Civil-military cooperation as a vital part in the stabilization-process in Afghanistan

How is its meaning different within certain deployed military actors?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2005

27 Pages, Grade: 2,1




1 Introduction and academic method

2 Civil-military cooperation – Is this possible?
2.1 Military component
2.2 Civilian component

3 Concepts of civil-military cooperation
3.1 Cooperation in practice
3.2 UN approach - Civil-military coordination
3.3 NATO approach - Centre of Excellence & CIMIC
3.4 US approach – Civil Affairs
3.5 German approach – Internal & international cooperation

4 Missions in Afghanistan and the use of CIMIC
4.1 Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
4.2 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
4.3 Example of cooperation: Germany in Northern Afghanistan
4.4 Remarks on CIMIC based on this paper

5 Conclusion

6 List of references


When policy makers from developed countries gather “to form the world”, for a long time military forces were seen as the only ones of impact in areas of war and crisis. They were massively funded and specifically equipped to fulfill their tasks for the best possible outcome. But over the last decades civilian, mostly non-governmental, actors did show up for nation-building as well.

These organizations eventually demanded the right to participate – and than had to deal with urgent reconstruction issues as well. For this the question is how these – civilians and military personnel – work and win “wars” together when they have to. Based on Afghanistan, the paper points on the ever more used concept of civil-military cooperation from the perspective of the military. To gain insight, four different approaches (UN, NATO, US, Germany) are described and explained.

The context of the paper is formed by background-information on the current missions in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom and International Security Assistance Force. And to get an impression of the cooperation, the paper overlooks the successful Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

The hypothesis of the paper is that successful civil-military cooperation is assumed to be a vital part in the stabilization-process in Afghanistan. This is due to the broad meaning that the different deployed actors put onto it. And, especially the featured military forces / bodies have changed within the last decade.

1 Introduction and academic method

How can two highly different actors – civilians and military personnel – work and win “wars” together when they have to? Based on historical developments and rather new political decisions, the present paper elaborates on this in the case of the reconstruction process in Afghanistan. It points on such serious issue to the global community, since it has been suggested that the lack of cooperation previously was a leading, subconscious cause of failure in military missions.

According to the paper’s question, the focus is on civil-military relations in their most often used varieties, which are to be distinguished later. Furthermore the concept is seen as it has been applied massively since 2001 in the Afghan stabilization-process and overall as that it became a vital part of it.[1] The concentration on this specialized reconstruction and development issue is owed to the fact that civil-military cooperation is believed to enhance political stabilization as well.

Also, tasks often cannot be distinguished precisely. Like a medal they mostly have two sides – both, a military and a civilian one. Therefore sometimes the joint management of operations and missions seems adequate.[2] So the question than arises, who can do what best – and than reach the goals together? In the following this cooperation will be described based on it’s arise and significance.

Civil-military cooperation is a collective term for all kinds of interactions between civilian organization including individual national and international bodies with the deployed military forces. Both actors normatively seek for co-operation because they than can concentrate on what each could do best rather than fighting trench wars against each other in the same theatre of operation. Moreover, although the media and enterprises do form a massive part of the civilian side, they will not be covered in the paper. Instead the author is concentrating on local, regional and national administrations as well as (international) aid organizations.

The Afghan reconstruction process has been taken as an example because it politically is rather European-led (based on the Bonn framework), whereas Iraq has got a clear Anglo-Saxon branding (US, UK). Therefore it is assumed that in Afghanistan a higher chance for true interaction between the two uneven actors can occur. In the previous perception the military was the last medium to finally solve internal and external conflicts, but civilian actors are, obviously, important for this cooperation, too. However, for practical reasons such as the availability of higher quality research materials, the author has decided to focus on the military side.

Bearing in mind that in Afghanistan some dozens of countries are active in reconstruction, one has limited the investigation to only four (main) players. This is the UN, the NATO, the US and Germany. They all stand for certain perspectives or priorities that are set by their political superior. Some favor a rather civil habit of their forces; others only see the relations with civilian actors as a by-product of what is their real job. Also, the US and Germany are picked because both have got very clear, but different strategies and methodology on the concept and therefore can be used to describe certain ways of thinking towards the topic.

