Monday, February 26, 2007

'Mercenaries' to fill Iraq troop gap

The New Scotsman reports that the UK government is negotiating contracts with private security providers to fill the gap that is being created by the reduction of British troops in southern Iraq.

The article does highlight an unforeseen trend- "But, despite expectations that the booming market for private security would go into decline following the bursting of the "Iraq bubble", firms have now been told to expect even more lucrative work during the "post-occupation phase". It is not entirely clear why they suggest that we are only now entering into the post-occupation phase.

Beyond some interesting statistics that give some dimensions to UK spending on PSCs, the article hits the same notes about outsourcing state/military tasks, the concerns of giving over such responsibility to private sector actors, etc.

Philippines increases security for US forces

Philippines armed forces were obliged to provide security for a joint reconstruction project with US armed forces after clashes broke out nearby. Curious that the 300k USD in projects focused on humanitarian assistance are presumably undertaken to win the hearts-and-minds of those guerrillas that they are in turn being protected from:

"The Philippines tightened security on Monday around U.S. forces building a road and a school on a southwestern island after clashes broke out with Islamic rebels nearby in which six guerrillas were killed."

A further article entitled 'Anti-U.S. sentiment dwindles in southern Philippines' attempted to portray a happier picture of increasing acceptance for US troops in Jolo. Banned by the Philippine constitution to engage in combat operations, US forces are involved in ' Filipino troops, providing intelligence on the Abu Sayyaf and conducting social projects like building roads and schools, providing Internet access (!?) and giving medical care.' Under the sub-title of 'good for business' the battle gear-clad US troops are apparently being welcome with cheers and waves wherever they go.

U.S., Philippines end hearts and minds exercise
This follow-up article describes the close of the joint US- Philippines 'hearts and minds' exercise. Against a backdrop of flag-waving, singing Filipino children, one soldier looks back the experience nostalgically, and frames the comments in light of Iraq:

'Captain Randy Hooper, a U.S. marine who has served in Iraq and was in charge of the projects in Bato-Bato, said the Philippines was a welcome change.

"The locals are so friendly and so open," he said.

"We carry weapons," he added, patting a pistol under his camouflage tunic. "But we don't have to be aggressive at all."'

U.S. military scrambles to cover the global chess board

Good article looking at the strains that face the US military in maintaining its current long-term deployments. The way in which General Pace framed how the US armed forces would do is somewhat curious:

"He unwaveringly stated that the armed forces would succeed at any mission ordered by the president; the response would just be slower, less elegant, more dangerous."

Comments on inelegance aside, the article had an interesting sidenote equating strategy with managing risk- something that humanitarian agencies have yet to truly embrace or confront:

"At the end of the day, strategy is the management of risk, whether personal or military strategy," said Jeffrey McCausland, a retired army colonel now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council in New York. "The question is, how much risk are we willing to live with? We are taking a significant amount of strategic risk today because, if you look at our ground forces, we have pulled almost everything out of the box already. So if a major problem arises somewhere else, what do we turn to?"

Canadian PM to boost Afghanistan reconstruction aid

Seemingly oblivious to the lessons being learned by their neighbours to the South, the Canadian Prime Minister announced a further 200 million dollars in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan. The Globe and Mail framed the announcement in less than glowing terms: 'Before those dispiriting images of flag-draped coffins return to Canadian television sets, the prime minister hopes to remind the country of the more uplifting things being accomplished.'

The punchline of the article is in underlining that the failure to date has been that civilians are unable to operate in hostile environments- operate in a way that allows them to select good quality projects, and implement them according to commonly accepted principles, standards and in a transparent and accountable manner. Nothing new in the commentary.

The article moves on to make an odd comparison with the US:
'By way of comparison, the U.S. gives its military officials access to a $136-million (U.S.) fund which they use to quickly dish out cash for infrastructure projects.'

