Sunday, June 24, 2007

Incident- 4 killed in attack on UNIFIL patrol in south Lebanon

_42418884_marjayoun_230body_afp.jpgFour Spanish UN peacekeepers were killed and several others wounded in an attack on a UNIFIL patrol in southern Lebanon on Sunday afternoon. It was unclear whether it was a deliberate attack, or whether the partol had run over a mine or unexploded ordinance from last year's war.

Update: further articles on 25 June confirmed that 5 were killed, and strong suspicions that it was a targeted car bomb attack. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in a region under the effective control of Hezbollah.

Are more Afghan civilians killed more by US and NATO forces than by insurgents?

An earlier posting showed the press campaign that NATO was waging to show that it was taking collateral damage as a serious problem- and that they were making alledged improvements in reducing civilian casualties.

Not surprisingly, there is now a full-blown war of statistics being waged in the press- AP calculates that Coalition and NATO forces have killed more civilians than the Taliban insurgents in 2007 (203 vs. 178 deaths). Others say that the numbers are roughly equal.

Will be curious to see the next round of press statements, particularly following a scathing speech by President Karzai on Saturday.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Public, Private, Non-Profit?- Clear Path International Contracted by DynCorp as part of a US Department of State Contract

The non-profit Clear Path International (CPI) has just received a multi-year contract from DynCorp International to start a landmine survivor assistance program in Afghanistan on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. This is an excellent illustration of how complex working relationships have become in Afghansitan. The press release makes great pains to delineated the particular identities and characters of each group:

- Since 2000, Clear Path International has assisted nearly 4,000 survivors of accidental landmine and explosive remnants of war incidents in Vietnam, Cambodia and along the Thai-Burma border. It has also sent 65 containers of medical equipment and supplies to 25 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

- The Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement is one of the world's largest sponsors of mine clearance, risk reduction education and survivors assistance. It has directly funded Clear Path's programs in Vietnam and Cambodia and some of the organization's public awareness and fundraising efforts in the United States.

- DynCorp International is a U.S-based company that provides support services to military and civilian government institutions in such areas as aviation, infrastructure development, security and logistics.

Are there issues in such a blurred public-private-NGO relationship?
As we post on articles such as 'Under fire, aid workers face life as a soft target', and DynCorp staffers being similarly targeted, it does pose questions as to how some agencies are balancing risks and their presence in a context such as Afghanistan.

French military to transport hundreds of toys for refugees in Chad

On a Friday afternoon, all we can say is 'thank you, France' for giving us such a great article to post:

'A small party of officers and men from the army and air force arrived at Quai Branly Museum near the Eiffel Tower on Thursday and helped staff of the UN refugee agency and the museum to load 35 boxloads of toys onto two trucks for transportation to a military airport in Orleans.

The toys, including dolls, model cars, jigsaw puzzles, teddy bears and even a little bicycle, were contributed by French children under a programme run by UNHCR and the museum, which only opened a year ago. Many of the children were at the museum yesterday to send off the toys.

The precious cargo will be flown to the Chad capital, N'Djamena, aboard an air force transport plane on Monday. The toys will then be handed over to UNHCR staff for distribution in refugee camps to children from Sudan's Darfur region and the Central African Republic (CAR).'

Despite telling a thousand words, the caption for the following photo read:
'A French soldier explains to a young boy how the toys he and his friends have donated will reach refugees in Chad.'

Military focuses on development in Africa- CJTF-HOA and AFRICOM |

CS Monitor has another article on the Horn of Africa CJTF, and how its mixed humanitarian-military mandate is a good model for the evolving AFRICOM structure. There is a continuing stream of articles on AFRICOM (some we have posted on) and also an AFRICOM website.

The article doesn't add much new to the debate. They market the CJTF-HOA in an interesting light:
"CJTF-HOA has served as a test-bed for ideas and concepts, and it has found approaches that work well in several countries on the Horn," says Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, executive director of the AFRICOM Transition Team. "Part of AFRICOM's charter is to be more collaborative, and it's important that our African partners see a consistency in our approach. Whether that's a long-term presence, like CJTF-HOA, or rotational, our engagement needs to be sustained."


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Navy ship carries hope for the poor

Been a while since we had a post on military involvement in humanitarian activities- odd, considering the spate of such postings globally in the winter season. The USNS Comfort is steaming to the Caribbean and Latin America, with 800 teddy bears and staff (their statistics), on a 12 nation, four-month tour.

