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The too many faces of war -- why the war in Afghanistan is so complex
Date:12/29/2010

Conflicting roles among military and civilian personnel is counterproductive to NATO's strategy for peace in Afghanistan, concludes PhD candidate Lillian Katarina Stene after six months in the country.

"We must differentiate better between military and civil tasks, and present ourselves more clearly," she says.

The former army officer studies civil military coordination in conflicts at the University of Stavanger, Norways' Risk management and societal safety programme. She has interviewed military colleagues during her stay at the German NATO headquarter in Mazar e Sharif in the North of Afghanistan.

Through participant observation, she has gained access to the inner workings of the NATO forces.

"Since there is no unified way of doing things in Afghanistan, NATO has a problem," Stene says.

Different national caveats and ingrained practices, attitudes, training and interpretations conducts different operational modes among the countries working under the NATO umbrella, she asserts.

"While Americans like to act quickly, Germans and Scandinavians prefer to consider the long-term effects of civil military coordination. The Americans are likely to dig a well on the spot, while Germans prefer to let the Afghans dig the well themselves."

To connect local structures and military intentions, designated civil military coordination (CIMIC) units are set up within NATO. Their three core functions are to liaise, be a support to the civil environment and the military force. They contribute by assessment of villages and supporting basic infrastructure such as roads, water and bridges when needed.

"Civil military coordination is about working behind the scenes, and handing over tasks to the Afghans," says Stene. She worked as a CIMIC officer herself during her time in the country.

"It is vital to gain insight into people's real needs, and to involve local projects and contractors. Building school
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Contact: Lillian Katarina Stene
lillian.k.stene@uis.no
475-183-1552
University of Stavanger
Source:Eurekalert

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