Tag Archives: Operation Sangaris

UN Security Council Approves Peacekeeping Force for CAR

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2149, which approves the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force in Central African Republic. The resolution provides for a force of approximately twelve thousand personnel under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, including some ten thousand troops and almost two thousand police. The crisis in CAR has left thousands dead, displaced almost seven hundred thousand people internally, and forced almost three hundred thousand to flee the country. The UN estimates that over two million people, approximately half of the country’s population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA's Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA’s Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

The decision comes as the African Union’s African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA), support by French forces, continues to struggle with violence in the country. MISCA, which is already operating with a UN mandate, had some six-thousand personnel at the beginning of last week. Last Friday, Chadian forces pulled out of the country following clashes in the capital Bangui in which ten people were killed. Chadian troops claimed they were acting in self defense, but other reports suggested they had fired indiscriminately into a crowd. This is not the first time Chadian peacekeepers have been involved in questionable incidents or had been accused of complicity with ex-Seleka rebels. The loss of the eight-hundred and fifty-man contingent was a significant blow to MISCA.

MISCA is scheduled to turn over responsibility for peacekeeping to the new UN force, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR (MINUSCA), by 15 September 2014. There is no word yet what countries might step forward to provide MINUSCA with the additional forces it requires. Many African nations are already participating in the effort, as well as efforts elsewhere. France, who has been a major contributor to peacekeeping efforts on the continent and who has been in CAR since the beginning of the year as part of their Operation Sangaris, has had only limited success in rallying the rest of the European Union to contribute forces. In January, the EU approved the deployment of a small five-hundred strong force to the country. The force, dubbed EUFOR RCA (EU Force République Centrafricaine) was eventually expanded to one thousand personnel, but was delayed and only arrived in the country last week.

The United States has also supported the efforts in CAR, as part of Operation Echo Casemate. However, so far this support has been limited to logistical support and the airlifting of additional African peacekeeping forces. The US will likely continue to provide this support to the expanded UN mission, but there is no indication that any American troops will deploy to the country to take a more active part in the peacekeeping mission.

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French Operation in Central African Republic May Be Extended

French parliamentarians in the country’s lower legislative house voted today to extend France’s intervention in Central African Republic.  As per French law, a vote must be held on military campaigns lasting more than four months. France currently has approximately two thousand personnel in CAR, where there are also some six thousand African peacekeepers.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA's Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA’s Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

French lawmakers criticized President Francois Hollande over the intervention, despite voting to continue it.  President Hollande had promised that the intervention, codenamed Operation Sangaris, would only last six months when it began last December. The situation CAR means that the intervention is likely to continue beyond that time frame.  France has even begun shifting forces around in Africa and elsewhere in order to bolster its operation in the country.

Even these additional reinforcements have not been enough to stem rising inter-communal violence in the country. The violence stems from the violent ouster of the country’s President, Francois Bozize, last March.  Nominally Muslim Seleka rebels deposed Bozize and their leader, Michel Djotodia subsequently took power as the country’s Interim President.  Despite attempts to curtail the rebels, they operated with virtual impunity in many parts of the country, including the capital, Bangui. In response, nominally Christian communities who felt targeted by violence and criminality, formed self-defense militias, collectively referred to as anti-balaka.

Djotodia resigned his post in January and fled into exile. Anti-balaka militias have since been accused of atrocities themselves, as they conduct reprisals against former rebels and those they link to them. Despite similar efforts to disarm these militias, the violence has continued, leading to events like a mass exodus of Muslims from the capital. French and African peacekeepers have been overwhelmed trying to provide basic law and order, and France has repeatedly called on European allies and the UN to deploy additional personnel.

Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon did put forward a six-point plan that included provisions for additional troops and police. French and African peacekeepers in CAR are currently operating under a UN mandate. However, it will take time for any additional forces to arrive and it is time that CAR might not have. The UN estimates that over two million people in CAR, amounting to almost half of the country’s population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.  More than seven hundred thousand have been displaced internally and almost three hundred thousand have fled into neighboring countries. There is a fear that the violence could spillover, especially into Cameroon. The crisis has also likely resulted in the deaths of thousands, but the instability has prevented any sort of accurate, independent assessment.

US Military Continues to Support Peacekeepers in CAR

The US is continuing efforts to support for French forces and the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) in Central Africa Republic.  Today, US Army Africa (USARAF) announced that it had just completed the deployment of a contingent of French forces in support of that country’s intervention in CAR, codenamed Operation Sangaris.  Yesterday, it was also announced that over the next twenty days, a battalion of peacekeepers from the Rwandan Defense Forces would be airlifted into CAR’s capital, Bangui.  Peacekeeping forces have been struggling to maintain order in Bangui and elsewhere as the country’s violent crisis continues.  The recent resignation of the country’s interim president and the appointment of a new one has had certain positive effects, but the UN describes the security situation in the country, where almost a million remain displaced, as “calm but unpredictable.”  The UN also reported yesterday that only six percent of its appeal for almost two hundred and fifty million US dollars in humanitarian aid had been funded.  The UN says it needs that funding to prevent a ease what it describes as “mega-tragedy” in CAR.

USAF personnel unload equipment belonging to SETAF's Headquarters Support Company from a C-130 aircraft in Central African Republic's capital Bangui on December 20th, 2013.

USAF personnel unload equipment belonging to SETAF’s Headquarters Support Company from a C-130 aircraft in Central African Republic’s capital Bangui on December 20th, 2013.

The involvement of USARAF began with little fanfare in mid-December 2013.  Since December, USARAF has taken on the role of coordinating the efforts between the US military services (including Special Operations Command Africa), the French, and African nations contributing to MISCA.  This included participation in the airlift of Burundian peacekeepers last year, codenamed Operation Echo Casemate, which the US Department of Defense announced had been concluded on December 30th.  It is unclear whether these continuing operations are part of Operation Echo Casemate or a new named operation.

The US Army Africa Forward Command Element, seen here being demonstrated in 2012, is a self-contained, mobile command post capable of worldwide communications and can deploy within 72 hours.

The US Army Africa Forward Command Element, a portion of which is seen here being demonstrated in 2012, is a self-contained, mobile command post capable of worldwide communications and can deploy within 72 hours.

Also, as part of the initial effort in December, C-130s of the US Air Force’s 37th Airlift Squadron deployed Army elements, including personnel and equipment from the Southern European Task Force’s (SETAF) Headquarters Support Company.  When US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was created, SETAF was designated as the US Army component for the new command, with the SETAF commander also being designated as the USARAF commander.  Though unconfirmed, it is likely that the US Army elements in Bangui have made use at least in part of USARAF’s rapidly deployable command post capabilities.  In 2011, USARAF gained an Early Entry Command Post (EECP) capability, and in 2012 gained a rapidly deployable Forward Command Post (FCP) capability, specifically intended for rapid deployment via C-130 in response to crises in its area of responsibility.  USARAF is currently conducting its efforts from a Current Operations Information Center (COIC), but the location of this is unclear.  It is very possible that this operations center is at the Command’s headquarters in Vicenza, Italy, while forward command elements are deployed to Bangui and possibly elsewhere.

Since the beginning of 2013, the US has found itself well equipped and positioned to assist in the rapid deployment of French and African peacekeepers into first Mali, and now into CAR.  The US has focused on providing this sort of logistics assistance rather than on providing forces to contribute directly to the mission on the ground in these countries.  Even with regards to the crisis in South Sudan, deployed US forces have focused mostly on evacuating US and other foreign nationals and protecting diplomatic facilities.

CAR’s Djotodia Steps Down

Update (1/10/14): ECCAS has formally announced the resignation of President Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiengaye.  CAR’s National Transitional Council (CNT), which has been flown in its entirety to Chad, will now be required to decide on a new leader ahead of elections planned for later this year.  The CNT had elected Djotodia last April, following the ouster of President Bozize.

Sources have reported that there is a possibility that Central African Republic’s President Michel Djotodia may agree to step down as part of efforts to end the current crisis in that country.  This comes as central African leaders belonging to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) bloc meet in the capital of Chad, Ndjamena, to discuss the crisis.  CAR presidential spokesman Guy-Simplice Kodegue has denied that the summit has anything to do with a possible leadership change.  Djotodia has promised to hold elections in the future and to not stand in said elections, but it is unclear who would likely stand in such elections.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the Central African Republic Crisis, as of 14 December 2013

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the Central African Republic Crisis, as of 14 December 2013

Djotodia assumed the presidency in March of last year after his Seleka rebel group ousted former President Francois Bozize.  Djotodia subsequently declared the group disbanded, but former Seleka rebels continued to commit acts of violence and criminality across the country, including in the suburbs of the capital Bangui.  Tensions between the nominally Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and nominally Christian village militias, broadly referred to as anti-balaka, reached a crisis point this past December.  Djotodia has continually blamed inter-communal violence on elements loyal to Bozize and said that any violence committed by elements loyal to him is a natural response to the injustices of the previous administration.

