July/August 2004, Volume 60, No. 4, pp. 40-47 Peacekeeping, bloody peacekeeping



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July/August 2004, Volume 60, No. 4, pp. 40-47

Peacekeeping, bloody peacekeeping

By Laura Neack
The business of peacekeeping has been getting a lot tougher. Rich nations are putting their muscle where their immediate interests lie, leaving the job of patrolling in hardscrabble territory to their less financially capable U.N. colleagues.
Last winter, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed NATO defense ministers to "accept their responsibilities" and play a larger role in Iraq--and tried to get them to take over Operation Enduring Freedom, the neglected war on terror in Afghanistan. In April, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Foreign Relations Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee: "In due course we will be able to structure a role for NATO that may add to the number of nations that are [in Iraq], but more significantly will give a collective tone, an alliance tone, to what we are doing." [1]  The other members of NATO publicly rejected these plans.
Not content to suggest that the United States would decide unilaterally how to structure NATO's future role in Iraq to give the Bush administration political cover and much needed extra troops, administration officials also suggested to a dozen countries that they should form an innovative international force to protect future U.N. operations in Iraq. This new force would come under U.S. military authority, although like most administration plans concerning Iraq, the "details must be worked out." [2]

There are, of course, established means for groups of states to ensure the security of U.N. post-conflict operations--U.N. peacekeeping and U.N.-approved peace enforcement operations. But the Bush administration has been hostile to these multilateral operations, refusing to relinquish any real decision-making authority to other countries or international bodies. Indeed, in the summer of 2002, the administration displayed its deep hostility to U.N. peace operations by threatening to veto the resolution needed to continue peacekeeping in Bosnia; it voted affirmatively only after the Security Council agreed to exempt peacekeepers and related personnel from the reach of the soon-to-be-activated International Criminal Court.

In a rare televised press conference in April, President George W. Bush said he would not change course in Iraq: "Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver." Although repeatedly pressed for details about a sovereign Iraqi government, what its relationship with U.S. troops and administrators would be, and the timetable he had in mind for the occupation, Bush refused to offer anything akin to a plan.
Although the administration has refused to consider a U.N.-sanctioned operation in Iraq, U.N. peace operations are expanding again as they did in the early 1990s. At the end of March 2004, the United Nations had more than 51,000 peacekeepers (approximately 45,000 troops, 4,600 civilian police, and 1,800 military observers) deployed in 14 peacekeeping operations. By year's end, the United Nations will need some 70,000 troops for post-conflict missions. [3]  And it will be difficult to recruit the needed manpower with the Bush administration insisting that its allies--the wealthier states of the terrorized "civilized world"--should contribute troops to the Iraqi conflict rather than to U.N. operations.
In adopting a go-it-alone approach to peacekeeping, the administration appears to be increasing the likelihood of failure for both U.S. and U.N. endeavors.
Peacekeeping v. peace enforcement

The confusions inherent in what is called peacekeeping were apparent in the news in mid-February from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On February 14 the Associated Press distributed a story about U.N. peacekeepers who "no longer turn the other cheek." The peacekeepers had "very forcefully and very quickly" intervened to create security on the ground in the Ituri province. Yet on the same day, a New York Times reporter filed a story from the Congo on an ambushed U.N. convoy. The apparent target of the ambush was an unarmed military observer, Peter Wachaye, a Kenyan major who had requested personal protection a few weeks earlier. His U.N. supervisors denied the request, Wachaye was killed in the ambush, and his body was flown back to Kenya.