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nearly 800 Iraq Contractors Killed

It might seem a bit tangential to the question of civil-military relations, but the issue of outsourcing military tasks to civilian organizations is one germane to the issue. Firstly, the scale of outsourcing is simply astounding:

"The U.S. has outsourced so many war and reconstruction duties that there are almost as many contractors (120,000) as U.S. troops (135,000) in the war zone."

In this description, we have a huge group of people, largely grouped as Private Security/Military Companies (PSC/PMC) undertaking both military and civilian tasks. Given that they are deployed with and without uniforms (often the same as their employer's national armed forces) and with and without guns, it becomes increasingly difficult for combatants to discern who is a legitimate military target, and who is 'just another armed civilian contractor'....

The article is quite clear of one key advantage of using such contractors- their deaths are not included in the official body counts. It should be underlined that this is the case not only for the military, but also for humanitarian organizations.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Where US is helping to make gains against terrorism

An excellent article showing how hearts-and-minds operations are globalizing. Christian Science Monitor reports on US efforts with Philippine armed forces to win over the civilian population:

'Gaining the trust of residents in Panamao, a stricken village on the edge of a combat zone, is why US and Philippine troops are dug in here. In counterterrorism jargon, this Muslim community is a "center of gravity" that can be swayed with targeted projects – a new well, a school classroom, or a toilet. "It's not the amount of people that you affect. It's who you affect," says Captain Battle, a civil-affairs officer.'

AFGHANISTAN: Aid delivery limited by lack of information

Good example from Afghanistan, illustrating the problems of security and access for civilian actors:
'Aid agencies acknowledge the acute problems of delivering assistance to people in conflict areas, admitting that only a fraction have received help because of access difficulties, compounded by a lack of accurate information about the extent of the problem.'

An interesting nuance in the article is framing the story around civilians recently displaced. Again, the humanitarian issues are trumped by security issues- in this case, the fear of retaliatory bombing by international forces after the Taliban had captured their village.

Suicide bomb wounds 6 US soldiers in Afghan hospital

In an earlier posting we saw the appeal to insurgents and Coalition forces in Iraq to avoid compromising the civilian character of hospitals and medical centres. In this article, we find an interesting example from Afghanistan where US soldiers in an Afghan hospital are wounded by a suicide bomber disguised as a doctor.

UN: Chad Needs Strong Protection Force

An updated story on the urgency to deploy a robust peace-keeping force in Chad:
"The proposed UN mission in Chad should be equipped with a mandate and sufficient resources to respond to attacks against civilians, secure humanitarian access, patrol the Chad-Sudan border and monitor the movement of arms and armed groups. Additionally, the proposed mission should include a strong human rights unit and a civilian police force tasked with building judicial and policing capacity and helping bring human rights violators to justice, which would help deter communal violence and inhibit the activities of local and community-based militias."

As necessary and useful as such a force might be, it risks being over-ambitious, particularly given the difficulties to deploy further staff in neighbouring Darfur. Given the additional appeals being made over Central African Republic, it remains to be seen where further troops can be found to support yet more unforeseen military deployments.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ex-US envoy says Iraq rebuilding plan won't work

A career US diplomat is the focus of this article criticizing the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Iraq. Having come out of retirement to lead a rebuilding group in Iraq, she quit in some frustration at the situation on the ground:

""In spite of the magnificent and often heroic work being done out there by a lot of truly wonderful people, the PRTs themselves aren't succeeding. The obstacles are too great," Munshi said this week in Washington, where she was pressing her view at the State Department and to Congress.
"Once again we are proceeding to lay people's lives on a line drawn with faulty information. Once again the fantasies of the 'policy-makers' drive decisions without much link to the realities on the ground," said Munshi, who retired from the foreign service in 2002."

CHAD: Obstacles to getting peacekeepers on ground

AlertNet charts the challenges facing an eventual deployment of a UN Peacekeeping force to eastern Chad. The article makes multiple references to this military deployment under the auspices of the Responsibility to Protect.

