Small Wars Journal

Civil Affairs in Denied Areas: The Challenges to Developing Networks That Support Shadow Governments

Sun, 07/24/2016 - 2:26am

Civil Affairs in Denied Areas: The Challenges to Developing Networks That Support Shadow Governments

Robert Schafer


The role of Civil Affairs in denied areas is a hotly contested topic among members of the special operations community. The feedback is mixed both in favor and against civil affairs operating in denied areas, namely to develop civil networks that support the legitimacy of shadow governance. There is also the opinion among a minority number of special operations forces that Civil Affairs has no role in unconventional warfare whatsoever. The purpose of this article is to argue for more research and discussion on what Civil Affairs should be doing in denied areas in the supposition that Civil Affairs best supports the shadow government through the local populace located within denied areas as well as among diasporas located elsewhere.

Unconventional Warfare is one of the core activities conducted by the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) and is currently defined as “operations and activities that are conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.”[1] This definition has a hidden meaning for Civil Affairs personnel working in unconventional warfare operational environments: the complexity of denied areas. The U.S. Army generically defines denied areas as “an area that is operationally unsuitable for conventional forces due to political, tactical, environmental, or geographical reasons. It is a primary area for special operations forces.”[2] This definition does not take into account that social networks in these areas are asymmetric and, when personalities matter, the success or failure to enable these networks to identify and validate new or existing irregular organizations for Civil Affairs to develop into a shadow government, will also be asymmetric. It is important to understand that definitions matter in working in complex environments, such as denied areas, where Civil Affair seeks to legitimize the shadow government, which the U.S. Army defines as “governmental elements and activities performed by the irregular organization that will eventually take the place of the existing government.”[3]

Title 10 United States Code, Section 167

Title 10 United States Code (USC), section 167, states that “the commander of the special operations command shall be responsible for, and shall have the authority to conduct, all affairs of such command relating to special operations activities.”[4] This is the legal authority for The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to recruit, organize, train, and equip special operations forces to conduct special operations activities. Title 10 USC sections 167 (J) (3) and (5) further identifies both Civil Affairs and unconventional warfare as special operations activities authorized for USSOCOM to plan and conduct accordingly. USSOCOM Directive 525-89 tasks the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) as the primary Department of Defense lead in all matters pertaining to unconventional warfare.

What is lacking, however, is the doctrine that is developed and tested by Civil Affairs for their role in how the shadow government will be supported. There is a need to define and develop doctrine that seeks to validate new and innovative tactics, techniques, and procedures that support Civil Affairs personnel in identifying and enabling civil networks or as civil advisors in support of shadow governments within the denied area. Thus, the need to develop specific Civil Affairs unconventional warfare doctrine that is tested and refined through multiple joint exercises at Combined Training Centers, like those supported by the Special Operations Training Detachment at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is necessary if Civil Affairs is to provide sustainable support to the Special Forces during unconventional warfare operations.

Denied Areas as Complex Adaptive Systems

The problem in planning for Civil Affairs operations within denied areas is that, stated earlier, the current definition does not allow for that sophisticated level of asymmetric thinking in tactical, operational, and strategic planning. Complexity theorist, Professor Neil Johnson from the University of Miami, Florida, claims that complex systems have a remarkable ability to generate change in behavior within their own system and “can move freely between order and disorder and back again.”[5] Complex systems, for purposes of understanding special operations in denied areas, has huge implications for influencing tactical operations and strategic outcomes within the system. It is critical to view the myriad of Civil Affairs operations within denied areas as influencing multiple actors within complex systems because actions have consequences and maintaining legitimacy among the populace is critical for successful outcomes. In fact, Johnson further illustrates that complexity in war is not unlike other complex systems like economics or transportation, in that modern war, as in Columbia, or to a lesser extent in Afghanistan, “will take place against a backdrop of illicit trade such as drug trafficking.”[6] This means that profits from criminal trafficking often feeds the war in the form of money used to buy supplies and weapons, which continues to shift the balance of power among the multiple actors involved in denied areas. It is therefore realistic to believe that these same trafficking networks will most likely be used by the Army to deliver their operators, their equipment, and supplies into denied areas.

