Small Wars Journal

A Cause of and Solution to Extremism: A Case for Civil Military Operation (CMO) Capacity Building in African Partner Forces

Mon, 01/13/2020 - 8:36am

A Cause of and Solution to Extremism: A Case for Civil Military Operation (CMO) Capacity Building in African Partner Forces

James P. Micciche


As the United States begins to transform its foreign policy and security strategy to adapt to what the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) refers to as “a return to Great Power Competition (GPC)”[i] one geographic region that has endured a substantial reduction in funding and troop commitments is Africa.  While there are no great power competitors amongst the 53 countries that constitute United States Africa Command’s (USAFRICOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR) multiple countries within the region are at the forefront of ongoing efforts that clearly fall within what Joint Doctrine Note 1-19 defines as the competition continuum[ii].  From increasing Russian military partnerships to strategic Chinese economic development projects, rival nations are seeking to advance their interests and increase their influence within Africa over that of the United States.  By 2050 Africa will be the world’s largest market in terms of number of consumers as current demographic trends predict that 25% of the world’s population will reside in sub-Saharan Africa within three decades[iii], therefore making establishing equitable long-term relationships with key partners while concurrently fostering stability vital to both U.S. economic and security interests. 

In addition to competition for influence between great powers, the continent of Africa remains plagued by the damage and chaos wrought by violent extremists across many of its diverse regions.  Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa persist in the regions around the Lake Chad Basin helping to create a humanitarian crisis that has led to 2.7 million displaced across the region[iv]. Al Shabaab continues to attack fledgling institutions of governance in Somalia, the second most fragile state in the world per the Fund for Peace’s yearly index[v].  ISIS and other entities attempt to expand their influence in Northern Africa enabling unfettered flow of illegal migration towards our closest allies in Europe.  In his 2018 address to Congress, General Thomas D. Waldhauser, then Commander USAFRICOM addressed these and other ongoing concerns:

“U.S. Africa Command supports our African partners in building the capability and the capacity to develop local solutions to radicalization, destabilization, and persistent conflict. By making targeted investments and maintaining strong partnerships, we can set the basic security conditions needed for good governance and development to take root. Africa, our allies, the U.S., and the world stand to benefit from a secure, stable, and prosperous Africa.” [vi]

General Waldhauser’s intent and vision for a secure and stable Africa is a construct that Civil Affairs (CA) has a unique and critical role in achieving, specifically through the creation and implementation of an AFRICOM wide Civil Military Operations (CMO) capacity-building program for partner forces.   A CA-led CMO development program as outlined in this article has three primary outcomes:  (1) The generation of security forces that can work by, with, and through civil populations at the tactical and operational level, accounting for civil considerations and mitigating second order effects often used by extremist organizations in influence and messaging campaigns. (2) Increasing the projection of partner nation governance within vulnerable populations through the promotion of an inter-ministerial approach and more pragmatic security elements.  (3) Increased understanding of the complex human terrain throughout the various regions of Africa and the facilitation of transregional collaboration between USG and African Partners.  Furthermore, a CA-led CMO program will directly enhance the Joint Force’s ability to campaign through both cooperation and competition below levels of conflict throughout the continent of Africa supporting the framework established by both the Joint Concept for Integrated Campaign (JCIC) and the Competition Continuum and codified ass objective 3 of AFRICOM “U.S. access and influence are ensured.”  To facilitate the maximum use of the limited amount of CA elements allocated to AFRICOM it is essential to create a named operation or program of record such as United States Southern Command’s (USSOUTHCOM) Civil Affairs Engagement Program (CAEP) to enable long term success in any CMO development program.  


In late 2017, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) published a landmark report titled “Journey to Extremism: Drivers, Incentives, and the Tipping Point for Recruitment” in which UNDP sought to answer a very complex question: “What makes a person decide to join a violent extremist group?” The comprehensive study interviewed 718 individuals from six African nations (Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Niger, Somalia, and Sudan) in which extremism and terrorist activities are prevalent, including 573 respondents who were once or currently are members of extremist organizations in Africa to include Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and ISIS.  Findings highlight that no single factor or event serves as the solitary catalyst for an individual to take up arms or provide logistical support to extremist movements; rather a set of factors increase the propensity of individuals or groups to be influenced by and ultimately join extremist movements and organizations.  Many of the factors UNDP identified in making a population vulnerable to extremism are not new to Civil Affairs and SOF practitioners:  under-governed regions far from central authority, ineffective or absent security forces, inadequate education, lack of employment opportunities, and poor economic conditions are some of the same drivers of instability that are uniform across all COCOMs. 

