A Framework for NGO-Military Collaboration
Glenn B. Penner
What do military professionals need to know about NGOs? The literature on NGOs includes very little about NGO-military relationships in troubled areas. Moreover, the U.S. military fails to convey or encourage an adequate understanding of NGOs in its publications and mid-career military education. Drawing from scholarly literature, case studies, and practitioner interviews, I theorize that the efficacy of NGO-military collaboration varies with the type of NGO (international NGO (INGO) or local NGO (LNGO)) and the type of operation. I crystallize this argument into a typology of NGO-military outcomes. I find that military cooperation with international NGOs is most productive during humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief operations, whereas military cooperation with local NGOs is most productive during conflict and post-conflict operations.
The operational environment (OE) requires comprehensive cooperation between military and civilian actors, and state and non-state actors. There are in excess of 36,000 nongovernmental organizations (NGO) operating throughout the world, and the United Nations (UN) lists nearly 20,000 international nongovernmental organizations (INGO). Yet, there is an existing history of NGO antipathy to cooperation and identification with military forces. U.S. military professionals and NGO professionals, despite differing operational approaches, share much in common in regard to commitment and desired ends. However, there is not a coherent framework for NGO-military collaboration.
When INGOs and local NGOs (LNGO) operate in the same area, they compete for donor funds, influence, and operational space. Due to the increasingly converging areas of operation, there is a need to study the relationship between militaries and NGOs. Furthermore, in the contemporary environment of reduced military budgets, it is prudent for military officers to seek out more cost-effective methods to accomplish missions. Collaboration with any legitimate organization that can assist in mission accomplishment should be considered.
This study defines an INGO as: a voluntary, non-profit organization of citizens organized on an international level to perform economic or infrastructure development, humanitarian functions, provide information, encourage political participation and conflict resolution, or advocate and monitor policies and practice of governments.
LNGOs are generally smaller organizations and focus solely within the borders of their respective countries, provinces, cities, or neighborhoods. The general term NGO will be used throughout this study unless specification is required.
This study draws from scholarly literature on NGO-military interactions, case studies from both civilian and military sources, and interviews relating experiences about NGO-military interactions. I find that military cooperation with INGOs is most productive during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations, whereas military cooperation with LNGOs is most productive during conflict and post-conflict operations. With this in mind, I produce a typology based on NGO specificity and its relevance to different types of military operations.
This study looks at NGO-military interaction during planning, conflict, post-conflict, and humanitarian assistance and disaster scenarios. The terms conflict and post-conflict are used in this study, rather than identifying operations by operational phase (0-V) because NGOs are less familiar with military phased operations than the terms conflict or post-conflict.
NGOs and Military Doctrine
Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0 defines an NGO as “a private, self-governing, not-for-profit organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering; and/or promoting education, health care, economic development, environmental protection, human rights, and conflict resolution; and/or encouraging the establishment of democratic institutions and civil society” (2012, Glossary-5). Joint Publication (JP) 3-08 (Interorganizational Coordination During Joint Operations) further defines NGOs as “independent, diverse, flexible, grassroots focused organizations that range from primary relief and development providers to human rights, civil society, and conflict resolution organizations. Their mission is often one of a humanitarian nature and not one of assisting the military in accomplishing its objectives” (JCS 2011, IV-11).
JP 1, the principal joint document for the armed forces of the U.S., charges the services, combatant commanders, and the joint staff with conducting “effective . . . NGO coordination.” It also notes that “CCDRs [Combatant Commanders] and other subordinate Joint Force Commanders must consider the potential requirements for interagency, IGO, and NGO coordination as a part of their activities across the range of military operations within and outside of their operational areas” (Joint Chiefs of Staff 2013, 58). JP 3-08 expands upon potential NGO-military interaction. It notes the institutional differences between NGOs and the military, and goes into further detail on the need for DOD cooperation with NGOs. U.S. joint and Army doctrine states the central idea of unified action is ”synchronization, coordination and/or integration of the activities of governmental and nongovernmental entities with military operations to achieve unity of effort” (Joint Chiefs of Staff 2013; Department of the Army 2012, iii).
UN doctrine states, “it is incumbent upon the peacekeeping operation to meet regularly and share information with all actors, and to harmonize activities, to the extent possible, by seeking their input into the mission’s planning process and to respond actively and substantively to requests for cooperation” (Guéhenno 2008, 73). UN doctrine specifically mentions the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a potential partner. It also specifies that humanitarian NGOs will likely be present during operations. Comparing U.S. with UN military doctrine demonstrates that UN doctrine is slightly more prescriptive than U.S. doctrine in terms of recognizing NGO specificity, however both lack nuanced detail of NGOs.
