About the Author: Claire Sneed serves as a Conflict Prevention Officer in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization (S/CRS).
In April 2010 a popular uprising brought down the Government of Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The Provisional Government that filled the power vacuum was soon put to the test when ethnic violence erupted in the south of Kyrgyzstan in early June, creating a fragile environment for an inexperienced Provisional Government in a country of strategic importance to the United States. To support the efforts of U.S. Embassy Bishkek and the U.S. Government to ensure the stability of the Provisional Government and prevent further violence, S/CRS deployed an interagency team of Civilian Response Corps members to provide technical and administrative support to the embassy in areas critical to the country's stability.
In January 2010, concerns about Central Asia prompted U.S. officials to facilitate a whole-of-government conflict analysis and planning process for Kyrgyzstan. The process engaged dozens of U.S. Government offices in Washington, as well as an interagency team at the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, to identify key questions related to Kyrgyzstan's short and longer term stability. Senior leadership at the U.S. Embassy, leadership of the Manas Transit Center, representatives from the U.S. Department of State's South and Central Asia Bureau and other offices, members of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and representatives from the Department of Defense (DOD), including CENTCOM, worked together to identify country-specific and broader regional factors affecting stability and to develop a whole-of-government strategic plan to address these factors.
Following the uprising in April 2010, senior leaders from the budget, planning, and assistance coordination offices of the State Department's Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, and the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) agreed to send a multi-office team to Kyrgyzstan to help the U.S. Embassy develop a six-month stabilization strategy for U.S. assistance to the Provisional Government to help lay the groundwork for a constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections in the fall of 2010. Three Civilian Response Corps members participated in the State-USAID assessment, which set broad objectives for the 6-12 month period, assigned U.S. Government resources to these objectives, and identified critical technical areas, such as elections, security, and economic and trade policy, which the Provisional Government identified as key to achieving peaceful transition. To meet the objectives set forth in the assessment, an expanded team of Civilian Response Corps members was selected and deployed in May and early June.
In early June, however, the situation worsened as ethnic violence erupted in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad, resulting in hundreds dead and thousands wounded, the destruction of public infrastructure and entire neighborhoods, and the expulsion of tens of thousands of minority ethnic Uzbeks into neighboring Uzbekistan, creating a humanitarian and refugee crisis. The Civilian Response Corps team responded quickly to the changed circumstances. A small assessment team deployed to Osh to assess security, damage, and humanitarian need and to evaluate timing to stand up a temporary U.S. Assistance Coordination Unit in the south. The team also increased U.S. Embassy reporting and provided technical advice to the U.S. Embassy and local officials on key stability issues such as assistance coordination, security, economic policy, and elections. An additional S/CRS representative was assigned to CENTCOM to help coordinate efforts between the Civilian Response Corps; DOD; USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance; State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; and other U.S. offices participating in the humanitarian response.
Several valuable lessons learned have come out of this engagement and will be useful for future U.S. efforts to respond to complex stabilization challenges. First, U.S. Government stabilization efforts and plans to address conflict and instability should be based on a shared understanding of changing dynamics on the ground, ideally through a robust interagency assessment. Only through collaboration at the very beginning of an engagement can a full picture of the situation on the ground be achieved. The second lesson is that, where appropriate and feasible, a civilian surge effort must be based on a detailed concept of operations developed jointly with the U.S. Embassy and key Washington offices to ensure a coordinated response. Third, U.S. civilian stabilization efforts can only be successful with clear and accepted mandates, roles, and responsibilities, and clear processes for communication and decision-making. Finally, all of these requirements for successful U.S. stabilization response are achievable if stabilization resources, goals, and plans account for those that already exist and are ongoing, not only those of the U.S. Government in-country, but those of our host nation partner and counterparts as well.
The work of the Civilian Response Corps continues in Kyrgyzstan, with the deployment currently scheduled to end in December 2010. Support to the U.S. Embassy will remain a high priority with S/CRS and the Civilian Response Corps standing ready to provide assistance to help ensure peace and stability in this area important to U.S. national security.
Related Entries:Providing Assistance and Supporting International Efforts in Kyrgyzstan, Helping the People of Osh Move Toward Peace and Reconciliation and Rebuilding Kyrgyzstan: U.S. Pledges $48.6 Million at International Donors' Conference