U.N. peacekeeping operations involve a variety of tasks--overseeing cease-fires; patrolling demilitarized zones; blocking the flow of weapons; assisting in demilitarization and disarmament; protecting U.N. civilian personnel, aid workers, and local non-combatants; and facilitating the post-conflict reconstruction of everything from roads to governing institutions. Some of these tasks are achievable, some not. The hallmarks of successful U.N. peacekeeping operations are the consent of local authorities and neutrality toward all local parties and combatants.
Consent is essential; it signifies the willingness of disputants to allow peacekeepers to operate for the common good. Consent also means peacekeepers will not need or be permitted to use force for anything but self-defense.
The 1990s started with the hope that the United Nations was entering a second golden era. But the results of that decade were anything but gold. Faced with major humanitarian disasters, U.N. peacekeeping operations were overextended, under-resourced, and over-tasked; ineffective at best and complicit in genocide at worst; and by the end of the decade, exhausted.

Still, a new pattern emerged that hinted at how the international community might be able to intervene more effectively. [4]  First, the United Nations would authorize a peacekeeping operation even though there was no peace on the ground. The operation would soon fail, because peacekeeping is impossible without peace. Eventually, a powerful country with a particular interest would offer to lead a U.N.-sanctioned multinational peace enforcement mission that would be unencumbered by the traditions and expectations of peacekeeping. This force would create better conditions on the ground for a follow-on peacekeeping operation. This was the case in Somalia and then in Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and East Timor.

Peace enforcement would be the new remedy to the problems inherent to peacekeeping. [5]  Both types of operations were approved by the U.N. Security Council, and neither was seen as unlawful intervention or a violation of international law or the U.N. Charter.
Peacekeeping required the consent and cooperation of parties to the dispute; peace enforcement created its own consent through overwhelming numbers and firepower. Technically, peacekeepers operated under a unified U.N. command, but in actuality they followed separate directives from their national capitals. Peace enforcement troops operated under the unified command of the dominant contributing state. Peacekeepers could use their weapons only in self defense--peace enforcement troops had more liberal rules of engagement.
In the very short term--which was what peace enforcement operations were given--these operations could achieve limited objectives. At its peak, for example, the U.S.-led United Task Force in Somalia (UNITAF) numbered 38,000 troops willing to use force against anyone who impeded its mission to protect the distribution of famine relief. For a short time, warring factions got their technicals off the streets and stopped using banditry and roadblocks. As a result, humanitarian relief got through to the areas worst struck by famine and many lives were saved. The follow-on U.N. peacekeeping operation was not as clear in its mission nor as successful, as demonstrated by the fateful U.S. decision to establish a separate mandate to protect peacekeepers by actively pursuing Gen. Mohammed Farah Aideed and his faction.

UNITAF was the first U.N. Charter Chapter VII peace enforcement operation. As with peacekeeping itself, peace enforcement was invented on the fly. Although enforcement was a creative response, the U.N.'s increasing willingness to authorize force worried many. This was especially true after NATO acted without U.N. authorization in the Kosovo crisis.

An additional concern after Kosovo was that the richer Western states would devote their troops and resources to "first order" conflicts only--ones managed by a reinvented NATO--rather than contribute to U.N. operations. "Second page" conflicts like those in Africa would be left to a depleted United Nations. [6]  The current Bush administration plan for allies to assume more responsibility in Iraq increases the concern about this division of labor on peace and security matters.
The practice of pairing peacekeeping with peace enforcement continues into the twenty-first century. Today's peace enforcement operations have even grander mandates than earlier operations, but they are far less effective. Conditions have never been more ideal for enforcement operations, nor their results poorer or more troubling. Peacekeeping efforts deployed in the wake of these new enforcement operations may be doomed.

Afghanistan as harbinger


Consider the international commitment to U.N.-authorized peace enforcement in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF is decidedly different in origin than the standard Chapter VII enforcement operation. It was not deployed to salvage a failing peacekeeping operation, but to provide security assistance after the toppling of the Taliban. It appeared to have what was needed--the clear consent of both the internationally recognized Afghan political authorities and the U.S. military command, as well as widespread international approval and the commitment of the most powerful military alliance in the world. It seemed poised for success.