Apart from NATO all actors mentioned are also active (sometimes especially) in non-military missions. Like other civilian and military actors their personnel is deployed based on international humanitarian law (e.g. Geneva Convention) and certain national decisions. All want to enforce humanitarian aid and are vital to reconstruction[3]. And as the willingness to intervene solely with military has decreased, more non-military players can be counted. Overall, the UN wants more private bodies doing construction work as well. But unfortunately a general trend can be detected – the environment where humanitarian action takes place is evolving rapidly and poses challenges to the international community.[4] Today's conflicts often are characterized by active, armed and deliberate targeting of civilians, including humanitarian workers, and a widespread abuse of rights. Military actors can secure themselves, but civilian actors depend on the protection by the forces.[5]

But which role do external actors play indeed and how is the meaning of this concept so different amongst them? What are the ideas that are behind the strategies of the deployed actors and why do they behave like they do? Military forces for example are dually present: active as a within Provincial Reconstruction Teams and passive as a partner for civilian actors. The paper is answering these questions for the sake of a broader understanding of the concept and its interdependences.

In the same time this is the hypothesis of the paper: Successful civil-military cooperation is assumed to be a vital part in the stabilization-process in Afghanistan. This is due to the broad meaning that the different deployed actors put onto it. And, especially the featured military forces have changed dramatically with respect to the latter mentioned in the last decade.

For the paper[6] data and literature in books, in particular in periodicals and online sources has been looked at from a skeptical perspective since much can only be estimations. In addition, a lot seems to have been launched or supported by lobbyists from either side. However, it is not surprising that research produces different results depending on affiliation. A useful indication is the findings anyway; whereas they do not provide an answer on the question, they still give indication.

To gain insight on the topic, the outline of the paper is as follows: an introducing distinction between the two actors and their roles will be presented after the introduction. This is followed by an elaboration on the mentioned various concepts of civil-military cooperation. They all involve civilian and military aspects, whereas the line of argument is concentrated on the forces. Also, the German approach is explained slightly more in depth since it later leads to further remarks with reference to the German Provincial Reconstruction Teams. To continue, the currently two missions in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom and International Security Assistance Force, are described briefly to give some better understanding of the situation. Finally the tactical concept of the formerly US-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams will be explained. This is in preparation of the following remarks on the concept and the conclusion, which ends the essay.

The aim of the paper is to elaborate on the term CIMIC and to present that civil-military cooperation became a vital part in the stabilization-process in Afghanistan. It also seeks to explain how the meaning of civil-military relations differs within certain deployed military actors.

2 Civil-military cooperation – Is this possible?

By common sense, a conflict is the clashing of deferring interests between at least two parties – and they each are determined to pursue their interests and to win the “battle” in the end. Bearing in mind, complex crises are fundamentally political; they unfortunately often lead to some military actions when states are involved.

Previously, the dynamics of such crisis situations (and especially afterwards) were of the kind that there was only limited need for civil-military interaction and each could exist in isolation. However, the scale and nature of the challenges in contemporary operations are such that no single component can afford anymore not to interact with the other to enable the resolution of the crisis.[7]

Mentioning this, what do civil-military[8] relations mean in fact? There are differing definitions[9] amongst the actors. The military forces argue for it as the military function through which a commander links to national and international civilian actors in the area. This involves e.g. aid groups, the media and local governmental bodies. In addition, under NATO doctrine it is a vital component of the information operations units. The civilian side, however, argues for the “cooperation” usually more as a supportive action from the military forces towards their aims. The assumably common goals of the military forces and active non-governmental organizations might eventually lead to team-work and enhanced communication. Both actors in general do follow for some reasons the international humanitarian law and have the ideas of humanitarian assistance in their minds.

Civil-military cooperation, or CIMIC as some short it, therefore is the broad collective term for all kinds of interaction of civilian organizations and the military forces.[10] This involves “cooperation” as well as “relations” – not only with each other, but also in international politics since they highly rely and lean on them. The concept was developed – and needed – after the radical, global changes of the late 1980s. There was no single body responsible for its development but it rather seems to be a collective understanding and will to do things better than before. And these actions so far were standing for a significant outcome as to be argued.

Nevertheless, military units did not like to exchange information with international and non-governmental organizations, and vice versa.[11] As a result, information sharing has been a frustratingly undone requirement in responses to humanitarian crises. Despite occasional information sharing, this practice has not been sufficiently institutionalized. Thus, collaboration between civilian and military entities cannot be counted on and is difficult to mobilize at the appropriate time.