Unique to Africa is the role that the very forces sent to combat extremists, insurgents, and criminals play in empowering the very organizations they seek to defeat.  Seventy-one percent of all respondents stated that the “tipping point”, defined as the specific moment or factor that transitions an individual from being vulnerable to actively supporting a VEO, was government action.   Government action includes the killing or arrest of family members or friends as well as destruction or damage to property by national or local security forces[vii].  To highlight how impactful government action was; no other tipping point was greater than 8% (regional developments).  The 2009 extrajudicial killing of Boko Haram founder, Muhammed Yusuf by Nigerian Security forces illustrates how government action can set conditions for an extremist organization to flourish across an entire region. Following Yusuf’s death, Boko Haram prominently increased their support and numbers among the population of Northern Nigeria, concurrently increasing their operational tempo and cruelty of methods.  Abubakar Shekau’s ascension to leader of Boko Haram is attributed as the cause of increased Boko Haram violence, but it was the State Security Forces that provided him not only the position of power, but also the platform to recruit. US Army Civil Affairs is uniquely postured within the AFRICOM AOR to address this critical driver of instability through a programmatic CMO development and training program with African partners at both the tactical and institutional levels of partner militaries within both conventional and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components.

During the United States Army Africa (USARAF) 2017 Senior Leaders Conference then United States Army Africa (USARAF) Commanding General, MG Joseph Harrington charged his subordinate commanders with shaping African partner militaries to become forces that “the populace runs to, not away from in times of peril.”  AFRICOM and its subordinate component commands such as USARAF frequently provide or organize bilateral and multilateral training through mil-to-mil exercises and Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) programs.  AFRICOM programs address a myriad of Security Force Assistance (SFA) domains such as increasing combat survivability (Tactical Combat Casualty Care / Counter-IED), enhanced lethality (advanced infantry training), transnational interoperability and information sharing (Unified Focus and Flint Lock Command Post Exercises), disaster response planning (Exercise Joint Resolution Epic Guardian) and equipment donations.   The fight against extremism, especially within the complex environment(s) of Africa cannot rely on lethality and combat effectiveness alone, and many times kinetic action is not the appropriate response.  It is paramount to the long-term success of any capacity building program within the AFRICOM AOR that the lead component command institute an incorporated or concurrent CMO development program.  

Incorrect utilization of recently acquired combat power can, and often has, increased the influence extremists organizations exert over populations. Overemployment of kinetic force enables the transition of key terrain and networks within the human domain away from the government and towards negative actors.  One such example is the brutality and ferocity that had become associated with tactical village clearing operations conducted by the Nigerian Military en masse as recently 2015.  The 2015 Amnesty International report titled “Stars on Their Shoulders.  Blood on Their Hands” claims that between 2009-2015 Nigerian security forces haphazardly arrested 20,000 people, 7,000 of which died while in military internment facilities, where the NGO recorded countless accusations of torture and extrajudicial killings[viii]. Military overreach is not limited to tactical operations but also in operational decisions within contested areas. A March 2018 Foreign Affairs article titled “Nigeria’s Troubling Counterinsurgency Strategy Against Boko Haram: How the Military and Militias Are Fueling Insecurity” highlights recent restrictions implemented in northern Nigeria that are having dire second order effects in constraining economic prosperity and way of life:

“Apart from their disastrous humanitarian consequences, Nigeria’s policies to “starve the enemy” allow local military units to integrate themselves and dominate local economic markets and activities. The military now prohibits growing tall crops (among which Boko Haram could hide) and controls fishing activities, travel on certain roads, and access to the markets, often collecting illegal tolls and rents. It demands that merchants buy fish only from fishermen and traders it certifies, justifying such control of access to the economy by the need to deprive Boko Haram of resources”.[ix]

Draconian responses, if true, illustrate the tipping points for 71% of extremists in Africa, empowering the very enemy they seek to eradicate.   CMO development programs at both the tactical and operational levels are instrumental in enhancing the relationship between the populace and military to prevent such actions and their second order adverse effects.  Additionally, institutional CMO capacity facilitates securing key terrain within the human domain to defeat extremists that often coerce and operate within the civil populace, and concurrently negate ongoing VEO influence and recruitment campaigns.  


