As outlined in DFID’s White Paper security plays a pivotal role in development. This point is no more apparent than in the case of Africa and its future prosperity. However, with the dawn of the global financial crisis, and the heavy demand placed on European forces around the world, African nations may be increasingly called upon to conduct its own peacekeeping operations.
In response to these demands African Union (AU) defence chiefs agreed to a framework for an African Standby Force (ASF) in May 2003. The ASF promised capability to provide peace and stability to the African continent. However, it has so far failed to live up to its promises because of poor command, control and support systems.
A discussion paper written by Brigadier General Jeffery Marshall (Director of Mobilization and Reserve Affairs at the US European Command), for the Crisis States Research Centre has developed a set of detailed recommendations that aim to build the ASF’s capacity to contribute to peacekeeping missions.
The ASF has so far conducted three peacekeeping operations to date in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia. The UN took over the first two of these missions, and is now contemplating taking over the mission in Somalia. The ability of African infantry battalions has not been called into question in the development of the ASF, and African troops continue to play an important role as part of UN peacekeeping missions in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). ASF troops are well trained through African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) and other training programmes.
The problems that lie in command and control range from tactical communications to arranging operational command lines in multinational operations. Logistic issues range from deploying forces across a huge continent to sustaining operations and supporting humanitarian relief. Many of these problems are similar to those faced by EU and NATO forces, and Marshall highlights how the experiences of these forces can help the ASF.
One of the biggest problems identified is the need to ensure consensus is forged between nations before an operation can be approved. Gaining consensus can slow operations down, while national caveats can constrain the flexibility of a particular operation.
To overcome some of the command and control issues there is a need to establish a common doctrine of systems, tactics, techniques and procedures throughout the ASF. This way missions can be more clearly defined, which may in-turn minimise the need for national caveats. Marshall underlines the importance of ASF forces to go on training exercise together and develop operational practices.
The complexity of civil-military operations requires a highly tactical approach. This brings together, among other things, the effective coordination of air support, and the development of a strategic communications capability, which is not present in the current ASF brigade structure. This is important because public affairs cannot be neglected in a crisis.
At the heart of the requirements is the need to develop a deployable headquarters to function as the core of a mission. This would need to have the capability to provide commanders with situational awareness, decision-support tools and the ability to rapidly communicate decisions and orders. Equally as important, all nations within a task force should use the same system of command and support.
Marshall goes on to outline specific recommendations in-line with these requirements, but underlining this is the need to sustain the organisational structure of the ASF. It states, ‘Without a culture of sustainment, the ASF will not be able to sustain capabilities that it develops or support operations in austere environments’. Success in this area is dependent on the African Union (AU) building capacity in those nations that can actually build and sustain it. This may require the AU to build critical capabilities in multiple, and centrally located countries that are willing to deploy this capacity to support peace operations.
Read more about this report on R4D through the follwing link: Building an Effective African Standby Force