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

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

Authored by Dr. Thomas R. Mockaitis.

October 2004

46 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The humanitarian intervention in Kosovo provides an excellent case study of civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) in peace operations. The intervention required 40,000 heavily armed combat troops from NATO and Partnership for Peace countries to provide security and coordinate relief efforts with the UN, the OSCE, and over 500 humanitarian organizations. CIMIC provided the mechanism for such cooperation and support. Like any concept employed in coalition warfare, CIMIC varied widely in the quality of its application. This study examines the effectiveness of CIMIC within each brigade area and throughout the province as a whole. It identifies best practices and common mistakes to derive lessons that might inform the conduct of future missions, such as those currently underway in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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.

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