Civil Affairs Support to Irregular Warfare

“There will always be wars and rumors of war.”

Jesus Christ

It would appear that Jesus Christ saw wars as a regular, if negative, part of life and the Gospels contain a parable of two related to war, so I would doubt that Jesus would see anything irregular about warfare. However, the Department of Defense felt that some wars are not as regular as others, and in Department of Defense Directive (DoDD 3000.07, December 1, 2008 (see link), defined irregular warfare as “A violent struggle among states and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s). Irregular warfare favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capacities, in order to erode an adversary’s power, influence and will.”

Non-state actor is the factor that separates irregular war (IW) from the run of the mill variety. The definitions in DoDD 3000.07 imply that a focus on civilian population distinguishes IW from traditional warfare. However, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Sherman’s march to the sea were focused on civilian populations, as were the 8th USAAF and RAF Bomber Command attacks on major German civilian population centers in WWII and our bombing campaigns against Hanoi. These were all acts by state actors during traditional wars, so I think the focus really is on the non-state actors.

The Geneva Conventions speak to non-state actors in as much as they apply to “conflicts not of an international character,” so the law of armed conflict does not change in regards to a military’s responsibilities towards civilian populations under their control. (See links at right.) So what does Civil Affairs do differently in IW vice regular war? That is a good question, one that the Civil Affairs Association will consider at its 58th annual conference, where it will address “the role of Civil Affairs personnel, units, and policy in irregular warfare.” In May of this year the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities (ASD (SO/LIC&IC)) briefed that “the nature of irregular warfare (CT, UW, FID, COIN & SO) is indeed “population focused” operations, then we must consider the implications for civil affairs; one of the few capabilities within DoD that specifically focuses on foreign civilian populations.” I would like to share some of the highlights of what ASD (SO/LIC&IC) briefing and solicit some responses on the issue of how CA supports IW.

Counter-terrorism (CT) Operations that include the offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, preempt, and respond to terrorism. (JP 3-05) If I take out the words offensive measures from the DoD definition of CT, I can imagine lots of ways CA can undermine local popular support for terrorist networks, such as our support to FID in the Philippines. ASD (SO/LIC&IC) suggested “For example, civil affairs functional specialists with expertise in the areas of banking and law enforcement can assist DoD efforts to educate HN security forces in methods to combat terrorist financial operations.” This may be true, but our FBI and DOJ, who have offices in US embassies worldwide, are far more likely to have this expertise. I agree with ASD (SO/LIC&IC) remarks that “civil affairs forces should train and equip other HN forces in Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) to ensure HN forces are prepared to immediately respond with appropriate levels of aid following a specific CT operation. Without such civil-military components to CT operations, terrorist organizations will likely strengthen their influence over relevant populations as was witnessed in Lebanon in 2006.” and “CT operations that cause unnecessary collateral damage risk alienating the relevant populations, de-legitimizing the host nation and or US , and may produce effects that are counter to our campaign objectives. Civil affairs can help mitigate such effects.” More importantly, senior CA officers should sit on targeting boards where they can influence whether or not we risk needlessly killing innocent civilians in our attempts to bag relatively low-value targets. Such ill-informed CT strikes only serve to recruit for the Taliban.

Unconventional Warfare (UW) ASD (SO/LIC&IC) suggested that CA could support UW by conduct “civil reconnaissance in advance of future UW operations to include human terrain mapping and civil information management.” And suggested that our CA conduct civil-military operations (CMO) in and around “safe havens” used by US forces and help plan and support the transition phase of UW campaigns. ASD (SO/LIC&IC) noted that these tasks would require that CA should leverage ongoing social science programs and increase the level of social science analysis in the curriculum of the CA course. I think these suggestions make imminent sense. I would like to opine that we would never undermine another sovereign government, but as one State Department officer informed me, he conducted UW against the Taliban while serving on a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

Foreign Internal Defense (FID) ASD (SO/LIC&IC) noted “Civil Affairs functional specialists with backgrounds in the areas of justice, law enforcement and corrections can provide additional depth to these DoD sponsored advisory missions and associated Security Sector Reform missions. However, these CA functional specialists require some additional training in the principals of development and Security Sector Reform (SSR).” A valid statement, but most of our CA functional specialists will have backgrounds in US justice, law enforcement and corrections. Special care is needed to ensure that we don’t foist a corrections system that Californians can’t afford on Afghans, etc. Similarly, our justice system is very different from those found in Europe and Asia and may not be the right answer for a country fighting a radical Islamic insurgency. The British are championed as experts in COIN and oft cited for their overwhelming use of police vice military to defeat communist insurgents in Malaya. However, the police employed by the British did not carry Miranda cards, nor were they bound by the strict rules of evidence that our police are accustomed to.

