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Civil-Military Cooperation in Peace Operations: The Case of Kosovo

Authored by Dr. Thomas R. Mockaitis. | October 2004

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SUMMARY

The NATO deployment in Kosovo provides a unique opportunity to study the effectiveness of civil-military cooperation in humanitarian interventions and other stability and support operations. Such a study can provide valuable insights into how better to conduct a wide range of future missions. The importance of this cooperation has already been demonstrated in Somalia and Bosnia. The occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq suggests that it also has an important role to play in the war on terrorism. Winning hearts and minds through humanitarian assistance and development often produces the intelligence necessary to find terrorists.

A clear distinction must be made at the outset between the NATO concept of ?Civil-Military Cooperation? (CIMIC) and the American term ?Civil Affairs? (CA). While CIMIC refers specifically to cooperation between NATO units on the one hand and civilian institutions (including humanitarian organizations, the United Nations, etc.) on the other, CA includes a broad range of activities, of which civil-military cooperation is but one. The distinction between the two concepts has more than academic significance and helps explain some of the difficulty the U.S. military has with humanitarian interventions.

CIMIC now figures so prominently in NATO planning that all Partnership for Peace (PfP) nations and prospective members are scrambling to develop their own CIMIC doctrine. Given the lead role the United States often plays in NATO missions, the U.S. military must make sure that its own approach to CIMIC is as consistent as possible with that of its allies. The best way to assure this consistency is to compile a list of best practices and common mistakes discovered by different national contingents in an actual mission and to then work these lessons into CIMIC doctrine.

The current disinclination to assume the long-term task of nation-building makes CIMIC even more important. The best way to assure that humanitarian interventions remain of limited and reasonable duration is to hand over control as soon as possible to civil authorities and international, nongovernmental, and private volunteer organizations (IO, NGO, and PVO). CIMIC is the tool for this transition. CIMIC also operates as a force multiplier, making it possible for a significantly smaller force to have the same or greater effect than a larger one. The ability of CIMIC to make possible shorter, smaller deployments should have great appeal to militaries concerned about over-extension of their limited resources. Making CIMIC more effective requires garnering lessons from past and current missions.

Many characteristics of Kosovo and the international mission there commend it as a case study. To begin with, the province is both small and compact with a manageable population. This compactness has meant that, despite widespread destruction of infrastructure and homes, rebuilding has occurred rapidly. Unlike Bosnia, where a brutal war lasted for 3 years, conflict in Kosovo remained brief and the loss of life, though considerable, was not appalling. Such conditions make the possibility of return of the minority Serbian community possible. The Kosovo Force (KFOR) faced the possibility of armed confrontation with the Yugoslav Army and the reality of guerrilla action by the Kosovo Liberation Army. The first possibility quickly disappeared, and the second proved easily handled.

For its size, though, Kosovo has all the problems of humanitarian intervention writ large upon it. A multiethnic state fractured by apartheid and war, it dominated the headlines for 8 months. Consequently, over 500 NGOs, IOs, and PVOs descended on the province in the wake of the multinational KFOR. Coordinating activities of all the players has been a major challenge. Properly analyzed, the Kosovo mission may yield valuable lessons that will inform the conduct of future operations at the policy, strategic, operational, and tactical levels, all of which are more closely interrelated than they might be in conventional war.

Analysis of the Kosovo intervention reveals certain valuable lessons that may inform the conduct of future missions:

  • Military units and humanitarian organizations should participate in joint pre-mission planning to ensure greater cooperation in the field.
  • Joint training and education can break down misunderstanding and mistrust so that CIMIC can be both a force
  • multiplier for the military and an aid-delivery enhancer for the humanitarian community.

  • Training and education can also help bridge the cultural gap between the military?s formal vertical organization and logistics-based approach to problem solving and the less formal, horizontal organization and pragmatic approach to problem solving of NGOs/IOs.
  • A military intervention force must be prepared to assume police functions until a working civil police force can be established. A power vacuum such as occurred during the first months of the Kosovo mission invites lawlessness and revenge.
  • Tours of duty for troop contributors should be standardized at no less than 6 months. Tours should overlap sufficiently to allow the replacement unit to learn as much as possible about the local situation. CIMIC units, or at least the officers, should have a longer hand-over period.
  • Military units should reevaluate rules for classifying information. NGOs/IOs frequently complain that military units ask them to share information but are unwilling to share information with the humanitarians.
  • In addition to providing these general lessons, the Kosovo intervention reveals specific challenges for the U.S. military:

  • U.S. troops need to base force-protection rules on the level of threat in the field. Over-reliance on body armor, visible display of weaponry, and maintaining distance from the civilian population interfere with the mission and, under some circumstances, may even put soldiers at greater risk. Officers and enlisted personnel engaged in CIMIC should be allowed greater latitude in determining appropriate force protection.
  • The U.S. military should adopt NATO terminology, definitions, and doctrine on CIMIC and clearly distinguish between CA and CIMIC.
  • CIMIC units (usually Reserve Civil Affairs battalions) should be more closely integrated into the operational mission so that they may have access to the resources of the entire force. The force commander should have greater latitude in employing civilian contractors assigned to U.S. missions.
  • Humanitarian intervention requires decentralization of command and control so that CIMIC personnel are free to act on their own initiative within broad mission guidelines. Currently American personnel are over-constrained by the need to ask up the chain of command for permission to act on even relatively routine matters.
  • American soldiers need to be better educated about the history and culture of lands in which they deploy. Training should focus on more effective ways of interacting with local people, which take into account culturally determined rules of hospitality, conflict resolution, etc.
  • Conclusion: CIMIC will be vital to the success of U.S. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in future missions.