But the initial authorization under Security Council Resolution 1386 (2001) was a contradictory mandate. ISAF could "take all necessary measures," but was restricted to the city of Kabul. And its ability to secure Kabul depended on the voluntary withdrawal of all armed factions from the capital. Further, the force was to answer to the interim authority--which was understood to be both the Hamid Karzai government and the U.S. military command.

Originally under British, then Turkish, and then a joint German-Dutch command, ISAF was quickly made a NATO operation, with full NATO command and control established in April 2003. In October 2003, ISAF was authorized to move outside Kabul into what was then seen as the relatively more secure part of the countryside in northern Afghanistan.
ISAF was initially (and still is) bound in by U.S. political and military leaders who did not want their offensive military operations against the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other resistance forces hampered by its presence--even though the Bush administration might have made legitimate and liberal use of ISAF troops. One could imagine that, with the U.S. military preoccupied by operations in eastern and southern Afghanistan, the United States might have welcomed muscular NATO/ ISAF backup in the rest of the country. Meanwhile, the Karzai government never missed an opportunity to call for an expanded ISAF presence beyond Kabul as it struggled with the warlords who continued to ignore Karzai's authority. 
The Bush administration's concern, however, that allies might hamstring its efforts led it to disallow ISAF a greater role, which no doubt lessened the political will among the allies to do more, or even to do enough.
Then the administration's public position took a predictable turn as the U.S. presidential election year began. U.S. command had begun to field small teams of civilian and military personnel called Provincial Reconstruction Teams in six locations northwest of Kabul. In January 2004, with strong U.S. encouragement, NATO took over the 150-person team in the relatively safe northern city of Kunduz. The following month, Rumsfeld began pushing NATO allies to start taking steps to assume all military activities in Afghanistan.

The allies were and remain more than reluctant. In two-plus years of operation, ISAF forces have expanded from only 5,500 to around 6,500 troops. All NATO allies and eight non-NATO countries have supplied troops, with the largest single commitment that of Canada, with about 2,000 troops.

Canada has announced that its contribution will fall to 500 when its troops rotate out in August. ISAF remains chiefly in Kabul (and now Kunduz), with Britain, Germany, and New Zealand each operating a single provincial team. In addition to the U.S. change of position, the Karzai government and U.N. and non-governmental humanitarian relief personnel have urged ISAF to more actively secure the countryside, but the Canadian deputy commander of ISAF envisions only a slow expansion of the force to "between 8,000 and 12,000 troops countrywide in the coming three or four years." [7]  And even if some two dozen civilian-military teams of about 80-200 personnel are fielded in the next two to three years, getting the allies to insert more muscular rapid reaction support teams will be a good deal harder.
The push for NATO to do more is happening in the context of growing armed resistance to both the American presence and the Karzai government. During the constitutional convention in Kabul in December 2003 and early January 2004, ISAF forces came under a series of threats and several suicide bombing attempts. The stepped-up violence, aimed at disrupting the writing of a new constitution, was matched by increased targeting of international aid workers and U.N. personnel throughout Afghanistan.

By spring 2004, when the 11,000-strong U.S. military force began an offensive that, it was said, would capture Osama bin Laden, it was widely acknowledged that the Taliban had regained control of south-central Uruzgan and Zabul provinces, as well as large parts of southern Kandahar province. Fighting between militias in Herat on the western border with Iran prompted the Karzai government to send newly trained Afghan National Army troops in to restore calm--but not before the deaths of at least a hundred people. In the north--the one area that had been considered safe enough to deploy the provincial teams--troops loyal to warlord Rashid Dostum took over the capital of Faryab province. British Gurkhas in Afghanistan had to rescue the Karzai-appointed governor and were themselves threatened by Dostum's forces. In Balkh province, Dostum's militia battled with the force once commanded by the famous Northern Alliance leader Ahmadshah Massoud. The fighting occurred just south of Mazar-e Sharif, where British forces are deployed. The previous December these same British forces had negotiated a now-collapsed deal with Dostum in which he agreed to disarm his militia.

