Proposed EU Force in Chad

Re: the proposal to send 400 Irish troops to Chad as an EU peacekeeping force.
Topical comment in today's Irish Independent.

Should we risk our troops' lives for an Islamic state?

In the jolly little affair of Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher who was imprisoned in Khartoum because the children in her class nicknamed a teddy bear "Mohammed", it's hard to know what to be impressed by more.

Maybe it was the opinion of the Sudanese embassy in London which admonished her sniffily with the observation: "If a lesson can be learned, it is that anyone going abroad should learn about the culture and orientation there before taking any job."

Or possibly it was the action of the supposedly "liberal" parents of the school, who reported her to the religious police for allowing the children in her class to call the teddy bear after Mohammed. Or maybe it was the Archbishop of Khartoum, who apologised for the "insult" done to Islam.

Or perhaps it was the action of the Christian Unity High School in peremptorily sacking this woman who had abandoned her teaching career in England in order to do something for what we are now pleased to call the "developing world".

And as we survey the capers in Khartoum, we should not overlook the senior cleric, Sheikh Hussein Mubarak, who told a sword-wielding mob that the 15-day term of imprisonment was too light, to which the delightful crowds replied with a cheery, "execute her!" and, "those who insult the prophet Mohammed should be punished with bullets!"

Moreover, the Supreme Muslim Council of Ireland unintentionally revealed the ambiguities that lie at the heart of "liberal Islam" in such matters.

After condemning the Sudanese authorities for their ludicrous treatment of this poor, silly woman, it declared: "The only thing to come from this affair is for the name of Islam to be dragged through the mud yet again by bigots."

But the statement later continued: "We are saddened that the Muslim world is silent on issues such as these and the punishment of the Saudi girl, but they are quick to issue decrees to justify and appease their political rulers.

"We call on the Azhar, who does not hesitate to issue decrees to appease Hosni Mubarak, and the Saudi scholars to forthrightly condemn such unbecoming behaviour."

Ah, so the only thing to come from this affair is not "for the name of Islam to be dragged through the mud yet again by bigots".

Because another thing to come from this affair, by the Muslim Council's own admission, is the silence of the Muslim world in response to it, as it was silent over the fate of the Saudi girl who was wicked enough to be raped by seven young men and who was then sentenced to 200 lashes for her very evil sins.

And as for Gillian Gibbons, what happens next?

Will Queen Elizabeth issue an apology and condemnation, rather on the lines of President McAleese's grovelling denunciations, complete with veil, to the Saudis over the Danish cartoons?

The most perfect paradox lies in the very name, "teddy bear"; for "teddy" comes from Theodore, which means "a gift from God."

But once you have entered the grease-lined funnel of propitiation and regret, there really is no way out.

Islamicists now routinely expect us to admit we're wrong on every issue, and offering apologies to them for any alleged "violation" of their weird cultural norms merely confirms them in their inviolable sense of rightness, whetting their appetite for yet more victimhood.

And it's strictly one-way traffic: when did a Saudi ever apologise for anything?

We are about to send 400 soldiers in peacekeeping duties to Chad, next to Sudan, a deployment that has been delayed (we are told) by the failure of "key enablers" to provide the necessary back-up.

In other words, a lot of countries elsewhere are probably having second thoughts about sending their armies into a profoundly violent area where people think and behave quite incomprehensibly.

And why would anyone not have second thoughts about such a deployment?

If an English Christian woman can be threatened with 40 lashes and six months' jail for allowing a class of seven-year-olds to name a teddy bear Mohammed, and be threatened with death by screaming mobs, is there anything we can confidently say we know about these people?

So is it right that we should even be thinking of deploying members of the Defence Forces in such a region, where the sort of rules and decencies that lie at the heart of our civilisation apparently have absolutely no meaning at all?

It's not wrong to recognise reality and to change policy; it's not cowardly to refuse to send our troops into country where they can probably not achieve very much.