“Tipping points” are defined as specific moment or factor that transitions an individual from being vulnerable to actively supporting a VEO.  PHOTO SOURCE – UNDP Journey to Extremism

Programatics and CMO Development

Any CMO development program in Africa must employ a bifurcated approach focusing on both tactical training and institutional development.  This dual approach would include two distinct but related activities: (1) the development and codification of CMO principles within partner force doctrine and staff planning processes.  (2) Training and development of tactical level CMO focused units or individuals through an established and theater uniformed Program of Instruction (POI) with region/country specific segments.   Institutional development and the creation of doctrine will need to occur at the Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) or national ground forces command level; this will require a minimum of a field grade CA Officer to serve as a CMO advisor within the appropriate staff section for a year or more.  The CMO Advisor would work with partner force leadership to codify CMO principles into doctrine, ensure the incorporation of civil considerations and variables into staff planning processes down to the BN level, foster inter-ministerial coordination and collaboration, and either a dedicated CMO force structure (in line with a NATO CIMIC company) or CMO elements to be attached to tactical units.  Vital to the success of the CMO advisor position is an established framework that permits flexibility to meet the needs or constraints of a given nation.  CMO Advisors can also shape and promote regional partnership and information sharing between adjacent partner force militaries through fellow advisors and inter-organizational associations.

The second facet of the proposed CMO development concept is tactical CMO training through the utilization of Civil Affairs Teams to instruct partner forces through mil-to-mil exercises or TSC and USN/USMC/USAF equivalent events.  A CA Team is uniquely qualified to create and present a comprehensive program of instruction based on their inherent knowledge of the human domain, theater specific cultural understanding, and language capabilities. Any Program of Instruction (POI) must not rely on PowerPoint, instead utilizing practical exercises of skills learned, and include a comprehensive capstone event or Field Training Exercise (FTX).  Tactical level CMO training does not need be a standalone construct and is easily incorporated into existing TSC or mil-to-mil events.  During Unified Focus 2018, Civil Affairs Teams from Bravo Company, 83rd CA BN and the 764th Ordinance Company created a hybrid FTX incorporating CMO, C-IED, and Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) instruction, ending with a comprehensive daylong scenario based-capstone.  Furthermore, CMO training is not exclusive to Counter Terrorist (CT) or Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts in AFRICOM. Counter Illicit Trafficking (CIT), Security Force Assistance (SFA), Counter Narcotics (CN), MEDRETE, and Border Security Initiative (BSI) mission sets all can easily include CMO training aspects due to their constant interface with the human domain. Furthermore, the CA Team medic can enhance combat survivability of partner force elements receiving training through the instruction of TCCC.  Tactical-level instruction must include, but is not limited to the following topics:

  • Basic CMO Principles
  • Utilization of interpreters
  • Conducting Civil Engagements / Key Leaders Engagements
  • Basic Assessments and Reporting
  • Information Sharing
  • Role of NGO/IGO
  • Civilians on the Battlefield

The final and critical phase to the enduring success of a CMO development in the AFRICOM AOR is creating a long-term plan for institutional sustainability.  Train the trainer programs creating a dedicated CMO instruction force and third-party certifications by organizations such as NATO CIMIC Center of Excellence (CoE) or USJFKSWSC are examples of establishing a stable and credible system. A national or regional CMO CoE should also be another long-term objective for African CMO development that could serve as both a center of instruction and a mechanism for regional collaboration, information sharing and innovation.   


Three Cameroonian Sappers conduct a Key Leader Engagement (KLE) with a roleplayer during the Capstone event for Exercise Unified Focus 2018 (UF18) Field Training Exercise (FTX) in Douala, Cameroon.  The Sappers were required to engage and build rapport with a simulated aid worker as a means to enhance their understanding of threats and conditions in a small village they were assigned to patrol – Photo taken by author

Governance Facilitation and Inter-Ministerial Collaboration

Another key finding of the UNDP Journey to Extremism report was that over 75% of individuals that voluntarily joined extremist organizations placed no trust in politicians or in the state security apparatus[x].  In many regions of Africa in which VEO activity is prevalent, military security forces are one of the few, if only mechanisms of the state present.  This lone presence often makes a small patrolling unit the de facto face of an entire nation to large subsections of the population; this places the utmost importance on the relationships that small units build with the populace they encounter.  This role as envoy of the state places a premium on ensuring the development of CMO capacity for units and commanders.  CMO alone is not the answer as the need for combat effectiveness and increased lethality still play an important role as 79% of survey respondents felt that Security forces could not provide every day safety[xi]

