Civilian actors generally perceive the armed forces in a very positive light, trusting the armed forces as an apolitical national institution and viewing a military career as desirable. The armed forces, in turn, recognize civilian control and encourage positive perceptions of civilians, seeking broadly representative personnel policies. The armed forces regard civil-military development activities as a minor part of their mission and coordinate with civilian authorities on a regular basis, but do not have doctrine or units designated for civil-military cooperation.
Very few Tunisians enlist, and conscription may be avoided by paying an exemption fee, placing the burden of conscription on lower income groups and skewing social representation. Nonetheless, service in the military breaks down social barriers and the armed forces play an important role in bringing together citizens from the more impoverished rural interior and south with those from the more economically developed coast.
A large majority of Tunisians trust the military, due in part to the perception that it sided with protesters in 2011. The armed forces are not seen to represent or act for or against any specific social group, whether class-based, sectarian, ethnic, tribal, or regional. They are seen as reliably apolitical, prioritizing professionalism in defense of the state over loyalty to the incumbent political order and as supportive of the people and of democracy. Civilian perceptions of the armed forces are shaped positively by their performance in countering terrorism, United Nations peacekeeping missions, and responding to natural disasters.
A military career as an officer is desirable for the social prestige and reliable compensation it offers, and an enlisted career is seen as more desirable in economically under-served areas of the interior and south. The desirability of a military career has increased generally since 2011. Discussion of defense affairs among civilians and the media has become more open since 2011, but in practice discussion is limited. Some civilians have been tried in military courts for defaming or insulting the armed forces.
The armed forces recognize civilian control and the military education system inculcates positive perceptions of and respect for civilians. Some military personnel have nonetheless called for a retired officer to serve as minister of defense. The armed forces increasingly seek a role in formulating defense policy, but they recognize that national interests are multifaceted and that civilian authorities should play the primary role in determining them.
There is little to no evidence of distrust of civilian authorities by the military; the institutionalized nature of civilian control suggests that the military regard civilian authorities as competent. The military views itself as representing the nation as a whole, but sectarian (secular versus Islamist) and tribal (coast versus interior) groupings have been reported, albeit with little effect on the institution as a whole.
The armed forces promote broader social representation in the ranks, promoting officers from historically underrepresented regions of the interior to senior ranks and lifting the previous ban on accepting members of families linked to the Ennahda movement in military academies. Military personnel generally accept equality with civilian counterparts in terms of service and retirement, despite expressing occasional frustration at the meagerness of pay and pensions. Private agencies conduct polling to assess the military’s image, but the armed forces do not commission these surveys, nor do they undertake surveys to assess or improve their public image.
The armed forces regard civil-military development activities as part of their mission, albeit a minor one. They undertake land reclamation projects and provide support to the population in the event of natural disasters. Civilian support and trust are reinforced by the role of the armed forces in providing logistical support during national elections, delivery of secondary school examinations, provision of medical care, and collection, transport, and storage of crops during harvest season.
The military has not developed its own civil-military cooperation doctrine but has hosted relevant training programs by foreign partners and employs United Nations civil-military cooperation doctrine when on peacekeeping missions. The armed forces do not have dedicated civil-military cooperation units, but ground level coordination teams are formed and procedures established to engage with civilian partners tailored to each specific operation.
Civil affairs are generally taught as part of training for peacekeeping missions, to which most officers deploy at some point in their careers. The armed forces routinely consult with the Ministry of Agriculture on military land reclamation and agricultural projects, and they organize coordination meetings with regional and central civilian authorities when responding to natural disasters. The armed forces do not survey public perceptions of civil-military activities, but they conduct ongoing internal assessments during and after operations.
Q1 - Civilian Perceptions
Q2 - Military Perceptions
Q3 - Civil-Military Cooperation