Military doctrine fails to provide a typology of the broad range of NGOs or a framework for how NGO-military interactions should proceed. Specifically, the vast differences between the capabilities and limitations of INGOs, LNGOs, and others are not mentioned. For the military practitioner, a clearer understanding of the nuances between the categories of NGOs will benefit collaborative engagements.
Military practitioners should have access to a framework for operating with NGOs so as to avoid collaborating with organizations that may not complement their mission or who may be worsening the condition in the OE. In addition, such a framework could save time and resources by guiding military practitioners toward organizations more likely to engage in collaborative efforts.
LNGOs should not be expected to have the budget, personnel, or political clearance that would allow them to conduct pre-operational coordination with foreign militaries that may operate in their country. Small LNGOs often have deep local roots and would make good partners for military commanders trying to affect change in a given area. However, small LNGOs may be largely unknown outside their city or country. For this reason, excellent potential LNGO partners on the ground cannot be accounted for in advance. Likewise, large INGOs that are willing to meet with meet with military and other government officials in their home country to provide vital information on a troubled country may be hesitant to work with the military in the troubled country out of fear it may be detrimental to their individual security. Understanding such dynamics would allow the military to better focus their efforts before an operation begins as well as give planners and commanders an idea of what to expect on the ground.
According to Chris Seiple’s analysis, there are several aspects of NGO-military cooperation during humanitarian crises that stand out:
- NGO-military cooperation has largely been ad hoc.
- Institutional and cultural differences pervade.
- NGOs required logistical support for large operations and the military often provided logistical infrastructure for NGOs.
- NGOs provided the military with accurate information on troubled areas.
- NGOs are highly cognizant of how their actions affect donor support.
- NGOs are less security oriented than the military.
- The NGO-military relationship works best when both have something to offer the other.
These eight commonalities gleaned from Seiple’s work are beneficial for understanding how future NGO-military interaction will occur, and more importantly how the collaborative relationship can be improved upon.
David Byman echoes much of Seiple’s work and adds that: “NGOs often wonder why well-armed U.S. military units emphasize force protection while working in areas where NGOs have long operated without protection. Because of these cultural differences, NGO and military officials often do not understand each others priorities or procedures and resent what they see as indifference on the other side” (2001, 104). Byman also notes many NGOs are concerned that working with the military will damage the perception of neutrality and impartiality they believe is essential to their work.
Rietjens, Van Fenema, and Essens write about the incorporation of military, NGOs, and others during Common Effort, a large multinational military exercise hosted in Germany by the German and Dutch Armies in September 2011. Common Effort incorporated many of the numerous relevant civilian organizations involved in HADR, conflict, and post-conflict operations. Common Effort was an attempt to familiarize NGOs, IGOs, and militaries with each other’s practices and procedures with the intent that during real-world actions their collaborative efforts would be smoother.
The exercise was deemed beneficial by members of the American, German, and Dutch militaries in part because of the presence of actual NGOs. Often, training exercises involving “NGOs” are actually contracted personnel hired to play the role of an NGO during the exercise. In some cases the “actor” hired to play an NGO during a military exercise may or may not even have experience with an NGO. All parties involved in Common Effort reported that working with real-world counterparts was beneficial for two reasons. First, working with actual professionals from other fields benefitted the exercise and contributed to a sense of realism. Second, many cross-field friendships and professional connections were made during the exercise. These pre-operational connections, as Byman (2001, 109) pointed out, are what many NGOs feel is a requirement for success during collaborative operations.
Haldun Yalcinkaya argues “the innovation of ANSO [(Afghan NGO Safety Office)] has created a new dimension for NGO security in unsecured environments, namely as an NGO-military security collaboration rather than cooperation or coordination” (Yalcinkaya 2012, 490). The ANSO works with ISAF to receive the latest security updates which it passes to NGOs in the field. ANSO maintains contact with NGOs during operations and requests in extremis support from ISAF when necessary for NGO workers in danger. For NGOs, in extremis support from the military can be the difference between life and death. In a quid pro quo relationship, military preparation and conduc of in extremis support of NGOs can be seen as the military doing its part to support NGO operations. This presents an opportunity for an NGO-military collaborative mechanism.
Logistics and security are two of the most important and well-known capabilities that militaries can provide NGOs in conflict areas. However, military practitioners need to understand the significant capabilities NGOs bring to conflict areas, such as—local, national, and regional expertise, rapid deployment, and enduring commitment to their programs. There are three beneficial capabilities NGOs can provide: (1) flexibility to operate with all actors, (2) long-duration physical presence in conflict zones, and (3) ability to deal with more subjective aspects of conflict that official processes cannot (Chigas 2007, 553). NGOs are not restricted from dealing with illegitimate organizations in the same manner that government agencies are. Due to this flexibility, Chigas notes NGOs are an effective mechanism for engaging illegitimate organizations at the grass roots level (2007, 561).