In addition to directly projecting governance through presence at the tactical level, the parallel efforts of the CMO advisor have the unique ability to foster inter-ministerial collaboration within the upper echelons of a partner nation’s military hierarchy.  In many partner nations, the military is often the lead and only element combating extremism in remote locations and often discredits or distrusts NGOs and IGOs within operational areas. The US and other western nations have promoted and implemented various forms of the “whole of government solution/approach” to both foreign policy and CVE programs.  It is through this approach that a CMO program can directly enhance the ability of a partner nation to build, project, and provide governance to vulnerable populations susceptible to extremist recruitment simultaneously securing and control key human terrain.   This critical line of effort will require a CMO Advisor to synchronize efforts with various members of a given U.S. Embassy Country Team as well as interagency staff sections and the Civil Affairs Planning Detachment (CAPD) within USAFRICOM headquarters. CMO Advisors must ensure their efforts and programs align with existing or potential economic, development, health, and social initiatives of an Embassy’s Integrated Country Strategy (ICS) facilitating inter-ministerial coordination and development through DOS, USAID, and other interagency partners.  Fostering the above-mentioned relationship(s) both enhance partner governments ability protect vulnerable populations while simultaneously projecting governance but also shapes partner militaries to work with their civilian counterparts.   These efforts directly support the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s (NDS) objective of “Enabling U.S. interagency counterparts to advance U.S. influence and interests” and strategic approach:

“Integrate with U.S. interagency. Effectively expanding the competitive space requires combined actions with the U.S. interagency to employ all dimensions of national power. We will assist the efforts of the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Energy, Homeland Security, Commerce, USAID, as well as the Intelligence Community, law enforcement, and others to identify and build partnerships to address areas of economic, technological, and informational vulnerabilities” [xii]

This partnership is not limited to working with US Embassies as several of our closest allies have mature and productive relationships in various nations throughout Africa.  Whether it is working with the British in Nigeria, the French in Gabon, or the Brazilians in Mozambique, working with our allies not only enhances our African partners, but also strengthens key strategic alliances and relationships. 

A final effect of developing inter-ministerial engagement and relationships through US and allied networks is the ability to counter the growing influence of strategic competitors that undermine development and often promote corrupt practices as outlined in the 2017 National Security Strategy[xiii].  China’s One Belt-One Road initiative focuses many of its maritime and infrastructure development programs in East Africa, creating a dedicated group partners to support a China-centered global trading network.  The $54 Billion dollar growth of Chinese construction contractors’ gross annual revenue across Africa from 2000 to 2015 emphasizes increasing economic and financial influence[xiv].  In addition to financial, economic, and transportation influence, China is starting to expand militarily in the continent beyond peacekeeping operations.  To protect the aforementioned investments China increased presence in the Horn of Africa region with the opening of the Peoples Liberation Army’s (PLA) first overseas base in Djibouti.  Russia on the other hand has long existing security ties to many countries that once looked to the former Soviet Union for ideological and financial support during the Cold War and as recent as 2019 Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted African leaders in Moscow as part of his nation’s efforts to rekindle relationships.  Despite the fall of the USSR, nearly a quarter century ago, Moscow still remains a major arms supplier for many African countries and maintains cooperative defense training agreements[xv], such as Mozambique where the Wagner Group is now leading efforts against militants in Northern provinces


U.S. Army Civil Affairs along with the UK British Military Advisory Team (BMATT) participate in a two-week Civil Military Cooperation Staff Officer Course for Nigerian Officers in 2018 as part of ongoing partnership and institutional CMO development for the Nigerian Armed Force (NAF).  PHOTO SOURCE – U.S. Army Africa

Civil Information Management Through a Partner Force

An October 2017 article from ARMY magazine authored by the USARAF Chief of Staff outlines what the Army Service Component Command (ASCC) identifies its greater role in Africa to be:

“The primary role of U.S. Army Africa (USARAF), an Army Service Component Command, is to set the theater for joint or multinational operations during a crisis or emergency and enable long-term strategic success. Setting the theater is a continuous process that requires enduring relationships with African partners, constant information sharing within the interagency and our allies, and implementation of plans with long-term objectives that ensure tactical actions (security cooperation activities, exercises and engagements) build toward strategic effects.”[xvi]

