by Major Barthelemy Diouf, Senegalese Army
After the Somalia crisis in 1992, African leaders, in a meeting of the Organization of African Unity, agreed that it was time for the continent to take charge of its own security. However, other than Nigeria and South Africa, none of the countries south of the Sahara were economically capable of supporting a projected military force for a long period of time.
To assist African nations in assuming greater responsibility for their own regional security, developed Western nations agreed to provide the necessary support for peace operations. To demonstrate their resolve, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent a force to Liberia in 1993 to bring peace and organize democratic elections. The United States provided the logistics support for the Senegalese regiment in that operation.
|Senegal is located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa.|
With the idea of ensuring peace on the African continent, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, while traveling in Congo in 1996, proposed the idea of "working with armies in African nations, creating a peacekeeping force that would operate under standard procedures, and would be equipped to handle missions outside of their own countries." This idea evolved into the African Crisis Reaction Initiative (ACRI).
The goal of the ACRI is to train and equip a force of 10 to 12 infantry battalions and 4 to 6 special companiesa total of 10,000 to 12,000 menthat will be able to operate together during contingencies. The ACRI partner nations decide to deploy the ACRI force following a request from the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, or a regional organization like ECOWAS. The United States provides financial assistance to equip and train units in selected African countries.
For the moment, the ACRI is limited to training personnel in peacekeeping operations and convoy security. However, if a major crisis occurred on the African continent, the current economic situations of the ACRI partner nations would not permit their respective armies to project a force and sustain it. If the United States wants to ensure peace in Africa, I believe that it must make a long-term commitment to the transportation and logistics support of African forces.
|Soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Senegal Army train for their mission in Sierra Leone under a U.S. Special Forces instructor.|
In order to create an efficient plan for supporting the projection of the ACRI forces and their required logistics support, the U.S. Army must recognize the logistics factors that limit the capabilities of West African armies to project a force; the effects of infrastructure deficiencies on the ability of West African states to deploy and to conduct reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSO&I) operations; and the challenges of sustaining an ACRI force.
Other than Nigeria, none of the armies in
ECOWAS has the strategic transportation capability to project
brigade-sized forces and sustain them for at least 6 months. In reality, the logistics concepts and structures of the armies in West Africa are not configured for force projection. Above all, the economic circumstances of those countries do not allow their governments to equip armies for a force-projection mission.
Western European countries such as France and Great Britain influenced the organization of the armies in West Africa. The support concepts conceived since the independence of many African countries in the1960s have not changed. The ordnance, quartermaster, engineer, health, and signal functions constitute the combat serv-ice support units of those countries. Each of those functions is a separate directorate that supports the Army, Air Force, and Navy. There is no unity of command at the operational and tactical levels for logistics support of combat forces above the battalion. Combat service support units are tailored for Army operations.
The limited capacity of West African armies for RSO&I is not due solely to a lack of qualified personnel in robust combat service support organizations. These armies also lack adequate materials-handling equipment (MHE) and large-capacity trucks. During the 1993 operation in Liberia, pallets of supplies received from the United States by the Senegalese Army had to be broken down, put on 2½-ton trucks, and stored. If transshipment was required, the same supplies were collected again, transferred by hand, and palletized. All of those operations were performed manually because the Senegalese Army lacked compatible MHE and large-capacity trucks.
The strategic mobility needed for force projection
depends on airlift and sealift capabilities. The air forces
in West African countries are equipped mainly with
aircraft that have a very limited cargo capacity, like
the Fokker F27, which can transport only a platoon and
its combat load of ammunition. Their navies also do
not have adequate military ships for large logistics
operations. Some countries, like Senegal, have one or
two infantry landing craft that can each carry one
battalion with its combat load or one armored troop with its
In short, the West African armies are not organized and equipped for projecting forces out of their own countries. Their air forces and navies do not have the aircraft and ships needed to perform significant logistics operations. If the United States wants the African states to take charge of their own security according to the ACRI concept, it must agree to provide all of the transportation needed to get the African forces to the field on time and when needed. When making that commitment, the United States must understand that African armies are not equipped with adequate MHE. Packaging and palletizing may differ from typical U.S. standards.
Army equipment and organization are not the only factors that affect force projection. Infrastructure, such as airfields, ports, roads, and railroads, must be available to support the deployment and RSO&I of African forces.
|U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers help load boxes of military attire that will be issued to the 1st Infantry Battalion of the Senegal Army. The Senegalese soldiers were participating in Operation Focus Relief II, during which U.S. Special Forces trained the Senegal Army on new equipment so they would be ready for peacekeeping duty in Sierra Leone.|
Peacekeeping is a joint mission that requires forces to deploy from power-projection platforms within their own countries. Typically, most troops travel by air while the majority of equipment is transported by sea. All large-scale deployments consist of three distinct and interrelated deployment segments. These are fort to port, port to port, and port to foxhole. Each segment directly affects the others and influences the entire deployment.
Airfields that serve as airports of debarkation and embarkation, along with en route airfields that support flights, normally determine the airflow into a theater of operations. Each ACRI partner nation has at least one airport where heavy aircraft, such as C-5 and C-141 transports, can land and receive adequate assistance. However, servicing these airfields is a challenge. The West African air forces assist with flight operations. However, private companies may manage the technical equipment. To unload materiel received by strategic aircraft, for instance, the Senegalese Army has requested the assistance of Air Africa. At times, the unloading process may be interrupted because the MHE is needed to support civilian flight operations.
