By Guillermo Valadez, Roots of Peace

Roots of Peace has been working with the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and other veteran groups to promote our mission of supporting farmers abroad. As a veteran myself, I advocate our work as being a continuation of service, even after the boots and uniform come off. Veterans and the community at large understand the sacrifices made in operations overseas and this is why Roots of Peace asks our Veteran, and greater community, to enlist as PeaceBuilders – to fight poverty to end war and make our service continue to count. As global citizens we can use our means as the new tools to end the scourge of conflict and Plant the Roots of Peace. It is possible for a new future of growth and stability to replace the current one of fighting and suffering. By joining the ranks of the PeaceBuilder Program we can continue to serve those affected by war with Roots of Peace.

Since our inception in 1997, Roots of Peace has worked to rebuild communities ravaged by the brutality of war. It is our mission to wage peace through economic prosperity and stability for communities that have been victims of conflict and its aftermath.

What is important to acknowledge about the history of human conflict is that 80% of all wars have been led by insurgencies; essentially wars waged by non-state actors with the goal of replacing the functions of a government they oppose. The foremost expert on counterinsurgency (COIN) Lieutenant Colonel Dr. David Kilcullen of the Australian Army Reserve, highlights the above fact by stating that insurgents form “shadow governments” that replace existing government rule in the areas they operate, essentially they subvert legitimate authority.

The famous British Army officer Colonel T.E. Lawrence once said “War upon rebellion was messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.” This meaning that insurgency requires a long time to quell as it requires attention to many facets. Combat alone is not the solution, counterinsurgents must gain the trust of a population where insurgents operate and may already have local support. This task in itself is paramount and extremely complex because it requires a lot of time to learn the cultural, historical, and social terrain.

The masters of COIN, such as Dr. Kilcullen, Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, and General David Petraeus claim that fighting insurgency requires a less traditional and more tailored approach that encompasses many factors such as socio-economics and local empowerment. The maters of COIN state that sending troops to find and kill insurgents right away destroys trust and creates what Dr. Kilcullen calls “accidental guerrillas,” people who will become insurgents because a family or community member was harmed by foreign forces. These three experts advocate a strategy of providing jobs and self-sustainment to a population who have no political inclinations and care only to provide for their families.

Roots of Peace fits into the model of COIN perfectly., Peacebuilding is one of the quintessential facets of COIN. Dr. Kilcullen’s COIN strategy requires that military forces create secure networks to win the trust of the population by helping them become profitably employed. This would lead to economic revival and ultimately see the insurgency lose support. Dr. Kilcullen advocates the protection of non-government organizations (NGOs) because they have the capability to help empower the local population in become self-sustaining and garnering their trust.

Roots of Peace fills this COIN necessity impeccably because we empower marginalized farmers in Afghanistan to grow high value crops. Farmers learn how to grow, harvest, and sell these high end crops in the international market which increases their income. This successful model provides incentive against growing illicit crops, such as poppies that are used in opium production, and discourages them from joining the ranks of insurgent groups because they now lead a stable and sustainable life. Lt. Col. Nagl has stated that “dollars are bullets in COIN,” and it is by becoming Peacebuilders with Roots of Peace that we can take up this fight against poverty and replace arms with tools of prosperity.