However, the resulting fighting prompted a French intervention, Operation Sangaris, to support African Union peacekeepers.  The US also provided support to rapidly reinforce the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), codenamed Operation Echo Casemate.  This operation primarily involved the airlift of a Burundian Army light infantry battalion and its associated equipment to CAR.

Observers warn that forcing Djotodia to give up the presidency would not necessarily fix the problems in the country and the United Nations warned today that inter-communal violence is a “long-term danger.”   The UN estimates that thousands have died in the fighting, that almost a million have been driven from their homes, and that over two million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

France Looks to Cut Forces in Mali as Focus Shifts to C. Africa

France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made a visit yesterday to Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic.  France has approximately sixteen hundred personnel currently in CAR as part of Operation Sangaris and Le Drian praised their efforts.  He also reiterated that French forces were there to assist the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) and would not take on any expanded role in the country.

Map of Central African Republic

Map of Central African Republic

The visit to CAR follows a visit to Mali, where Le Drian announced that French forces there would be reduced to approximately one thousand personnel by March of this year. French forces are currently operating their as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  This past December, France also announced its intention to deploy MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles to Niger to assist operation Mali.  The first of these was reportedly deployed yesterday.  The US also has a unmanned aerial vehicle operation based in Niger.  Unlike American MQ-9s, French Reapers will not be armed.

An American MQ-9 Reaper returns to base after a mission in Afghanistan.  French Reapers will not be armed like this one.

An American MQ-9 Reaper returns to base after a mission in Afghanistan. French Reapers will not be armed like this one.

However, if the experience in Mali and the continuing violence in CAR are any indications, France may have a hard time keeping to Le Drian’s promises.  Though a certain status quo has been restored in Mali, significant points of contention remain between the country’s government, Tuareg nomads, and Islamists, some of whom are believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.  France had initially hoped to have departed from Mali in part or in total by as early as April 2013, and has since continually pushed back any significant reductions in the force there.  French forces have also been accused by both the Malian government and the Tuaregs of bias in the conflict.

Overview Map - Mali, as of 1 March 2013

Overview Map – Mali, as of 1 March 2013

In CAR, African peacekeepers have similarly been accused of choosing sides and there is some dissatisfaction from nominally Christian anti-balaka militia with the failure of the French intervention to outright oust current President Michel Djotodia.  Two French soldiers were killed by anti-balaka militiamen in CAR last month.  While it remains to be seen whether French forces in CAR will be reinforced in the end, unlike with the intervention in Mali, no indication of a planned withdrawal timetable has yet been given.

Violence Continues in South Sudan and CAR

Violence has continued to escalate in South Sudan and Central Africa Republic, as crises in both countries continue despite international military interventions and other efforts.  Yesterday, in South Sudan, reports indicated that inter-communal fighting had spread into the country’s Upper Nile state, while in Central African Republic, French forces reinforced their positions in the capital Bangui with armored vehicles following heavy gunfire.

Map of South Sudan from the United Nations, dated October 2011.  The disputed Abyei region is shown shaded grey.

Map of South Sudan from the United Nations, dated October 2011.

In South Sudan, the United Nations believes that some ninety-thousand individuals to have been displaced, including almost sixty-thousand known to be sheltering at facilities operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).  Reports this week of mass killings and the discovery of a mass grave in the country indicate that the inter-communal violence between the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups is rapidly escalating.  The UN and others have called for engagement and dialogue to solve the crisis, which erupted after a reported coup attempt, which the government blamed on former Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer ethnic group.  The violence in Upper Nile state follows significant incidents in Unity state, another oil rich province, and Jonglei.

The UN Security Council has responded to the crisis by authorizing UNMISS to almost double its size, adding some five-thousand five-hundred peacekeepers (both military and police personnel) to the existing force of some seven thousand personnel.  UNMISS has already suffered casualties in the violence after ethnic Nuer militiamen attacked a facility in Akobo in Jonglei state.  However, the UN noted that it would take some time for the new forces to arrive.  It is possible that the US could assist in rapidly deploying peacekeepers, as it has done in the past.