An NGOs non-official capacity can be utilized by the military to indirectly engage illegitimate organizations. NGOs are not restricted from dealing with illegitimate organizations in the same manner that government agencies are. Due to this flexibility, Chigas notes that NGOs are an effective mechanism for engaging illegitimate organizations at the grass roots level (2007, 561). Military practitioners who have managed established relationships with NGOs could benefit if they are given access to information garnered from illegitimate organizations. This being said, NGOs should not be treated as collection assets if the intent is to participate in a collaborative relationship. The need to engage each other with mutual respect in a quid pro quo relationship is vital.
Collaborative mechanisms are what bring NGOs and the military together to produce a beneficial outcome that otherwise would not have occurred. The following seven points are the identified NGO-military collaborative mechanisms: (1) NGO-driven coordinating bodies such as the NCCNI in Iraq. (2) Military-led coordinating bodies such as a CMOC. (3) UN coordination centers such as the HOC in Somalia. (4) Military in extremis support of NGOs. (5) U.S. military Civil Affairs units. (6) Civil-military exercises such as Common Effort. (7) NGO-military coordination with and through USAID or its OFDA and their equivalents.
Obstacles to Collaboration
Obstacles to collaboration between NGOs and the military include a general lack of trust related to cultural differences. Another obstacle is NGO need for political impartiality versus the inherent political nature of military operations. Differing perceptions of security requirements has been another issue affecting collaboration. For the military security is often a paramount concern, especially in new OEs. NGOs may be more familiar with an area and resent the military conducting parallel operations with armored vehicles and weapons while the NGO takes no security precautions. A final obstacle is that NGOs find differing national caveats of militaries during multinational operations makes it difficult to coordinate with the military.
The theory posited in this paper predicts that a military's operational outcome varies with the type of operation a military engages in and whether the military cooperates with local or international NGOs. This study analyzes INGO-military and LNGO-military collaborative efforts during disaster, post-conflict, and conflict operations.
The independent variables in this study are (1) the type of NGO-military interaction, and (2) the type of operation—disaster, conflict, or post-conflict. This study analyzes six potential types of military operational interactions with NGOs. I theorize the type of NGO-military interaction will affect the dependent variable (operational outcome).
The dependent variable in this study is the operational outcome of NGO-military collaboration. The operational outcome of the interactions between NGOs and the military, as depicted in each of the six cells is analyzed and recorded in.
The sectors analyzed are LNGO-military interaction and INGO-military interaction by type of operation—disaster, post-conflict, and conflict. The data is derived from case studies and practitioner interviews. The case studies are from two sources—CSI and the International Commission on Voluntary Agencies (ICVA). The practitioner interviews are solely from the Combat Studies Institute (CSI).
This study finds that the military can expect collaboration to occur with INGOs during disaster response operations and with LNGOs during conflict operations. During disaster operations it can be expected that LNGOs and the military will operate in separate spheres. Evidence suggests that LNGOs may be involved in disaster response operations, however the extent of a disaster and the nature of military responses does not engender collaborative operations. In other words, if LNGOs conduct disaster relief operations it is done separate from the military. During post-conflict operations, the military can expect limited collaboration with LNGOs and a tacit coexistence with INGOs. LNGOs are not averse to operating with the military, but the nature of post-conflict operations does not suggest a full collaborative relationship is likely to occur. This study assesses there is likely to be a tacit coexistence between INGOs and the military during post-conflict operations because both organizations perform critical functions in parallel. INGO commitment to impartiality limits collaborative efforts though. This commitment to impartiality also affects the INGO-military relationship during conflict operations. Taking sides during inherently political conflict operations is what militaries usually do. This is anathema to INGOs and as such they have a profound ideological clash with the military.
Two disaster relief operations are considered in this study— operations following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and Operation Sea Angel following the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh. It is noteworthy that of the six sectors to be analyzed, LNGO-military interaction during disaster relief operations has the smallest data pool from which to study. INGO-military interaction during disaster relief operations has a far greater pool of data available.
The global response was rapid and robust following the 7.0 earthquake centered on Port-au-Prince on 10 January 2010. According to some reports, the earthquake killed over 200,000 people and left over 1.3 million homeless. Many key Haitian government structures were destroyed in the earthquake and many essential civil servants were killed or lost family members. This contributed to a chaotic Haitian government in the initial months of the response and recovery.
The ICVA NGO case study reports some CSOs and LNGOs did contribute to the relief efforts but it gives no detail on military interaction with these types of organizations. It does, however note: “coordination between the international and humanitarian community and their national and local counterparts within the Haitian government and civil society has been particularly weak, resulting in weak national and local ownership” (Hedlund 2012, 11).
This study found no evidence of LNGO-military collaboration in Bangladesh. The lack of reported LNGO-military interaction could be due to one or more of several factors, including—the massive INGO response, substantial military response, effectiveness of the government of Bangladesh, or the relative short duration of the international response.
There is some evidence LNGOs do conduct relief efforts following disasters, and this study does not discount them. However, this study found no information on LNGO-military collaboration during relief efforts. For this reason, I posit the expected outcome of LNGOs and the military operating in disaster relief operations to be separate operational spheres. That is, the military will likely conduct its operations independently or with other non-LNGO organizations. LNGOs, if they are conducting operations will not likely be working with the military.
A recent study suggests military forces might serve as the initial engine for start-up of LNGO relief operations following disasters, but host nation organizations (LNGOs and CSOs) must drive projects to institute positive changes in the environment. More specifically, David notes that local organizations can significantly increase the effectiveness of civil military operations and help limit the footprint required by military forces (David 2013). David’s theory suggests that the military and affected populations could benefit from the military seeking out operational LNGOs and providing them with seed money or logistical help in support the relief effort.
The lack of literature or case study evidence on LNGO-military collaboration during disaster relief operations leads to the conclusion that the military should focus its collaborative efforts on INGOs during humanitarian operations. Military planners at the GCC or equivalent level should not ignore LNGOs though. Databases of LNGOs where humanitarian emergencies may arise should be maintained in the event LNGO assistance could benefit military operations. However, the bulk of the planning and operational efforts during humanitarian operations should be given to INGOs.
Two coordination centers were established in Haiti within the first week following the 10 January 2010 earthquake. One was established by the UN and the other by the U.S. military. The United Nations Disaster Assistance Coordination team established a virtual On-Site Operations Coordination Center to coordinate 52 search and rescue (SAR) teams. The UN coordination center was the primary interface mechanism for INGOs and non-U.S. military contingents. The U.S. military established the Joint Operations and Tasking Center, which allowed INGOs and humanitarian workers to access the airport and request military assets and security for their relief and recovery operations (Hedlund 2010).
USAID contracted InterAction to establish an NGO coordination office for the 82 U.S.-based INGOs operating in Haiti following the earthquake. InterAction’s NGO coordination office served as the primary liaison point for U.S. military and USAID interaction with U.S. INGOs. Its office was located as close as physically possible to UNOCHA’s main office in Port-au-Prince (Hedlund 2010). Military support to INGO relief efforts largely consisted of securing ports and storage facilities and air and ground logistical support.
The effects of the earthquake and an extended history of ineffective government institutions contributed to the Haitian government not being closely involved in the relief efforts or security. The security situation in Haiti was such that military contingents sometimes carried weapons when conducting their operations. Because rioting and looting occurred in many areas of Haiti this study assesses there was a partial breakdown of society. The loss of many key government structures and officials certainly exacerbated this situation. This study has found that most military operations in response to disasters alone have a short duration. Haiti was no different with all international military contingents gone by 1 April 2010.
Physical conditions resultant from cyclone Marian were a major consideration during Operation Sea Angel. The extent of the damage was such that only two points of entry were available for delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies and personnel. Also, the Bangladeshi Army was capable of providing transportation for supplies inland to much of the country. During this operation participants in the relief operation reported that no UN or OFDA presence led to a streamlining of the NGO-military relationship. A fully functioning CMOC was never established, as such the CMOC did not play a large role in Bangladesh. Due to limited points of entry much of the relief operation was conducted and coordinated from naval ships. There were never more than 500 U.S. military personnel on the ground in Bangladesh (Seiple 1996).
The military response consisted of the Bangladeshi Army, all U.S. military branches, and military elements from Great Britain, Japan, and China also contributed to the operation. INGO-military collaboration in Bangladesh largely involved INGOs reporting where and what type of assistance was needed. The military would then utilize naval assets to deliver the aid.
The security situation in Bangladesh was stable and military contingents did not generally carry weapons. One of the reasons for this was the maintained social fabric in Bangladeshi society. Other operations such as Somalia and Rwanda witnessed the unwinding of normal social life, while others like northern Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort and Haiti saw a partial breakdown of society.
Because INGOs were prepared to meet the humanitarian assistance needs of the populace following the cyclone, the military was mostly required for its air and naval logistical assets. This presents a point for future anticipatory coordination between INGOs and the military. INGOs and militaries both have large stockpiles of food, water, shelters, medicine, etc. to be administered following disasters. Inventory lists of stockpiled supplies should be shared between NGOs and the military to facilitate collaboration during future humanitarian operations.