The men and women of the Defence Forces are the best and bravest people in Ireland.

They are prepared to risk their lives in the service of their country and the UN: but that doesn't mean we should frivolously endanger them on a mission with no clear objective, no defined rules of engagement, merely because it seems worthy and honourable: for there is every possibility that their mere presence, as white Christians in an Islamic country, might arouse yet more Muslim ire.

We want no more Niembas.
The writer of this work needs to educate themselves on the area and the conflict or they will continue to spout crap. Have a look at who the EU forces will be protecting from whom.
Ah Kevin Myers strikes again...thanks for exporting him to us
offog said:
The writer of this work needs to educate themselves on the area and the conflict or they will continue to spout crap. Have a look at who the EU forces will be protecting from whom.
That's a case in point. Only the Irish and the French are contributing to the force. The other EU members aren't touching the affair with a bargepole.
Just to put this in to the craphole the Gov here have dug, our version of "THEM" the ARW is deploying so many guys that this year the had to cancel selection and we won't have a proper number for the CT team so if anyone decided to do something in the first few months of the year, we fucked or worse the ERU will have to handle it....brilliant
Imshi-Yallah said:
Mr Myers like most Journalists seems to think we are sending bank tellers and kitten farmers rather than professional soldiers.
agreed but he does make something of a lateral point, we need the guys going there to be equipped the best we can, yet they'll be bobbing around out there in Nissans instead of LTAV's......damn wasn't the Gov like a headless chicken a few weeks back over the funding of this whole thing......muppets :x
Yes Defence deserves more funding. But if the army doesn't stay active it can't justify more funding, or it's continued maintenance of an already small establishment under the bean counters axe.
petergriffen said:
Imshi-Yallah said:
Mr Myers like most Journalists seems to think we are sending bank tellers and kitten farmers rather than professional soldiers.
agreed but he does make something of a lateral point, we need the guys going there to be equipped the best we can, yet they'll be bobbing around out there in Nissans instead of LTAV's......damn wasn't the Gov like a headless chicken a few weeks back over the funding of this whole thing......muppets :x
Can't expect too much from those cnuts - stuff like this

is coming out every day. A right collection of bent lawyers and "creative" accountants. They couldn't run a bath.

I'm sure that the Defence Forces will do their duty to their usual high professional standards. I hope it goes as well as the operation in Liberia. Though it's a bit worrying when you read stuff like this;

This afternoon the Defence Forces said the delay in sending troops was not unexpected, due to the shortage of what they called 'key enablers' like air support.

and this

Ireland was right to send troops on dangerous missions such as East Timor and Liberia, but this Chad mission is the wrong mission in the wrong place with the wrong mandate.
Reasons to be fearful: five potential difficulties facing Irish troops inChad

Logistics Due to its distance from the sea and desert climate, Chad is known as the "dead heart of Africa". Most of the Irish troops will have to be transported to Abeche by aircraft but the equipment will have to be brought by sea which will take over six weeks. The nearest port is in neighbouring Cameroon, 2,500 miles way. It will take over two weeks to drive from Cameroon to Abeche. Chad is two-and-a-half times the size of France but there is only 400km of road and these are often impassable. Chad is the biggest military undertaking in Irish history. Over 2,700 tons of equipment will have to be transported in 250 containers using 100 wheeled vehicles. One hundred and twenty days of rations will be initially flown over with 48,000 litres of water and 54,000 ration packs. Soldiers will also have to build their own camp which will take six weeks. Flights will have to be arranged from Ireland every three weeks to replenish food and water stocks as well as providing other logistical support. Africa is a first for Irish troops. We supplied a handful of staff to Congo missions in 2003 and 2006 under Operation Artemis but this is the first large-scale deployment.

Armed bandits Armed bandits have taken advantage of the political instability in the region to attack refugees and French soldiers. There are dozens of small independent armed factions each with their own aims and goals.

