I've been trying to understand the purpose of the Pentagon's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations for about a year now. It is an intriguing effort to apply business development as a tool for economic growth and as an instrument of counterinsurgency -- a frankly rare example of really outside-the-box thinking from the military. At the same time, evaluating its effectiveness has proved to be incredibly difficult. Along the way, almost a dozen puff-pieces about the TFBSO, as its known, have been published, which repeat many talking points about the task force but don't actually discuss what it does.
Earlier this month the Asia Times published the latest example of this media puffery (every single story about the TFBSO is focused on its charismatic former leader, Paul Brinkley). When it was started in Iraq in 2006, the vision of this task force, Mark Perry writes, was to gather "a group of civilian business leaders and military experts that would focus on stimulating economic growth (including reopening Saddam Hussein's state-run industries), and that would interest outside investors in the country." Perry goes on to detail what's happened as the TFBSO completed its activities in Iraq and now focused on Afghanistan.