Peacekeeping: March 24, 2005

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The African Union (AU) has undertaken an ambitious program to establish five regional peacekeeping brigades. They are certainly needed. Currently, there are over 60,000 peacekeepers deployed in Africa, most under the direction of the UN. The UN is happy to turn over many of these peacekeeping operations to AU troops, while still providing money and technical assistance. The big problem is the shortage of trained troops and good leadership in most African armies. The United States has been sending trainers, and equipment, to improve the level of training. Special emphasis has been placed on preparing troops for peacekeeping operations. Poorly trained and led troops are usually the cause of the unrest in the first place. Sending equally unprepared peacekeepers in often has the same effect as trying to douse a fire with the wrong liquid, like gasoline. 

Nevertheless, European nations are also willing to help, with money, trainers and technical assistance (especially transportation, in the form of aircraft or ships.) The United States has long been the one to call for military air transport and amphibious shipping. This effort to train African peacekeepers is seen as a way to professionalize African armies, and get peacekeepers for African missions at the same time. 

Many of the senior officers in African armed forces are more political, than military, officials. And some of them, like those in South Africa, are very anti-American (and anti-Western in general.) This is because as part of the 1990s political reforms in South Africa, many former revolutionary leaders were given jobs in the army. These fellows were, again, more political than military. But the South African military has institutionalized good training and lower level leadership. So the South African troops are still the best in Africa, even if its a case of lions being led by donkeys.

 


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