Monday, April 30, 2007

Canada's Afghan Jitters

The Council on Foreign Relations has an insightful article on Canada's Afghan Jitters.

'Canada’s parliament on April 24 narrowly defeated (NYT) a measure aimed at withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan, in the face of fervent opposition from the country’s Liberal Party. But despite the vote, the debate does not seem likely to go away. As in America, Canadian lawmakers face a public that has turned increasingly anti-war in recent months as they grope for an exit strategy from Afghanistan.'

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Afghanistan - 3,400 more trainers sought for Afghan Army and police - International Herald Tribune

NATO defense ministers meeting in Canada have agreed to a new plan to deploy more than 3,400 trainers for Afghan Army and Police forces. The IHT article gave a reference point for the scale of the proposed deployment- the equivalent of increasing the international military commitment by 10%

Would be curious how this political commitment will be translated into reality- already much of these training roles have been farmed out to Private Security/Military Contractors. Will the various NATO ministers involved be willing to perpetuate the same approach, or will they be willing to put in harm's way their Mounted Police and other national resources?

Defense Secretary Gates made the US position quite clear:
"Where you have nations that are not willing to put combat troops in, it is an area where those who are not willing to do that or able to do that may be able to pick up the slack in this area," he continued. "Those of us who are contributing most of the combat forces don't have additional forces available."

Chinese peacekeeping hospital opens in Lebanon

A Chinese peacekeeping hospital was opened in southern Lebanon on Monday. The hospital provides emergency resuscitation, surgical operations including stabilization limb and life-saving, basic dental care and casualty evacuation to a higher level hospital for all the peacekeeping personnel, and was described as 'an important humanitarian asset'.

Research- Smoke and Mirrors- PRTs and What the State Department is not accomplishing in Iraq

Robert Kaplan has an graet piece entitled, 'What the State Department is not accomplishing in Iraq' that digs in to what PRTs are- and mostly are not- accomplishing in reality.

Focussing on a State Department officer called out of retirement to lead a PRT in Iraq, the article describes the diplomat's arrival:
'When she arrived in Baquba, Diyala’s regional capital, a year ago this month, Munshi’s PRT consisted of two Department of State employees, “an absolutely new and raw” Army civil affairs team, a few interpreters, and 18 guys from a private military company called Blackwater USA whose mission was primarily to protect her. There were six Internet connections for all these people, no desks or chairs, no operating funds, and no office supplies. “If it isn’t nailed down, take it,” she told them all.'

The short piece is a quick read, and in its brevity is fills the void of critical views on what PRTs have become over the last years. Beyond debates on 'which nation does the best PRTs', there are little first-hand accounts that provide any clear indication of whether the experiment has been successful, or even what success should look like. We posted earlier (and here) on the rise of PRTs in parallel to the surge in Iraq, but again, have heard little since.

On the same theme, Jane's has an in-depth look at the PRT debate, in an article entitled 'Blurring the line - Involving the military in humanitarian affairs'- it is unfortunately available to subscribers only.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Officer of the AU peacekeeping force killed in Darfur

An UNMIS officer was killed in what appears to be a car-jacking in west Darfur. His death brings the death toll to seven in the last month.

In related news, Senegal was considering the withdrawal of its troops, unless the African Union could do more to ensure their security. Senegal lost five of its soldiers in a recent attack.

Research- Improving NATO-NGO Relations in Crisis Response Operations

The NATO Defense College has published a great article on Improving NATO-NGO relations. The conclusion of the article is an interesting- about face to the trend of mission integration- the author proposes that a relationship of complementarity will yield the best results, and not strict integration.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Iraq - Humanitarian aid met with smiles

More good news from Iraq- US troops delivered a truckload of food, oils and sanitation supplies.

'At first, hesitant bystanders looked puzzled as the council members and MND-B Soldiers gathered near the rear of the truck. The more people realized what was happening, the more they gathered and gave a helping hand.'

Dutch Soldiers Stress Restraint in Afghanistan

The New York Times has an interesting article showcasing the Dutch military approach to fighting insurgency in Afghanistan. Whether their approach is truly different or not, the article posits that Dutch 'restraint' is the reason for which they have suffered no combat fatalities since it began operations in Uruzgan province last August.

