Assessing the Role of Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Paul Jemitola is a lecturer at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He can be reached on Linkedin. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.

Title:  Assessing the Role of Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Date Originally Written:  August 5, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 9, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that governments engaged in countering violent extremists must pair hard and soft power to consolidate gains and bring about lasting peace.

Summary:  There are no recent success stories of a multifaceted approach to irregular warfare as leaders have been unwilling to engage in the work required. Responses to militant non-state actors will be ineffective without a whole of government effort that emphasizes military and nonmilitary interventions in appropriate measures to defeat violent threats, stabilize territories and restore the lives of affected populations.

Text:  As the world resumes Great Power Competition, irregular warfare will continue to be a means for states and groups to project power beyond their conventional means[1][2]. As in the Cold War, powerful nations will continue to employ indirect means to counter adversaries and shape events in the wider world[3]. As political leaders deal with the new global order, states can move from a military-first model of countering violent non-state actors and move to a whole of government approach that encompasses every facet of state power[4][5].

Countries confronting irregular warfare usually have underlying socio-economic difficulties[6][7]. Often, the authority of governing structures has been discredited by discontentment[8]. Both terrorists and insurgents usually seek to achieve political objectives by violence, either against the civil population, representatives of government, or both[9]. This violence to political transition implies that while military forces may defeat the irregular combatants and shape events on the ground, other means of power projection options are required to bring about durable peace. Without integrated and synchronized political, economic, legal, security, economic, development, and psychological activities[6], strategies against guerrillas, insurgents, and militias will not be effective.

Law enforcement agencies are often the most visible symbols of a government’s authority and the target of most attacks by insurgents and terrorists[10]. Historically, police action is the most effective strategy that ends terrorist groups that don’t abandon violence for political action[11]. The police organization’s ability to maintain a significant presence on the ground undercuts any narrative of strength insurgents may seek to project. Police Officers may carry out their usual functions of enforcing the law, mediating in disputes between locals, and protecting the population from criminals looking to take advantage of security vacuums.

Paramilitary forces can protect critical infrastructure, assist in force protection, expand the capacity of law enforcement, and deter militant activity with expanded presence and routine patrols. As these groups are often made up of volunteers from the local population, they can also serve as invaluable sources of intelligence and are less intimidating than armed forces[12][13].

Intelligence agencies can gather information about the combatants to facilitate a proper understanding of what the government is confronting how best to address them[14]. Human Intelligence from interrogations and agents, Signals Intelligence from intercepted communications, and other means of data gathering can help develop the picture of the guerillas, their leadership structures, the forces, the equipment available to them, and their support system both local and international[15][16]. These intelligence activities will include working with financial authorities to cut off their sources of funding and supporting military, security, and law enforcement tactical and operational actions[17].

The government can deploy its diplomatic corps to ensure international support for itself while dissuading foreign actors from intervening in support of the insurgents. These diplomats will ensure that the government’s narrative finds receptive audiences in foreign capitals and populations. This narrative can be converted to concrete support in terms of aid for securing military materiel and social-economic interventions in areas affected by the conflict. These diplomats will also work to dissuade foreign actors from providing aid to the militants and prolonging the conflict unduly[18].

Government agencies may provide social and economic interventions to support refugees and returnees seeking to rebuild their societies. The provision of health care, nutritional aid, job training, and economic opportunities will go a long way to break the attraction of militants and ensure that the population is invested in keeping the peace[19].

The government may encourage well-spirited Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and international agencies seeking to assist people caught up in the conflict. These agencies usually have vast experience and technical knowledge operating the areas of conflict around the world. While ensuring that these groups are acting in good faith, the government does not unduly burden them with regulatory requirements. Security for NGOs can be guaranteed to the extent possible[20].

Political leaders can ensure their words and deeds do not inflame tensions. They can seek to forge national identities that transcend tribal and ethnic leanings. They can address the concerns of indigenous population in the areas under attack work to separate legitimate grievances from violent acts. The governed must be able to advocate peacefully for change without resorting to violence. Governing structures can be focused on meeting societal needs to ensure peace and prosperity. Military and nonmilitary forces can be properly resourced and adequately overseen. They can facilitate understanding and unity of purpose. Concerns raised by security agencies can get the desired attention and support for measured actions to address them. The advent of nationalism and the non-applicability of democracy to all cultures demands that peoples be given sufficient avenues and support to organize themselves and that their demands be respected.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, built up the appetite of politicians for military interventions at home and abroad. This emphasis on military powers was to the detriment of other levers of power. Unfortunately, the abuse of military power to achieve goals best left to civilian or political institutions unfairly discredited the use of force in the eyes of the general public. This discrediting made it harder for politicians to justify military interventions even in situations where its deployment could be justified. While the military may continue to have a legitimate and even necessary role in countering irregular warfare, any successful strategy requires every element of national power. There are no recent success stories of a multifaceted approach to irregular warfare. This is because national leaders have been unwilling to engage in the work required. Political leaders can lead the way to move from violent responses to civil but more effective means to address conflicts.