Social Contract

For an insurgency to succeed, it must ultimately achieve legitimacy from the local populace. David Kilcullen argues to “develop solid partnerships with reliable local allies, to design, in concert with these allies, locally tailored measures to target the drivers that sustain the conflict and thus break the cycle of violence.”[7] For this reason, it is important that unconventional warfare must be conducted in concert with interagency partners that can leverage other instruments of national power, such as diplomatic, developmental, and defense expertise as a whole of government approach. This assumes that the local populace will decide whether either the current regime or the U.S.-supported shadow government can offer them the best alternative in terms of goods and services.[8]

Power, ideology, and legitimacy are common principles when it comes to civil governance, but not all governments or regimes act accordingly to the will of its citizens. Thomas Hobbes believed that in the state of nature, or the condition of mankind, man is equal in both physical and mental capabilities and no individual is greater or stronger than the other that he can claim certain benefits that others cannot themselves claim.[9] It is when the current regime acts outside of the interest, or consent, of the population that legitimacy to rule or govern becomes problematic to those that have traditionally relied upon fair treatment and access to better goods and services: the local populace. Therefore, once the populace believes that their social contract is breeched, they will seek to legitimize other agents or irregular organizations that will provide them with the same, if not better form of civil governance: the shadow government.

Case Study: Hezbollah as an Effective Shadow Government in Lebanon           

Hezbollah emerged in 1982 as a guerrilla force opposed to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah’s fight against Israel placed them into a conflict with the United States. The group’s founding charter openly states its opposition to Israel and the US. Within the larger Arab world, Hezbollah enjoys the reputation of being the only force to reclaim territory from Israel. Indeed, the group claims credit for forcing Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah’s suspected role in the 1983 attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut created US hostility toward the group, an attitude that persists to this day.

Hezbollah participated in elections in the 1990s, thereby legitimizing itself as an influential political organization as well as a potent militant force. The Open Letter, published February 16th, 1985, expressed both the short and long term goals of the organization. Read aloud at a mosque in West Beirut, this proclamation rejected the United States and Israel and affiliated the group with Iran by claiming to be “an umma [Islamic community] linked to the Muslims of the whole world by the solid doctrinal and religious connection of Islam.”[10]

The militant network of Hezbollah differed greatly from other Arab paramilitary forces in that it has a decentralized, horizontal command structure, which allowed for quick, independent thinking by its operators.[11] Rivaling the Israeli Defense Force on the battlefield, Hezbollah’s junior leader were fast to adapt to complexity and enjoyed frequent military victories primarily because of the nature of this network-centric approach to warfare. The most significant aspect of Hezbollah’s militia, which is characteristic to horizontal networks, is the high degree of autonomy and decision-making given to junior leaders.[12]

In the wake of the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States, many argued that Hezbollah should be targeted once Al-Qaeda was defeated. Dr. Daniel Byman, the Research Director at the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institute, claims Hezbollah is a credible terrorist threat, with cells identified in Europe, Asia, and North and South America.[13] Other scholars agree that Hezbollah’s international capabilities are a significant concern.[14] While many of Hezbollah’s overseas efforts are focused on fundraising and propaganda, they have also been proven capable of lethal attacks.

However, Byman notes that the strategy of direct action used to prosecute al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq would be counterproductive in Hezbollah’s case. The group, in addition to its sophisticated militia, has evolved into a legitimate political entity in Lebanon and has been lionized in the Arab world for its successful resistance to Israel. Hezbollah’s practices include social programs to gain popular support. Their political wing has softened its call for Islamic rule, and they have largely ceased operations against the US.

While Hezbollah’s position has evolved over the last thirty years, the group remains involved in activities that prevent open engagement with the US. Hezbollah’s armed wing has a tense relationship with the US-supported Lebanese Armed Forces, and Lebanese political factions have called for demobilization of Hezbollah’s militia. Events in 2005 and 2006 reinforced the demand for disarmament. Five members of the group have been indicted for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The group also kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in 2006, triggering a six-week war fought to a stalemate. These actions actually degraded Hezbollah’s legitimacy, based on the violence and destruction in Lebanon during the war. These events have also overshadowed the pragmatism and politicization Hezbollah has shown since gaining parliamentary representation in 1992.[15]

Further, Hezbollah has entered into the Syrian Civil War in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, an action that has eroded the group’s support base. This is based on several factors—primarily the extension of sectarian violence in Lebanon as Sunni militant groups such as the Islamic State have attacked areas in Lebanon as retribution for Hezbollah’s support for Assad. Additionally, Hezbollah’s heroic reputation as resistance to Israel is tarnished by this support, because much of the Arab world sees Assad as an oppressive autocrat.[16] However, Hezbollah has determined that it must support the Assad regime: Syria provides the physical infrastructure and support without which it would be unable to continue its campaign of resistance, or support for its domestic social programs.

