Peacekeeping: October 3, 2004

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The U.N. Secretary-General has made an appeal to the 191 member nations to provide another 30,000 troops to meet an anticipated surge in demand for more peacekeeping operations around the world. There's a potential for a 10,000-strong peacekeeping force for Sudan and increases in troops for existing missions in Haiti and the Congo. Currently, there are 50,000 troops deployed around the world; the previous peak for peacekeeping troops was 78,000 in 1993. By mid-1999, that number had dropped to 12,000 before steadily increasing to the current levels. 

Peacekeeping troops under the UN flag "blue helmets" as they are sometimes called are operating in 17 operations, from small scale operations in Cyprus, to a 11,500 contingent in Sierra Leone. The UN is seeking more troops despite plans to reduce troop strength in Sierra Leona and the 1,600 personnel in East Timor. Brazil, lead military force in the UN Haiti operation, said it doesn't have enough troops to stop renewed fighting on the island. The UN has authorized 6,700 troops, but only 2,500 are in country at the moment. Meanwhile, the UN wants to roughly double the force in the Congo from 10,800 to around 24,000 troops, strengthening the mission in response to increased violence and the possibility of elections next year. 

As of July, Pakistan (8,500 troops), Bangladesh (7,200), Nigeria (3,600), and Ghana (3,300) had the largest peacekeeping troop forces deployed. The Secretary General has also identified critical gaps in specialized military capabilities such as tactical air support, field medical care, and a lack of French-speaking troops a language important in Haiti and Africa.

The troop shortage has several causes. Traditional peacekeepers sources from Canada and some European nations has been sapped due to commitments by U.S. and NATO-lead coalitions trying to stabilize Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Iraq. Poorer nations welcome the opportunity to participate in UN peacekeeping because the UN pays the soldiers more than they make in their own countries, with the U.S. and wealthier nations picking up the tab. However, those wealthier nations are in the process of downsizing and/or "transforming" their military (not to mention being involved in U.S. and NATO-lead coalitions) so there's not as much free cash to pay for these troops. Finally, you need well-trained and reliable troops for peacekeeping duties, otherwise the peacekeepers themselves will become a source of conflict in an unstable situation. Earlier this year, the Bush Administration proposed a five year, $660 million plan to build up a force of around 75,000 dedicated foreign peacekeeping troops, training African and other troops to be available on short notice. Doug Mohney


 


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