The US aims to strengthen diplomacy-military interplay

The US State Department has seen a significant reduction in the number of advisors assigned to military units, prompting the need for advisors in future large-scale combat operations, according to an analysis. Historically, the State Department assigned Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) as Foreign Policy Advisors (POLADs) to provide regional expertise and diplomatic connections to the Pentagon and high-level military commands. During the counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, advisors were placed at various levels to ensure military decisions aligned with political goals, engaged with local leaders, and connected with the US Embassy.

However, the focus on large-scale combat operations has led to a decrease in positions for these advisors. The analysis raises concerns that in the event of a large-scale war, there would not be enough time for State and military personnel to train together. Diplomats, such as POLADs, are seen as crucial in adapting past knowledge to new conditions and effectively interacting with various civilian actors on the modern battlefield.

While the State Department has individuals with POLAD experience, the analysis highlights the need for improved planning and relationships to enable quick deployment in a hot war scenario. Having POLADs in a hot war is seen as beneficial, as they can adapt to new conditions and effectively engage with civilian actors. Military leaders, particularly those with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, recognize the importance of having diplomats on staff to navigate the complexities of war.

The analysis offers four possible approaches to revive the POLAD program. These include assigning full-time advisors to division and corps during peacetime, utilizing active-duty diplomats as part-time advisors, incorporating embassy evacuees with relevant skills, or establishing a part-time reserve advisor/mentor unit. Each option has its advantages and drawbacks, such as cost and deployment logistics. The establishment of a small POLAD Reserve is seen as a potentially cost-effective pilot project to enhance crisis response within the State Department.

It is worth noting that proposals to establish a reserve, like the POLAD Reserve, have not gained much traction in Congress historically, but this may be changing. The analysis concludes by emphasising the need for greater integration between the State Department and the military, the importance of regional expertise and diplomatic connections in war scenarios, and the necessity of addressing planning and relationship challenges to efficiently deploy POLADs in the future.

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