Peacekeeping: March 7, 2002

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The new peacekeeping force for Afghanistan will suffer from a growing number of problems unique to peacekeeping duty. While peacekeeping duty can be stressful, it usually does not involve any actual combat. The troops, especially the Western ones, often have regular phone or email access to the folks back home. This can be a problem. Sometimes the young troops are told, when they are going to a potentially nasty place, to make sure their wills are in order. For guys going to a combat zone, this often means giving their wives (or even girlfriends) power of attorney over their assets back home. Since many, often the majority, of the young troops are married these days, they often run into problems with the power of attorney business. Many of these young marriages are shaky and the girl back home often spends the soldiers money more for "her" than for "them." Sometimes the wife or girlfriend decides to simply move on, with all the soldiers money and assets. The result is a lot of depressed troops, and even suicides. Troops from less wealthy nations also have to worry about their pay getting stolen. But in this case the thief is not an unfaithful wife, but rather with corrupt superiors. The UN pays less than what Western troops get, but much more than what soldiers from developing nations receive. The troops know what the rates are. The government sometimes takes a cut of the UN pay, but things really get nasty when senior officers divert some of the UN payroll for their personal use. The troops often respond by going into business for themselves. This can range from running a brothel on the side to selling "protection" for local criminals. The black market is another favorite. The UN tries to avoid these problems by getting these troops, and especially their officers, peacekeeper training by troops from more reliable nations (the U.S. or Europe.) The UN also has frank discussions with the military leadership of nations who have had these problems, or are suspected of being liable to go the wrong way.

 


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