in Afghanistan, almost half run by international partners. Eventually, teams with U.S. diplomats will be placed in most if not all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Many international nongovernmental organizations, as Mr. Brokaw pointed out, insist on keeping distant from the U.S. military. Civilian diplomats are less threatening.
I describe my own experiences within a Provincial Reconstruction Team as that of a super Peace Corps volunteer, so Mr. Brokaw is on track in describing his idea as "Peace Corps plus." But he is wrong on one score: While youthful diplomats may make excellent team members, experience gained over a career in far-flung, unstable and underdeveloped regions of the world surpasses any "crash courses" in dialects and relevant skills that the State Department or any institution could provide.
The writer is a Foreign Service Officer.