Global Peace Operations Initiative

WaPo: Bush Plans Aid to Build Foreign Peace Forces

Facing a chronic shortage of foreign troops for peacekeeping missions, President Bush has decided to launch an international drive to boost the supply of available forces — a move that if successful could relieve some of the pressure on U.S. soldiers to join such operations, defense officials said.

A plan approved by Bush earlier this month calls for the United States to commit about $660 million over the next five years to train, equip and provide logistical support to forces in nations willing to participate in peace operations.

The campaign, known as the Global Peace Operations Initiative, will be aimed largely at Africa by expanding the peacekeeping skills of African forces and encouraging international military exercises in the region, where U.S. officials said much of the need exists.

But African forces developed under the program could be used in peace operations anywhere in the world, officials said. And the program also sets aside some assistance for armies in Asia, Latin America and Europe to enlarge their peacekeeping roles as well.

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By focusing on Africa, Bush is building on a State Department program that has provided training assistance to the region since the mid-1990s. But funding for that effort — the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program — has stayed below $15 million in recent years.

Another program, known as Enhanced International Peacekeeping Capacities and used to fund U.S. training for peace operations worldwide, has received even less money.

Administration officials expect to finance Bush’s initiative from Pentagon as well as State Department accounts. Some of the trainers will come from U.S. military ranks, but in certain regions, private contractors are more likely to be used, according to Joseph Collins, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant for stability operations.

Although past U.S. training efforts have succeeded in creating some additional peacekeeping capacity, one of the persistent challenges has been sustaining units that have received the training.

“They have tended to dissipate as a result of people leaving, dying, getting reassigned,” Feith said. “So there’s a major element in the president’s initiative that deals with sustainment, which is to say, continual training and incentives to keep these units together so they can be used.”

On Capitol Hill, a Democratic staff member with a Senate committee — one of the few in Congress who has been briefed on the initiative — predicted it will receive broad bipartisan support. Several independent analysts also welcomed the initiative.

Interesting. I suppose $660 million is cheap in the grand scheme of things, although I’m not particularly optimistic about either the professionalism or usability of the force we’d train with the funds. While an African peacekeeping force would face fewer obstacles than a Western one in the region, they would almost certainly not be available for out of area operations. And they would still require augmentation from a professional military for all but he lightest missions, since I can’t imagine that we’re going to equip this force with anything above small arms.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.