The approach- and the views of its detractors- can be summed up with this paragraph: 'Its [Dutch military contingent] counterinsurgency tactics emphasize efforts to improve Afghan living conditions and self-governance, rather than hunting the Taliban’s fighters. Bloodshed is out. Reconstruction, mentoring and diplomacy are in. American military officials have expressed unease about the Dutch method, warning that if the Taliban are not kept under military pressure in Uruzgan, they will use the province as a haven and project their insurgency into neighboring provinces.'

The Dutch Commander makes a nice turn of phrase that I can only imagine CIMIC officers will want to adopt in the future: “We’re not here to fight the Taliban,” said the Dutch commander, Col. Hans van Griensven, at a recent staff meeting. “We’re here to make the Taliban irrelevant.”

PCR Project- The Danish Approach to State-Building

Our friends at the PCR Project posted on a recently published article on The Danish Approach to State-Building:

Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen, head of the Research Unit, Political Violence, Terrorism and Radicalization, at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), has just published her findings on the Danish military and its approach to state-building. Full report is available here.

The research findings are provocative- Dalgaard-Neilsen concludes that deployed Danish military units are evaluated as conducting good reconstruction support tasks, when measured against basic principles of good development work.

Exec summary:
'The Danish armed forces, together with the armed forces of other nations, have come under political pressure to accept a range of state-building tasks, including support for reconstruction. This is the case in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan where few civilian and humanitarian organisations are willing to operate. This report analyses how the Danish armed forces have approached and prioritised reconstruction support and asks how their performance might be improved. It is based on empirical evidence collected over a period of five months of “embedded” research, during which the author took part in the daily activities of deployed Danish units in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It points out how the Danish units assigned reconstruction support tasks are neglected in a number of ways by their own organisation and show how they nevertheless perform well as measured against basic principles of good development work. It draws on Edgar H. Schein’s theory of organisational culture to explain this pattern and shows how civil tasks, while clashing with some aspects of the culture of Danish armed forces – notions about mission and means to fulfi l the mission – are compatible with other parts – notions about human beings and human relations. The report closes with a discussion of which political, organisation, and educational initiatives would enhance the current performance of reconstruction support tasks.'

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

VOA- East Africa Drought, US troops in Djibouti dig wells, build schools, Feature Stories: East Africa Drought, US troops in Djibouti dig wells, build schools

Voice of America (VOA) ran an article yesterday on the work of US military forces based in the Horn of Africa.

One counter-point to the enthusiasm of the well-received US aid was that of Kenneth Bacon of NGO Refugees International:

"In rare and emergency cases it makes sense for the military to do what only it can do very quickly,” Bacon says. “On a day-to-day basis, I don't think it makes sense for the military to be out distributing aid, vaccinating kids, [and] drilling wells. These are things that can be done by other groups. They can be done much more cheaply and much more effectively by operations like Oxfam or Save the Children or International Rescue Committee or CARE."

TNR- Does the military endanger humanitarian aid workers?

David Bosco has an article in The New Republic Online, entitled, 'Does the military endanger humanitarian aid workers?'. Our friends at PCR Project posted the same piece last week.

The introduction sums up the topography of issues around which the debate is centered:

'The long list of indictments against recent American foreign policy includes one issued by some of the world's noblest people: international aid workers. By cynically and recklessly blending military and humanitarian missions, the charge goes, the United States has blurred the line that once kept aid workers safe and has made them attractive targets for extremists seeking to attack American interests. Innovations like Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, which mix military personnel with civilian aid experts have made some humanitarian workers queasy, and the sight of American troops driving around Afghanistan in white SUVs--long favored by aid groups--only made things worse.'

From this point onwards, the argument changes. Basing itself on the Center for International Cooperation's, 'Providing Aid in Insecure Environments:
Trends in Policy and Operations
', Bosco concludes that the evidence doesn't fit the charge. Specifically, an increase in attacks on aid workers is a result of an increased number of workers in the field, and not on the blurring of lines between military and humanitarain actors, or the mixing of humanitarian with politico-military agendas.

While Bosco takes a balanced approach in his charting of the issues, in the balance his tone suggests that the future of impartial humanitariran assistance is somewhat cloudy. The debate continues...

Danish military to aid African armies

An interesting shift in Danish foreign aid, from a country typically associated with generous contributions to civlian development and humanitarian agencies:

'While Danish foreign aid to Africa has traditionally gone to humanitarian projects such as digging wells and conducting immunization drives, the country has now allocated 248 million Danish krone (about 44.5 million U.S. dollars) of its development aid budget to defense related projects.'