Some of the differences between NGO responses and NGO-military collaboration can be attributed to the different types of disasters. Earthquakes do not allow for pre-operational planning. Cyclones and hurricanes may give NGOs and the military a few days to prepare a response plan. Famines or genocidal conflicts offer varying times for pre-operational planning. Conducting interagency and NGO-military exercises and information sharing on a regular basis would facilitate increased readiness and collaboration when real-world NGO-military operations occur.
The expected operational outcome of INGO-military interaction during disaster response operations is collaboration. The evidence from Haiti and Bangladesh demonstrate the willingness of INGOs to collaborate with the military during disaster relief operations. INGOs often have a commitment to impartiality as part of their operational philosophy (rules). This, as the study shows later, is often problematic for the INGO-military relationship. However, disaster response operations are less likely to be politically motivated. Therefore, INGO-military collaboration is more likely because INGO rules and norms make them less averse to collaboration with the military during disaster response operations. The need to aid stricken populations in areas accessible to only the military or technically skilled INGO SAR personnel further drives this convergence.
This study looks at NGO and military efforts during post-conflict operations in Iraq (Operation Provide Comfort), Operation Support Hope in Rwanda and Zaire, and Kosovo. The post-conflict relief and development operations in Kosovo and Rwanda both occurred in environments that had seen violent ethnic cleansing. Operation Provide Comfort in Iraq was a U.S.-led coalition aimed at staving off a humanitarian disaster for the Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein’s feared wrath in Iraq following Operation Desert Storm. The Kurds were fleeing what they feared would be ethnic targeting from the Hussein regime.
NATO involvement in Kosovo was a key point in NGO-military cooperation. Sometimes referred the first humanitarian war, Kosovo demonstrated the willingness and capability of NATO to conduct peacebuilding operations. NGOs (primarily INGOs), feeling their territory was being trampled upon, resented what they felt was NATO overstepping into the humanitarian assistance realm.
In Kosovo, the largest inter-NGO organization was the INGO Council. Two other inter-NGO bodies existed in Kosovo at the time—the Islamic Council of NGOs, and the Local NGO Council. The need for relief and reconstruction far exceeded the contingencies the INGO Council had planned for. Because the INGO community was not prepared for the level of effort required and the UN was slow in establishing operations, in Kosovo “some NGOs worked directly with the military in contravention of basic humanitarian principles, showing that not every NGO was concerned with coordinating positions” (Currion 2012, 2). Many of the NGOs that worked with the military were LNGOs.
The relatively small physical size of Kosovo affected NGO operations in a positive way:
Unlike many other post-conflict countries, Kosovo was small and secure, making it significantly easier for INGOs to develop their work. The needs within Kosovo were comparatively clear (although the lines between “relief” and “development” were blurred) and, apart from the emergency need for shelter, not huge in scale or scope. In practical terms, nearly every NGO had their head office in Pristina, a small city where all important meetings were held within a one square mile area. (Currion 2012, 8)
Prior to the winter of 1999-2000, the UN assessed its preparations with the NGOs for the returning Kosovar Albanian refugees as inadequate. Due to the inability of the UN and INGOs, NATOs Kosovo Force (KFOR) was requested to mitigate potential problems with winterizing the refugee facilities. KFOR provided logistical infrastructure for both LNGO and INGO operations aimed at winterizing refugee facilities. This is an example of a typical point of LNGO-military collaboration—LNGOs provided materials, expertise, and local knowledge while the military provided logistical support. For the military practitioner, providing LNGOs with logistical support can serve as their contribution in a quid pro quo relationship aimed at utilizing LNGO expertise, materials, or information.
During this post-conflict operations the presence of three separate inter-NGO organizations—one LNGOs, one INGOs, the other religious NGOs is significant. The ICVA case study on post-conflict operations in Kosovo provides evidence of convergence between different types of NGOs and does not report over burdensome competition between INGOs and LNGOs. This is an important point because, as this study shows later, competition between INGOs and LNGOs can be troublesome during conflict operations.
There is evidence of LNGO-military collaboration in Kosovo but this study found no evidence of LNGO-military collaboration in Rwanda or Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort. The rapid onset and ferocity of the violence that occurred in Rwanda and in the Kurdish dominated areas of northern Iraq did not allow for LNGOs to operate even if they had been previously present.
The expected operational outcome for LNGO-military interaction during post-conflict operations is limited collaboration. This expected outcome is such because the reported collaboration is certainly greater then LNGO-military interaction during disaster relief operations. However the level of collaboration between LNGOs and the military is not as great as during conflict operations as this study demonstrates.
In Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort, the U.S.-led military coalition worked extensively with INGOs, such as CARE and the International Rescue Committee, to deliver relief supplies and establish refugee centers for the fleeing Kurds. However, during the initial weeks of the crisis there was no NGO presence. U.S. military Special Forces and Civil Affairs personnel had to perform the bulk of the humanitarian assistance mission until the NGOs began to fulfill that role (Seiple 1996). INGO-military collaborative in northern Iraq benefited from two effective coordination centers—the military CMOC, and the NGO-led NGO Coordination Center for Northern Iraq (NCCNI).
Operation Provide Comfort is classified as a post-conflict operation because it occurred in the wake of Operation Desert Storm and the ensuing brutal crackdown on the Kurds by the Saddam Hussein regime. However, the high level of NGO-military cooperation can be attributed to the fact that it was largely a humanitarian operation aimed at relieving immediate suffering. There was no reported collaboration between the military and NGOs to conduct long-term development or reconstruction operations.
During Operation Support Hope in Rwanda and Zaire “there was no official interface between NGOs and the American military” (Seiple 1996, 160). This was because the UN led this operation and INGOs dealt directly with the UN. Also, the INGO community wanted the international relief effort to remain impartial (Seiple 1996). Fear of losing military personnel, such as what happened in Somalia, was also a factor in the U.S. military subordinating itself to the UN and playing a relatively limited role. The U.S. military provided logistical support, surveillance aircraft to track refugees, and airport security for the UN. The UN in turn conducted direct coordination with INGOs to deliver assistance.
In Kosovo there was a more established NGO presence than Iraq or Rwanda. Eleven NGOs formed the INGO Council of Kosovo in January 1999. The INGO Council comprised nearly all INGOs operating in Kosovo prior to Operation Allied Force (aka Operation Noble Anvil). During the offensive, the INGO Council relocated to Macedonia. Following the air war, nearly 400 NGOs flooded Kosovo seeking to assist in the relief efforts. Of these, approximately 60 joined the INGO Council. INGO-military interaction in Kosovo was similar to LNGO-military interaction, largely consisting of NGOs providing information and the military providing logistical support of winterization efforts for returning refugees. INGOs conducted long-term development and reconstruction efforts independent from KFOR operations.
The expected operational outcome for INGO-military interaction during post-conflict operations is tacit coexistence. INGO and military operations can be expected to converge to alleviate humanitarian crises but INGOs are less amenable to collaborating on longer-term operations.
The security situation, particularly in Iraq and Rwanda, did not allow for much LNGO operations. This created a need for INGO capabilities and the military was a willing partner during the post-conflict operations studied here. The humanitarian assistance portions of the post-conflict operations did not present a moral quandary for INGOs collaborating with the military. Following collaboration between INGOs and the military to alleviate immediate human suffering there is little evidence of INGO-military collaboration on long-term development and reconstruction operations.
At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. military found that in northern Iraq, the Kurdish political groups had maintained meticulous database of both LNGOs and INGOs in their areas. Because of the database it was easier to contact NGOs and make logistical coordination for NGOs to provide humanitarian assistance throughout Iraq (Brand 2006). This is indicative of a high level of local and regional ownership in the northern, Kurdish dominated area of Iraq. Local ownership such is a recurring theme in the literature and case studies on NGOs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan there was competition between INGOs and LNGOs. Dealing with competition between INGOs and LNGOs should be a planning consideration for military operations. If the capabilities of these organizations and their motivators are understood their value for collaboration with the military can be maximized. In Iraq, following the 2003 invasion there was also competition between INGOs and LNGOs. There was a robust LNGO presence seeking to provide assistance at the local and national levels. The relatively effective Iraqi government institutions contributed to LNGOs receiving funds to provide assistance.
There is a large body of evidence in the literature, case studies, and practitioner interviews indicating LNGO-military collaboration during conflict operations (Brand 2006; Currion 2012; Hedlund 2011; Ives 2008; Rogers 2007). Conflict and stability operations are inherently more political than humanitarian operations. INGOs are more reluctant than LNGOs to collaborate with the military in such operations largely because of the political nature of conflict and stability operations. As such, military planners should account for the desire and eagerness of LNGOs to participate in development activities in their home countries.
In Afghanistan from 2002-2009 UNOCHA held a monthly civil-military working group attended by ACBAR, other NGOs, CSOs, and ISAF. This meeting went defunct in 2009 because, among other reasons, LNGOs felt their voices were being drowned out by the larger INGOs and ceased participation. “These issues exacerbated some of the previously minor divisions between international and national NGO members. While INGOs could afford to refuse funding from the PRTs based on their principles of neutrality and impartiality, national NGOs were in a more difficult position, since they had more difficulty accessing funds” (Currion 2012, 5). LNGOs faced similar issues as the national NGOs mentioned by Currion regarding interaction with the Afghan government. LNGO need for funding makes them more likely to coordinate with military entities in exchange for funding.
