William Maley, Susanne Schmeidl

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The new literature was fundamentally population-centric, putting the struggle for normative support ahead of body counts in counterterrorism operations, or spectacular kinetic exercises which could have adverse unintended consequences.14 COIN did not lead to the creation of the PRTs, but the advent of this new literature on counterinsurgency provided a coherent underpinning for the kind of endeavours on which the PRTs were focused: bringing civilian and military actors together to work for the common good of the local population whose goodwill would determine whether state authorities would succeed or not. In a practical sense, the broad issue of engagement between military and civilian actors is by no means a new one, but it is one which has taken distinctive turns at various points.15 Civilians and warfare intersect in three quite striking ways. First, civilians typically populate the landscape on which armed conflict occurs, and a core thrust of one strand of international humanitarian law (the so-called ‘Law of Geneva’) is concerned with the protection of, or minimisation of harm to, those who as either civilians or prisoners of war are hors de combat – as well as with the protection of cultural property and assets of no military significance.16 Second, if, as Clausewitz suggested, war is an instrument of policy,17 then winning the support of civilians (or at least ensuring that the way in which war is fought does not lose their support) may be crucially important. This is sometimes embodied in Sir Gerald Templer’s reference during the Malayan Emergency to the importance of a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy when dealing with the locals, something which has resonated in COIN doctrine. Third, endemic armed conflict may intersect either with humanitarian emergencies or situations in which development needs are overwhelming, bringing into the theatre of operations a range of developmental and humanitarian actors with their own objectives and ways of doing things, and their own conceptions of how best to help vulnerable civilians.18 There are thus a range of civilians with whom the military may find it necessary or important to interact. One group comprises the civilian population of a country, trying to survive in very trying circumstances. Another comprises the civilian government of a country, often trying simultaneously to boost its sovereignty, and impose its own development priorities. Another comprises civilian actors – of either foreign or local origin – from NGOs, international organisations, or even from different state agencies in the country from which a given military contingent may come. All this suggests that sweeping generalisations about ‘civil-military cooperation’ (CIMIC) are likely to require considerable disaggregation. But beyond this lies another problem. Field experience has often shown that relations on the ground are not necessarily cooperative in any strong sense of the term. Even groups that relate congenially are likely to be doing their own things in their own ways, and not operating conjointly. Faced with this problem, other terminologies have surfaced, such as civil-military interaction, civil-military engagement, or civil-military responsibilities. These capture the reality that civil and military actors are themselves complex and diverse; that they may not agree on desirable end-states; and even if they do, they can still differ on the question of what means should be employed to pursue those ends.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationReconstructing Afghanistan: Civil-Military Experiences in Comparative Perspective
    Editors William Maley, Susanne Schmeidl
    Place of PublicationAbingdon and New York
    ISBN (Print)9781138810679
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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