This study seeks to improve understanding of whole-of-government (WOG) approaches, as applied by nations that contribute civilian personnel and military forces to multinational peace operations. How do national WOG models vary, at country capitals and in the mission area? Why do WOG approaches vary - in time, as well as within and across countries? Focusing on the ISAF mission, this study develops a measuring tool for levels of civil-military coordination, and compares the experiences of Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom in Afghanistan, between 2001 and 2014. It then tests theories of bureaucratic politics, strategic culture, and principal-agent models to tease out the reasons for variation across the three case studies.
The results indicate that the structure of the political institutions in each country was a key determinant of WOG coherence. The German and Swedish coalition governments required excessive collective bargaining over all aspects of the Afghanistan engagement. This resulted in low to medium-level WOG models. By contrast, in the British single party majority system, WOG advances hinged upon the priorities of a single individual - the incumbent Prime Minister. Despite bureaucratic resistance, focusing events and negotiations over side issues allowed for progress in civil-military coherence. In the mission area, the degree of control headquarters exercised over deployed staff affected cooperation dynamics. On average, Swedish and German civilian ministries granted personnel less discretion to engage with the military than British departments. Finally, cultural factors indirectly shaped WOG narratives in each country.