The UN peacekeeping force was supposed to
have boots on the ground last October. Now, it might be next month, or maybe
never. France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria and Ireland have all
pledged troops, but are all put off by the logistical problems and the prospect
of hard fighting once their troops arrive. Ireland discovered that it would
cost $30 million to transports its 450 troops, and all their gear, to Chad.
This would be done via Antonov 124 transports, leased from a Ukrainian firm, at
a cost of $9,000 an hour. Just getting the advance party of 50 troops and 12
vehicles there will cost $9 million. The Chad peacekeeping force is trying to
lease helicopters from Ukrainian firms as well. Chad is 2,000 kilometers from
the nearest port, and has no railroads, and few roads.
Meanwhile, Chad is telling the
Europeans that the longer they delay getting their peacekeepers on the ground,
the more time the rebels will have to recruit and arm more fighters. Chad
insists that Sudan is sending arms to the rebels, and the rebels are going
around offering local teenagers guns and money, and the prospect of loot, if
they join up. That's a hard offer to refuse, and the rebel ranks are growing
week by week. These kids may not be a match for European troops, but they are
effective enough to rob peacekeepers and rape refugees. The support from Sudan
is apparently given with the idea that if the peacekeepers have too many people
shooting at them, they will either withdraw, or just hunker down in their
camps. At the moment, there is still no firm date for the arrival of the first
December 14, 2007: With most of the army in eastern Chad, there's
nothing to stop bandits from doing as they please in the rest of the country.
Aid groups are favorite targets, because they tend to have the most gadgets and
the newest vehicles.