Counterinsurgency (COIN). ASD (SO/LIC&IC) notes that “Organizational models such as the Provincial Reconstruction teams provide a contemporary model for civil-military teaming in support of COIN. However, there remains a need for more formal civil-military teaming concepts. . . as with Counter-terrorism, civil affairs can contribute to methods for countering insurgent networks and their associated communications and financial systems. To conduct COIN, DoD requires “interdependent joint force/interagency packages proficient in performing large-scale, civil-military operations needed to defeat irregular threats and conduct stability operations, thus enabling/transitioning to civil authorities. Civil affairs forces are logical components for such civil-military teaming concepts. However, such models will require a reevaluation of joint civil affairs doctrine and organizational concepts for civil-military operations at the operational/theater level.” Basically, recognizes that a lot more CA is needed, and this is one reason we are building to ten AC CA battalions in two brigades while growing USAR CA by one more brigade. One suggestion is to make a CA company organic to each AC and ARNG brigade combat team (BCT) and use the USAR CA force for echelon above BCT, to include civil-military teaming in Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) or Forward Advanced Civilian Teams.

Stability Operations (SO) (As Steve Henthorne of CCOE (link at right) says, the other side of COIN) ASD (SO/LIC&IC) advocates for more training for USAR CA functional specialists, CA planners permanently assigned to Combatant Command staffs and more “CERP-like” authorities and funds, and that CA assets should be more often in conflict prevention and persistent presence roles as well as ongoing fights in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are all good recommendations.

I think that overall ASD (SO/LIC&IC) made some excellent recommendations that though they will take time and money (a lot less than a half-dozen more F22s) will serve our Nation well in preventing and fighting IW as well as traditional war. I look forward to hearing more about how CA can support IW at the 58th Civil Affairs Conference and I look forward to questions and comments on this posting.


4 Responses to “Civil Affairs Support to Irregular Warfare”

  1. Steve Henthorne Says:

    “There is a war out there, old friend – a World War. And it’s not about whose got the most bullets; it’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think. It’s all about the information.”

    Cosmo (Sneakers, Movie, Director: Phil Alden Robinson, 1992.)

    Unfortunately Civil Affairs, or whatever it might be called in the future, whether it be Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Joint, will be only as effective as the active component kinetic operators allow it to be. Today, the one common thread among all of the Civil Affairs service components is that most are minimized in one way or another, at both home station and in the AO.

    For whatever the reason Civil-Affairs, mainly Army Civil-Affairs is behind the power curve on getting out what they bring to the table to enhance the combatant commander’s mission. For the last six years they’ve basically lost their information war. So until everyone, from the White House to BCT Commanders in the field understand what Civil Affairs is, and the CA role in helping the kinetic force transition from Phase 3 to Phase 4-5 (Stability Operations), Civil Affairs will not be allowed to be of much support to any kind of Warfare.

    The U.S. Army, in particular, has a six year vested interest in kinetic operations. To support that investment they have almost totally ignored in-depth training for stability operations, and have virtually decapitated and disemboweled U.S. Army Civil-Affairs. The U.S. Army Civil-Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) is the U.S. Army’s, and this nation’s, primary tool for conducting stability operations.

    This business of proponency for Army Civil-Affairs has to be permantly settled, once and for all. CA has been bounced around like a step child, or worse, since 2006. It truly needs a four star sugar daddy to support it, fight for it, and get the information out as to what major contributions CA can to actually “Secure the Victory.”