But by now civil-military cooperation can be seen as a positive connection of two different entities – civilian and military. Both were interacting with each other and acting on the same local scenes.[12] Even more representative would be, however, to argue for civil-military cooperation as the environment within which all relevant actors of post-war reconstruction are operating.[13] This puts the non-military contribution of the military forces in a broader civilian context and balances it along with the introduction of political and economical actors with humanitarian aims.

2.1 Military component

The military component is only one – though important – element in a contemporary multifunctional, multi-organizational approach to solve a severe crisis.[14] The obvious symbols of strength shown by tanks, jets and other military equipment might be important, but these features often are not enough to bring some form of stable peace and reconstruction into a former zone of crises or even war.

Civil-military cooperation instead works as a force multiplier.[15] So, cooperation can let military leaders prioritize on their tasks, allocate their powers and undertake only appropriate steps. It further could lead to the earliest possible withdraw of forces to allow a return of normality. There are many examples of the commitment to cooperation and information sharing: e.g. the Partnership for Peace and NATO's efforts to improve operations that include civilian and military entities.

The most positive effects of such force-multiplication could be seen in the winter of late 2004. Back than foreign forces were able to show strength in Afghanistan not only military, but also humanitarian. Massive snowfalls and freezing temperatures caused a crisis into which soldiers shipped food, blankets, and cloths. Instead of leaving the population suffering, the idea was that a well-thought approach of how to distribute the aid could support the power of village elders who were loyal to the government in Kabul and friendly to the international troops.[16]

Although the foreign troops had a significant share of the whole operation, civilian elements both national and international were involved, too. In addition, it seems that some deployed soldiers successfully learnt to handle complex, serious situations with local people with flexibility and creativity.[17] They do not act as a soldier, but as humans. This behavior of cooperation amongst helpers and receivers made it far easier for the troops to return back to their main tasks after helping.

What fostered such favorable developments is the current and ongoing transformation of the (Western) military forces. This has for some time solely been interpreted as technological. However, against enemies like the ones in Afghanistan who fight an unconventional war, it seems to be more important to understand their real motivations and cultural background than to gain more high-tech. The money for this might be better spent on improving soldiers’ cultural awareness. Technological failures easily can be fixed; human ones not. So, mainly the US seems to have an issue with “great technical equipment, but the wrong enemy”.[18]

Therefore, special units to work on the civil-military cooperation were formed to keep this challenge in mind. And since they understand their job as both a function and a capability, these units really can make a difference. As a result, by now there are soldiers in most NATO armies specifically trained and employed in CIMIC. At the same time, most soldiers on most operations conduct some business for these units in their day to day operations. Though, CIMIC does not have a monopoly on civil-military activities, they are the experts for the topic amongst military forces. This includes providing the commanders with their specific expertise and advice on several CIMIC matters. Therefore the forces transformation goes far beyond a pure technological advance – with good results as well.

For example, by building relationships with officials from non-governmental organizations or local government officials, CIMIC personnel might become aware of a specific (dangerous!) threat to the mission. They have the opportunity to inform the commander, who can send resources to deal with the threat. Rather than having to post patrols on every street corner, the commander's access to information gathered by CIMIC teams has allowed him to employ a smaller number of soldiers, and to use the soldiers he does have available in other crucial areas.

However, the emergence of CIMIC is based in a broader forces development.[19] Information about own, allied and opposing units has always been a key feature. But now the “information-warfare” came up as to describe the use and management of information in seeks of a competitive advantage over the opponent. This may involve the collection of tactical information, assurance that one's own information is valid, spreading of propaganda or disinformation among the enemy.

So “information operations” is the evolving discipline within the military. It has emerged from earlier concepts of the information warfare in the 1990s and mainly US dominated.[20] In this time the military faced completely new phenomena such the "CNN effect", describing the influence of the media on them. Also the enormous advances in information technology made the military pay attention on this field.[21] To a massive degree it now applies to civil-military efforts from pre-crisis situations to post-conflict reconstruction, and spans all levels of involvement.

Though the new technologies have globally arisen and they are widely used, looking at the last war and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, one could argue that military forces do face a rather “culture-centric warfare”. This is in opposition to the mentioned information- and a network-centric warfare, which some years ago were seen to emerge soon. Therefore the use of conventional CIMIC troops to tackle issues related with deployed forces is of great importance – and growth!

2.2 Civilian component

The other vital part of civil-military cooperation is, obviously, the civilian one. That includes, as mentioned before, actors and institutions such as the diverse field of the media (of a global scale), governmental aid agencies from the country where the crisis occurred and abroad, members or instances of the regional governments and local administrations and uncountable non-governmental organizations along with other international and national actors.

