A European Union military force deploying in Chad’s eastern borderlands became operational on Monday, starting a one-year mission to protect refugees, civilians and humanitarian operations.
The force, called EUFOR, is expected eventually to have 3,700 troops from more than a dozen European countries. France, the former colonial power in Chad, is providing half the troops.
“The equipment and units currently available allow us to declare that EUFOR has achieved its initial operational capacity,” the EU force said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Even beyond the daunting task of protecting a half million refugees and displaced persons in a still-bubbling war zone, EUFOR faces significant operational challenges. It has already lost one French soldier, killed by the Sudanese military last month. Its neutrality is questioned by both the Sudanese government and Chadian rebels, and Chadian president Idriss Deby welcomes the force, but probably only inasmuch as it seems to provide support for his beleaguered regime.
Despite these dangers, the relative speed of EUFOR’s deployment — at least compared to that of the UN force scheduled to deploy in neighboring Darfur over two months ago — is welcome, and it should bring much-needed relief to those displaced in eastern Chad.
In a report to the Security Council on Tuesday, the Secretary General outlined two possible peacekeeping options for eastern Chad, where the spillover from the conflict in Darfur is threatening the lives of refugees and civilians caught in the crossfire.
From Edith Lederer of the Associated Press:
“Ban proposed two possible military options for Chad – a 6,000-strong force backed by 20 helicopters and an observation aircraft and a 10,900-strong force backed by 11 helicopters and two observation aircraft. He also proposed that some 800 Chadian police be loaned to a U.N. peacekeeping operation to help protect a dozen refugee camps and key towns where Chadians have fled, along with 260 international police.”
Ban did not request outright that the Security Council approve such a mission. But if the Council does decide to send peacekeepers to Chad, one would have to worry about over-taxing UN peacekeeping. As was written in the most recent installment of the UNF Insights essay series, the demand for peacekeeping is outpacing the availability of resources to implement Security Council dictates. Without the requisite financial and logistical support from member states, the United Nations would be hard-pressed to find peacekeepers to form a new force in Chad.