Tag Archives: SPMAGTF-CR

Push for Talks in South Sudan

The African Union today called on the parties in South Sudan to cease fighting and engage in talks to prevent an all out civil war in the country.  The United States also said a political solution may be a possibility.  South Sudan has seen an explosion of inter-communal violence since the government reportedly defeated an attempted coup at the beginning of last week.  Members of the majority Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups have since engaged in open conflict against each other and against international forces in the country.  Anti-government Nuer rebels have since claimed total control over the oil-rich Unity state and Bor, the capital of Jonglei state.  South Sudanese government troops are reportedly massing for an assault to reclaim Bor.

A map released by the European Commission of the crisis in South Sudan as of December 20th, 2013

A map released by the European Commission of the crisis in South Sudan as of December 20th, 2013

The fighting, which along with what has been happening in neighboring Central African Republic, has led to fears of a repeat of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, has exposed major issues in the world’s youngest nation.  President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka ethnic group blamed Riek Machar, a one-time partner in the fight against the Sudanese government and former Vice President.  Machar, a member of the Nuer ethnic group, denied any involvement, saying that President Kiir was seeking to inflame ethnic tension.  Machar has, however, expressed tacit support for the Nuer rebellion.  In addition to claiming control over Unity state and Bor, reported Nuer militiamen also attacked a facility operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) last week, killing UN peacekeepers and civilians fleeing the violence.  US CV-22B Osprey aircraft attempting a rescue of US nationals in Bor last week were also fired upon, leading to the operation being scrapped and four US servicemen being wounded.

MV-22B Ospreys from  Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 at Moron Air Base, Spain, after having arrived to join Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response.

MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 at Moron Air Base, Spain, after having arrived to join Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response earlier this year.

Despite the push for talks, the continuing violence has reportedly led the commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to reposition forces within East Africa.  Most notably, this involved the movement of elements of the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR) from Moron, Spain to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.  The mission into Bor last week was flown from Djibouti by members of the East Africa Response Force (EARF).  Both SPMAGTF-CR and the EARF are products of a review of crisis response capabilities that came after the attack on the US consulate and associated facilities in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012.  The aircraft flown to Bor were then diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, another hub for US operations in the region, after the mission was aborted.  The wounded servicemen were then flown to Nairobi, Kenya by C-17 for medical treatment.  It was also reported today that three of the four individuals would be medically evacuated to Landstuhl Army Hospital, in Germany.  The fourth would be moved as soon as his condition stabilized.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also suggested reinforcing UNMISS, which currently has almost seven thousand personnel in South Sudan.

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Is the US Planning an Intervention into CAR?

UPDATE: Major Robert Firman, USAF, a public affairs spokesman at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told Stars and Stripes on December 11th that “The U.S. military already has security and logistics personnel in Bangui to help unload the C-17s when they arrive,” but that the “current U.S. military footprint in the CAR is ‘very, very small.”  It is not clear whether these announcements, which required respondents to present proposals by no later than December 13th, this Friday, are potentially to support the activities of this limited element already in CAR.  No further details were provided about the size or structure of this element either.

Today [December 10th], the Regional Contracting Office Africa, part of the 414th Contracting Support Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, issued one Requests for Information (RFI) and two Sources Sought Synopses (SSS) specifically relating to Central African Republic.  It is immediately important to acknowledge, as noted in the announcements, that RFI and SSS are not solicitations.  Whatever planning process led to these announcements may never get any further than this.