While Hezbollah can claim some ideological basis for the war with Israel since resistance to Israel is part of its founding charter, it is difficult for its supporters in Lebanon, who bear the hardship, to believe that its actions are not solely in the self-interest of the group. This has generated backlash and extended the conflict into Lebanon, with Sunni militants conducting bombings in Shia neighborhoods in Beirut. Based on these events, Hezbollah has received criticism for inciting instability in Lebanon.[17]

In addition to its involvement in Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah maintains a global network aimed at fundraising, recruitment, and targeting. A cell inside the US with connections to Hezbollah was arrested for cigarette smuggling, and numerous Islamic charities have been accused of funding Hezbollah.[18] It is believed they directed and carried out overseas attacks against the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, respectively.[19] Hezbollah has reportedly assisted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps by training, equipping, and advising Shia militants in Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain.[20] These activities create serious obstacles to any cooperation with the U.S.

Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah as the latter’s main international sponsor further antagonizes the US. It is popular speculation to believe that Iran directed the 1983 attacks in Beirut, among others. Marc DeVore, a faculty member at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, analyzed the direct and indirect effects of Iran’s state sponsorship of Hezbollah. He determined that states indirectly affect their proxies through four main channels: financial support, sanctuary, logistical aid, and political backing.[21] Devore makes the case that Iran has clearly provided all four of these to Hezbollah, as well as given operational direction for both restraint and target selection.

Daniel Byman counter-argues that Iran’s ability to influence Hezbollah is limited, which is difficult to reconcile with his original claim that Iran provides $100 million in annual funding and that Iran retains overall approval authority for Hezbollah operations.[22] Presumably, if Iran reduced support to Hezbollah, the group would sever ties and continue its agenda using well-developed internal means of funding and violence. This would be counter-productive for the organization because Hezbollah has admitted its direct military involvement in Syria, which is synonymous to open acknowledgement of the crucial role Iranian support plays to the organization’s survival. 

Hezbollah has publicly acknowledged the financial support it receives from Iran. This aid has enabled the group not only to pay its members as professionals but also to provide services such as education and health care in Shia areas of Lebanon.[23] Further, during the early years of its formation, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps provided extensive training to Hezbollah’s leaders and fighters. This occurred in both Iran and the Syrian-occupied Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

The combination of training, financing, and physical sanctuary enabled Hezbollah to develop its recognized lethality without concern for Israeli security force raids or concerns over where it would acquire resources such as food or equipment. This level of sponsorship is indirectly responsible for much of Hezbollah’s success. However, this does not fully account for the context that made this development possible. The Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon gave Hezbollah a specific reason for existence, and the Syrian presence in Lebanon after the Lebanese Civil War provided political protection preventing its disarmament.

Outside of direct Iranian financing and support for operations, few would dispute that the center of gravity for the organization is Hezbollah’s popular support by the Lebanese people. Hezbollah’s use of its social services, in fact, bears a resemblance to the U.S. Department of Defense civil-military operations concept.[24] Although the practice of civil-military operations is defined in US Army doctrine, the concept of civil-military operations is not as clearly defined in Hezbollah’s doctrine or by Islamic scholars. Hezbollah, therefore, is in a unique position in that it “acts as a Social Service Section within a legitimate governmental structure but operates as an equal branch within a quasi-terrorist organization that has a direct chain of command.”[25] It should not be forgotten that Hezbollah remains as Lebanon’s “largest non-state provider of healthcare and social services and operates schools of such high quality that even non-Muslims send their children to them.”[26]

Lastly, and perhaps most important, the Lebanese Shi’a view Hezbollah’s services as an essential part of everyday life. As a result, Hezbollah has gained legitimacy with the local populace. Hezbollah, through persistent engagement and superior use of civil-military operations, has earned the trust and loyalty of the Lebanese Shi’a and remains an example of effective shadow government, using targeted support to civil administration as a means to bolster its legitimacy locally and throughout the region.

Case Study Two: The Taliban as an Effective Shadow Government in Afghanistan

The Taliban, a Sunni Islamic militant organization devoted to Sharia law, began their rise to power in 1994 with the capture of the city of Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan by a small force of fighters. The ethnic Pashtuns supported the Taliban insurgency because the government of the Mujahidin was strongly decentralized and relied heavily on warlords controlling opium production within their own territories. The rift between traditional and fundamentalist Mujahidin leaders grew wider, mostly due to the ethnic differences among the current regime, who were predominantly Tajik. The Taliban insurgency understood that ethnic identities matter and, under the careful guidance of Mullah Omar, was able to maintain Kandahar as the de facto capital of their shadow government with no resistance from other Pashtun warlords. The Pashtuns had grown tired of the chaos and widespread warlord rivalries and embraced the Taliban’s fundamentalist views on Islam and Sharia law, which is an export of political Islam shaped largely by Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Arab Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia.[27]

The Taliban controlled the opium production in southern Afghanistan. Although the Taliban do not mastermind the drug trade per se, it is clear that they benefit from it financially and use revenues generated by it to purchase new weapons, sponsor new religious schools in Pakistan to pick up a fresh crop of new recruits, and barter for cars and all manner of consumer goods, including houses.[28] That the drug trade is illegal is not in dispute, but it is worth noting that the Taliban brought economic prosperity to a country that had been ravaged by corruption, lack of internal commerce, and support from foreign trade markets.

The opium trade, however, was not a singular cause for the Taliban           ‘s rise to power and control over much of Afghanistan. In fact, international relations scholars, such as John Mearsheimer, would suggest that due to the weak, decentralized Mujahidin government in post-Soviet occupation, conditions were right for radical changes in the region because the Taliban recognized that the Mujahidin government was encouraging anarchic, self-help conditions within the country of Afghanistan and among the region. John Mearsheimer argues that the Taliban had to act, because, as “states operating in a self-help world almost always act according to their own self-interests and do not subordinate their interests to the interest of other states, or to the interests of the so-called international community.”[29] The conditions were ripe for the Taliban insurgency during the 1990s, as Seth Jones suggests, because the structural collapse of the Mujahidin government provided permissive conditions for the insurgency. The onset of a new fundamentalist Islamic ideology motivated these insurgent leaders to recruit and fight.[30]

Having finally sacked Kabul in 1996, thereby ousting President Burhanuddin Rabbani and his government, the Taliban embarked on a process of state building, in which they competed to provide governance to the local population. In fact, the Taliban is similar to Hezbollah in the manner in which both take advantage of weak governance and assume state-like functions. Both organizations provide security, collect taxes, setup administrative structures, and seek to perform other government functions for the population they control and influence. It should have been no surprise that in 1997, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia officially recognized the Taliban regime as the legitimate, successor government in Afghanistan. This may have been in part due to the relationship this regime had with Saudi Arabia, which funded religious centers and schools for exporting Wahhabism. But it is key to understanding that their legitimacy was growing along with their opium profits.

The Taliban believed that they were orphans of war, having no memory of tribe or of a peaceful Afghanistan.[31] The Taliban had to recruit from the areas they controlled, offering income and indoctrination into Islam as well as new opportunities to fight against the Mujahidin government and, eventually, the United States and its allies. The Taliban therefore offered order and stability, whereas the weak, corrupted Mujahidin government could not. That the United States would later kinetically target ethnic Pashtuns, believing them to be the same as the Taliban, gave these recruits identity and ideology and, ironically, gave the Taliban legitimacy.

The United States-led invasion in 2001 routed the Taliban from power, but it did not strip them of their influence and capacity to wage an insurgency against the United States and its allies. In fact, had there been an adequate analysis of the human or civil domain at that time, Civil Affairs planners might have been able to advise policy makers that enduring kinetic operations would not be successful, especially in the southern rural areas where the Taliban has immense support. If the United States had understood that the Taliban’s center of gravity remained among the rural populace, then perhaps it would have adopted other measures to effectively counter the insurgency rather than the popular stick and carrot approach of providing quick-impact improvements to the infrastructure, like installing water purification units.

In a manner similar to that of the French quadrillage in Algeria, foreign military forces maintained a persistent presence on the periphery. But this also demonstrates that maintaining a show of force has little impact on the populace other than to force them to support the insurgency should these foreign militaries behave inappropriately towards the population. This simple attrition tactic raises the fundamental question for the United States to address how to withdraw its military forces and achieve some sort of “peace with honor” in Afghanistan, without having reached its core political objectives.[32] Ironically, the United States believed that killing Taliban fighters keeps up military pressure that might eventually lead to a negotiated outcome. This escalation strategy proved to be counterproductive. Rather than choosing escalation, enforcing some measure of a ceasefire would have been a better gesture to convince the Taliban that the United States and its allies are genuinely interested in peace. Ten years after the initial invasion, the other instruments of United States national power were not consistent with the changing fitness landscape of Afghanistan.

The Taliban leadership became aware, in early August of 2011, of the outlines of the strategic partnership pact between the United States and the Karzai government, allowing for the continued U.S. use of military bases in Afghanistan until 2024. Outraged at this, and believing that the Afghani High Peace Council could in no way negotiate a political settlement, the Taliban saw no reason to continue negotiations. On September 20, 2011, former Afghani President and High Peace Council chairman Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated by an unidentified suicide-bomber, literally blowing to pieces any notion of reconciliation with the Taliban.[33]

Finally, it is important to understand that the Taliban established their legitimacy via three main sources: Islam, Pashtun identity, and effective shadow governance.[34] The reality for any Civil Affairs advisor must be to recognize that population-centric centers of gravity are far more important to an insurgency than they are to a host nation because successful shadow governments provide civil services to a greater measure of success than the current regime. This is important to understanding how to effectively leverage resistance movements. Strong shadow governments, such as that of the Taliban, matter in the insurgency because the Taliban was able to introduce a strong judicial system that appealed to the populace in a time and place where justice was a principle in which the Mujahidin government was widely unconcerned to address.

Civil Affairs in the Steady State

Within the unconventional warfare campaign, the mobility of all special operations forces will be highly restricted as these operations are conducted within a denied area. Most, if not all, civil-military operations planning and coordination will be conducted within safe houses or guerrilla base camps. Interagency collaboration, such as with USAID, will be non-existent in denied areas, unless coordinated through the Civil Military Operations Center in a neighboring, benign country.

Phase Zero, otherwise known as “Steady-state” operations, is where pre-crisis conditions will require operations carried out far enough in advance so that they are of operational value when crisis conditions emerge and a decision to intervene is made.[35] These activities or operations should be of strategic value and, therefore, need to incorporate emerging threats identified by the Global Combatant Commander from within his own area of responsibility into his theater campaign plan, which also needs to include unconventional warfare lines of effort to address these emerging threats. Steady-state operations include those activities that prepare the operational environment and are also generally known as “left of the beginning” operations.

In Phase Zero, Civil Affairs personnel find themselves operating forward in permissive or semi-permissive areas, as a Civil Military Support Element (CMSE), conducting civil-military engagements in countries neighboring, or in proximity to failing states or other emerging regional threats, such as in Yemen, Iraq, or Syria. Civil-Military Engagement is a program-for-record that is USASOC’s creation and part of the Department of Defense strategy to build “partner capacity in a preventive, population-centric, and indirect approach to enhance the capability, capacity, and legitimacy of partnered indigenous governments.”[36] Thus, the capability for CMSE to tailor its operations in permissive and semi-permissive countries is key to validating if pre-crisis conditions are deteriorating or improving, which provides policy makers the timely, critical information they need to shape the overall policies and engagement strategies in these countries.

Civil Information Management and Civil Networks

Civil Affairs personnel need to continually scrub the area assessment as if it were a running staff estimate to an operations order, looking to analyze that civil information which is pertinent to identifying those critical civil vulnerabilities that can be leveraged in favor of the U.S.-supported shadow government, such as identifying spheres of influence loyal to the current regime and apply pressure to their social or business interests by mobilizing the populace to act through non-violent protests. This process must also include lateral communication among other regional Special Operations Force assets, such as the Special Operations Task Force, generally located in a neighboring, benign country, as there may be other named areas of interest which the Theater Special Operations Command deems a priority for confirming existing or potential civil networks or social movements.

Given the adaptability of current technology, the use of both computer hardware and agent-based modelling software should be encouraged. Civil Information Management is conducted in six steps (collection, collation, processing, analysis, production, and dissemination), but it is “rarely conducted in the absence of other Civil Affairs core tasks.”[37] The most important aspect of Civil Information Management resides not within the supporting hardware or software, but rather in the analysis of the information collected. There are several academic and scientific methods with which to analyze raw civil information, ATP 3-57.50, Civil Information Management, claims that “civil analysis breaks through social nuances and cultural barriers, enhancing situational understanding and supporting the commander’s visualization.”[38] Thus, when properly analyzed, civil information reveals factors and triggers within the civil networks of the unconventional warfare operational environment that provide decision-makers with a focal point for targeted Civil Affairs Operations or surrogate civil-military operations.

