Home | News    Friday 28 August 2009

Pentagon mulls assistance to Darfur peacekeeping force & SPLA

August 27, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The US Department of Defense (DOD) is considering sending advisers to assist the African Union – United Nations mission on Darfur (UNAMID), according to a news report.

The US based Inside the Pentagon (ITP) newsletter quoted Vicki Huddleston, the new deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa as saying that the Pentagon hopes to offer advisers mainly on logistical issues.

This would be similar to a decision by DOD taken to provide advisers to the U.N. mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), Huddleston said.

In late July, president Obama special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told US lawmakers specialized intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities will be needed as peace process in Darfur progresses that could be coordinated with United States African Command (AFRICOM).

However, such a step would likely face stiff resistance from Khartoum which had vehemently opposed any non-African units as part of UNAMID.

The US State Department is eyeing around eight individuals from AFRICOM to help with planning and command and control.

Gration’s military background may have assisted him in obtaining more cooperation from the DOD unlike his predecessor Richard Williamson.

In an interview with Reuters last March, Williamson said that he “found it difficult to get much cooperation from the Pentagon” adding that Gration “will be able to deal with that more easily” than he was able to.

UNAMID faces a long standing deficiency in aerial capability as the international community have been reluctant to provide helicopters to the mission.

Some countries are said to be unhappy with the UNAMID command and control structure while others fear hostile environment particularly in light of remarks made by Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir in the past saying he does not want any “Westerners” in Darfur.

The possible military involvement of DOD in Darfur would be incorporated in the Sudan policy review to be released by the US administration at any time now.

“I represent an agency that’s only one small part of it [Sudan policy review], but I think we all hope that maybe by September we’ll see it roll out,” Huddleston said.

The DOD official said that Washington is “looking at how we can best work with the international community, the African Union, our various partners in the EU and around the world” in promoting a resolution to the conflict in Darfur and helping displaced people.

On the issue of South Sudan, the Pentagon disclosed that the US administration is keen on assisting Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) "transition from a guerilla force to one that can provide adequate defense capabilities for its people and territory," DOD spokeswoman Lt. Colonel Almarah Belk told ITP.

"Professional military education and training for officers and enlisted personnel is one key aspect; an air defense capability might be relevant," she added.

Some analysts in Washington believe that boosting SPLA’s air defense capabilities will deter the North from attacking to prevent by force the secession of South Sudan.

South Sudan is reportedly building up its military arsenal, including a controversial shipment of Ukrainian tanks last year, in secrecy to prepare for such an event.

In accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, (CPA) weapons to Southern Sudan have to be approved first by the central government.