EXPLORE (AND EXPLOIT?) THE BOUNDARIES - How operational level commanders closed the gap between political desires and the changing realities of the operational environment in the Kunduz province, Afghanistan
Voort, L.N. van der
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In this thesis I examine in what ways civilian political policy may influence military conduct at the operational level of activity by researching the decision-making behavior of the individual operational level commander in the context of closing the gap between civilian policy demands and contextual realities. It is argued that civil-military relations – at least partially – influence the political decision-making process, shaping an institutional context in which the pressure on operational level commanders to conform with normative rules and demands is high. A large amount of official documents, such as military doctrine and a mission mandate, contain detailed prescriptions on expected behavior of operational level commanders during their deployment. It is argued that strategic level civilian policy makers’ demands are important indicators concerning the desirability of operational level freedom of action. Despite the perceived pressure on operational level commander to conform, they remain active decision-makers and pragmatic in their effort to explore the boundaries of the mission’s mandate in order to close the gap between political demands and contextual realities, even if this meant that political acceptance was debatable. As the mandate of the Dutch Integrated Police-training Mission in Kunduz provides clear and delineated demands for operational level commanders, it is argued that themes and objectives that were multi-interpretable and focus on the ‘what’, leave operational commanders with the freedom to determine ‘how’ to fulfil political demands, which ultimately results in more adaptiveness of military activities to ensure the mission’s effectiveness.