The appeals in the article come from various corners- WFP, OXFAM and the UN Security Council. The statement made by OXFAM is of particular interest, as it could be seen as an NGO appealing for the deployment of a peacekeepers who might be obliged to employ force in the discharging of their mandate:

"Any international force deployed to Chad will need to direct its focus to the safety and security of the Sudanese refugees, Chadian displaced people and local communities to put an end to further attacks on civilian populations," Oxfam said. "Actions to stop violence against civilians must be taken swiftly and decisively," the statement said.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

IRAQ: Armed groups occupying hospitals and kidnapping doctors

A more exceptional example of the relationship between humanitarian and military actors in this story from Reuters AlertNet. Exceptional in that humanitarian actors were using IHL in their dialogue with multinational armed forces, and not limited to questions of coordination.

The NGO Coordinating Committee in Iraq (NCCI) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) made appeals to Coalition Forces and Insurgents to respect the neutral, civilian character of hospitals in Iraq.

Not surprisingly, the presence of arms carriers around hospitals in Iraq attracts attacks, and as such keeps civilians from having access to medical care. For medical staff, there is the risk of being coerced into providing treatment to combatants, of being kidnapped, or accused of collusion by the opposing forces.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Reconstructing Stability: A New U.S. Office

A new article in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, profiling the need and funcitonality of the US Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS). Interesting to see that the fragile states/nation and state-building debate moves onward without respite.

This article takes an interesting and critical approach, and makes clear that state-building is not a project undertaken in urgency, and that linking global security and nation-building is often a counter-productive approach that creates false expectations.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

U.S. to Create a Single Command for Military Operations in Africa

A confirmation of the creation of a single Command for US Military Operations in Africa. The announcement by President Bush and Defense Secretary Gates underlined the importance of security cooperation and 'capacity building' of US partners.

In linked comments, the incoming head of CENTCOM framed the new command and the Africa focus somewhat differently:
"The man who is about to become the head of the Central Command, Adm. William J. Fallon, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 30 that he favored establishment of an Africa Command, in light of the humanitarian crises and instability across much of the continent and its strategic importance." The humanitarian operations aspect has been one that CENTCOM has been quick to emphasis in its operations in the Horn of Africa.

More on the Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa can be found here.
The Guardian also writes about Africom -

UN shifts toward aid projects in Lebanon

Looking towards the UN, this CSMonitor article gives an interesting look at how the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon is, '...beginning to emphasis its humanitarian side.' The financial contribution from the Spanish alone is substantial.

In looking at the current UNIFIL mandate, it is curious to note that there is no explicit mention of asking peacekeepers to provide humanitarian assistance. At best, the only mention of humanitarian is the following: 'Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.'

The notion of 'ensuring humanitarian access' is somewhat difficult to reconcile with the 5 million euros of humanitarian projects described by the Spanish batalion:

'That type of role [humanitarian], he says, is crucial to maintaining the good will of the local population. Spanish battalion doctors and a veterinarian now hold regular clinics in the villages, and the soldiers have just begun teaching Spanish language courses. Madrid has allocated €5 million ($6.5 million) to the battalion to be spent on humanitarian projects.

"Our training in Spain is always for war fighting," says Lt. Col. Garcia Vaquero, commander of the Spanish battalion. "But you don't need specific skills here – we rely on our Spanish character. We share a drink with the people, sing and dance."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Many U.S. diplomats refuse to work in Iraq

Continuing to focus on the 'surge' in Iraq this IHT article gives a good taste of the problem of mounting a stronger and integrated miltary-political approach at the field level. The article outlines that of 350 posts foreseen for State Department staffing, there has been a request that the Defense temporarily fill those slots.

The last sentence apparently drives home the current thinking in Washington on Iraq, namely that the failings of the Iraq War of 2003 were due to bad civilian planning:

"The issue flared this week when Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified at a Senate hearing that he shared the concerns of officers who complained about a request from Rice's office that military personnel temporarily fill more than one-third of 350 new jobs in Iraq that the State Department is supposed to be responsible for. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that senior military officials were upset at the request and told President George W. Bush and Gates that the new Iraq strategy could fail unless more civilian agencies stepped forward quickly to carry out plans for reconstruction and political development."