The mission of the Comfort was apparently decided by the Commander-in-Chief himself, notably to treat 85,000 people free of charge, and conduct 1,500 surgeries. While the lengthy article highlights the many great deeds that the hospital ship will conduct, it doesn't mention the practical training value that the ship and its 800 member crew will enjoy during their mission.


Update: more articles on the USS Comfort- also includes video footage.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blast targetting US troops and contractors kills 4 in Afghan capital

Sunday saw another suicide bomber targetting US military personnel and American contract workers travelling by convoy in Kabul. Four civilians were killed in the blast, with one further killed and wounded by a US soldider opening fire after the blast. 'The American soldier in a Humvee "mistakenly" opened fire on the crowd after the suicide attack, killing one civilian and wounding three, said Zalmai Khan, deputy Kabul police chief.'

France begins humanitarian airlift in eastern Chad

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France has announced the commencement of a humanitarian airlift in eastern Chad. The announcement is the first gesture by President Sarkozy, but more precisely, the outcome of a visit by the recently nominated Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner. Kouchner is best known for his posed cameo photos unloading sacks of flour during the Somalia crisis in the early 90's.

Update: WFP welcomed the French contribution, in a press release replete with a picture of a very big plane. 'WFP thanked the French government and particularly Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for their support to end the suffering of Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians.'


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Chronology- Major Insurgent Attacks in Afghanistan

AP published a chronology of major insurgent attacks in Afghanistan since 2002. Major seems to defined by suicide attacks having taken more than 10 lives. Out of the 13 incidents included, only 4 targeted foreign military or diplomatic targets.

UN And African Union Agree to Strengthen Security Cooperation (Page 1 of 1)

The UN Security Council and the African Union (AU) issued a joint communiqué where they underlined the importance of developing the African Standby Force, and bolstering their overall collaboration in addressing conflict and building peace. The press statement was the result of a week-long mission by UN Security Council members to Africa. Following their visit to Addis, the members will visit Sudan, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Saturday, June 16, 2007 Video Petition

Couldn't resist posting this flashy video from Beyond the quality of the product, the message isn't too bad, either- 'Peace. It's cheaper than war.'

Friday, June 15, 2007

NATO says review reducing Afghan civilian casualties

The various pledges to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan have given rise to this statistically based rebuttal by NATO. Improved procedures and coordination are apparently the reasons for which civilian casualties have declined. Sadly, the ISAF statistics from ISAF are classified, so no proof could be provided.

Meanwhile, a communications breakdown between US troops and Afghan security forces led to a mistaken air strike of a government checkpoint, killing 8 Afghan police officers.

Update: The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella of more than 90 humanitarian and development NGOs released the following statement that re-opened criticism of multinational forces operating in Afghanistan:

"We strongly condemn the operations and force protection measures carried out by international military forces in which disproportionate or indiscriminate use of force has resulted in civilian casualties..."

Overview- Darfur's aid lifeline in danger

CSN has a good snapshot piece of the situation in Darfur, and the challenges facing aid agencies. The article is short on specifics but picks the key elements of the degrading situation and a few illustrations of the risks. While the claim is made that 'security is degrading' no concrete indications are given. The article closes with the suggestion that agencies are 'wondering' if it's time to pull back to the relative safety of the cities- the author seems to have missed the mark, the vast majority of agencies are only operating in IDP camps in and around the major cities of the Darfurs.

China to build $150 mln annex for African Union HQ

As part of their expanding foreign aid policy, China has pledged $150 mln to construct an expanded headquarters for the for African Union in Addis Ababa.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Duty of Care Meets R2P: Families of Srebrenica victims to sue Dutch, U.N.

'Families of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia will sue the Dutch state and the United Nations, which they blame in part for allowing the killings to happen, lawyers said on Friday. The law firm representing a group of about 6,000 family members said it would file a civil suit in the Netherlands on Monday.'

This is the inevitable next chapter, not only for Srebrenica, but also for humanitarian agencies, peacekeeping forces, governments, inter-governmental organizations et al. Clearly, 'doing good' is not enough and we see here a core question of 'How far does this responsibility to protect go? Who is responsible to whom' Are the United Nations, the Department of Peackeeping Operations, a troop-donating agency or their country of origin lialbe for the failure to bring to life the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)?

One place to look for some guidance is the organization IO Watch, who looks at these issues. Specifically, 'Pursuing the rule of law and management accountability in the United Nations and other international organizations.'

UN and AU outline details of proposed hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur

A joint press release of the UN and AU gave a broad introduction to the hybrid peacekeeping force that has been discussed over months. The full Security Council report is also available for download.