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Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan may eventually be seen as a turning point for U.S. government involvement in complex humanitarian-assistance operations. From the perspectives of both military and civilian assistance providers, the first year in Afghanistan was generally successful: A major humanitarian disaster was averted, refugee flows were handled effectively, and assistance helped stabilize the country. At the same time, there were serious problems of coordination among the various military and civilian personnel providing humanitarian and humanitarian-type assistance. Some aspects of OEF, such as the continuation of major combat operations while simultaneously conducting reconstruction and state-building activities, were unique, and even potentially precedent-setting. Other aspects, such as tension between military and civilian assistance providers over proper roles, were familiar from past operations. This report assesses relief, reconstruction, humanitarian, and humanitarian-type aid efforts in Afghanistan from October 2001 to June 2002. Since this was the most intense phase of military operations, the study emphasizes the military aspect of civil-military operations. It identifies critical issues, both positive and negative, and evaluates coordination among various civilian and military aid providers. The report concludes with a list of recommendations for government policymakers, implementers, and civilian aid providers, based on the lessons learned from the Afghanistan experience.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The research effort was jointly conducted by the U.S. Institute of Peace and the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center supported by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.

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