This paper recognizes in particular the diversity of the civilian side[22] ; especially compared to its highly uniform counterpart such as “the” military (which obviously does not really exist as a unity as well). Therefore one might want to focus a bit more and lead the line of argument towards one or two of these actors. So, the focus will be on the mainly international non-governmental organizations and members or instances of regional governments and local administrations.

The term “non-governmental organization” is globally used in many ways and, depending on the context, can refer to different types of groups or organizations. In its broadest meaning, a non-governmental organization is one that is not directly part of the structure of a government.[23] The phrase is based on certain provisions of the UN Charter about the consultancy work of organizations that are neither governments nor member states to the UN.[24]

Although there have some groups existed before, which also could be regarded as non-governmental organizations, during the 20th century their importance increased dramatically. One of the first such was the International Committee of the Red Cross, being founded in the 19th century. By now this is probably the world's largest group amongst the humanitarian non-governmental organizations. Though voluntary associations of people did exist in history, non-governmental organizations in the current meaning have only developed in the past decades. And now they are a highly heterogeneous group, acting in every field of human interest.

The reason is that some issues in the economy, the society and the environment solely can not be solved within one nation. Also, international treaties and international organizations are seen as being too focused on the developed world. To counterbalance this, many non-governmental organizations try to emphasize on humanitarian issues in general, developmental aid and sustainable development. And in doing so, they decrease their traditionally big distance to the military.[25]

This, however, does distinguish them from the military as an actor in crisis situations. The task for what soldiers are being deployed was indeed usually not to develop countries at the brink of chaos, but to win a battle of whatsoever background. Nevertheless, a battle ends and a war does, too. Than the “survivors” will manage reconstruction and other issues, including the ones, that led to the crisis. Therefore the military bodies become the pioneers for peace as outlined in the UN “Agenda for Peace”[26] – and CIMIC is an integrative part of any modern mission.[27]

For a long time international governments and their forces – either involved during the crisis or not – have left this tasks to local actors like the remaining parts of former governments, the “winner” or non-governmental organizations. Moreover, crises were solved differently, meaning internally due to the bi-polarized world. Nowadays when crisis arise, there is neither guiding nor help anymore. “Failing” states will be treated (and eventually helped) by governments depending on other factors than before. And this also includes the use of the military to stabilize. So, many non-governmental organizations do face a massively increased interaction on “their” original field of action such as humanitarian and developmental aid.[28]

And this is how the civil-military cooperation comes into play. These two actors are now working in the same area – locally and in topic. Therefore there are interdependences as well as there might be positive effects towards each other.[29] So, both could be willing to have a combined planning towards an integrated strategy between responsible military and civilian officials. This is focused on the better use of resources and knowledge on both sides and includes a more efficient application and one, which is according to the individual field of specialization. Nevertheless, the intervention of force is not always to the benefit of the mission.[30]

Bearing this in mind the work of the two actors is obviously different, but based on some kind of the same roots. So, many activities undertaken by either military or civilian actors could be done by the other, too.[31] One big difference, however, is the motivation in the beginning and the time, when the actors start getting active. The private, voluntary US-Aid organization for example does not fight terror in the first place, but provides help for victims not directly involved with the war (combatants) as well as support in cases of natural disasters. Unfortunately a main issue to the civil-military cooperation is a still existing lack of mutual understanding. For this some players take the action and explain what they do.[32]

Therefore, at the beginning of a mission (say reconstruction after the war is over); the typical development non-governmental organization focuses on relief and welfare, which are directly delivered to the beneficiaries.[33] Examples for this are the distribution of food, shelter or medicine, so the activists notice immediately the needs. In a second step they than might foster the locals to start a small-scale, self-reliant local development. And finally the civilian organizations might move away from their operational role, but try to change policies and institutions.

However, the primary purpose of an operational organization in the context of this paper always might be the design and implementation of development-related projects. Whether they are religious or secular does not matter, but many are community-based, public and want to change things to the better on a local scale rather than national or international. And this is the same with the strategic idea why many Western military units are sent into regions of crisis – to change things.

The second civilian actor this paper refers to is members or instances of regional governments and local administrations. They are not charitable and are no non-profit organizations. They instead fulfill tasks assigned to them by their governments. They interact with deployed troops as well, since the local administration has to know about certain actions undertaken by the foreign forces. Depending on the actual case they even might have to be asked by both, the military and the other civilian actors in the field whether they are allowed to perform some actions.

