“World’s Deadliest Spot”

Bruce Jones and Michael O’Hanlon call attention to what they call the “world’s deadliest spot” — the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s not exactly news, but you know that if O’Hanlon — who found a niche, during the throes of the Iraq insurgency, in penning op-eds in major papers consistently asserting that the situation was improving — thinks things are going badly, then they really must be.

One major problem: the additional contingent of peacekeepers that the Security Council requested five months ago still have not been deployed. This, in turn, is because the UN still has not received enough offers for these troops. O’Hanlon and Jones:

The United Nations has called for precisely that [increased peacekeeping capability], requesting 3,000 more foreign troops on top of the 17,000 already in the country. But war-weary nations in the West are ignoring the request, leaving it to Egypt, Bangladesh and Jordan to volunteer troops.

None of these nations, alas, has the requisite airlift to deploy the troops, so the mission is still understaffed. And at just this moment, a dispute between President Joseph Kabila of Congo and India’s military command threatens to cause the departure of Indian troops from the U.N. mission, which would hobble the mission at a critical time. [emphasis mine]

The authors go on to advocate a more robust U.S. footprint in providing military assistance to MONUC and in lobbying Europe to offer troops. “Congo is not Darfur,” they argue, and the Congolese government has not objected fervently, as Sudan’s has, to the inclusion of European peacekeepers.

U.S. and European troops — and especially supplies and logistical assistance — would be welcome, of course, but we should not be picky in where MONUC peacekeepers come from. What we should be picky about is making sure that the force’s joint operations with the Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan governments follow established humanitarian principles. And just because it is facing a shortage of troops, that isn’t reason for MONUC to turn to an indicted war criminal; the involvement of Bosco “the Terminator” Ntaganda in these operations should be clarified and made public.