The Karzai government has pleaded with the U.S. military to disband and disarm the militias to allow safe elections to proceed, but because of renewed fighting Karzai postponed the June national elections until September. Yet as Dostum met with U.S. officials in mid-April to proclaim his innocence, the United States continued to support Dostum and most of the other warlords. [8]  (Aiding the warlords has been the quick fix in Afghanistan; while the U.S. military battles Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the southeast, U.S. commanders have relied on the warlords to secure unruly provinces. The net result is a U.S. policy that actively undercuts the Karzai government's efforts to govern all of Afghanistan, its own efforts to secure the government in Kabul, and the effectiveness of ISAF.)
Afghanistan is said to be NATO's "number one priority" and "its defining moment," yet NATO's outgoing secretary general had to "bludgeon" NATO defense ministers into committing just six helicopters. [9]  New NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (the Bush administration choice) has not been in a rush for NATO to do more. "Under the right conditions" NATO might expand, he has said, but he acknowledges that NATO members would not do more out of concern for force protection (more than 80 ISAF troops have been killed). Thus, despite the U.N. mandate to use "all necessary measures" to maintain security so that the Karzai government and international personnel can work in safety, NATO members are reluctant to deploy and use sufficient force even to protect their own troops.

Meanwhile, lawlessness has been matched by the return of the drug trade, with 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces engaged in the cultivation of opium poppies. Without a stronger, more effective ISAF in Afghanistan, warned the director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, "There is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists." [10]

ISAF is an unsatisfactory hybrid of peacekeeping and peace enforcement. It is under the command of the premier military organization in the world--its command is integrated, its troops well-trained and supplied. Yet its contributors remain timid and not up to the task, although they say that the "strain" of their mission in Afghanistan prevents them from launching a NATO operation in support of the U.S. war in Iraq. [11]
In an ideal operational circumstance, with broad international support and broad authorization to secure the peace, ISAF is not meeting minimal expectations.
If this is the result of peace enforcement under ideal circumstances, what hope might there be for its poorer cousin, peacekeeping? As the Bush administration keeps expending lives in Iraq without a coherent plan for security while pushing both NATO and the United Nations to do more so it can focus on winning the November election, the consequences for Iraq--and the world--seem dire.

Meanwhile, back in the Congo


Nearly 11,000 U.N. peacekeepers are attempting to maintain security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, part of a U.N. peacekeeping operation begun in 1999 in response to a power-sharing agreement that ostensibly ended the civil war. That war and ongoing violence have killed more than 2.5 million people. The U.N. operation was deployed under traditional peacekeeping restraints and quickly proved inadequate to establish security in the volatile Great Lakes provinces.

In the summer of 2003, 1,850 troops under the auspices of the French-led European Union peace enforcement mission, Operation Artemis, established and maintained security in the city of Bunia for a brief three months. Artemis troops acted under liberal rules of engagement and with overwhelming air support. This was the first EU (non-NATO) operation outside Europe. As these things go and despite its broad mandate to use "all necessary measures" to "contribute to the stabilization of security conditions and the improvement of the humanitarian situation," Artemis was limited by U.N. mandate to a single geographic space. Artemis commanders set an achievable short-term goal that contributed little to the prospects for longer-term peace: Taking a page from UNITAF in Somalia a decade before, they banned visible weapons from the streets of Bunia and did not attempt to forcibly disarm combatants.

