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This is a publication of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR)


The Comprehensive Approach is the biggest issue in NATO today. For that reason the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) organized a Symposium, highlighting this subject during its 2010 Summer Congress in August in Stavanger, Norway. The intention was to educate reserve officers on this topic, one of the objectives of CIOR, as they can bring these messages home to their respective stakeholders in the 36 countries that are member of CIOR. The role of the Reservists as they relate to the Comprehensive Approach was seen as critical to creating key in forward valuable insights for a successful end state in current operations.

The CIOR Symposium was held under the Chatham House Rules, meaning that no information or discussion could be subsequently attributed to an individual speaker. Accordingly, the opinions as stated in this article are not specifically referenced to their source.

This will be a series of articles where the Comprehensive Approach (CA) will be addressed and elements of this new approach will be explored.


Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) has seen a growth within NATO’s Military Operations in the past decades. Many Nations only partly share their view on what CIMIC is and define it for that reason in a different way. It also means that execution of CIMIC is done with different means (general military - or dedicated personnel; professionals or reservists) and in different ways (see also Civil Military Co-operation (CIMIC) ). 

Still there is a NATO definition of CIMIC:

    The co-ordination and co-operation, 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.

                                                                                (Allied Joint Publication 9, page1-1, Art 102).

As was stated in the first article, with this definition, the commander's intent always prevailed in planning and executing the mission, because it is a NATO definition related to the NATO Commander. Or did the authors of the AJP 9 have a visionary approach, making this definition for the CA-future?

That is not clear – what is clear is that in the definition CIMIC is related to “the mission” – not “the military mission.” The perception of most military however is: that the military mission is meant. Their interpretation is that CIMIC should support the military mission and that is the reason why it is done by the military.

If we look now at the Comprehensive Approach, there are two questions to be asked:
1. Should CIMIC be limited to the military mission?
2. If the first question is answered with a no – why should it be done by military and what role should the military play, regarding other civilian players like IO’s and NGO’s?

Should CIMIC be limited to the military mission ?
First of all not all operations are the same. In CIMIC terms you can divide operations in two groups: operations in non-secure environments where Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are not present; and operations in more secure environments where NGO’s are operating.

In operations without NGO’s the Military Commander has the monopoly in CIMIC where he can initiate development. Until now he focused upon his own mission and / or he could influence the posture of the local population towards his troops (sometimes with psychological operations). Mostly, the Military Commander would limit his actions to that level of CIMIC and focus on his military mission only.
Now, utilizing the Comprehensive Approach, the Military Commander can consider himself the first one to be present and one whom has the means to operate towards the common defined end-state. In doing so, he would balance the goals of his mission with the goals of a greater development plan and not work with the limited definition of CIMIC. He would strategize his means to provide the first steps on the road of development while taking the actions that fit into a greater development plan – not only related to his military mission.
Again, that would mean that the Military Commander is no longer limited to CIMIC in the sense of supporting the military mission but given the opportunity to work with the civil leaders on a long range development plan utilizing his means that are available. In operations with IO’s and NGO’s the Military Commander will be expected to work  with other international institutions dealing with development. One would think that could mean simplifying the tasking of the Military Commander because others (NGO’s) in theatre will perform the development tasks, but that isn’t the reality. . With a broadening of the mission into a general mission to reach the end-state; more and more institutions like the High United Nations Commissioner, the Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will look for the Military Commander  to support their actions utilizing his means that are available .
Examples of utilization of military means, is the support by military hospitals to the local community. Once a military hospital is in place treating wounded soldiers it would be acceptable to have the same hospital work for the local community -- as long as it didn’t conflict with the military tasking. Utilization of this resource would strengthen the support of the the military in the local population, but it also starts development. Utilization of military means can be done with engineering equipment, transport means, water supply installations etc. Timing of when to start and when to stop providing support for development with military means will become the question. Will there be a situation with all kinds of institutions in the local population requesting our military capabilities back in order to utilize our military means?
That brings us to the second question

Why should it be done by the military ?
In the first stages of the war-fighting operations, it is a non-secure environment; the only one operating in theatre is the military. Their first tasking is to secure the area; but in the meantime with CA as an end state strategy, the military could start the development of the area. For example, in Afghanistan it is very important to get support from the local community by not only showing them that you have the forces to fight the terrorists, but that you can also support the local community with development initiatives.
In later stages, when the NGO’s come into theatre, the situation should transition to where the local developing government is dealing with all kind of organizations and the NGO’s run the development agenda. The military will limit themselves to providing security and release other actions focused upon developmental initiatives to the other players in the field.

In CA, where does CIMIC fit in? Should there be a CIMIC supporting the military mission? The answer to that question could be: yes! If the military commander sees a need for CIMIC activities to support his military mission, he should continue to rely on his CIMIC effort to get it done. No doubt that this can be done orchestrated with other activities, but CIMIC continues to stay in his “field of vision” and CIMIC continues to be his action.

How to get from the broader task of development back to CIMIC? That should be dealt with on a case by case basis. It depends on the UN High Commissioner and his staff and on the development of local government on how soon they are able to get into play and take over the responsibilities. It also depends on the way the NGO’s act. As we saw during the Symposium in Stavanger – some NGO’s discussion about “who” does “what” starts at this point. Some NGO’s have impartiality as a principle response and will not even speak to the military in fear to be seen as non-impartial. If perceived to support the military action within that country, it could place their own people into danger.  Others plan according to their own agenda and will not coordinate with anyone. Regardless of how the NGO’s act, it is  the posture of the Military Component to provide security as soon as possible and to limit  CIMIC action in support of the military mission.  In my opinion, it is the only way to reach the end state in harmony with the other players: Everyone playing his own role while not being accused of doing the work of others or claiming money that others are entitled to.

So Is CA the end of CIMIC? The answer is no. It should mean that in the early stages in a hostile environment the military commander should not limit his CIMIC initiatives to the small definition of CIMIC – not only supporting the military mission, but starting development for the broader overall mission. This could even call for a new staff element in the Combined Joints Taskforce Headquarters (CJTF HQ) being a Development advisor. The military commander should be ready to hand over to others as soon as the situation makes that possible and even the Development advisor then could be transferred to the UNDP or the local Government. Then, after the transfer, the military commander would still be entitled to order CIMIC in the small definition, in support his own mission – preferably in orchestration with others. 

This is the third of a series of 5 articles from CIOR on the Comprehensive Approach, derived from the CIOR Symposium on “NATO’s Comprehensive Approach and the Role of Reservists” held on the 11th of August 2010 in Stavanger (NO).

© 2012 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers