US army asked to win hearts and minds through ecology

September 26th, 2008 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 26 (IANS) US army units can gain strategic advantages by addressing environmental concerns in the country of occupation, that will help manage combat and post-conflict operations, besides boosting overall mission success, according to a new study.”Perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of environmental considerations is the role that they can play in achieving US national objectives in counterinsurgency and stability operations,” said the study’s co-author David Mosher of RAND, a non-profit research organisation that carried out the study.

Commanders don’t usually attach importance to environmental concerns, even when they can seriously impact troop health, safety and security, and the importance they have for the local population.

US experience in Iraq suggests that providing clean water, power, sewage and trash management can tip the balance between the local residents supporting the US mission or the insurgency, according to the study.

Public opinion surveys suggest that Iraqis care about these issues almost as much as they care about security, said a Rand press release.

In Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, US soldiers have helped to build wells, sewage treatment plants and other water infrastructure systems, which were beneficial to both US soldiers and local communities, said report co-author Beth Lachman.

In Iraq, the country’s Corps of Engineers is helping to restore marshlands that are significant to both regional and migratory bird species and the local economy.

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