Map of Central Africa Republic

Map of Central African Republic

Still, the RFI remains particularly interesting in that it alludes specifically to the potential for US military personnel to be conducting operations in and around CAR’s capital, Bangui in the near future.  Currently, the US has only acknowledged planned airlift support for the deployment of African peacekeepers and monetary support for the peacekeeping mission. RFI W56PFY-14-G-9999, titled “Potable Bottled Water in Central Africa Republic, Africa” has four detailed requirements.  Number one is:

1. Provide potable bottle water delivery to U.S. Military personnel in Central Africa Republic.

Both this RFI and the one for SSS, W56PFY-14-Q-9999, which is for “French and Sangho Language Interpreters,” name the place of performance for such proposed work as being in and around Bangui.  The last SSS, W56PFY-14-Q-9998, for “Rental Vehicles for Central African Republic, Africa,” does not specifically note a place of performance in CAR.  It does however list the vehicles that would be sought should a formal solicitation be issued:

“[including but] not limited to; 5 and 7 passenger SUV’s, 4 passenger Pick-up Truck, 10 passenger Van, 4 door Sedan and Busses [sic].”

The requirements only for bottled water and no other similar supplies and for vehicles including passenger vans and buses suggest that this might be part of planning for a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO).  Another possibility might be a proposed, and very limited humanitarian aid operation.  As CAR continues to experience greater instability and violence either one of these scenarios seem broadly reasonable.

MV-22B Ospreys from  Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 at Moron Air Base, Spain, after having arrived to join Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response

MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 at Moron Air Base, Spain, after having arrived to join Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response.

In addition, depending on how many individuals would have to be evacuated, an NEO in CAR could also be a good opportunity to test the capabilities of US Africa Command’s new Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR), which was created in response to the events in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012.  Currently based in Spain, SPMAGTF-CR has both KC-130J Hercules and MV-22B Osprey aircraft.  The unit participated in two training events in November. The first involved a long range flight from Spain to Senegal, during which SPMATF-CR’s Osprey’s helped deploy Marines assigned to AFRICOM’s other SPMAGTF, SPMAGTF – Africa, for a training engagement there.  The second was conducted in Spain with other Marine units and involved “practicing…procedures to evacuate personnel from a notional embassy.”

Marines to the Gulf of Guinea?

The the gist of a proposal in a Marine Corps briefing according to Stars and Stripes yesterday.  According to the article, the Marines would look to base the notional force afloat, possibly on an Landing Platform Dock (LPD) type ship.  This afloat force, which would likely include MV-22B Osprey aircraft, would reportedly come under the command of the Marine’s recently created Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR), currently based at Moron Air Base in Spain.

MV-22B Ospreys from  Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 at Moron Air Base, Spain, after having arrived to join Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response

MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 at Moron Air Base, Spain, after having arrived to join Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response.

The article does not mention that the Marines have already had to be on the look out for new basing options for SPMAGTF-CR given that the Spanish only agreed to allow the US to station the unit at Moron for one year, with the understanding that a permanent location would be secured thereafter.  It is possible that one option would be to simply base SPMAGTF-CR afloat permanently.  The unit is rotational so this would not be hard to imagine.  It still does not provide an obvious solution to the issue noted in the article of finding even one spare LPD for such a deployment.

Photograph of the USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15) in the US Fifth Fleet Area of Operations in August 2012.

Photograph of the USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15) in the US Fifth Fleet Area of Operations in August 2012.

Currently, the US Navy only has one ship configured for this sort of arrangement, the USS Ponce, which was converted into an interim afloat forward staging base instead of being decommissioned as planned last year.  Ponce remains in the US Fifth Fleet area of operations, at least according to information available.  In April it was announced that the US Navy planned to deploy for the first time a solid-state laser aboard a ship in fiscal year 2014.  The ship selected was the USS Ponce, believed to primarily be engaged in counter piracy and special operations.

The proposed Marine force for the Gulf of Guinea would be primarily directed at counter piracy as well.  Though piracy in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia has recently garnered the most attention, international efforts, through multinational efforts and unilateral deployments, as well as steps taken by private industry, have led to a significant drop in incidents there.  Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, however, remains a significant threat and maritime security in the region has been a concern for some time.  In 2004, US European Command (EUCOM) proposed a Gulf of Guinea Guard initiative to improve maritime security force capabilities in the region.  Though this did not come to fruition as planned, the US did eventually inaugurate a maritime training exercise in the region, called Obangame Express, in 2011.