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I. Introductionselected for printing

1.3. CIMIC in operationsselected for printing

CIMIC is applied across the full spectrum of operations, domains5 and environments. However, as operating environments are different, the emphasis between the CIMIC core functions may change. Combat operations require a different quantum of CIMIC activities compared to stabilization or disaster relief operations. The principles of CIMIC remain the same, but the emphasis between the core functions may change7.

CIMIC’s main effort – within the CIMIC core function6 “support to the force” - is the CIMIC contribution to operations planning (e.g. to targeting or de-confliction of mass movements). The CIMIC estimate and assessment has to support to mitigate effects of the civil environment on our military mission and vice versa.

Due to the tempo of operations early synchronization efforts with the host nation (HN) and non-military actors is necessary. High operational tempo and changing situations demand a continuously updated, comprehensive situational awareness at all times.


Combat operations may be required to directly defend NATO against an aggressor8. The tempo of activities in combat is usually high with accelerated speed and scale of manoeuvre. The operating environment is characterized by the fact that the defence will first and foremost involve territory of the member states of the Alliance; those states are sovereign and generally fully-functioning. The relationship between the NATO force and the host nation (HN) is governed by long standing bilateral- and/or multi-lateral agreements, most notably the NATO status of forces agreements. Many NATO nations have their own structures and procedures in place to deal with most aspects of CIMIC in the event of armed conflict. Moreover, a joint task force deployed in a NATO nation can expect that some CIMIC functions will be undertaken by the host nation. Support to the civil environment will be a national responsibility and memoranda of understanding may cover many aspects of support to the force. Even where a NATO nation has been subjected to significant destruction, it is assumed that the national government will retain both the will and ability to organize and carry out civil reconstruction of the country, supported by international organizations other than NATO. CIMIC will focus on `Support the force` as the HN and other responders will support the civil environment. CIMIC units liaise primarily with the HN at every level in order to benefit from HN capabilities to support the operations.

Specific characteristics of combat operations:

  • The host nation is responsible for providing basic services to the population. During combat operations IOs/NGOs may fill in capability gaps as the second responder although they are likely to be fewer in areas of high intensity combat due to unsafe operating environments. During early stages of combat, accessibility into those areas could be limited or non-existent for them. The military commander, as the last resort, should be prepared to close civilian capability gaps (key civil life support, humanitarian issues, key civil infrastructure and civil administration) temporarily and to set the conditions for return of responsibility to non-military actors. Consequently, planning must be initiated in the early stages including clarifying responsibilities between the national government and the commander of a deployed force.
  • Regardless of the nature of the operation; military forces will encounter civilians operating in and around the area of operations (AOO). A 100% evacuation is unrealistic. Refugees, internally displaced persons and evacuees might result in interference with Allied forces’ operations. The military has to be ready to support the control of civil mass movements to complement HN efforts. Military profile will be high, resulting in resource intensive activities and enhanced demand for CIMIC liaison to remainders of authorities and/or community leaders and existing international organizations (IOs) / non-governmental organization (NGOs). It is important that in the absence of (functioning) HN authorities the United Nations High Commissioner's Office for Refugees (UNHCR) is the designated UN agency responsible for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. As such they will support the HN. The control of civilian movement, as well as the use of infrastructure (MSRs, APODs/ SPODs) would be vital areas of coordination with the HN. If a mass movement is expected to hamper operations, the military, through (CIMIC) liaison, may have to support HN authorities and IOs/NGOs, facilitating their involvement through appropriate actions.
  • The adversary might target civilians by destroying vital infrastructure or use other means to destabilize the society, like minority tensions. Moreover, (major) CIMIC sites of significance, e.g. vital/critical energy infrastructure, have to be taken into account while conducting operations, especially because the government’s accessibility and protection of those locations might be degraded in time and space.
  • CIMIC staff should cooperate with the host nation to integrate the influx of humanitarian aid and development organizations. Basic civil infrastructure and life sustaining systems (such as water supply or power) may have been destroyed during the operation or exist in such poor condition that a rapid reaction will be needed.
  • CIMIC projects will be of lesser significance in combat operations. If conducted, they should focus on crisis management and compensation of negative effects for the civil environment and enhancement of the countries’ resilience9.

Crisis response

Crisis response operations include multifunctional operations, which contribute to conflict prevention and resolution, humanitarian purposes or crisis management in pursuit of declared Alliance objectives. Crisis response operations may be as demanding and intense as combat operations. They can be differentiated into:

  1. Military contribution to peace support. Peace support may take place in the context of both inter-state and intra-state conflict, which imposes challenges to the military due to the multifaceted nature of security activity. Civil-military liaison is key to facilitate effective CMI.
  2. Non-combatant evacuation operations. Non-combatant evacuation operations (NEOs) are national diplomatic initiatives, with NATO forces participating in a supporting role. In preparation for and during the execution of a NEO, the commander should consider establishing a mission-tailored CIMIC liaison element to facilitate interaction with non-military actors in order to avoid friction, competition for resources or duplication of effort. To achieve this, CIMIC liaison must be established as soon as possible, initially as part of an operational liaison and reconnaissance team (OLRT).
  3. Military contribution to humanitarian assistance. Military contribution to humanitarian assistance is intended to support the efforts of the host nation civil authorities, who have the primary responsibility to provide assistance in these cases. IOs and NGOs provide assistance. Generally, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) facilitates dialogue and interaction between civil and military organizations.
  4. Counter irregular activities. Countering irregular activities requires NATO forces to have an understanding of the particular character and root causes of the conflict, its context and its participants. Counter-irregular activities fall into three categories (counter-insurgency, counterterrorism and counter-criminality) of which the categories with the most relevance for CIMIC is counter-insurgency (COIN). CIMIC is to facilitate activities in partnership with the contested authorities and other stakeholders, in order to contribute to a creation of an environment in which civil organizations can effectively operate.
  5. Military contribution to stabilization and reconstruction. Stabilization and reconstruction attempts to mitigate complex problems in unstable states during and after crises. Even though all activities are normally civilian led and ideally implemented by legitimate local authorities, the military might be tasked to provide security to facilitate the activities of other actors in insecure circumstances. Furthermore, early liaison to non-military actors will enhance effectiveness and the unity of purpose.
  • 5

    Land, air, maritime, space, cyber.

  • 6

    Civil-military liaison, support to the force, support to non-military actors and the civil environment. See Chapter 2.

  • 7

    See Chapter 2.

  • 8

    Article 5 NATO treaty.

  • 9

    AJP 3.19, Chapter 4, 4.24

    "Resilience is a society’s ability to resist and recover easily and quickly from these situations, combining civilian, economic, commercial and military factors. Resilience is a broad concept focusing upon continuation of basic governmental functions. Resilience is the combination of civil preparedness and military capacity."