    INTRODUCTION

    While civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) is arguably as old as warfare itself, CIMIC as a formal doctrine dates to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations of the 1990s.1 Faced with a series of complex humanitarian emergencies in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, the Alliance recognized the need to develop regular procedures to facilitate cooperation between its military units and the relief organizations with which they needed to work. NATO defines CIMIC as:

    The coordination and cooperation, in support of the mission, between the NATO commander and civil actors, including national population and local authorities, as well as international, national and non-governmental organizations and agencies.2

    CIMIC includes three core tasks: liaison between the military contingent and all the civilian actors in the area of operation, ?support to the civilian environment,? and ?support to the force.?3

    ?Support to the civilian environment? includes tasks that the U.S. military would consider ?Civil Affairs (CA) activities:?

    1.enhance the relationship between military forces and civil authorities in areas where military forces are present; and

    2. involve the application of CA functional specialty skills, in areas normally the responsibility of civil government, to enhance conduct of CMO (Civil Military Operations).4

    CMO, in turn, are ?the activities of a commander that establish, maintain, influence, or exploit relations between military forces, governmental and nongovernmental civilian organizations and authorities and the civilian population in a friendly, neutral, or hostile operational area.?5

    While the American concepts of CA and CMO include tasks common to CIMIC and the U.S. accepts in principle NATO doctrine, the distinction between the two is more than semantic. In practice, U.S. forces appear to place less emphasis on CA activities than some of their NATO allies. CA/CMO also relegates the liaison and cooperative functions of CIMIC to secondary roles. As will be seen, this approach creates problems for the U.S. military in a humanitarian intervention, such as Kosovo, beyond those faced by other NATO nations.

    While CIMIC has a role to play in a wide range of military missions, humanitarian intervention presents such unique challenges that it deserves to be considered a unique phenomenon. Lessons learned from this, the most challenging type of CIMIC operation, will, of course, be applicable to other activities. Humanitarian interventions of the type seen in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo require the intervention of a military force to end fighting, establish and preserve order, facilitate relief operations, and aid in the rebuilding of infrastructure and civil institutions. The environment in which such operations occur, most commonly a failed state, determines the actors with whom the military force must work. By definition, a failed state, or in the case of Kosovo a province from which the once legitimate authority has withdrawn, has few, if any, functioning civil institutions. The primary players will be the intervention force and relief organizations. The latter consist of International, Non­governmental, and Private Volunteer Organizations (IO, NGO, PVO). CIMIC provides a mechanism for bridging the gap between the intervention force on the one hand, and the relief organizations and civil institutions (as they emerge or are rebuilt) on the other. When successful at this task, CIMIC operates as a force multiplier, making it possible for a significantly smaller deployment to have the same or greater effect than a larger one. Effective CIMIC may also shorten deployments and mitigate what critics deride as long-term and costly ?nation-building? operations.

    As with any strategic concept, the best way to make CIMIC more effective is to garner lessons from specific operations. Many characteristics of the Kosovo intervention commend it as a case study. To begin with, the province is both small and compact, with a manageable population. This compactness has meant that, despite widespread destruction of infrastructure and homes, rebuilding has occurred rapidly. Unlike Bosnia, where a brutal war lasted for 3 years, conflict in Kosovo remained brief, and the loss of life, though considerable, was not appalling. Such conditions have made the challenges of post-conflict peace-building more manageable. For its size, though, Kosovo has all the problems of humanitarian intervention writ large upon it. A multiethnic state fractured by apartheid and war, it dominated the headlines for 8 months. Consequently, over 500 NGOs, IOs, and PVOs descended on the province in the wake of the multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR). Coordinating activities of all the players has been a major challenge. Properly analyzed, the Kosovo mission may yield valuable lessons that will inform the conduct of future operations at the policy, strategic, operational, and tactical levels, all of which are more closely inter-related than they might be in conventional war.6

    CONCLUSION

    Mounting casualties and spiraling costs in Iraq make the issues of civil-military cooperation timelier than ever. The best way to avoid getting bogged down in a costly and protracted nation-building operation is to do CIMIC well from the outset. Effective cooperation maximizes use of military and humanitarian assets, increases the security of the troops, and facilitates a more rapid transfer of responsibility to civilian authorities. Education and training are essential to producing unity of effort in the field. Personnel exchanges, joint courses, and combined planning can occur without compromising the integrity of either the military or humanitarian missions. Cooperation and liaison on a regular basis can maximize the effectiveness of humanitarian intervention while maintaining the essential distinction between military and civilian roles.

    ENDNOTES

    1. R. Janssens and H. Teitler, ?CIMIC since 1945. Historical, Political, and Operational Contexts,? NL-Arms, Netherlands Annual Review of Military Studies 2002: Civil-Military Cooperation, a Marriage of Reason, Breda: Royal Netherlands Military Academy (KMA), 2002, p. 13.

    2. AJP-9 NATO Civil-Military Co-operation Doctrine, Brussels, Belgium, June 2003, p. 1-1.

    3. Ibid., pp. 1.3-1.4.

    4. Joint Publication 3-57.1: Joint Doctrine for Civil Affairs, Washington: Department of Defense, 2003, p. 1-3.

    5. Ibid., p. 1-2.

    6. This monograph will focus on the period from June 1999 to August 2002, when NATO reduced KFOR troop strength and consolidated brigade areas. For practical purposes, the humanitarian intervention can be deemed ended. The ongoing mission remains one of stabilization. Little more can be done until the final status of the province is resolved.