Integrating Civil Affairs Into Pilot Team Operations

Theoretically, Civil Affairs, as part of a cross-functional special warfare team or special skills unit, should be operating in denied areas identifying and validating new or existing civil networks or functioning as civil advisors to the shadow government. Civil Affairs personnel that work as part of these teams are a departure from the current force structure because they need to be senior in operational experience and generally better educated and trained than their peers. Enabling civil networks in complex systems, such as denied areas, will require keen judgment and superior inter-personal skills in order to be effective in predicting and controlling the asymmetric environment where these networks reside and flourish.

When the pilot team hands over control of the area to the incoming Special Forces team, most likely to move on and develop other networks elsewhere, there needs to be other Civil Affairs personnel attached to the incoming team. This will allow for the seamless transition of critical information about the civil networks or social movements that gives the Special Forces ground commander the most up-to-date common operating picture of the populace in which the resistance forces can be recruited and trained. This reduces the lines of effort that normally require teams new to the area to conduct civil reconnaissance or key-leader engagements, because that information has already been identified, established, and validated by the pilot team.

Civil Military Operations and Surrogate Forces

Enabling civil networks and social movements has additional benefits for Civil Affairs. The ability for the surrogate auxiliary force to conduct autonomous humanitarian assistance and disaster relief is paramount to legitimizing the shadow government’s capacity for providing services as exemplified by Hezbollah in Lebanon. This activity increases the exposure of the surrogate forces to the populace, thereby increasing legitimacy of the surrogate force, while maintaining the low-signature of the Civil Affairs personnel potentially working out of local safe houses or guerrilla camps in denied areas.

Surrogate forces that act as part of social movements can also be utilized to effectively identify, validate, and eventually target spheres of influence loyal to the current regime. Civil unrest and non-violent protests, for example, can be a valuable tool for surrogate forces to pressure the current regime.[39]  Because of their ability to operate in the open, surrogate forces matter in denied areas and, properly trained and motivated, remain an efficient tool at validating information that is difficult for special operations forces to obtain due to the highly political or geographical sensitivities of the denied area.


The role of Civil Affairs in denied areas needs further research and greater discussion in order to determine if there exists a capability for network development that is currently ignored. Supporting the shadow government requires legitimacy, which ultimately comes from the populace, whether they are local or from the diaspora. Civil Affairs will eventually need to be in denied areas developing networks and advising the shadow government on how to effectively build greater legitimacy among the populace and the diaspora.

Denied areas need be de facto area of operations during unconventional warfare campaigns for Civil Affairs personnel because they are specially trained to identify and validate new or existing civil networks and social movements that will enable irregular organization to replace the existing government.[40] That is, of course, assuming that regime change is the overall U.S. objective.

To enable Civil Affairs personnel to identify, predict, and ultimately influence desired, strategic outcomes during unconventional warfare operations, especially in denied areas, advanced skills are needed. Civil Affairs needs to develop and adapt to better asymmetric methodologies that mutually supports non-lethal targeting at the operational and strategic levels. There are a few advanced special warfare courses currently offered that will better prepare Civil Affairs personnel for successful unconventional warfare operations in denied areas, such as the Special Warfare Network Development Course located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Ultimately, Civil Affair will need to take control of their doctrine by developing and testing new ideas and theories that support advising the shadow government. Special warfare is constantly changing to meet the growing complexities of the global strategic landscape and the role of Civil Affairs in denied areas simply cannot be dismissed as myth.

End Notes

[1] Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-05 Special Operations (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2014): II-8.

[2] Headquarters, Department of the Army, Field Manual 3-05, Army Special Operations (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2014): 2-1. 

[3] Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Techniques Publication 3-05.1, Unconventional Warfare (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2013): 2-21.

[4] Title 10 USC, section 167.

[5] Johnson, Neil. Simple Complexity (London: OneWorld Publications, 2007): 21.

[6] Ibid, 162.

[7] Kilcullen, David. Counterinsurgency (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010): 4.

[8] Headquarters, Department of the Army Field Manual 3-05.130, Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008): 7-1.

