Since the close of the Second World War the United States has retained a significant ground force presence in Europe to defend against Russian aggression. While laudable during the halcyon days of the Soviet Empire, it is past time for this anachronistic policy to end. Europe now has the unrealized economic and political capacity to overmatch a weakened Moscow that can only provoke with economic and informational warfare while accosting weak states along its borders. In the 21st century, the United States Army should accordingly adopt a more dynamic strategy for how it contributes to European security and would join a potential, though improbable, NATO war to defeat Russia.
Gen. John Nicholson, who commands the American-led international military force in Afghanistan, recently made headlines when he called for “a few thousand” more troops and a deeper American commitment to the fight in Afghanistan in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.
This echoes the calls from a number of other analysts, as well as from senior government officials. The recently departed national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — who once served as the senior intelligence officer for the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan — seemed to support greater commitment to the region. As they say, personnel is policy: Flynn appointed senior National Security Council staffers who called for engagement in Afghanistan to potentially continue another five to ten years. There’s good reason to think these beliefs might be shared by incoming national security advisor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, given his substantial investment in Afghanistan.
Long before the debacles of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Somalia was the quagmire that Western militaries would have loved to strike from their records.
In the now-famous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993, overconfident U.S. forces blundered into an ambush in Mogadishu. Eighteen American soldiers and two troops from the supporting U.N. force died.
The West retreated from Somalia. To fill the security vacuum, the African Union deployed a peacekeeping force from 2006 onward.
The AMISOM peacekeeping force relies to a great degree on material and financial support from the United States and European allies, whose interest in the Somalia conflict increased again when Islamist groups gained influence in the country.
But the memory of the 1993 battle complicated direct intervention by Western militaries.
Gradually and quietly, this has begun to change.
A regional protection force has been authorized to deploy as part of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) in order to provide a secure environment in and around the capital city, Juba, and protect civilians. But without a viable political strategy to resolve the underlying causes of the civil war, the force will struggle to do anything more than reduce some of the most negative symptoms of the conflict and could spark direct confrontation with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) or any rebel forces that might threaten Juba.
In July 2016, nearly a year after it had been signed, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan collapsed. This meant that the former Transitional Government of National Unity also collapsed and was replaced by a governing regime led by President Salva Kiir and those collaborators who he had coopted into service. The final straw was a period of intense fighting between government and rebel forces that had been deployed in Juba as part of the peace deal. The fighting and subsequent rampaging of soldiers saw hundreds killed, numerous crimes committed against the civilian population, and led the remaining rebel forces and their leader to flee the city. There followed a flurry of calls for an intervention force to protect civilians, especially in Juba.
The African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) broke new ground yesterday by adopting a communiqué that threatened to launch a 5,000 strong force to protect civilians in Burundi. The communiqué gave the Burundian government 96 hours to consent to the operation or face the scenario of the AU deploying the force anyway. Although Burundi was a member of the PSC—and was actually its designated chair for December 2015—the council utilized Article 8(9) of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the PSC (2002) to ask the Burundian delegation to remove themselves from the chamber during the substantive deliberations on this issue.
If the Burundian government consents to its deployment, the force, dubbed the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU), will still confront many practical challenges, not least how to stabilize the country and help facilitate a political settlement of the crisis there, which is thought to have killed hundreds of people, mainly civilians, in the past few months. However, if the Burundian government calls the AU’s bluff and refuses to invite MAPROBU onto its territory, this raises an even more fundamental set of challenges for the AU. Whatever happens, this communiqué is a novel form of coercive diplomacy exercised by the AU that raises many important questions for African governments, regional organizations, the United Nations, and other stakeholders in Burundi’s ongoing crisis, not least the country’s citizens. This report briefly discusses five of those questions.