Congo: Stormtroopers Sought

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

February 22, 2006: The European Union is under UN pressure to supply a rapid deployment force for the Congo. The unit would be available to support the Congolese armed forces during the critical national elections in June 2006. The UN doesn't care who supplies the force, as long as the troops can fight. An effective rapid deployment (or rapid reaction) force would have to be airmobile (be liftable by helicopters) or air-transportable (able to be carried by transport aircraft). This means the force would be light infantry with some light armor support (ie, light wheeled armored vehicles like the US Marines' LAV).

February 21, 2006: Congolese and Ugandan sources both report that it is "highly likely" Lords Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony is now inside the Congo. Kony's second in command, Vincent Otti, has been allegedly hiding out in the northeastern Congo, in or near the Garamba National Park. A Congolese source reported that the LRA rebels inside the Congo number approximately 100 fighters. In January 2006, eight UN peacekeepers from Guatemala died in an operation in the Garamba National Park area. The Guatemalan special forces soldiers may have been on a mission to capture Otti.

February 19, 2006: The government officially ratified the new constitution. Approximately 85 percent of voters approved the constitution in the plebiscite held in December 2005.

February 13, 2006: The UN is evaluating peacekeeping efforts in the Congo. A summary of the report is available at http://www.monuc.org/news.aspx?newsID=9932 (which is the MONUC website). The UN mission in the Congo has been plagued by allegations crime and malfeasance. To their credit, the UN and member nations involved in the peacekeeping operations have investigated, tried and convicted a number of soldiers for sex crimes, theft, and other violent crimes. MONUC's experience in the Congo has confirmed that a "two tier" system definitely exists in UN combat operations. There are the forces that can handle "presence and security operations" (ie, these forces can guard installations, conduct basic patrols, protect NGO operations, etc) and then there are units which can actually conduct combat operations (strike and rapid reaction operations) against rogue militias and rebels. The South Africans and Pakistanis have been particularly effective in the "strike and rapid reaction" operations. The Guatemalan special forces troops have also shown their mettle. These three nations are not the only ones providing superior troops. Almost every nation can field a small elite force, and for many nations UN duty is not only a chance to demonstrate military skills, but to demonstrate those skills and get a pay check in hard currency. That being said, South Africa and Pakistan have done yeoman's duty in the Congo. Bangladeshi soldiers have also earned kudos. What's the common denominator? British training methods is one. South African was a British colony. Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of India. As for Guatemala's special forces contingent? Guatemala fought a civil war for thirty years. The Guatemalan special forces know how to "do jungles."

 

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