The Polish government makes use of USIP training to help key figures from Afghanistan and Tunisia lead their own countries’ transitions.

The Muslim World, Poland and USIP

As one of the most successful countries to make the transition from communism, Poland now is working to help other countries consolidate their own transitions away from authoritarian governments and command economies. The U.S. Institute of Peace has played a key role in empowering Poland to employ the sophisticated Strategic Economic Needs and Security Exercise (SENSE) simulation in this far-sighted endeavor. In October and December of 2011, Poland employed the SENSE simulation with separate audiences of key figures from Afghanistan and Tunisia who are helping to lead their countries’ own transitions. In 2006, the Polish government asked USIP to train a cadre of Poles to be able to conduct the SENSE. USIP’s Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding conducted the training, and has maintained a relationship with the Polish SENSE program ever since. 

SENSE (created by Richard White of the Institute for Defense Analyses) is a computer-facilitated simulation that focuses on negotiation, problem-solving and decision-making in a fictional country emerging from violent internal conflict or a revolutionary political situation. SENSE teaches participants to build teams and develop cooperative solutions, to make difficult resource allocation decisions and to interact constructively with the international entities—military and civilian—that are trying to help them.

SENSE’s computer infrastructure “keeps the players honest,” by reflecting the results and interrelationships of all their actions. Yet, while computer-facilitated, the primary point of the simulation is to engage participants in direct, face-to-face negotiations among up to 60 players, who represent the local citizens, their government officials, and members of the international community. Originally developed for Bosnia, it has since been upgraded and used in a number of environments. For example, USIP has used it extensively with Iraqis: more than 1,500 Iraqis have participated in SENSE simulations and the majority of simulations have been run by Iraqis whom USIP has trained.

Poland’s original goal was to help its neighbors—countries that had been incorporated into or dominated by the Soviet Union—to consolidate their democratic transitions and to develop constructive relations with each other. To this end, they have brought government and civil society leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as Serbia, to Warsaw to participate in SENSE. Poland has also extended the scope of its SENSE outreach to include Afghanistan, and has turned its attention to the Middle East following the region’s revolutionary developments last year. 

This past fall, Poland conducted three SENSE simulations: October 3–7 for a joint group from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine; November 14–18 for Tunisia; and December 5-9 for Afghanistan.

USIP Senior Program Officer Allison Frendak originally led the effort to establish SENSE in Poland, and was present to monitor and evaluate the recent Afghanistan simulation. (Frendak also conducts the Academy’s SENSE simulations for interagency audiences in the United States, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and George Mason University.) 

As Frendak reports, “The Polish team trained 45 high- and middle-ranking Afghan government officials and representatives of the private sector and nongovernmental organizations. The Polish team delivered the simulation with great skill and professionalism, and it made a real impact on the participants, who said they will take what they learned back to their country. By all accounts, the SENSE training for Tunisian leaders was equally successful.”

To date, the Poles have used SENSE to train 581 government and civil society leaders. USIP’s role, after the initial training, has been primarily to provide advice and, more recently, to share with the Poles the Arabic-language SENSE material that USIP has developed for its program in Iraq.

Poland has conducted its trainings without funding from USIP, making this program an excellent example of how USIP’s train-the-trainers efforts multiply the effects of its modest budget.

The Poles are exploring the possibility of further use of SENSE in the Muslim world. In an era of growing international challenges and ever scarcer resources to devote to them, this sort of collaborative effort is a win-win for all concerned.

Related Publications

The Fatemiyoun Army: Reintegration into Afghan Society

The Fatemiyoun Army: Reintegration into Afghan Society

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

By: Ahmad Shuja Jamal

Since 2013, as many as 50,000 Afghans have fought in Syria as part of the Fatemiyoun, a pro-Assad force organized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Based on field interviews with former fighters and their families, this Special Report examines the motivations of members of the Afghan Shia Hazara communities who joined the Fatemiyoun as well as the economic and political challenges of reintegrating them into Afghan society.

Civilian-Military Relations; Fragility & Resilience

What Can Make Displaced People More Vulnerable to Extremism?

What Can Make Displaced People More Vulnerable to Extremism?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Rahmatullah Amiri; Sadaf Lakhani

As the international community works to prevent new generations of radicalization in war-torn regions, debate focuses often on the problem of people uprooted from their homes—a population that has reached a record high of 68.5 million people. Public discussion in Europe, the United States and elsewhere includes the notion that displaced peoples are at high risk of being radicalized by extremist groups such as ISIS. Scholars and peacebuilding practitioners have rightly warned against such generalizations, underscoring the need to learn which situations may make uprooted people vulnerable to radicalization. A new USIP study from Afghanistan notes the importance of specific conditions faced by displaced people—and it offers indications suggesting the importance for policy of supporting early interventions to stabilize the living conditions of displaced people after they return home.

Violent Extremism

Afghanistan Talks: No Women, No Peace

Afghanistan Talks: No Women, No Peace

Friday, March 1, 2019

By: Belquis Ahmadi

As talks between the U.S. and the Taliban raise hopes for peace in Afghanistan, the country’s women fear another—and related—possibility: That their hard-won rights to participate in the nation’s political and economic life could again be washed away by the Taliban’s rigid views on gender.

Gender; Peace Processes

Intra-Afghan Peace Negotiations: How Might They Work

Intra-Afghan Peace Negotiations: How Might They Work

Friday, February 22, 2019

By: Sean Kane

Recent positive developments in the Afghan peace process have renewed hopes that the country’s 17-year-old conflict could come to a close. Direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, however, are likely to involve complex constitutional questions. This Special Report provides...

Peace Processes

View All Publications