Such groupings are extremely difficult to control and there are fears that these rebels could launch surprise attacks at the EU troops without warning or reason. Irish troops are authorised to fire back if they are attacked but it is hoped that the Irish will be viewed as impartial and will not be targeted.

The Irish troops on the ground will wear a desert version of their own uniform so they will be easily identifiable which should prevent bandits or other enemy forces from mistaking them for French troops.

Access to equipment The mission to Chad has been held up because of a dispute over a shortage of helicopters and medical equipment. Troops were initially due to deploy before Christmas but progress was halted by the lack of what the army calls "strategic enablers", which are the fundamentals needed for a mission to go ahead. France has now agreed to provide most of the helicopters that will be needed. Italy is to take responsibility for establishing medical facilities. Although the equipment problem seems to be sorted out, there are worries that if equipment difficulties are arising before the deployment they could only get worse if there are problems on the ground when the troops arrive.

Regional instability Chad government forces have launched frequent incursions into Sudan's western Darfur state in order to eliminate Chadian rebel positions. Earlier this month six Chadian "opposition members" were killed in attacks in Darfur. The United Nations says there are growing tensions along the Chad-Sudan border and both countries have accused each other of backing rebels to overthrow their respective governments. Chadian president Idriss Deby recently threatened to send his armed forces into Sudan to attack rebels he accused Sudan of supporting. The EU troops will be right in the middle of this growing political instability.

Questions over impartiality Irish soldiers have a long and proud record of impartiality and this has helped to ensure that our troops have not been seen as military targets in past missions such as the one in Lebanon. The majority of the EU peacekeeping troops will be French which poses potential problems. Chad and France have a fraught history and Chad is a former French colony. The French are often accused of interfering in Chad's affairs and there is a danger that the French involvement will mean that the impartiality of the troops could be questioned. This could make them the target of attacks by bandits and rebel forces. It is vital that the peace-keeping troops are viewed as being honest brokers, rather than having vested political interests. 00:00:00&keywords=chad&FC=
France's role heightens dangers of Chad mission

Mon, Jan 28, 2008

FRANCE:Irish troops are getting involved in a tangled, dangerous conflict, writes Lara Marlowein Paris

European foreign ministers will formally launch the European Force (EUfor) for Chad and the Republic of Central Africa in Brussels today with a UN mandate to provide security for some 200,000 refugees in eastern Chad. Four hundred of the 3,700 troops will be Irish, and Irish Lieut Gen Pat Nash is to be overall commander of the operation, based at Mont Valérien fort, outside Paris. The force commander on the ground in Chad will be French Maj Gen Jean-Philippe Ganascia.

Despite its European trappings, EUfor remains very much a French operation, the main reason many EU members, including Britain and Germany, did not want to participate. "They fear being manipulated by France," explains Antoine Glaser, the director of the African newsletter La Lettre du Continent. "They're afraid it's an operation with a little European flag and a big French tricolour flapping in the wind."

France originally intended to contribute 1,500 troops to EUfor, but raised that to 2,000 for want of sufficient EU troops. Under Opération Epervier (sparrowhawk), 1,200 French troops have been stationed in Chad for the past 22 years. So by the time EUfor reaches full strength in June, there will be 3,200 French troops in Chad, compared with 1,700 from elsewhere in the EU.

Epervier was originally deployed to stop Libya grabbing territory in Chad. But Tripoli recognised a 1994 decision by the International Court of Justice which gave the disputed Aouzou Strip to Chad. For the past 14 years, says Roland Marchal, an expert on Africa at the Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI), the French presence in Chad has had no legal raison d'être.

So why have the French stayed in Chad? "To support the regime, and because it's a sandbox for the French military," says Marchal. "There are a whole series of reasons that don't add up to a grand political vision, but explain why the French are still there. [The president of Gabon Omar] Bongo and others tell the Élysée that French influence is at stake, that if they lose [ the capital] N'Djamena, the Chinese, Americans or Sudanese will take over."

