United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
October 5, 2005
Posted to the web October 6, 2005
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Allied and U.S. military interest in Africa is "embryonic" but growing at a rapid pace, especially in support of security operations in Darfur, NATO's supreme allied commander (SACEUR), Marine General James Jones, told Congress September 28.
Jones, who is also the commander of all U.S. forces in Europe (EUCOM), told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "It is an exciting time to be in Europe and in Africa," working to support conflict resolution and humanitarian efforts in places like Sudan.
In Darfur, Jones said, NATO's involvement "will help create relationships between key regional security organizations as NATO works with the African Union [AU] mission. Most [important], this engagement will ameliorate one of the world's worst humanitarian crises." (See Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.)
He told the senators: "Different agencies estimate that between 180,000 and 300,000 [Darfurians] have died, and more than 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes. Some 200,000 refugees are estimated to have fled westward to neighboring Chad, while the vast majority of refugees remain trapped in Darfur camps and settlements."
In Africa, Jones said, "our goal is to assist nations to build effective, responsive governments and to develop security structures supportive of emerging democratic governments. Our success depends on maintaining relevant, focused, and complementary security cooperation, tailored to the political, social, economic, and military realities in Africa."
Following a request by the AU in June, Jones said, the North Atlantic Council (the executive body of NATO) approved NATO's support for the African Union's Mission in Sudan (AMIS). The European Union (EU) indicated it also would join the effort.
Currently, about 2,000 of the 6,000 AMIS force, consisting of troops and police from Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa, are stationed in Darfur. And with transportation -- airlift -- help from NATO and the EU, the total AU force in Sudan is expected to rise to 7,700 by the end of October.
In Darfur, the NATO commander told lawmakers, "the government in Khartoum set the downward spiral in motion" in 2003 by mounting a campaign of aerial bombardment supporting ground attacks by an Arab militia, the "Jingaweit," in response to rebel attacks on government installations.
Peace talks facilitated by the United States between the Khartoum government and rebel forces in Darfur currently are taking place in Abuja, Nigeria. An accord called the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in January, ending the 20-year North-South conflict between Khartoum and southern rebels. (See related article.)
According to Jones, NATO nations that have made airlift commitments to transport troops and supplies into Sudan include Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, "has offered a variety of commercial charter aircraft under reimbursement arrangements for operational costs."
In addition, EU countries that have made airlift commitments include France, which has offered to move a complete Senegalese battalion with full equipment; Germany, which is devoting six aircraft to transport up to eight battalions of AU troops, as well as 380 police officers; Greece, which has offered two aircraft; and Luxembourg, which will provide 75,000 euros for contracted airlift or purchase of tickets on scheduled civilian flights.
Jones said NATO and European Union support of the AMIS peacekeeping force is a natural fit because "our history of bringing stability to areas [such as the Balkans] plagued by ethnic â-oe conflict has prepared us to broaden our focus to the East [Eastern Europe and western Russia] and to the South [Africa]."
At the same time, "NATO's mission to Darfur is especially significant," he added, because "it shows how the alliance is shouldering the burden of 21st century security challenges, even when they are radically different from Cold War challenges and located far beyond its traditional area of action."
Jones, the first Marine general to be NATO and EUCOM commander, spent his formative years in France, later graduating from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington. He commands the Allied Military Command Europe (ACE) of the 26-member NATO alliance and, as EUCOM chief, is in charge of the approximately 100,000 U.S. forces stationed throughout Europe. EUCOM has responsibility for more than 93 countries, including most of sub-Saharan Africa.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov