2008: What peacekeepers are finding out, again and again, is that the first
line of defense is not soldiers, but police. Peacekeepers are needed, in the
first place, because local policing efforts have failed. Afghanistan never had
effective police, with whatever law and order there was being provided by
tribal muscle. Iraq lost its local police during Saddam's three decades of
misrule. Saddam kept the police in place, doing little, while what controlled
crime, and kept the people in line, was an elaborate collection of secret
police agencies and organized street thugs.
where most of the peacekeeping need currently resides, there has always been a
shortage of police. In Pakistan's tribal areas, where al Qaeda is making its
last stand, the first target of the Islamic terrorists has been the locally
recruited police. Never very numerous or well equipped to begin with, the
Pakistani police in the tribal areas are particularly vulnerable to pro-Taliban
tribesmen, who often know who the police are, and have caused hundreds to quit
their jobs in the last year, or face kidnapping or assassination. The Pakistani
army is coming in to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda gangs, so that the
police again have a chance to keep the peace.
As a result
of all this experience, the United Nations has become more enthusiastic about
peacekeeping that is more policing than military operation. Peacemaking, using
force to get warring factions to stop fighting, does require combat troops. But
once the peacekeepers go in, they find the biggest problem is crime and terrorism.
Soldiers can scare and scatter the gangsters, but they can't do much to stop
The UN has
long sent in police, but mainly to train new police, recruited from locals. But
what the people need immediately is some policing, some effort to restore order
so the economy can revive and give young men an alternative to banditry and
plunder. In response to this, UNPOL (the UN Police Division) has gone from
8,000 personnel at the end of 2005, to nearly 18,000 now. UNPOL personnel are
drawn from police forces in over a hundred nations, and are currently deployed
in 19 peacekeeping operations.
had to develop new tactics, some which combine police and military operations.
This approach uses troops to bust up the larger gangs, and prevents new warlords
from developing. But then you have lots more smaller gangs, all hustling and
killing. This is where the recent Israeli and American experience against
Islamic terrorists comes in handy. These two countries developed new
intelligence collecting and analysis techniques. The criminals hide in the
shadows, but the new intel methods light up those dark corners. The gangsters
have to spend more time avoiding capture, giving them less time to be bad guys.
the gangs and crime rates are brought down, the sooner the local police and
justice systems can be built up. The ultimate solution is always local. You
cannot recruit enough foreign police to shut down the crime in any of these
peacekeeping missions. So you harass the crooks until you can recruit and train
a local police force. This can take years, and all that time, the crooks are
fighting to stay in business.