[1] Vrolyk, J. (2019, December 19). Insurgency, Not War, is China’s Most Likely Course of Action. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from

[2] Goodson, J. (2020, May 20). Irregular Warfare in a New Era of Great-Power Competition. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from

[3] Fowler, M. (2019, November 4). The Rise of the Present Unconventional Character of Warfare. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from

[4] McDonnell, E. (2013, January 7). Whole-of-Government Support for Irregular Warfare. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from

[5] White, N. (2014, December 28). Organizing for War: Overcoming barriers to Whole-of-Government Strategy in the ISIL Campaign. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from

[6] US Government (2012). Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from

[7] Cox, D., Ryan, A. (2017). Countering Insurgency and the Myth of “The Cause”. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from

[8] Nyberg, E. (1991). Insurgency: The Unsolved Mystery. Retrieved July 04, 2020, from

[9] Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2020, June). DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Retrieved July 04, 2020, from

[10] Celeski, J. (2009, February). Policing and Law Enforcement in COIN – the Thick Blue Line. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from

[11] Jones, S. and Libicki, M. (2008). How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from

[12] Espino, I. (2004, December). Counterinsurgency: The Role of Paramilitaries. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[13] Dasgupta, S. (2016, June 6). Paramilitary groups: Local Alliances in Counterinsurgency Operations. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[14] Clark, D. (2008, June 27). The Vital Role of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[15] White, J. (2007, April 14). Some Thoughts on Irregular Warfare. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[16] Steinmeyer, W. (2011, August 5). The Intelligence Role in Counterinsurgency. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[17] Department of the Army. (2006, December) Counterinsurgency. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[18] Murray, S. Blannin, P. (2017, September 18). Diplomacy and the War on Terror. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[19] Godson, J. (2015, August 16). Strategic Development and Irregular Warfare: Lessons from the High Water Mark of Full-Spectrum COIN. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

[20] Penner, G. (2014, July 07). A Framework for NGO-Military Collaboration. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

Assessment Papers Civilian Concerns Damimola Olawuyi Dr. Paul Jemitola Government Irregular Forces / Irregular Warfare

An Assessment of the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs’ Capability to Provide Commanders with Improved Situational Awareness in Population-Centric Operations

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander L. Carter is a U.S. Army Civil Affairs officer who deployed twice to Iraq as a Civil Affairs Team Leader. He presently works at the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve as an Army Senior Strategist. He can be found on LinkedIn at Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title:  An Assessment of the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs’ Capability to Provide Commanders with Improved Situational Awareness in Population-Centric Operations

Date Originally Written:  April 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 15, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty Army officer currently serving at Headquarters, Department of the Army as a Senior Strategist. The author believes that the U.S. Army Civil Affairs community lacks sufficient stakeholder engagement skills needed to prepare commanders for population-centric operations in 2035 and suggests new approaches to identifying, prioritizing, and engaging with stakeholders.

Summary:  Successful population-centric operations will be achieved only when military forces understand underlying human behavior, attitudes, and predispositions of local populations. This knowledge can be taught by introducing new techniques in stakeholder engagement. Army Civil Affairs operators are the natural choice for this new training to support commanders conducting population-centric operations.

Text:  A recently published review of the U.S. Army’s involvement in the Iraq war revealed an unflinching account of significant failures in the planning and execution of population-centric operations[1]. One explanation for these failures is that the Army underestimated the physical, cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of individuals and groups that influenced local Iraqi perceptions, understanding, and interactions. As the Army focuses on modernization, readiness, and reform initiatives to prepare for the future fight, Army Civil Affairs (CA) are the logical choice to leverage lessons learned from recent experiences in Iraq and elsewhere and develop a much-needed capability to identify, prioritize, and engage with individuals and groups to favorably influence conditions on the ground. Specifically, CA adopting and implementing new stakeholder engagement techniques to better understand and leverage human attitudes, behaviors, and sentiments will impact the Supported Commander’s ability to accomplish the mission and achieve the desired end-state.

While certain communication or key leader engagement skills are taught at the CA branch qualification course and regularly practiced during exercises and other training events, more deliberate, comprehensive stakeholder management practices are not. In fact, such practices are absent from Army and Joint publications. To launch this new initiative in stakeholder outreach or engagement, one must start with a definition.

A stakeholder is “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives[2].” To support the commander’s mission, CA operators must first identify stakeholders who can positively impact the mission. There are at least two methods for identifying stakeholders – Center of Gravity (COG) analysis and Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats or (SWOT) analysis. COG analysis begins with desired end state and identifies supporting critical capabilities needed to achieve the end state[3]. COG analysis identifies those critical capabilities that are also most vulnerable to ‘enemy’ or critical vulnerabilities[4]. Stakeholders are then identified that can either strengthen existing capabilities or mitigate the vulnerabilities of other capabilities.

Similarly, SWOT analysis can be used to generate a list of stakeholders. SWOT analysis identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats bearing upon a command or unit contemplating a proposed operation. Strengths and weaknesses are internally focused while opportunities and threats are external to the organization[5]. A re-purposing of traditional SWOT analysis focuses on opportunities and threats to identify stakeholders that help the organization capitalize on opportunities and mitigate threats. Once identified, these stakeholders are then prioritized to determine whether deliberate outreach to them is necessary.

There are different ways to prioritize stakeholders. One technique is the power/interest grid[6]. Stakeholders are plotted on any one of four quadrants, along the axes, based on a collective assessment of their relative power and interest. The degree of power for each stakeholder is assessed subjectively considering various types of power sources, such as legitimate, informal, referent, expert, coercive, connective, etc., that may be associated with an individual stakeholder[7]. The degree of interest is assessed based on the perceived level of interest that the stakeholder has on the outcome of the strategy or plan. Because stakeholders need to be managed differently based on their relative authority (power) and level of concern (interest), those stakeholders assessed as having a high degree of power and interest will be classified as “Manage Closely,” and actively managed.

Once stakeholders are identified and categorized into one of four quadrants on the grid, leaders allocate resources (team members) to engage with stakeholders deemed critical for solicitation. Stakeholders assessed as having high interest and high power (“Manage Closely”) are further assessed to determine their current and desired dispositions toward such plans[8]. Stakeholder engagements are calendared and reported through leader-led meetings. Engagements are planned with supporting goals and objectives for each stakeholder, ideally moving the stakeholder’s current disposition towards a desired disposition relative to the commander’s goals. In this process, CA operators could gauge stakeholders’ sentiments, thoughts, and feelings toward a command’s developing or proposed operations. Why choose the CA community to be the proponent for such expertise?

Civil Affairs operators are doctrinally and operationally aligned to be highly successful enablers to Supporting Commanders conducting population-centric operations because of CA’s laser focus on working exclusively in the human domain. The recently published joint concept for operating in such a contested, information environment states that commanders are tasked to gain “shared situational awareness…and establishment of relationships that reduce or eliminate barriers to the integration of physical power and informational power[9]. Through more deliberate, calculated, and, ultimately, effective stakeholder engagement, commanders will receive the information they need from CA operators to make better informed decisions that could make the difference between success or failure in population-centric warfare in the years to come.

Figure 1: Power/Interest Grid[10]

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 7.30.17 AM


[1] U.S. Army, (2016). The U.S. Army in the Iraq War Volume 2: Surge and Withdrawal 2007–2011, U.S. Army War College Press, 625.[2] Freeman, E. R. (1984). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Pitman, 31.

[3] Kornatz, S. D. (2016). The primacy of COG in planning: Getting back to basics. Joint Force Quarterly, (82), 93.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Helms, M. M., & Nixon, J. (2010). Exploring SWOT analysis – where are we now?: A review of academic research from the last decade. Journal of Strategy and Management, 3(3), 216.

[6] Smith, P. A. (2017). Stakeholder Engagement Framework. Information & Security: An International Journal, 38, 35–45.

[7] Turcotte, W. E., Calhoun W.M., and Knox, C. (2018). Power and Influence, research paper, U.S. Naval War College. 2–3.

[8] A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 5th ed (2013). Project Management Institute.

[9] Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment.

[10] Eden, C. (1999). Making strategy: The journey of strategic management. Management Research News, 22(5). 37.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Alexander L. Carter Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association Civilian Concerns