Monthly Archives: March 2014

Regional Bloc Looks at Sending Peacekeepers to South Sudan as Violence Continues

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African economic bloc that has been hosting peace talks over South Sudan, said today that its members were prepared to send forces to to the country to stabilize the situation. This comes as peace talks were put on hold yesterday, after the parties failed to make any progress on a lasting settlement to the country’s crisis. IGAD hopes the talks will resume later this month.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

It is not clear which IGAD members would be offering to deploy troops. Uganda, which is a member of the organization, already deployed troops to the country. Those forces, however, were sent to support the government rather than act as an independent force. The Ugandan intervention became a major point of contention between parties in South Sudan, as well as among IGAD members. Last Month, Uganda announced that it would begin a phased withdrawal of its forces in April, with the understanding being that they would be replaced by other forces, hopefully with an African Union or United Nations mandate, or both. IGAD is reportedly consulting with both the AU and the UN about the details of its proposed force.

Members of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response board a KC-130J at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, as they prepare to return to their base in Spain on 1 March 2014.

Members of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response board a KC-130J at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, as they prepare to return to their base in Spain on 1 March 2014. SPMAGTF-CR had been forward deployed to Djibouti to be able to better respond to the crisis in South Sudan.

At this point, it does appear that there is a need for an independent international force in South Sudan. Despite the ongoing talks and a ceasefire agreement in January, violence in South Sudan has continued, as government forces and rebels jockey for control of important cities. The crisis may have stabilized to a degree, however, as the US has begun removing military forces it had deployed to help evacuate American citizens and protect diplomatic facilities. It is also possible that with the end of the evacuations and the relocation of certain diplomatic functions outside the country, that there is just no further reason for them being forward deployed in the region. The latter is perhaps more likely given reports of fighting in the capital.

There have been reports of atrocities on both sides after violence erupted last December following a reported coup attempt. Government negotiators and opposition representatives have accused each other of preventing peace talks, being held in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, from moving forward. The major stumbling blocks surround the future of the country’s current leadership, the continued detention of individuals accused of attempting to overthrow the government, and the charges brought against opposition political figures, who have since gone into hiding.

The continued crisis has had serious humanitarian impacts as well. The UN estimates that over seven hundred thousand have been displaced internally by the fighting, and that over a hundred thousand have fled to neighboring countries. The UN also believes that over three million people inside the country are in need of humanitarian assistance. The crisis has made it hard for international organizations to conduct independent assessments, however. The UN has had difficulty securing funding from its members and there has been evidence of diversion of aid to combatants, as well. The UN has also largely refrained from estimating how many people might have been killed since December.

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African Security Cooperation Updates

It has already been noted here that this year’s iteration of the annual Flintlock exercise is underway in Niger. The exercise began this year on February 19th, and is scheduled to end this Sunday, March 9th. The significance of Niger as this year’s host has already been mentioned.

A member of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment instructs members of Niger's 22nd Battalion during Exercise Flintlock 2014.

A member of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment instructs members of Niger’s 22nd Battalion during Exercise Flintlock 2014.

An official US Africa Command (AFRICOM) piece on the exercise that appeared on their website yesterday has some additional items worth noting. The first is highlighting the aerial resupply portion of the training. AFRICOM, and US European Command (EUCOM) before them, have both spent considerable effort in developing this capability for African forces. AFRICOM run an annual exercise, Atlas Accord, specifically focused on this capability. Atlas Accord replaced a previous annual exercise, Atlas Drop, in 2012. EUCOM had started Atlas Drop in 1996.

The belief is that aerial resupply may be the answer to the problem of conducting sustained operations for many African nations. Most African militaries lack a robust logistics arrangement, meaning that their forces are limited in how far away from their base they can operate and for how long. This is especially true of many militaries in Africa’s Sahel region, which has historically been referred to by the US government as an “ungoverned space.” Aerial resupply can also help in the rapid distribution of humanitarian assistance following natural disasters or in other times of need, such as during droughts.

By integrating this component into Flintlock, it frees up resources to host Atlas Accord elsewhere on the continent. In 2012, Atlas Accord was held in Mali, where the annual Flintlock exercise was to be held, but was canceled. Last year’s Atlas Accord exercise was held in Nigeria.

Its also worth noting the international participants in this year’s Flintlock exercise. While the African nations participating in the exercise change relatively little from year to year, the US has been inviting more nations from outside Africa to participate in recent years. From the AFRICOM news piece, we can see that Spanish and Canadian special operations forces are participating this year. Both of these nations also participated in the 2011 Flintlock exercise.

In other news, the North Dakota National Guard announced that it was expanding in its participation in the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP). Since 1993, State National Guards in the United States have formed bilateral relationships with foreign militaries as part of the SPP. Training exchanges are intended to benefit both sides and provide a continuity of relationship that might not necessarily be found in other arrangements. North Dakota’s National Guard has an existing history with Africa, beginning its first SPP partnership in 2004 with Ghana. The North Dakota Guard will not also be a partner with the armed forces of Togo and Benin. State Guards now partner with ten countries in the AFRICOM area of responsibility.