In some cases, hostile forces can occupy an airport and deny its use to ACRI forces. In 1993, C-5, C-17, and C-141 aircraft used by the U.S. Army to sustain the Senegalese regiment in Liberia could not be sent to Monrovia, Liberia's capital, because the rebels controlled the international airport for a few months. Only C-130 aircraft could land on the small airport controlled by friendly forces.
Port infrastructure includes MHE, longshoremen, terminal pipelines, storage facilities, and terminal railways. Barges and waterways often can support the movement of materiel. Countries along the Atlantic coast of Africa have adequate port facilities for receiving heavy equipment. The sea transportation infrastructure in West Africa has many of the same deficiencies associated with the region's air transportation infrastructure, such as lack of sufficient MHE.
Land transportation infrastructure consists of two primary elements: roads and railroads. The lines of communication in West African countries will not facilitate forward movement. The road network in West Africa cannot support heavy traffic like that required by U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. Roads around main cities are serviceable, but they are not large enough for certain heavy major end items. The rail transportation network can transport large quantities of goods in a reasonable time and often at a low price. The principal difficulty is the transportation of heavy equipment. Ninety percent of the railroads are not equipped with loading and unloading infrastructure for major items like trucks, tanks, and engineer equipment. Many railroad stations are not equipped with a loading area for these types of heavy materiel.
Public-service buses can be found in urban areas. The private sector also can provide transportation services. Host nation governments probably will not provide public-service buses for extended periods because that would paralyze transport systems within their cities. The best solution to this problem might be to contract in the private sector.
In summary, adequate infrastructure exists in main cities in West Africa. Each nation's capital has at least one airport where strategic aircraft can land. Coastal countries can provide adequate seaports. However, private companies manage all the support in airports and seaports and support commercial flights and ships; they will consider their commercial interests ahead of military interests. The use of land transportation infrastructure will be limited by the quality of the roads. The rail and road capacities are very limited for heavy equipment. Light forces are better adapted to the terrain. Host nation support will be very limited for commercial vehicles. The United States should plan on providing the resources required for force projection.
While addressing U.S. and Senegalese soldiers during ACRI training at Thiès, Senegal, President Bill Clinton stated, "ACRI is to provide peacekeeping training and nonlethal equipment to African soldiers, with the goal of helping African nations to prepare their military units, led by African commanders, to respond quickly and effectively to humanitarian and peacekeeping challenges in Africa and around the world." The West African armies have the skills they need to accomplish a peacekeeping mission. However, they require training for cohesion because not all of the countries have the same doctrine. Their main difficulty is logistics support for a projected force.
Like the Senegalese regiment in Liberia in 1993, army partners of the ACRI will expect to receive class IV (construction and barrier materials), V (ammunition), VII (major end items), and IX (repair parts) support from the United States during contingency operations. Classes IV, V, and VII probably will be delivered at the beginning of a mission. Since repair parts for U.S. equipment are hard to find in West Africa, class IX supplies should be delivered with the major items and requisitioned as needed during a mission. The documentation required to requisition desired repair parts and perform maintenance must be readily available.
The logisticians who process the requisitions have to be trained to understand the U.S. logistics supply system. They also need to know what items are available and can be delivered. For example, the Senegalese regiment in Liberia requested some unavailable rocket launchers, while the M203 rifle grenade launcher was available and better suited to their mission. This was due to a lack of knowledge of what the U.S. Army was willing to provide.
All U.S. support will be in vain if the African armies do not perform required maintenance. In 1993, the Senegalese regiment went to Liberia equipped for the first time with M1008 cargo trucks; however, no one was trained to maintain those vehicles. Two years later, 60 percent of the trucks were not mission capable.
The armies in West Africa have limited experience with supporting U.S. weapon systems. African personnel must be trained in the U.S. Army support system and in the maintenance of U.S. equipment fielded to them. The present ACRI program does not provide training for technicians because the United States has not committed itself to sustain the ACRI forces in case of engagement. If we wait until a crisis happens, it will be too late. The African partner nations and the U.S. Department of State should study this issue. At the least, countries expecting to receive U.S. equipment must start training with the minimum materiel on hand.
The West African nations that take part in the ACRI have the knowledge and skills to operate convoys and create secure environments. However, the organization and equipment of their armies does not allow them to project a force out of their own territories. If the United States wants to achieve the goals set for the ACRI, it must commit to providing the transportation and sustainment necessary to project the force in case of contingencies. The West African countries should use light rather than heavy U.S. equipment because of their limited lines of communication. The United States should plan to provide its own support when needed because host nation support will be very limited for transporting and providing repair parts for U.S. equipment. West African ACRI partner nations should train their logisticians on the use of the U.S. Army supply system and have their maintenance personnel qualified to repair U.S. equipment.
The African continent will not be developed until there is peace in all of its countries. The ACRI goal is to have a force ready to maintain peace and conduct humanitarian missions where and when needed, so that tragedies like Rwanda will not happen again. The African states do not have the economic capacity to achieve this future alone. Developed countries like the United States must take the necessary actions to get African military peacekeeping personnel and adequate materiel on site at the right time. If not, the millions of dollars spent for training 10,0000 to 12,0000 African personnel since 1996 will have been wasted. ALOG
Major Barthelemy Diouf is an officer in the Senegalese Army. This article is adapted from a paper he prepared while attending the Logistics Executive Development Course at the Army Logistics Management College at Fort Lee, Virginia.