USARAF has placed such an emphasis on “Set the Theater” that the concept has served as the Command’s sixth Line of Effort (LOE) since 2015; and now a codified part of the USAFRICOM campaign plan.  A key component to setting the theater as stated above is “constant information sharing with the interagency and allies”, which mirrors one of the core fundamentals of Civil Information Management (CIM) as outlined by ATP 3-57.50: “CIM is a collaborative exchange. It builds rapport between partners, the value of which is at least as great as the information and analysis it produces.”[xvii] Africa is the second largest continent in terms of both landmass and population it would be negligent to consider the minimal CA assets at the disposal of USAFRICOM could conduct Civil Reconnaissance, Civil Engagement, and Human Terrain Analysis (HTA) across the entirety of the 53 countries within AFRICOM.  Even if one were to limit the list to prioritized countries and utilize Active, Reserve, Army, and USMC elements the number would remain significantly short.  This does not even take into account the diverse language and cultural understanding needed to understand a given human terrain.

To overcome this challenge it is vital forward CA elements to work by, with, and through African and inter-organizational partners as they develop their civil information collection plans and build networks of positive actors.  Our African military partners have regular interaction with vulnerable populations within areas of VEO influence or operations, areas usually restricted to CA Teams for various reasons.  Furthermore, African partners are far more knowledgeable and versed in various cultural nuisances, customs, practices, language, and traditions that make up the fabric of a given society.  CA Elements conducting CMO capacity building missions need build collaborative information sharing relationships with their partner forces at all levels of warfare.  CA Teams conducting tactical training need to instruct teams on what information is pertinent and shared with higher commands to enhance understanding of the human domain and civil factors/variables.  It then becomes the role of the CMO Advisor to shape institutional processes within a partner military on how to incorporate gathered tactical data into mission planning and operational analysis.  This instruction includes increasing the capacity of BN Staffs (and above) to integrate civil data and account for the impact of operations on civil-consideration during their planning processes.  In a regional capacity, CMO advisors can promote civil information sharing between multinational task forces such as the Sahel G5 or African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) that are actively combating extremists as a mechanism to aid in controlling and winning vulnerable human terrain.  As information sharing is a bidirectional relationship CMO advisors must be able to provide USG reports and operational updates that enhance a staff’s understanding of factors of the human domain or at a minimum assist in command level analysis of tactical data.

NGO and IGO entities play a very significant role in Africa, specifically in addressing ongoing or developing humanitarian disasters, often caused or exploited by extremist organizations.  NGOs and IGOs maintain regular interaction with vulnerable populations in a role far different from military forces, providing a different perspective of the human domain than the one afforded to a patrolling security forces element. Due to limited resources and a necessity to demonstrate to donors the value of their contributions NGO/IGO’s focus heavily on quantitatively driven Measure of Performance (MoP) and Measures of Effectiveness (MoE) for both the efficacy of their programs and assessments of where best to implement aid and programing.  NGO/IGO willingness to participate in collaborative information sharing relationships with security forces varies based on the guidelines of an individual organization or the level at which they operate, but by having a dedicated individual or element to engage with NGO/IGOs will only improve the relationship between African Security Forces and aid organizations by building continuity and rapport.  Despite possible restrictions from some groups, working with our partners to develop information sharing relationships with NGO/IGOs within an operational area enhances the overall understanding of the human domain far more than relying only on data acquired by military and government sources. CA elements propensity to produce a large amount of their products and data at the unclassified level only further increases the ability to share with NGO/IGO partners when compared to other military elements who often operate at the classified level and above. This also presents a unique opportunity to build inter-ministerial relationships, as many NGO/IGOs are more apt to work with ministries other than the military allowing a CMO advisor to promote a whole of government approach within African partner governments.  CMO Advisors can also utilize existing relationships between US and Allied embassies to improve relationships with NGO/IGOs and better enhance the civil component to the common operating picture.

Supporting USARAF LOE 6 and enhancing the civil component(s) of AFRICOM’s COP is not limited to working through African military partners.  CA elements receive training in civil reconnaissance and assessments and can tailor pre-mission training to focus on regional specific conditions and objectives.  These skills combined with expertise in the human domain allow forward CA teams to conduct focused assessments on key infrastructure, terrain (physical and human), and individuals that directly support USARAF’s role as the continents contingency command as well as support efforts to counter subversive influence of strategic competitors that attempt to advance interests through population centric warfare and influence operations.   Additionally, CA elements can conduct assessments and civil reconnaissance in conjunction with a partner nation force undergoing CMO training.   Joint reconnaissance not only serves as a practical exercise for partner forces but also greatly enhances the quality of information gathered.   The combination of unsurpassed socio-cultural understanding possessed by a partner force and technical and analytical techniques of a CA element provide the most comprehensive understanding of the human domain of a given region.

While the US Army is normally the lead element on Civil Affairs operations within the DOD, USMC CA elements have the potential to play a more active role in certain geographic region to include Northern Africa due to its connection with Mediterranean and Adriatic seas.  Due to the joint nature of CAO/CMO on the continent of Africa there needs to be an established joint-entity at the Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) level to conduct fusion, synchronization, and dissemination of civil data.  In early 2018 USAFRICOM began to establish their joint-CIM cell to fulfill this role, with an end state of including personnel from all services and components (active, reserve, GPF, and SOF) that have a stake in mapping the human domain in Africa.  The future AFRICOM Joint-CIM Cell will also provide access to both partner force liaison officers and various interagency partners that reside at AFRICOM HQ in Stuttgart, enhancing information sharing and creating a more comprehensive and accurate COP.  In addition to enhancing the COP for the commander CIM efforts either by CA elements or through partner forces, support various staff sections and units supporting AFRICOM operations.  From logistics to intelligence, CIM not only provides data and information to enhance understanding but also provides a platform to answer requests for information about the human domain and civil society needed for different sections to execute their functions.  Not just limited to Africa, CIM facilitates transregional and cross GCC analysis of the human domain enabling strategic leaders to understand the seams between the various GCCs surrounding AFRICOM.


FIG 1 - “A Notional Structure For Coordination” from ATP 5-0.6 Network Engagement that highlights the importance of multiple sources of civil data such as partner nations and NGOs in defining and understanding a dynamic operating environment’ PHOTO SOURCE – ATP 5-0.6

The Way Ahead – A Little Help From Our Friends

USARAF currently overseas two CMO development missions in Africa Active Component Teams currently deploy to Nigeria and Gabon to work directly with partner nation forces in building CMO capacity at the tactical level supporting both CVE and CIT efforts respectively.  Additionally, a CMO Advisor was based in Abuja, Nigeria working with the Nigeria ministry of defense in building CMO doctrine, forces, and training within their military structure and collaborate directly with the team conducting CMO engagements.   CA Teams and elements continue to participate in mil-to-mil exercises across the continent providing training or mentoring as part of both FTXs and CPXs, reaching a diverse training audience and familiarizing them with the importance of CMO.  Demand signals from both partner nations and U.S. Country teams highlight a growing demand for CMO focused training for African Partner forces.  To maintain this momentum the AFRICOM CAP-D will need to carefully manage and allocate limited CA resources to where they can have the most impact on developing CMO capacity.

Between 91st CA BN and B/83 there are only 30 CA Teams dedicated to the AFRICOM AOR, of which only half can be deployed at a given time to maintain mandated dwell cycles, in comparison there are 53 countries within AFRICOM.  The majority of 91st CA BN’s assets are assigned to Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF), whose mission sets are often unable to directly support partner force training due to constraints and authorities. There are four reserve BNs dedicated to AFRICOM but these elements have greater limitations on deployment authorities than their active counterparts. Limitations on non-TCS deployment length, lack of organic language capability, no team level medical assets, and longer mandated dwell cycles often make deploying RC elements more complicated than AC counterparts.  AFRICOM CAP-D and subordinate service combatant commands must regularly prioritize which countries or regions they wish to utilize available CA teams to build partner force CMO capacity as well as best incorporate reserves and USMC CA elements where able while still managing other mission requirements. Due to these limitations in force power, long-term success hinges on a joint-multicompo solution. For example, utilizing reserve elements to serve as CMO instructors in mil-to-mil exercises, which are often shorter than the 29-day cap of Annual Training (AT) for Reserve Component (RC) elements and have extensive logistical support infrastructure in place alleviating the lack of organic medical and language assets.   Using Reserve CA elements in this capacity would all active CA elements to be deployed for long periods of time (6-9 months) in a continuous regional role focusing efforts supporting capacity building in multiple countries that have similar cultures and problem sets. 

