Army Views “Civil Affairs” Operations

The crucial interactions between military forces and the civilian environment in which they operate are the domain of “civil affairs,” a subject of urgent interest to the U.S. military in Iraq and elsewhere.

Civil affairs operations that promote cooperation between the military and the local population help to advance the military mission. Activities that generate friction or inspire opposition are not helpful.

“A supportive civilian population can provide resources and information that facilitate friendly operations. It can also provide a positive climate for the military and diplomatic activity a nation pursues to achieve foreign policy objectives,” according to U.S. military doctrine.

“A hostile civilian population threatens the immediate operations of deployed friendly forces and can often undermine public support at home for the policy objectives of the United States and its allies.”

“The problem of achieving maximum civilian support and minimum civilian interference with U.S. military operations will require the coordination of intelligence efforts, security measures, operational efficiency, and the intentional cultivation of goodwill.”

“Failure to use CA [civil affairs] assets in the analysis of political, economic, and social bases of instability may result in inadequate responses to the root causes of the instability and result in the initiation or continuation of conflict.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army issued a revised “how-to” manual on the conduct of civil affairs. That manual has not been approved for public release and is not readily available. But a copy of the prior edition from 2003 was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Civil Affairs Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures,” U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-05.401, September 2003 (535 pages, 16 MB PDF file).

A more concise treatment of the same subject was given in another recent manual. Though not approved for public release, a copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See “Civil Affairs Operations,” U.S. Army Field Manual 3-05.40, September 2006 (183 pages, 4 MB PDF file).

No Responses to “Army Views “Civil Affairs” Operations”

  1. William J. Neill July 19, 2007 at 2:07 PM #

    Civil affairs was once known as military government and is very important to the support of combat operations as well as restoration of whatever a “normal” life might be once combat operations have passed through an area.

    The most salient point to be stated is that when combat operations move beyond a habitated area, a political and sociological vacuum results. If that vacuum is not immediately filled, terrible things can happen.

    Historically, the most prominent examples of the prompt and proper execution of military government operations can be found in Germany and Austria by the US and UK governments prior to and following May 8, 1945, as well as in Japan following the formal surrender of that nation on Sept. 8, 1945.

    Many details can be offered to demonstrate both the stabilizing and rehabilitative effects of military government operations in Europe and Japan following the end of WWII. I have a very, very large collection of original papers, documents, and publications to provide substantiation to the benefits of forethought and cultural knowledge in the conduct of military government operations.

    What is remarkable at this moment in history is that the United States has an administration that is either profoundly intellectually challenged or too self-assured to be bothered by the lessons of history. And what the world now witnesses in Iraq is the consequence.

  2. AJF July 19, 2007 at 9:21 PM #


    I read with interest your discourse on “Civil Affairs.” Civil Affairs was invented in WW II. They were the guys who followed the combat units that were uncovering towns and cities in Europe, where Nazis and Nazi sympathizers were fleeing. They restored civil functions (Police, Administration, fire services, electricity, sewage, and public works, amongst other functions). The same was done when we conquered islands in the Pacific during WW II. The successful occupation in Japan was facilitated by Civil Affairs Units.

    When I served with the U.S. Army Special Forces in the 1960′s, we never deployed without Civil Affairs Officers, to Vietnam, to Laos or other destinations.

    When our military was running roughshod over Iraqi units, which I was watching on TV with my wife, my main question was “Where are the Civil Affairs Units?” When our troops were uncovering towns, villages and cities, with the Baathists fleeing, there was no one to take charge except for the Mosque. Where were our Civil Affairs Units?

    I could go on and on about our mistakes in Iraq, but suffice it to say, Civil Affairs is being treated now as an integral part of our Special Operations forces, in organization and function.