[9] Zeitlin, Irving. Rulers and Ruled (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003): 82.

[10] Council on Foreign Relations. 1988. An Open Letter: The Hizbollah Program. January 1. Accessed January 16, 2016.

[11] Tompkins, Paul J., and Chuck Crosset. Casebook on Insurgencies and Revolutionary Warfare: Volume II 1962-2009 (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2009): 564.

[12] Exum, Andrew. “Hizbollah at War: A Military Assessment,” Policy Focus, 63 (2006): 6.

[13] Byman, Daniel. “Should Hezbollah be Next?” Foreign Affairs, 82:6 (2003): 55-56.

[14] Levitt, Mathew. Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2013).

[15] Norton, Richard Augustus. Hezbollah: A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

[16] Dionigi, Filippo. “Hezbollah’s New and Old Wars: From Ideological Struggle to Fight for Survival.” The German Marshall Fund of the United States (2013)

[17] Norton, Richard Augustus. Hezbollah: A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

[18] Ibid.

[19] Levitt, Mathew. Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2013).

[20] Levitt, Matthew, and Nadav Pollack. “Hezbollah in Iraq: A Little Help Can Go a Long Way,” (Washington D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2014): 15-16.

[21] Devore, Marc. “Exploring the Iran-Hezbollah Relationship: A Case Study of How State Sponsorship Affects Terrorist Group Decision-Making.” Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, 6:4-5 (2012):2-3.

[22] Byman, Daniel. “Should Hezbollah be Next?” Foreign Affairs, 82:6 (2003): 61.

[23] Devore, Marc. “Exploring the Iran-Hezbollah Relationship: A Case Study of How State Sponsorship Affects Terrorist Group Decision-Making.” Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, 6:4-5 (2012).

[24] Love, James B. “Hezbollah: Social Services as A Source of Power.” JSOU Report 10-5 (Hulburt Field: Joint Special Operations University, 2010): 31.

[25] Ibid, 34.

[26] Grynkewich, Alexus G. “Welfare as Warfare: How Violent Non-State Groups Use Social Services to Attack the State.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 31 (2008): 362.

[27] Tompkins, Paul J., and Chuck Crosset. Casebook on Insurgencies and Revolutionary Warfare: Volume II 1962-2009 (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2009): 568.

[28] Schmidt, Farhana. “From Islamic Warriors to Drug Lords: The Evolution of the Taliban Insurgency.” Mediterranean Quarterly, 21:8 (2010): 63.

[29] Mearsheimer, John J. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014): 63.

[30] Jones, Seth. “The Rise of Afghanistan’s Insurgency: State Failure and Jihad.” International Security, 32:4 (2008): 15.

[31] Tompkins, Paul J., and Chuck Crosset. Casebook on Insurgencies and Revolutionary Warfare: Volume II 1962-2009 (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2009): 574.

[32] Ayman, S. Gulden. “Reconciliation with the Taliban: Challenges and Prospects.” Security Strategies Journal, 9:17 (2013): 3.

[33] Ibid, 12.

[34] Tompkins, Paul J., and Chuck Crosset. Casebook on Insurgencies and Revolutionary Warfare: Volume II 1962-2009 (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2009): 676.

[35] Urbinas, Eduardo. “Unconventional Warfare: Putting It All Together.” Special Warfare, 28:1 (Winter 2015): 9.

[36] Headquarters, Department of the Army, Field Manual 3-05, Army Special Operations (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2014): 3-19.

[37] Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Techniques Publication 3-57.50, Civil Information Management, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2013): 1-2.

[38] Ibid, 6-4.

[39] Steve Lewis, “An Unconventional Role for Civil Affairs,” Special Warfare, 26:3 (Summer 2013): 17.

[40] Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Techniques Publication 3-05.1, Unconventional Warfare (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2013): 2-21. This reference defines the shadow government.  For the purposes of enabling social networks in denied areas to support this government, in the early stages of unconventional warfare shadow governments should be considered as irregular organizations.


About the Author(s)

Robert Schafer is a senior non-commissioned officer in Civil Affairs and former deputy director of the Civil Military Advisory Group in Washington D.C. Over a long career, he has deployed extensively to Iraq as well as to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kuwait, and Somalia.  He is a graduate of the National Defense University with a Master of Arts in Strategic Security Studies. He also graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.  His current research interest focuses on special warfare in non-linear systems.