The GCC creating a named operation or funded the program of record at/through the Joint Staff level focusing on regional CMO development or attaching CMO development as part of an existing named operation alleviates many of the logistical, funding, and authority concerns addressed.  SOUTHCOM’s CAEP provides a framework for AFRICOM to emulate. CAEP has enabled General Purpose Force (GPF) and Reserve CA forces to be the primary CAO effort within Central America providing the proper funding and authorities for regional CA engagement.  A long-term solution would be to design a CAEP-like construct known as African CMO Engagement Strategy (ACES) that follows the tenants described in this paper.  ACES would create four regionally aligned programs that focused on the three geographically centered areas of emphasis outlined in 2019 AFRICOM Campaign Plan and an additional program for emerging partnership outside the areas of focus.  The creation of ACES Northern Africa/Sahel, ACES-Lake Chad Basin (LCB)/West Africa, ACES-East Africa, and ACES- Central and Southern Africa would allow CA elements to best focus to the regional issues associated with those areas and incorporate themselves into existing campaign plans and working groups. Alternatively, planners at the GCC level can ensure that any efforts to support the Strengthening Partner Networks and Enhancing Partner Capacity objectives of the 2019 AFRICOM Campaign plan explicitly include the development of civ-mil capacity. 

Throughout Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) US Army and USMC CA teams have worked alongside CIMIC Teams from countless NATO allies in Eastern Europe.  NATO CIMIC is far different from Civil Affairs but at its core retains nearly all of the same CMO principles common to US Joint Doctrine. In September 2017, the NATO Strategic Direction South (NSD-S) Hub became operational creating a new area of focus in Africa for NATO.  The hub’s mission statement as described by the initial press release highlights its goal of creating collaboration and

“The NSD-S Hub…is designed to focus on a variety of current and potential issues to include destabilization, potential terrorism, radicalization, migration and environmental concerns. A role of the new center is also to coordinate and work alongside agencies outside of the NATO and national military structures as they concentrate on southern regions to include the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel, sub-Saharan Africa and adjacent areas, waters and airspace”[xviii].

Many of our NATO allies not only maintain a presence in Africa but also do so in some of the most vital areas of interest for US Policy.  The Italians have CIMIC force in the Horn of Africa, the French are actively engaged in Mali, Chad, and other Sahel G5 countries, and the 83rd CA BN’s Team in Nigeria is attached to a British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT).  Coordination and collaboration with our NATO allies who often have deep cultural ties to formal colonial holdings in Africa would enhance a CMO development program for partner military forces.  AFRICOM at a minimum should look to establish a collaborative information sharing relationship between their future joint-CIM Cell and NDS-S’ Civilian Military Engagement Coordination Section (CECS) and Knowledge Management and Engagement (KM&E) sections to enhance overall understanding of the human domain and identify critical vulnerabilities within populations.  The NSD-S Hub also maintains a staff section titled Engagement Coordination Section (ECS) tasked with the “coordination and synchronization of NATO’s and willing Allies’ activities in the South. Activities will include liaison/interaction within agreed partnership and cooperative security activities, key leadership engagements (KLE), Defense Capacity Building initiatives and training and education activities in the South at all levels in order to maximize security enhancing effects and increase understanding.”[xix] Engagements with NDS-S’ ECS could potentially lead to the creation of a NATO supported CMO development program for Africa allowing planners to integrate the capabilities of NATO CIMIC elements into the overall plan filling positions and deployments that can’t be supported by the limited number of available US CA Teams.  Prospective NATO support also brings the 28 other NATO members diplomatic and development sections already present in many African capitals into the mix further supporting whole of government promotion efforts and focused governance training.

As CA forces begin to instruct CMO to African partner forces the curriculum must be semi standardized in order to ensure both unity of effort and interoperability.  AFRICOM, SOCAF, USARAF, and Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF) must ensure that they coordinate with each other as well as centers of instruction such as USAJFKSWCS to create a standard set of POIs that achieves the desired effect of an African partner force that is able to win the human domain.  As the home to both the proponent and doctrine production for Army CA forces USAJFKSWC is best suited to work with all GCCCs to create a POI that supports CMO development as well as enables joint interoperability with USMC and CIMIC counterparts.  Despite the standard nature of establishing a theater POI there should be variances to allow for regional dynamics, available training time, or various levels of existing CMO knowledge.  Established POIs cannot be static and must be regularly reviewed and updated to address their effectiveness, changes in the operating environment, and new enemy tactics. As CMO capacity within African forces develop military leadership with CMO training must be part of the POI updates as eventually these programs will become theirs, this concept also promotes potential African regional CMO centers of excellence.  In addition to the development of POI, leadership at the operational and strategic level must create a series of Measures of Performance (MOP) and Measures of Effectiveness (MOE) to gauge the impacts of the CMO program, ensuring desired effects are occurring. In addition to establishing MOEs and MOPs leadership well need to establish episodic review periods that include all stakeholders involved in the development program.  MOPs/MOEs will need to utilize survey data to evaluate the perception of security forces with vulnerable populations, leadership will need to allocate funds to coordinate third party survey to occur concurrently with program reviews as well as begin collaboration with the Army’s Operational Research/Systems Branch (ORSA) or other similar joint DoD functions located at the GCC staff.

