November 10, 2005:
The most critical problem in peacekeeping today is a serious shortage of troops suited to peacekeeping. Many of the nations that have traditionally supported peace operations, such as Western European and Scandinavian countries, as well as India and Pakistan, are already committed heavily in missions such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, and so forth. This shortage of qualified personnel has led to a lowering of standards, and is one reason for recent incidents in which peacekeepers have been found abusing they people they're supposed to be helping.
In recent decades, most peacekeeping operations have been in Africa, where currently nearly 80-percent of U.N. peacekeepers (some 75,000 troops) are deployed, as well as thousands more troops engaged in peacekeeping under the aegis of regional organizations such as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). In 1997, a time when the demand for peacekeepers were particularly high, the U.S. developed the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) to train African troops for peace operations. In 2001 this was restructured as the African Capacity for Peace Operations (ACOTA) Program.
Administered by the State Department in cooperation with the Defense Department, ACOTA is intend to provide African armed forces with:
1. Training & equipment to permit them to respond to peace support and complex humanitarian relief missions
2. Building enhance sustainable African peace support training capacity
3. Developing effective command and control capabilities
4. Promoting commonality and interoperability with "First World" peacekeeping forces
5. Enhancing international and regional peace support capacity
Rather than a "one size fits all" approach, an attempt is made to tailor ACOTA programs to "nation-specific" needs. In this way trainers can focus on the most critical needs of each particular army.
Naturally, some aspects of the program are pretty standard. For example, all of the recipient nations are likely to receive uniforms, communications equipment, GPS systems, generators and portable electrical systems, water purifiers, and so forth. Normally, ACOTA does not provide weaponry or vehicles, except in very specific circumstances.
ACOTA does not operate in countries with internal security problems, to avoid the appearance of training government forces against local unrest. As a result, over the years ACOTA support to a number of countries has been terminated, such as Ivory Coast.
The ACOTA program has been very successful. The program has resulting in the training of some 17,000 troops from nine African countries (Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, and Senegal).
Along with the G8 "Africa Action Plan", ACOTA was one the inspirations behind the June 2004 American proposal for a "Global Peace Operations Initiative" (GPOI). An international (i.e., G8) effort, GPOI will absorb the ACOTA program, and integrate similar training programs being run by Britain and France. GPOI is intended to increase the number of military and police personnel available for international peace support operations by providing training, logistic support, and equipment. The ultimate objective is to have 50,000 properly trained and equipped troops available in Africa and another 15,000 in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean by 2010. The initial goal is to train ten battalions per year in African and in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, and Asia. In addition, the program proposes to establishing a center in Italy to train international paramilitary constabulary forces to support peacekeeping operations.
The estimated cost of GPOI is about $650 million, of which Congress has already committed $100 million, by transferring funds from existing programs for training foreign forces and for peace operations. The balance is to come from foreign sources.