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BACKGROUND: Neither Joint Service nor U.S. Army doctrine exists in the required detail and depth for refugee-type operations. Although Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was a tremendous success, it demonstrated a need for a doctrinal publication to provide guidance to commanders and staff, delineating planning factors, responsibilities, and methods (FM 41-10, Civil Affairs Operations, has a listing of Civilian Relief Agencies and how they are used in disaster relief and Humanitarian assistance operations). The doctrine should conform as much as possible to the guidance provided by the UN and the Department of State publications dealing with such operations. In addition, the doctrine should distinguish the handling of displaced civilians (DCs) in an occupied area following combat operations (such as southern Iraq) from a refugee or evacuee operation, even though the consequence of combat operations (as in northern Iraq and Turkey) exists. The doctrine should also address the capabilities, and missions of PVOs, NGOs and alternative UN agencies as well as the complications these organizations produce. (See Appendix A for list of relief agencies.)


TOPIC: Integration, NGOs and PVOs.

DISCUSSION: Initially, coalition forces found it difficult to work with the various civilian organizations and persons involved in refugee operations. In particular, NGOs resented the military and its disciplined approach to the refugee situation, as well as their concern for physical security and the restrictions this imposed on individuals. Gradually, the professionalism and abilities of SF and CA soldiers working the mountain camps voided most concerns, and the attitudes of the NGOs changed.


  • Develop both a refugee operations doctrine and an operations methodology publication.

  • Ensure the documents distinguish purely military situations from those that entail cooperation with civilian organizations and eventual transfer of control to these organizations.

  • Recognize that coordination and integration of civilian organizations pose a special problem for military forces in their operations. Senior leader training needs to address the issue.

  • Use CA personnel whenever possible to coordinate activities of these organizations within the commander's operations plan and their training program.

TOPIC: Integration, USEUCOM develops the Civil Agency Relief Element (CARE).

DISCUSSION: The CARE cell was developed to coordinate with the State Department, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the American Red Cross, PVOs, NGOs, and international organizations. Its mission was to provide essential background knowledge from needed for military decisionmakers. It provided new insights and knowledge of the functioning of the UN relief organizations. This was critical to the success of the operation.

LESSON(S): The CARE cell needs to be set up early and staffed with representatives from all appropriate agencies.

  • The CARE cell needs to have direct access to senior staff and decisionmakers.
  • The CARE cell must be involved in the planning for the transition of the humanitarian effort from military to civilian organizations.

TOPIC: Integration, Lack of Familiarity with Civilian Relief Agencies.

DISCUSSION: Most military leaders and planners are not familiar with civilian relief agencies or the manner in which they conduct civilian support operations. The military had some difficulty in understanding the more loosely organized NGOs and the significance of political and economical factors on their operation. The importance of their role in an operation in which the responsibility for the refugees was to be transferred to them cannot be overemphasized. In many cases, the NGOs and PVOs will go into areas that will provide their organization with the best media coverage as most of these organizations rely on donations for their existence.


  • Lead agencies should be identified to represent the multitude of participating NGOs.
  • Military planners should obtain NGOs operational documents, such as the UNHCR Handbook for Emergencies.
  • Military training programs should include overviews of the identity, missions, capabilities and limitations of these agencies.
  • Joint headquarters should include a NGO/PVO liaison as an adjunct to host-nation support functions.


TOPIC: Mines and Munitions.

DISCUSSION: It is critical that leaders ensure personnel avoid areas in a combat zone that have not been cleared, or may be mined. During both Operation PROVIDE COMFORT and Operation DESERT STORM, numerous injuries and deaths could be attributed to personnel moving in areas that were not cleared. Soldiers also picked up or disturbed explosive devices. During Operation DESERT STORM the entire area of operation was saturated by both enemy and friendly mines. The Iraqi force used extensive mine operations. To further increase the threat, scatterable mines and numerous unexploded munitions saturated areas. There were numerous injuries and deaths caused by these devices. In some cases the soldiers were even picking up and transporting armed devices. One of the first incidents to occur was when Kuwaiti submunition in Khafgi, Saudi Arabia. These soldiers discovered and picked up a artillery submunition explosive shape charge; the charge detonated, killing one soldier and injuring others. In northern Iraq there were multiple injuries and, in some cases, deaths to both military and civilian personnel caused by mines.


  • Provide soldiers with the training to allow them to identify and void landmines, submunitions, and duds delivered to the battlefield by both air and ground delivery means.

  • Ensure that soldiers do not go unnecessarily into high threat areas that may contain these threats.

  • Be aware that there will always be risks that have to be taken in combat operations; however, leaders must ensure that every risk taken is necessary.

  • Develop an identification training program.

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