France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today that the country would send an additional one thousand troops to Central African Republic, which the UN warns is rapidly descending into chaos. As in Mali, the stated aim of this force, which roughly triples the size of French force deployed to CAR, is to immediately improve the security situation before the planned deployment of an African-led force to the country in six months. Currently, just over four hundred French troops are deployed to CAR, along with African peacekeapers assigned to the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA). The UN expects to transition MISCA into a UN-led force, with a strength of six thousand military personnel and almost two thousand police personnel, next year. This is again similar to the model used in Mali, where an African-led force transitioned to a UN-led force this summer.
France’s established position in Africa, including its permanent basing of military forces there, has led it to take a leading role in a number of interventions on the continent recently, most notably its operation in Mali, which began in January with significant US support. In Mali, however, the French have had to delay their planned withdrawal as the security situation remains tense and as it becomes unclear whether the UN-mandated force will be able to fully assume responsibility for the peacekeeping operation there. It is possible that the French might experience similar difficulties extricating themselves from CAR. These difficulties in rapidly deploying regional forces for such contingencies, along with the various security threats on the continent, are likely what prompted France’s chief of their defense staff, Admiral Edouard Guillaud, to suggest that it might be time to allow French forces on the continent greater latitude in their operations.
In addition to the decisions regarding peacekeeping in CAR, the UN Security Council also urged greater efforts against the Lord’s Resistance Army, also operating in the region, and extended the mandate of peacekeepers on the Sudan-South Sudan border. With regards to the LRA, the UNSC urged more support for the UN Regional Strategy against the group, which includes direct action, support for regional security forces, and addressing of the broader humanitarian situation in areas where the LRA operate. The US has been significantly involved in this effort as well. In Abyei, an oil-rich region disputed by Sudan and South Sudan, the mandate of UN peacekeepers has now been extended until May of 2014. The mission had already been extended for six months in May of this year, at which time the size of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was also enlarged to just over one thousand personnel.