Protect and serve or train and equip? us security assistance and protection of civilians

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent declaration of the "Global War on Terror" (GOWT), US international security assistance has increased substantially, with billions of dollars going to support security forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other "frontline" states. The United States has also adopted a new approach to security assistance, called security sector reform (SSR). In principle, SSR moves security assistance well beyond the traditional "train and equip" approach and takes the physical security of the state's population and protection of human rights from the sidelines to mid-field.

In practice, US-supported SSR efforts often continue to focus primarily on training and equipping military and police forces, especially in connection with counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. In Iraq and Afghanistan, reliance on the US military and private contractors to plan and implement US SSR efforts has strongly reinforced the focus on operational capacity over accountability to civilian authority and respect for human rights. Private contractors engaged in SSR have been involved in well-publicized abusive practices, including the killing of unarmed civilians.

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