[ Hmmm … –BL ]
US mulls 75,000-strong foreign peace force
WASHINGTON — US officials are mulling plans to create a 75,000-member international peacekeeping force to intervene in trouble spots around the globe, two senior officials with the George W. Bush administration said Thursday.
“What we envision is about a 75,000-person force starting in Africa for training …. people to be available for peacekeeping,” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a House of Representatives committee.
The pricetag for the program would be “about 100 million dollars the first year and 660 million dollars over the five-year life of this program,” which initially would be financed about 80 percent by the US Defense Department and 20 percent by the State Department, Armitage testified.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations that the force could intervene in countries such as Sudan, where civil war has led to the displacement of thousands of people, and along with other world hot spots.
“This is an initiative designed to train other country’s forces, so that when peacekeeping requirements come up, as they did recently in Liberia or as we’re facing one in Haiti today, there are more capable foreign forces to draw, on — so that we’re not constantly turning to our military for tasks that could be performed by others.”
Wolfowitz stressed that the thrust of the efforts would be peacekeeping.
“They are, by definition, missions that don’t involve the kind of combat that our forces can do and do very well,” he said.
“We think this is an important initiative is to build capacity so that when there is a desire to accomplish something … we don’t automatically have to turn to American forces, who have enormous stresses on them,” Wolfowitz said.
One lawmaker expressed reservations however, saying similar programs attempted in the past have a dismal track record.
“I think we spent roughly about 100 million dollars starting in 1997 on the African contingency operation’s training and assistance program. It’s almost nothing that we got from that,” said Republican Representative Mark Kirk.
“There are countries that contribute troops that are worthwhile and then there are countries that are completely useless,” the Illinois lawmaker said.
“We like to have them on the wall, like we had in Bosnia, so that their flag pictures are up and we look really multinational. But they offer zero capability.
“I worry about this global peace operations initiative — 660 million dollars. We can spend a ton of money, but they will offer zero net capabilities to a peacekeeping operation.”