A promised shift in French policy towards Africa has turned into a muddle. During his election campaign President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated that he would demand respect for human rights in Africa, that the era of neo-colonial policies known as La Francafrique was over, that Africans must take charge of their own destiny.

At the same time, he and the man who would become his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, took up appeals by French intellectuals to "do something" for Darfur.

France's need for a European veneer to its African policy is in part motivated by "deep anti-French feeling," says Glaser. "African youth reject France, which they still accuse of neo-colonialism and of supporting the least democratic and most corrupt leaders on the continent."

The Chadian president, Idriss Déby, came to power in a coup 17 years ago. Without French support, experts agree, he could not remain in power. The French are not blind to Déby's shortcomings, but continue to provide his bodyguards, and train and equip his army. They have scolded him over the recruitment of child soldiers and the fact that he hoards all power and privilege for his Zagawa tribe, which represents 2-3 per cent of the population. "It's a predator regime," says Marchal.

Déby staged flawed elections in 1996 and again in 2001. Fraud was so blatant in the last poll that he promised to carry out a "mandate of reconciliation and preparation for a real transition" and never to stand for re-election. But in 2003, Déby changed the constitution so he could stay in power.

"A lot of Chadians concluded the ballot box didn't work, so they'd have to use weapons," notes Marchal.

In the meantime, the rebellion started in the neighbouring Sudanese province of Darfur in February 2003. Déby had maintained good relations with Khartoum, but after rebels attacked al-Fasher airport in Darfur in 2005, Gen Omar el-Bashir's regime realised the leaders of the attack were Zagawa from across the border in Chad, some of whom had been officers in Déby's army. Henceforward, Déby was their enemy.

Khartoum gives weapons and sanctuary to at least three rebel groups that are trying to overthrow Déby, while Déby provides the same to Sudanese rebels who are fighting for Darfur. These intertwined conflicts are taking place against a background of superpower rivalry. China is pumping half a million barrels of oil each day in Sudan, while the US extracts 200,000 barrels per day in Chad, notes Glaser.

Unless two conditions are met, EUfor's one-year mission will change nothing, predicts Marchal. "There is no such thing as a purely humanitarian intervention. There must be a political objective," he says. Déby has failed to implement the powersharing agreement he made under French and European pressure last August, and as a result fighting worsened in November and December. The other condition is that progress must be made at the same time in Darfur, because "you cannot solve the Chad problem independently of Darfur, and vice-versa," says Marchal.

So far, Déby in Chad and el-Bashir in Sudan have been allowed to dictate the conditions of EU and UN intervention. More pressure must be brought to bear on them, Marchal adds.

"Under no circumstances must Chad be allowed to continue playing the role it's playing in Darfur. Idriss Déby is using groups from Darfur, who are Sudanese, as his proxy militias to fight rebels inside Chad. Then they cross into Darfur and fight Khartoum."

Several thousand European peacekeepers are about to venture into this tangled war. Glaser describes as "total illusion" the idea that Chadian rebels will distinguish between non-French European peacekeepers and President Déby's French saviours.

"Try to explain to a Chadian that the man he sees in fatigues and a beret is Irish, not French, that he's different from the other fellow he sees in fatigues and a beret who's with the Epervier mission. The Irishman can always pull his UN mandate out of his pocket, but if you're a Chadian rebel, you don't see the difference." The real danger will come if EUfor is attacked by Chadian rebels and Opération Epervier steps in to protect them, says Glaser. "France has delivered sophisticated weapons, including Milan [ anti-tank] missiles to Idriss Déby to use against the rebels.

"It could all turn into a messy confusion between France, which shares intelligence and surveillance with the Chadian army, and EUfor. Idriss Déby and EUfor will both be under the protection of the French army."

© 2008 The Irish Times

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