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A Framework to Maximize the Effectiveness of U.S. Efforts to Stabilize Conflict-Affected Areas

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Increasing stability and reducing violence in conflict-affected areas are essential to realize America’s national security goals and advance a world in which nations can embrace their sovereignty and citizens can realize their full potential. The United States and our allies face an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which many of our adversaries sow instability and benefit from it. Protracted conflicts provide fertile ground for violent extremists and criminals to expand their influence and threaten U.S. interests. These conflicts cause mass displacements and divert international resources that might otherwise be spent fostering economic growth and trade.

The U.S. Armed Forces and our allies and partners are defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups on battlefields in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, but we are entering a new phase in this struggle. We must consolidate security gains, reduce levels of local instability, and work with local partners to peaceably manage change and provide legitimate and responsive governance. Our national experience over the past two decades has taught us that it is not enough to win the battle; we must help our local partners secure the peace by using every instrument of our national power.

At the same time, we must resist the temptation to throw more money at these complex problems. American taxpayers are right to demand tough scrutiny of such investments.
Transitioning too quickly to large-scale reconstruction and longer term development efforts can backfire without a clear strategic and political approach. Our organizations must more rigorously define stabilization missions based on national security interests and undertake institutional reforms based on hard-learned lessons. We must press our international partners to share the costs for these efforts, and hold our local partners accountable for demonstrating sustained leadership and progress.

To meet these imperatives, our Departments and Agency are recommending steps to maximize the effectiveness of U.S. Government efforts to stabilize conflict-affected areas. This report outlines a framework to systematically apply lessons from the past; to strategically and selectively direct our resources; to increase burden-sharing with key international partners; and to improve the efficiency and impact of our efforts.

We have approved this report as the first step in a process to position the U.S. Government’s defense, diplomatic, and development capabilities to meet strategic stabilization requirements.
We are committed to advancing this process together. Reducing armed conflict is a perennial challenge, and there are many factors that are outside of our national control. By refining our respective organizational roles and capabilities and institutionalizing discipline and learning in our approach, we will increase our likelihood of success and improve accountability to the American taxpayer.`