spmagtf-cr-logoThe situation in South Sudan has already provided an opportunity for the US military to showcase its current crisis response capabilities.  Soon after the violence started, the US deployed elements of the East Africa Response Force, based at Camp Lemonnier Djibouti, to protect US diplomatic facilities and assist in evacuating civilians.  The US has now deployed elements of the Marine Corps’ Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response, based at Moron Air Base in Spain, to Camp Lemonnier and to Entebbe, Uganda.  In addition, last week, three Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22B Ospreys were damaged and four US servicemen injured during an attempt to rescue US and other nationals for Bor, the capital of Jonglei state.  The aircraft had been launched from Camp Lemonnier and were diverted to Entebbe after the mission was aborted.  It has since been reported that the rescue force included US Navy SEALs, suggesting that the aircraft and personnel for that mission might have come from Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa’s (CJTF-HOA) Special Operations Command and Control Element – Horn of Africa (SOCCE-HOA).  SOCCE-HOA is responsible for special operations in east Africa in support of CJTF-HOA’s mission, which includes regional crisis response.  SOCCE-HOA is in fact an outgrowth of a crisis response element (sometimes referred to as CRE-HOA) that was established at Camp Lemonnier in Spring 2002 as part of the initial buildup there following the events of September 11th, 2001.  SOCCE-HOA is also the primary force provider for Operation Observant Compass, the US mission to support regional forces in their fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Map of Central African Republic

Map of Central African Republic

In neighboring CAR, violence has also continued despite an influx of African peacekeepers to the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) and the French intervention, Operation Sangaris.  Violence there has become a matter of largely a matter of fighting between mainly Muslim former Seleka rebels and Christian militias referred to as anti-balaka.  Though anti-balaka groups initially welcomed international intervention, some have since become dissatisfied with their unwillingness to oust current President Michel Djotodia, the former leader of the Seleka rebel group, who deposed former President Francois Bozize in March.  Christian groups have also accused Muslim peacekeepers from Chad of siding with ex-Seleka rebels, leading to violent clashes.  Christian protesters blame Chadian forces for at least one death.  Anti-balaka militiamen reportedly killed a peacekeeper from the Republic of Congo on Tuesday, possibly in retribution.  French forces, however, are seen as having sided with the anti-balaka militias, leading to violence between them and ex-Seleka rebels.  Both ex-Seleka rebels and anti-balaka militia continue present a significant challenge to international forces and despite efforts to disarm both groups and seek a negotiated settlement.

US Airlift Into CAR Begins

The first US Air Force C-17 sortie from Burundi to the Central African Republic was conducted today, reportedly delivering fifty-four personnel, six cargo pallets, and a forklift to the troubled country.  The current goal of the operation is for a detachment of two US C-17 aircraft to eventually fly a full Burundian light infantry battalion into the country.  The battalion consists of eight hundred and fifty personnel and associated equipment.

French soldiers march to a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Base Aerieene 125, Istres, France on 20 January 2013, as they prepare to depart for Mali as part of France's Operation Serval

French soldiers march to a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Base Aerieene 125, Istres, France on 20 January 2013, as they prepare to depart for Mali as part of France’s Operation Serval.

However, it is possible that the US will be called upon to conduct further missions in support of France’s Operation Sangaris and the African-led  International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA).  The US had provided similar support to France’s Operation Serval in Mali, which began in January, and remained willing to provide such support as late as August as part of Operation Juniper Micron.  In addition, an update to one of the Sources Sought Synopses mentioned on Tuesday was updated today to describe a proposed “…period of performance will be between the months on or about 1 February 2014 thru 2 February 2015,” further reinforcing the likelihood that the US is look at the possibility of providing support for a protracted period of the time.

In addition, the Armed Forces Press Service said yesterday that the US military has a command and support team in Uganda and a logistics element in Burundi to support this effort, in addition to the element inside CAR already identified in the update to yesterday’s post.  According to the official news item, the element in CAR is primarily to provide on the ground security.  The force providers or nickname for the operation were not mentioned, but sources at AFRICOM have told Codebook: Africa that there is a nickname, but that it may not yet be releasable.

In addition to the US airlift efforts, the United Kingdom also flew a C-17 sortie to CAR yesterday, to deliver equipment to French forces.  The C-17 from the Royal Air Force’s 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton coordinated delivery of vehicles and supplies with French military personnel.  This is the second of three planned sorties by the RAF in support of Operation Sangaris, the first of which was conducted on December 6th after the UK announced its intention to provide the support.  That mission saw an RAF C-17 collect armored personnel carriers from the French Air Force base at Istres-Le Tubé near Marseilles, which has been a major hub for French movements into Africa in the past year.  The French have themselves have used both Cameroon and Gabon as staging areas for the deployment of forces, and recently deployed aircraft to Chad to support the effort in CAR.