In a 2008 interview with CSI, MAJ Mona Jibril conveyed:
The vast majority of these NGOs were very small groups of Iraqis who just wanted to help others and were very good at addressing acute, immediate needs. While the American military was very willing to assist the NGOs, most preferred to operate alone because proximity to the Americans was seen by the enemy as taking sides, thereby making the NGO a terrorist target. (Rogers 2006, 1)
She mentions that “many international NGOs view the American military as aggressors while maintaining their neutrality towards all parties, but most Iraqi NGOs did not” (Rogers 2006, 1).
Jibril notes that U.S. commanders in Iraq were eager to contribute toward assistance efforts. However, it was not uncommon for LNGOs to be attacked or receive threats following a visit from U.S. soldiers seeking information or looking for ways to assist an organization. This was obviously problematic for U.S. military units conducting stability operations and eager to spend commander’s emergency response program (CERP) funds. It also highlights the need for a framework for NGO-military interaction because military units intending to assist in humanitarian efforts should understand how to engage NGOs. Jibril points out that USAID was an effective intermediary between the U.S. military and INGOs. She states, “I could work with USAID, which would then work with Mercy Corps and pass information down to them. But [INGOs] were not interested in working directly with us as a military force” (Rogers 2006, 6).
In this interview, Major Jibril reflects her opinion that a vast under utilized resource for the military and LNGO development and assistance communities are the women of Iraq. Regarding this, Major Jibril stated:
The female-run NGOs were actually the best funded, the best organized and got the most done. They’re amazing and strong people, and we could have made so many more inroads with the NGOs if we had looked at that. It was very hard, though, to get even the CA people to realize that women are part of the answer. Women are a huge part of undermining the insurgency because they would bring a different kind of peace. Insurgencies are built neighborhood by neighborhood like gangs and if the women resist, the men will resist; but we didn’t give them that support. (Rogers 2006, 7)
The NGO Assistance Center, being a sub-organization under the larger Iraqi-led Iraqi Assistance Center, was inherently tied to the Iraqi Ministries. The Iraqi central government had approving authority for funds released to LNGOs. The relative stability of government institutions in Iraq allowed for smoother interactions with between actors in the action arena. Juxtaposing the situation in Iraq in 2004 with that of the chaotic Haitian government in 2010 yields the conclusion that host-nation government ability affects the NGO-military collaborative process. The large number of Iraqi LNGOs eager to assist in humanitarian assistance and rebuilding the country could be interpreted as a strong sense of indigenous national ownership not seen in other situations.
Following the withdrawal of the Soviet military from Afghanistan in 1998, NGOs enjoyed a great deal of independence because of the lack of a functioning government. The primary coordinating body for NGOs operating in Afghanistan, the Agency Coordination Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) was formed by NGOs in 1998 and based in Peshawar, Pakistan. NGO freedom to operate was somewhat curbed when the Taliban came to power in 1996 and halted NGO projects they deemed inappropriate. Following the post-September 11th U.S.-led invasion and the subsequent arrival of coalition forces and the UN, NGOs working in Afghanistan were faced with a new paradigm. The establishment of an internationally recognized Afghan government and the renewed international focus on Afghan development contributed to the paradigm shift. The legitimate Afghan government added another actor to the arena that could facilitate NGO-military interaction, however from the NGO perspective it somewhat decreased their freedom to operate. Going in to Afghanistan in 2001, the United States was well aware of the need to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. CENTCOM accounted for this in its campaign plans. NATO conducted airdrops of humanitarian supplies to include food, water, and other essential items during the early stages of the campaign.
For Operation Enduring Freedom INGO-military convergence began during pre-invasion planning sessions in the U.S. Following the invasion, both NGOs and the military were primarily concerned with relieving the immediate humanitarian crisis. Once the situation was stabilized to pre-invasion levels the military became involved in limited-scale development work through PRTs as part of its counterinsurgency campaign. INGOs also conducted development work, but INGO need for impartiality limited their willingness to work directly with the military. In both Iraq and Afghanistan INGOs were more likely to collaborate with USAID or other government international development agencies than directly with the military.