The article did not specify precisely the form of assistance that Denmark would provide, but suggested support might include helping to train Kenyan peacekeeping forces, conducting courses at defense academies, or helping to train Ghana to patrol its coastal waters.

Aid still days away for Solomons homeless

Following Monday's Tsunami that hit the Solomon Islands, international peacekeepers were the first responders in assisting civilians affected by the disaster. The peacekeepers, stationed in the country since 2003, evacuated several injured people to hospital in the capital.

'Australia and New Zealand have offered US$2 million in aid, and around 100 peacekeepers that arrived on Wednesday brought with them water, food rations, shelter and other relief supplies. A New Zealand air force Hercules carrying water containers, blankets, tarpaulins, food and lamps also arrived in the islands, with supplies to be ferried by helicopter and boat to the worst-hit areas.'

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A call for regulation in humanitarian action and a high level panel

Felt that this post from ODI blog deserves to get wider circulation. For military audiences, it should serve as a good benchmark for understanding why civilian humanitarian agencies lack professional codes, associations or standards that might make it easier to distinguish the 'real' agencies from the less credible variety. It is not so much the absence of a professional body that regulates humanitarian agencies, but more the infernal debates that seem to characterize the lack of progress.

Comparison between military and humanitarian worlds might help illustrate the question. For example, many lament the lack of consistency that armed forces show when it comes to doctrine and practice of CIMIC. Some armed forces advocate that CIMIC is not about doing humanitarian projects; others put more emphasis on the fact that CIMIC doctrine does not exclude undertaking assistance projects. If we look at how different armed forces have set up and run their PRTs over the last 5 years in Afghansistan, we see how these different views translate into reality: not very consistently.

This debate on regulation of the humanitarian industry is remarkably similar to debates on 'what is CIMIC?'- but arguably no where near as advanced. Instead of agreeing that regulation is inevitable, and would add to the quality and accountability of the assistance and protection provided, more distractions are proposed. Proposals range from 'high level panels' to 'embracing the increasing diversity of humanitarian actors' to 'recruiting the Public Relations world' to help us better hear the voices of the stakeholders of humanitarian action. In short, and still speaking comparatively, the humanitarian world isn't even building their own inconsistent network of PRTs, they are still debating whether to build a PRT.

Can we compare the absence of professional standards, accountability and regulation in the humanitarian sector to divergence and difference in CIMIC policy, doctrine and practice? I think we can- and if we do, the military comes across as much further advanced in the debate.

Multi-National Force - Iraq - Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers outfit schools

Iraqi and US soldiers conducted a good-will mission to help school children receive some life-saving school supplies.

The humanitarian assistance operation included distribution of chocolate chip cookies made by a stateside mother-in-law and invitations to return for future visits- “We have no problems with the Iraqi or U.S. Soldiers coming – please feel free to come anytime."

It was a busy weekend of providing assistance, another post had Iraqi and US soldiers providing humanitarian aid to Tal'Afar- nice pictures, as well.

Refugees International- Security Sector Reform Must Focus on Protection of Civilians

Refugees International (RI) sent a statement to the UN Security Council on February 16, 2007, appealing for a coordinated UN approach to Security Sector Reform (SSR). The 'punchline' of their appeal was that SSR must place more focus on the protection of civilians.

RI makes some excellent points in their piece, notably on the rationale behind their appeal:
'Regenerating and strengthening of the security sector post-conflict have been issues of UN concern for some time. Modern integrated UN peacekeeping missions incorporate military, political, humanitarian and development actors. Like the more traditional peacekeeping missions, these multidimensional missions still fulfill short-term stabilization and protection duties. But today peacekeepers are also expected to lay the ground work for long-term development and a self-sustaining peace. The weak or corrupted security institutions that make peacekeeping necessary in the first place must be developed into strong, accountable institutions that protect civilians, ensure stability, and create the necessary conditions for lasting peace, security, and rule of law.'

Curious as to how these initiatives on SSR link into the UN Peacebuilding Commission.

ISAF CIMIC teams help Kandahar City schools

The Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Afghanistan seem to have their own blog, replete with the expected pictures of CIMIC troops surrounded by smiling, waving children. You can subscribe to their content via RSS.