    As we are all aware U.S. Army doctrine visualizes three major areas that comprise “Full Spectrum (Stability) Operations,” each of equal importance: Offense, Defense, and Stability. The requirement for the Army to conduct full-spectrum operations is derived from: The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), National Security Program Directive (NSPD) #44, DoD Directive 3000.05 (Stability Operations), and Army Campaign Plan. The Army is highly skilled at Offense and Defense, as they apply to the new favorite word of the decade “COIN,” but “Stability Operations are the other side of the COIN,” and Civil-Affairs functional specialties are the key to Stabilty OPeration success, and to the success of the overall mission.

  2. civilaffairspksoi Says:

    Understand your comments on vested interest in kinetics. That probably will never change, and as MAJ Kahn suggested in his MR title, we need to study more chemistry to compliment our physics. I know that the Maneuver Center is teaching SO. I can’t quantify the hours in the Captain’s Course curriculum, but they have a block devoted to it in company operations and one in battalion operations.

    Civil Affairs would certainly benefit from more senior GO attention, but I feel that we are making big progress expanding from one to ten battalions in the AC and growing the RC as well. The Army got that growth and the Navy got its Maritime Civil Affairs Group because commanders in the field saw CA forces as an enabler and not a distraction. More progress is needed, but I think we are on a positive trajectory.


  3. Steve Henthorne Says:


    I fully understand, and agree that USACAPOC is moving forward slowly. However the Army hasn’t actually given all that growth yet; with most now being pushed back to 2013, if not 2015. As for the Navy, originally getting the Maritime Civila Affairs Group, now MCAST, that was not entirely due to “commanders in the field seeing CA forces as an enabler and not a distraction.” That happening was the direct result of intense inter-service rivalry.

    Getting those extra Btns., when they materialize, is a very positive step; as long as they are not converted Chemical Corps, Medical Service Corps, and Army Nurse Corps personnel, blessed off with two weeks of CA training, as has been the case in the recent past. Getting bodies is one thing, getting experienced bodies, with some functional specialties is something entirely different. There are also enhancements that still have to be made on the USACAPOC C2 staff level.

    Beginning in October 2006 when USACAPOC(A) left the command of control of the United States Special Operations Command, shortages in staff manpower began to have adverse affects on the ability of USACAPOC(A) to effectively command and control all AR CA and PO forces. In particular, the following General Staff sections still require augmentation: (1) Engineer, (2) Medical Services, (3) Chaplain, (4) G-3/5/7 and G-3 Emergency Operations, (5) Staff Judge Advocate, (6) G-6 Communications, (7) Protocol, (8) Internal Review, (9) Historian.

    Without any adequate staff augmentation, USACAPOC(A) will not be able to sufficiently sustain the quality of operational support to the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs). USACAPOC(A) has had, and still has, the highest operational tempo of any AR operational and functional (O&F) command (PO 1:15 and CA 1:2 Rotational Spin Rate). So, In order for USACAPOC(A) to fully execute Training, Readiness and Oversight responsibilities for USARC during pre/post-mobilization in time of war, USACAPOC(A) truly requires additional staff resources be added to the Headquarters TDA. Without the addition of staff resources as mentioned here, the standards expected by operational commands in theaters of war as well as readiness for other engagements will not be met in all cases… without some new CONPLAN USACAPOC(A) will not be able to maintain the current high OPTEMPO and provide critical command functions as required IAW Title 10 legislation.

    There is also the very basic issue of a severe shortage of field grade management, Army wide. The Army has a great big sucking chest wound bleeding out Captains and Majors. Planners can create extremely nice charts as to where the billets are, but easily filling them is slightly more difficult.

    Finally, I am well aware that MG Blackledge has had several meetings with the CAR, and is working very hard to make these needed corrections. However, a lot of time was lost before he took command. Both he and MG Morris have struggled greatly just to keep things afloat. There is still a lot of proactive marketing yet to be done, there seems to be no impartial political Ombudsman to help in that fight.

  4. civilaffairspksoi Says:

    All good points. I believe that trained MSC and ANC officers with two weeks of CA training are a site better than nothing, especially if they are willing to deploy and may have deployed to OEF or OIF previously in their original skill. I think it is good that the RC CA course had lengthened to nine weeks. You are right, the Army should fully staff USACAPOC given the optempo of CA and PSYOP forces.

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