Rational beliefs - inconsistent practices: Civil military Coordination in North-Afghanistan
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- PhD theses (SV-IMKS) 
Original versionRational beliefs - inconsistent practices: Civil military Coordination in North-Afghanistan by Lillian Katarina Stene, Stavanger : University of Stavanger, 2014 (PhD thesis UiS, no. 230)
What was the idea? Coordination is a vital element of crisis management (Turner, 1978; Minear et al., 1992; Schneider, 1995; Rasmussen, 1997; Strand, 2003; Boin et al., 2005; Kruke and Olsen, 2005; Keen, 2008). The coordination between civil and military actors is especially crucial and complicated if the crisis is characterized by political (military), economic, and social conflict, as displayed in Afghanistan. Civil and military actors have different organizational cultures, standard operating procedures, aims and priorities. Still, they are often forced to coordinate in order to perform their humanitarian, political and military tasks in joint efforts to assist the local populations in a complex emergency. To manage this coordination, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in North-Afghanistan operated under three concepts: the Comprehensive Approach (CA), Counterinsurgency (COIN), and the NATO civil-military coordination (CIMIC) doctrine. These three approaches, to some extent, overlapped, to some extent were contradictory, but most important; they were differently understood and implemented with various levels of success. ISAF, as a powerful military actor in Afghanistan, consists of many high qualified and capable soldiers at all levels. The question is whether it is possible for such an organization as ISAF to handle crisis management under the guidance of these coordination concepts and the broad mandates operational in Afghanistan? To enlighten this, the structures and processes in ISAF organization are studied in order to assess how these structures/ processes influenced the civil military coordination in the field. With the aim of contributing to the enhanced knowledge about civil military coordination, I put forth the following research question: - How do ISAF structures and processes influence civil military coordination in North Afghanistan? In the analysis I have applied theories of security and the new wars, complex emergencies and, in particular, organizational theories with a basis in bureaucracy-theory and new-institutional perspectives. The rationale behind this choice was that military organizations are normally viewed as representatives of rational bureaucratic organizations, having structures and processes that characterize rational organizations (Weber, 1971; Banfield, 1959; Lindblom, 1959). The new-institutional perspective is meant to be a tool to explain the shortcomings of rationally built organizations and the influence of the surrounding environment (Greenwood et al., 2008; Meyer and Rowan, 1977; DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). Further, the use of Turner (1976/1978) and Turner and Pigeon’s (1997) theories of man-made disasters enlighten the crisis management perspective. What was done? To be able to understand and collect genuine data about ISAF’s influence on civil military coordination, it was essential to get personal experiences from the field. After attending pre-deployment courses I was sent to North Afghanistan as a CIMIC officer, doing participant-observer research for a seven month fieldwork. Back home, the data was systematized and followed up the year after by a new field work in the same operation area, then in the role of a declared researcher, for enhanced data collection based on interviews and meetings. As a CIMIC officer I followed the ISAF “project factory” in North- Afghanistan. The “project factory” were local, regional or national ongoing projects characterized by military involvement and extensive civil military coordination, - through which I studied many parallel processes. I did not have the opportunity to follow any of these projects from planning to implementation and evaluation, as projects at this level often were ongoing for years, and my deployment represented seven months in line with the military rotation system. Consequently, to many ISAF officers including myself, these projects represented “a running train” in which one had to jump on and off on the way. Still, the processes in the six projects in which I participated became vital sources of information in my data collection. After getting a picture of ISAF structure and processes during my first fieldwork, I focused more on the understanding and interpretation of ISAF mandate and civil military concepts in the second follow up field-work. Civil and military personnel representing three levels were interviewed: ISAF Joint Command (IJC) in Kabul, the subordinated Regional Command North (RCN) in nearby Mazar-e Sharif and the RCN subordinated Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), representing many countries, stationed in different provinces. Also document analysis, meetings, discussions and field conversations contributed to my data collection. What came out of it? By studying ISAF organization in North Afghanistan, influential aspects to civil military coordination became apparent. It is essential to acknowledge the importance of cultural awareness and understanding of the context in a so-called “out of area” operation such as the one ISAF conducted in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Western way of conflict management based on Western logic, rationality, expectations, and traditions might not be appropriate. One also needs to acknowledge the difference between civilian and military actors. As experienced in the studied projects military tend to be action-minded with a high sense of responsibility and control. This might result in narrower thinking in line with their own training and experience for accomplishing a mission with a specific, usually short timeline. Civilian actors, even though they are very varied, more often have a long term perspective and focus on the local structures and processes. Successful, sustainable projects presuppose local ownership, which mostly requires a long term perspective. Accordingly, when military actors are engaged in the civilian sphere as presupposed in the overall civil military coordination concepts applicable for ISAF, this requires a long term perspective, consistency, and clear lines of role performance and responsibility. This was not the case. ISAF displayed internal diversity in preparedness, priorities, and policy. The practice of ISAF civil-military coordination did not ensure local ownership of projects, as they were mostly ISAF planned and executed, within a strict timeline. An important source of ISAF coordination problems were the unclear civil military concepts of CA, COIN and CIMIC or Civil Affairs doctrine. The concepts were differently understood, prioritized, and interpreted in different NATO and non-NATO ISAF participating nations, as well as on the different ISAF organizational levels, being well known in upper headquarters and more or less unknown or ignored out in the field. Besides, this diversity of interpretation of the concepts also led to organizational inconsistency, hampering appropriate coordination with the local environment and other actors presupposed for an appropriate crisis management. The ISAF inconsistency gave a picture of an organization with many nuances which coordinating actors found difficult to read. Findings show how ISAF, an intended rational bureaucratic organization, was faced with diversity and inconsistency in organizational structures, as well as training, planning, and role performance. Accordingly, ISAF strove to keep the needed unity of effort that characterizes a functional military organization. Structural problems such as a very top heavy organization, different organized headquarters, and multiple reporting lines influenced and complicated civil military coordination processes in general, as well as in the planning and execution of projects. Military planning and decision-making processes were exigent, with no overall clear end-state1 or aim to measure the activity against and the multiple reporting lines complicating the information and communication processes. Besides, the vague and broad ISAF mandate gave plenty of room for varied interpretation and practice. Additionally, internal coordination were hampered by different national policies and trainings before mission, as well as the fact that ISAFparticipating nations had different national caveats that blocked the unity of effort as well as an efficient command and control structure. 1 End state is a military term used in this thesis, meaning the set of required conditions that defines achievement of the Commanders’ objectives. Findings also indicate that theories like rational and new-institutional organization theories are applicable when analyzing the military structures, processes, and role performance, and how this affects civil military coordination. Nevertheless, the most important contribution of this thesis is empirical, composed as it is of a data collection that would have been very difficult to achieve without being on the inside of the organization. This research shows how important it is to make clear distinction between civilian and military responsibilities, in time and space, if and when military is involved in civilian projects. If military actors are engaged in civil military coordination tasks and projects they should not be a subject to the same logic of action as the kinetic units. Further, if military is supposed to keep security, a more strict and joint military command and control system, as well as a more specific defined concept of action and tasks is necessary.
PhD thesis in Risk management and societal safety