Global Policy Forum

Brigade Level Peacekeeping Exercise Begins


By Charles Cobb, Jr.

All Africa
July 10, 2001

A brigade-level training exercise conducted by the United States European Command as part of the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) program got underway Monday in Senegal."We're trying to enhance the capacity for peacekeeping," said retired Colonel Nestor G. Pino-Marina, reached in Dakar where he is an ACRI training coordinator.

Sixty-five Senegalese staff officers and non-commissioned officers are attending political-military seminars "to understand how best to prepare" for peacekeeping. The exercise is a follow-up to the training last fall in Dakar and Thies of 400 Senegalese troops. The training focuses on peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, operational and logistical support functions and military decision-making. There is also a "psychological operations component" said Pino-Marina.

The training culminates in a "command post exercise" that brings Malawi together with Senegal, via satellite, in a computer simulation designed to help prepare officers from both nations to effectively manage a battalion in a crisis situation. In peacekeeping "there will be a need for close coordination," said Pino-Marina. "and we don't have the capacity to maneuver [a battalion] here. But this will be realistic without having to deploy forces."

Logicon, the information technology sector of Northrop-Grumman designed the program, called "Janus," and in this exercise, "set in a fictional country," said a company spokesperson, "a political crisis is taking place."

So far, Senegal and Malawi are the only two African nations to partner in this fashion, although Pino-Marina said he thinks more countries will decide to participate in such coordinated training. Ghana, Benin, Mali and Kenya also participate in ACRI. Ethiopia was suspended because of its war with Eritrea; Uganda was penalized for sending troops to Congo.

In both Africa and the United States there is caution about fully embracing ACRI as well as Operation Focus Relief, the other main U.S. military training program. "Investment in peace operations should not become a substitute for policy," wrote Jendayi E. Frazer, director of African affairs at the National Security Council, in a working paper on security policy in Africa that was published in March by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Frazer co-authored the paper with Princeton University's chair of the Department of Politics, Jeffrey I. Herbst.

What is required, wrote the two, is for the U.S. to take "the lead in mobilizing transatlantic allies, as well as willing and capable African states, to move beyond crisis response to prevention and peace enforcement."

Frazer and Herbst noted that the recent U.S. initiative to equip five Nigerian battalions for peacekeeping in Sierra Leone was resisted by Nigerians "who criticize the program's conditionalities, elementary curriculum, and resource levels. "ACRI, created during the Clinton administration, was underfunded, rejected by Africa's most capable armies and after spending $100 million, on both ACRI and Operation Focus Relief, "it is unclear what the United States has to show for its efforts," the paper said.

So far, two 800-man Nigerian battalions have been trained and sent to Sierra Leone under Operation Focus Relief. A battalion from Ghana and another from Senegal, as well as three more from Nigeria, are to be deployed this year.

There are "never enough resources, Pino-Marina says, but he thinks the program has had an impact. "I believe with the small amount allocated to the program, the quality of instruction is first rate." There has been "improvement" in troop and command quality, he says. "The accepted doctrine commonly used in NATO is being absorbed."

Frazer and Herbst are blunt about the uncertainties facing the Bush administration. Sierra Leone remains unstable, they say. Should fighting resume it is possible "that troops trained by the United States could be involved in significant human rights abuses."

Congo peacekeeping presents even greater uncertainty. "The sheer number of troops required - at least 50,000 to be effective - likely rules out fielding an international force." And if conflict spreads throughout the Great Lakes region, "the potential for mass violence and genocide is high."

Meanwhile, the State Department of Colin Powell and the Defense Department of Donald Rumsfeld continue to pull in opposite directions over funding military missions in Africa. "It's just trying to find the right balance between getting too committed and not getting committed enough," Powell said while traveling in Africa in May.

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