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21st Century Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) Papers - Security Sector Reform in Timor-Leste: Missed Opportunities and Hard Lessons in Empowering the Host-Nation

Length: 205 pages2 hours


From the foreword: As the United States and its coalition partners continue with transitions to host-nation civil authorities in both Iraq and Afghanistan, authors Isaac Kfir, Nicholas Armstrong, and Jacqueline Chura-Beaver examine an important case study of the United Nation's transition efforts in Timor-Leste. Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Timor-Leste seemed to have favorable conditions for success; yet, after 13 years of UN efforts, Timorese security sector reform has remained elusive. This case study has great implications for our efforts to better understand how fragile, failing, and failed states better transition to resilient self-governance and responsible security partners.

The authors explore the dichotomy for host-nation ownership with the role of foreign assistance in security sector reform. They conclude that this balance is a critical variable that will determine success or failure regardless of the starting condition. Their conclusion serves to highlight the importance of the present U.S. defense strategic guidance, with its emphasis on the promotion of security, prosperity, and human dignity through capacity building engagements.

After a decade of stability operations experience, and faced with today's difficult fiscal choices, our Nation is at a critical decision point in determining its future military strategy. As we continue to institutionalize the hard-earned lessons of the past decade, this monograph highlights the value of deliberate and candid analysis into the complexities and uncertainties inherent in transitions to host-nation civil authority. It is easiest to hope the future will not require operations like Timor-Leste; however, present indications are that the exact opposite is true. To inform future plans and preparations, we must continue to seriously examine important past lessons, as our authors have done so well in this monograph.

Topics include: Timor-Leste, UNAMET, UNTAET

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