For centuries, many Africans have experienced heavy-handed and violent tactics from their former colonial masters, extremist organizations, and their own government leading to a great mistrust of security forces and the government they represent.  To change that sentiment will require not only a professional military trained in CMO but also a substantial increase in government efficacy, inclusion, economic prospects and a marked reduction in corruption; all of which are not the role of the DoD.  CA forces play an important role in promoting stability through building African security forces that can work through the civil populace but this is only one component of greater concert of efforts, highlighting the need to work with willing partners.   An African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.  In closing it is important for leadership and policy makers to realize that building institutional CMO capacity within African partners will not happen overnight, nor will the reception of a professional force by the populace, this paradigm shift will take time and will be different in each unique region of the continent.  While this is a daunting challenge CA’s unique skill set and existing presence throughout Africa place them in position to address a critical vulnerability of regional stability.  Despite this prime position as part of the solution to developing professional African security forces, CA elements cannot succeed alone in this endeavor and will fail if they attempt to.  


A Gabonese Eco-Guard (Park Ranger) briefs a Civil Affairs Team Leader as part of a comprehensive Counter Illicit Trafficking (CIT) Program that included CMO principles.  The Eco-Guards are responsible for patrolling and policing Gabon’s natural parks, which constitute over 10% of the entire country, they are often the only element of the government present in these remote regions. – PHOTO SORUCE DIVIDS

End Notes

[i] Trump, Donald J.,  National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States, 2017

[ii] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Competition Continuum (JDN 1-19), Department of Defense Washington DC, 2019

[iii] Suzuki, Emi.  “World’s Population Will Continue to Grow and Will Reach Nearly 10 Billion by 2050” World Bank Blogs. 08 July 2019.

[iv] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Lake Chad Basin (as of 19 November 2017) . NY: UN OCHA, 2017

[v] The Fund For Peace. Fragile States Index 2017: Global Data. 2017.

[vi] Waldhauser, Thomas. United States Africa Command Posture Statement. Washington DC: DOD, 2018.

[vii] United Nations Development Programme. Journey To Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Inventivies, and the Tipping Point for Recruitment. New York: United Nations Development Program, 2017.

[viii] Amnesty International Ltd. Stars on Their Shoulders. Blood on Their Hands. War Crimes Comminted By The Nigerian Military. London: Amnesty International Ltd, 2015

[ix] Felbab-Brown, Vanda. "Nigeria's Troubling Counterinsurgency Strategy Against Boko Haram." Foreign Affairs, March 30, 2018

[x] United Nations Development Programme. Journey To Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Inventivies, and the Tipping Point for Recruitment

[xi] Ibid

[xii] Mattis, Jim. Summary of the 2018 national defense strategy of the United States of America. Department of Defense Washington United States, 2018

[xiii] Trump, Donald J.,  National Security Strategy of the United States of America 

[xiv] Eom, Janet. "China's "Belt and Road" opens up new buisness in Africa - for both the US and China." the Washington Post. July 24, 2017.

[xv] Steinberg, Eugene. "Putin's Russia and Africa." Council on Foreign Relations. August 13, 2015.

[xvi] Kirk IV, Clint, and Hernandez Armando. "Access to Africa: Setting the Theater for Long-Term Strategic Success." Army, October 18, 2017.

[xvii] Department of the Army. Army Technical Publication No. 3-57.50: Civil Information Management. Washington DC: Headquarters Department of the Army, 2013.

[xviii] JFC Naples Public Affairs Officer. "NATO Strategic Direction South Hub officially opens." Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Sep 5, 2017.

[xix] NSDS Hub Naples. Organization: Engagement Coordination Section (ESC). 2018.

Categories: civil affairs - US Army - Africa

About the Author(s)

James P. Micciche is a U.S Army Strategist (FA59) and Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific. He holds a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche.

The views expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.



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