The follow-on U.N. peacekeeping operation (the U.N. Organization Mission, or MONUC) has been tasked with facilitating security and voluntary disarmament. Although U.N. peacekeepers are stationed throughout the Congo, the bulk of the troops were redeployed in early 2004 to the lawless Ituri province. In Ituri, MONUC is authorized to take "the necessary measures . . . as it deems it within its capabilities" to protect U.N. personnel, humanitarian workers, and civilians "where imminent threats of violence exist" (Security Council Resolution 1493, 2003). This authorization has not secured the peacekeepers themselves; in fact, the mandate to facilitate only voluntary disarmament seems to have endangered the troops. As journalist Somini Sengupta explained in the April 11 New York Times, "A long overdue disarmament program is yet to be started and suggestions to do so, many analysts believe, have turned peacekeepers into targets of orchestrated attacks." An internal U.N. report on the situation noted a "new trend among militia hard-liners to deliberately target MONUC."
Is there another peace enforcement operation on the way to rescue this immense and failing peacekeeping effort? Indications are that none is forthcoming. The Congo is not the time or the place for those countries that could deploy forces sufficient to the task of building longer-term peace. The EU is unlikely to return and is instead floating the idea of fielding a rapid reaction "battle group" to Sudan to stop an impending humanitarian disaster involving hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by that civil war. The Bush administration has little interest in peace support operations in Africa, as the people of Liberia learned in 2003.

Have we learned anything?

As the United Nations attempts to facilitate post-conflict security in the non-oil-producing regions of the world, the rich West continues to disagree about the U.S. war in Iraq. The ongoing war in Afghanistan is also preoccupying the West, although both U.S. and NATO commitments to peace in Afghanistan seem inadequate.

The Bush administration's refusal to acknowledge that it makes mistakes combines disastrously with its refusal to acknowledge that the immediate past holds any lessons for its messianic version of a new world order. Whether they are for or against the Bush administration, the more powerful members of the international community are now focused on Bush administration demands almost to the exclusion of all else. Finally, the Bush administration wants to create a new kind of international force to protect U.N. activities in Iraq rather than concede authority and devote resources to a U.N. peace support mission.

Meanwhile, the United Nations stands ready to deploy large numbers of peacekeepers to Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Haiti, and Sudan, attempting to put into action the many lessons learned from the disastrous 1990s, but without the political will, resources, or troop commitments of the more powerful countries.
Laura Neack is the Rejai Professor of Political Science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

1. Dana Milbank and Robin Wright, "Powell Calls U.S. Casualties 'Disquieting,'" Washington Post, April 9, 2004.


2. Robin Wright, "U.S. Seeks New Global Force to Protect the U.N. in Iraq," Washington Post, April 8, 2004.
3. Somini Sengupta, "Warring Militias in Congo Test U.N. Enforcement Role," New York Times, April 11, 2004.
4. Laura Neack, "Multilateral Responses to Risky States: The Case of U.N. Peacekeeping," in Enforcing Cooperation: "Risky" States and the Intergovernmental Management of Conflict, G. Schneider and P. A. Weitsman, eds. (London: Macmillan, 1997).

5. See, for example, Donald C. F. Daniel and Bradd C. Hayes, Coercive Inducement and the Containment of International Crises (Washington, D.C.: USIP Press, 1999); Thomas G. Weiss, Military-Civilian Interactions: Intervening in Humanitarian Crises (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999); and Thomas G. Weiss and Don Hubert, The Responsibility to Protect: Research, Bibliography, Background (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2001), a supplementary volume to the report of the Inter-national Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty.

6. Mark Turner, "U.N. 'May Not Be Able to Meet Calls for African Peacekeeping,'" Financial Times, Dec. 18, 2003.
7. "We're Doubling Afghanistan Numbers, Says ISAF Deputy Head," Deutsche Presse Agentur, Feb. 6, 2004, emphasis added.
8. "Afghan General Rejects Accusations over Northern Clashes," BBC Monitoring International Reports, April 10, 2004; "Afghan General Discusses Situation in Northern Provinces with U.S. Official," BBC Monitoring International Reports, April 13, 2004.
9. Elaine Sciolino, "Drifting NATO Finds New Purpose with Afghanistan and Iraq," New York Times, Feb. 23, 2004.
10. "Saving Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai Urgently Needs International Support," Financial Times, Nov. 4, 2003.
11. Paul Richter, "Strained by the Afghan Mission, NATO Rejects an Iraq Role," Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2004.

© 2004 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists



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