Document Type

Colloquium Brief

Publication Date



Stability operations in fragile states are likely to remain an important focus of the foreign policy of Western countries for the foreseeable future. The central question to consider when launching these operations is whether a particular type of intervention is more effective than others, and to determine what insights can be drawn from previous deployments in failed and fragile states. Capacity building is a lengthy process that requires a considerable amount of resources to produce lasting results. The progress achieved through military partnerships between countries should therefore be measured over decades rather than in months or years, as a lengthy engagement is more likely to produce lasting results in a weak or fragile state. Efforts at institution building in fragile states have been largely unsuccessful. Attempts to construct viable regimes in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan have proven far more challenging than was originally assumed, and resistance from sub-national groups has been far more protracted than policymakers expected. Capacity building is especially difficult when it requires cooperation among multiple host nation agencies and collaboration among multiple assisting countries that consist of a mix of military, civilian, and NGO entities.