More of the same issues are picked up in a follow-on IHT article:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Reconstruction and the 'surge' in Iraq

A short article that concretely illustrates how reconstruction will be linked with the much-discussed 'surge' of US troops in Iraq. Interestingly, the military-dominated panel presented a range of civilian projects that would be traditionally undertaken in an occupation:

"Clapp [Director of Security, Plans and Operations] discussed developments in service restoration in Baghdad in support of the Baghdad security plan; services such as water, sewage, electricity, education opportunities, health care, trash collection, parks and recreational services, and vocational and technical training."

Looking closely at the text, it is often a bit difficult to unpack why certain projects are undertaken: there are undertones of linking security with reconstruction. A final example where security projects are presented as humanitarian/development issues: 'Nash spoke of security projects in Baghdad. His office manages approximately 150 projects throughout the city worth close to $500 million. The projects include schools, courthouses, water networks and more.'

UN-CMCoord IMPACT "Integrated Missions Practical Approach to Coordination Tools "

OCHA just released UN-CMCoord IMPACT "Integrated Missions Practical Approach to Coordination Tools." It promises to be an interesting contribution which visits a set of guiding documents on civil-military coordination in complex emergencies and presents the various mechanisms for humanitarian coordination at the headquarters and country level. Importantly, it also reviews the core humanitarian principles that guide civil-military coordination from a humanitarian perspective.

More, NATO, more

Another article alluding to the increasingly common calculus of more 'troops + development = stability'.

"WASHINGTON: NATO defense ministers need to make some tough decisions about Afghanistan when they meet in Seville this week. The violence in Afghanistan is four times more intense than it was a year ago. Suicide attacks have jumped from 27 in 2005 to 139 in 2006; the use of roadside bombs has doubled. Aid and reconstruction workers are targeted, setting back development efforts.

First and foremost, more troops are needed...."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Guidelines on: The Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets In Disaster Relief – "Oslo Guidelines"

Further reference material-
Revised Guidelines on: The Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets In Disaster Relief – "Oslo Guidelines" of November, 2006.

OCHA Civil-Military Coordination Section (CMCS)

A good reference document on OCHA's CMCS from December 2006, that describes the structure, function and role/responsibilities in the humanitarian community.

Interesting to look back upon the role given CMCS (then CMCoord) in 1995:
"The Unit aims to facilitate timely, sufficient and cost effective support by military and civil defence assets to concerned humanitarian agencies when requested. It will act as a focal point for governments, regional organizations, military and civil defence institutions interested in planning and, when requested, providing support to agencies engaged in humanitarian operations. The Unit will support the establishment of preparedness and response measures, the development of planning tools (databases, manuals), the definition of a legal framework for the use of military and civil defence assets, and the preparation and implementation of training exercises."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Confusion in the Margins: Narrow or Wide? Saving Lives or Building peace?

An insightful piece by Antonio Donini, Senior Researcher at the Feinstein International Center.

He looks at the question of how wide the definition of humanitarianism should be- a narrowly defined niche only for civilian do-gooders who prize neutrality and independence? Or, as he succinctly puts it:

"Thus, humanitarianism is in the eye of the beholder. It is self-defined. The term is ambiguous in that a diverse range of actors claim to operate under a banner that is used to justify a multitude of interventions. There is no formal standard to which organizations, who see themselves as humanitarian, can be held to account. This is one of the problems: there is not one humanitarianism; there are many. And, quite naturally, there is a range of views on whether humanitarian action should be narrowly defined or broad in scope."

Antonio will be presenting his paper at the upcoming ICVA Conference: A Contribution to the Debate, in Geneva, Switzerland, 2 February 2007.