NATO’s humanitarian assistance operation was controversial amongst the NGO community because some felt CENTCOMs humanitarian assistance mission was ill-planned and only meant to serve a political purpose. NGOs criticized the NATO humanitarian assistance response of dropping aid pallets at the same time as running a bombing campaign as deceptive. For CENTCOM, “the humanitarian aspects of the plan would set conditions by providing initial relief and creating a secure environment into which the IOs and NGOs could then move and begin their operations” (Wright 2010, 50-51). NATO humanitarian assistance was critically important because most NGOs had fled to Pakistan during the early, kinetic stages of the invasion. This contributed to a dearth of non-military organizations capable of offering humanitarian assistance. According to Wright, following major combat operations, “CENTCOM planned to rely on the existing infrastructure as much as possible and to allow Afghans, NGOs, and Coalition partners to take the lead, especially on reconstruction operations” (2010, 51). In essence, CENTCOM acknowledged it needed to play a large role in providing humanitarian assistance, but had no initial intention of getting involved in development work, which was traditionally conducted by indigenous governments, INGOs, LNGOs, and international government development agencies.
In late 2001, U.S. Army CA units established Coalition Humanitarian Liaison Cells (CHLCs), which were like CMOCs but solely focused on coordination and assistance of humanitarian assistance distribution. “The CHLC concept proved so successful that it inspired the creation of experimental Joint Regional Teams, which would later evolve into Provincial Reconstruction Teams that would be subsequently deployed throughout Afghanistan. The Coalition’s decision to provide direct delivery of humanitarian assistance and quick action projects also signaled a move away from the partnership with NGOs and IOs” (Wright 2010, 195).
In Afghanistan, ISAFs approach to development was to funnel efforts through PRTs. INGOs complained that PRTs “blurred the lines between civilian and military development activities, and consequently between civilian and military actors” (Currion 2012, 5). The inherent political mission of the PRTs left little room for collaboration with INGOs committed to impartiality.
The desire of INGOs to remain impartial should be respected if the military intends to maintain collaborative relationships with INGOs during future operations. As noted earlier, INGOs have been willing to collaborate with the military prior to combat operations in order to stave off humanitarian disaster. For this reason, INGOs should continue to be engaged in the military planning process with the mutual understanding that their efforts in planning will only be used to alleviate suffering. Assuredly, future INGO-military pre-operational planning for combat operations will be contentious within the NGO community and discretion should be paramount if this collaborative relationship is to occur in the future.
Ideologically, the military and INGOs are most at odds during conflict operations. Combat operations are inherently impartial and therefore incongruent with the objectives of most INGOs. For this reason I assess the expected outcome to be a clashing of ideologies. A caveat to this is that INGOs have shown willingness to coordinate efforts for purely humanitarian and impartial relief aspects concurrent to combat operations. For the military, collaboration with INGO for anything other than impartial provision of humanitarian assistance should not be expected.
Militaries conduct the political will of their governments and are therefore impartial. INGOs aim to maintain impartiality as they believe it is the key to their literal survival in the field and essential to keeping donor funds flowing. This divergence of ideologies is most at odds during conflict operations.
This study finds that operational efficacy between the military and NGOs varies by type of operation and by type of interaction. Based on inference from the literature, practitioner interviews, and case studies I theorize the military can expect the highest level of collaboration with INGOs during disaster relief operations and the highest level of cooperation with LNGOs during conflict operations. NGO-military interaction during post-conflict operations ranges from limited collaboration to tacit coexistence. LNGOs have a limited ability to operate in disaster response operations. INGOs are ideologically opposed to collaborating with the military during combat operations. The need for impartiality is the most important factor for INGOs to consider when considering potential collaboration with the military. The ability or inability for LNGOs to conduct operations and the willingness to accept military funding are the primary factors when considering military collaboration.
The military should apply this theory for NGO collaboration in its doctrine and mid-career education. A nuanced understanding of which type of NGOs are most likely to engage in a collaborative effort with the military can save time and resources by focusing military efforts toward the type of NGO most likely to collaborate with the military. Incorporating this theory into mid-career military education instruction will allow future military planners and commanders to approach NGOs in a manner more conducive to collaborative operations. Expanding the depth of detail on NGOs in military doctrine will give military practitioners a greater knowledge base for conducting effective collaborative operations.
The prospect of potentially collaborating with literally hundreds of autonomous NGOs, all beholden to different constituencies and pursuing independent agendas seems daunting. This study and its findings offer a means to engage NGOs in a manner that is less overwhelming. The findings of this study have revealed a more gradiated understanding of the broad term NGO. Military doctrine does not sufficiently address these distinctions, though the literature is rich with the distinctions between all types of NGOs. INGOs and LNGOs are distinctly different organizations. They have differing approaches to impartiality, different constituencies, and vastly different capabilities. As such, the military needs to approach these organizations in different manners. Military doctrine should be updated to reflect a more nuanced understanding of NGOs.
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