For this, the regional governments and local administrations can be considered as very important for the civil-military cooperation as well. They still or again have authority over their people and are able to lead the “flow of the crowd” in their communities. This includes also to help distributing donations and aid as well as to calm down local aggression again the foreign powers interfering their lives.[34]

3 Concepts of civil-military cooperation

As argued before civil-military cooperation is diverse in its appearance and forms. Nevertheless, one thing is clear, cooperation did not happen in the first place because either one actor or the other desperately wanted this. Instead it is far more a partnership to reach common goals than a “love affair” as one might conclude.[35]

Both actors have different duties from different principals or constituents to fulfill. They face some different and some same challenges, but manage them differently. So, the question is which methods, information and data could be shared – or not? And what are the incentives and disincentives of such open policy? Overall there is no doubt that knowledge sharing for the sake of cooperation can massively strengthen trust, transparency, and accountability among the organizations. This behavior, however, is very much dependent on the way how an actor (or participating country) sees itself in regard of their concept of civil-military cooperation. As to be outlined, different actors do have different perspectives on this field.[36]

In the previous chapter the two actors were described rather superficial. Nevertheless, one could see that if they put their strengths together and each concentrates on the tasks one could do best, both might be better off in total. This is also the reason why the military side as well as the civilian one managed to form the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (see chapter 4) recently. They delegate certain tasks and responsibilities back to the actor that has the best track-record on that area.[37] But how did this come and what are the theoretical basics for cooperative actions?


[1] This statement is also true for the Balkans with regard to the efforts of the Bundeswehr.

[2] Pugh (2001), pp345

[3] Guttieri (2004), p79

[4] Pugh (2001), pp345

[5] Dombrowski (2002), p48 - Therefore non-military actors lean on soldiers for their protection.

[6] Additionally to the paper a presentation was held in the course “State failure, crisis and post-conflict management and reconstruction” on July 12th 2005.

[7] Spence (2002)

[8] The paper will concentrate only on the cooperation undertaken from a western (North American, European) perspective. It is assumed other regions of importance do carry out other forms of it.

[9] Many of these might not even be called definition, but personal views and opinions.

[10] This includes: own military forces, local (para-) military forces, international military forces, national and regional governmental bodies including public services (e.g. police), national and international non-governmental organizations, and international organizations.

[11] Dombrowski (2002), p49 – And often there is even mistrust amongst the potential partners.

[12] Pugh (2001), pp345

[13] Spence (2002)

[14] Echterling (2003), pp32

[15] This means a factor that increases the effectiveness of a military force. Some common force multipliers are new technology, human morale, certain geographical features, weather, and recruitment through diplomacy, training and the pure strength of numbers.

[16] Barnes (2005)

[17] ibid

[18] Scales (2004)

[19] Waltz (1998)

[20] ibid

[21] Adams (1998)

[22] Pugh (2001), pp345

[23] Guttieri (2004), p82

[24] Nevertheless, they all are not a legal entity under international law, like states for example. One exception is the International Committee of the Red Cross which is considered a legal entity under international law, because it is based on the Geneva Convention.

[25] Klingebiel (2004), p55

[26] Liebetanz (1999), pp28

[27] Meyer (1998), p786 – This is true not only for the Bundeswehr as mentioned, but globally.

[28] Guttieri (2004), p82

[29] Pugh (2001), pp345

[30] Klingebiel (2004), pp56 – Some non-governmental organizations claim that they were treated differently in Afghanistan after it became public that they work close with the international forces.

[31] Pugh (2001), pp345

[32] Natsios (2005), pp4

[33] Pugh (2001), pp345

[34] Guttieri (2004), p83

[35] Pugh (2001), pp353

[36] Meyer (2004): pp219

[37] This behavior is found widely today including in the business world where it is called the “outsourcing” of tasks that can be performed better by specialized actors from outside the organization.

Excerpt out of 27 pages


Civil-military cooperation as a vital part in the stabilization-process in Afghanistan
How is its meaning different within certain deployed military actors?
University of Potsdam  (Lehrstuhl für internationale Politik)
State Failure, Crisis and Conflict Management
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Civil-military, Afghanistan, State, Failure, Crisis, Conflict, Management, Bundeswehr, CIMIC
Quote paper
Michael A. Braun (Author), 2005, Civil-military cooperation as a vital part in the stabilization-process in Afghanistan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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