Published on September 25th, 2013 | by admin


Ensuring Operational Effectiveness

With Irish personnel serving alongside peacekeepers from other nations in Lebanon, Kosovo, Somalia and now Mali, the concept of cooperation as a tool in building mission capability is now a reality. Major General James talks to SIGNAL about the capabilities that the Defence Forces bring to multinational missions and why the joint deployment with UK Forces in Mali is built upon decades of experience serving alongside other nations on missions around the globe.

The Mali mission is the second such operation that the Defence Forces have contributed to in recent years – EUTM Somalia and now Mali. Is this a completely new concept of peace support by the EU and if so what are the policy drivers?

The ongoing UN Mandated Training Missions in Somalia and Mali are indicative of the EU’s integration of military capabilities into the comprehensive approaches being taken by the EU towards the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. This reflects the EU’s (and indeed NATO’s) increasing reliance on the ‘Comprehensive Approach’ in the development of regional strategies. In the case of EUTM Somalia, for example, the establishment of a military training mission was coherent with the EU’s political, diplomatic, economic and developmental approaches to the region and with the work being done by other EU missions in the area (Op ATALANTA, EUCAP NESTOR1).

This policy is indicative of the generally accepted view that there are no longer any purely military problems in crisis management, and that there are certainly no purely military solutions in these types of crises. This comprehensive approach has been a fundamental tenet of EU foreign policy for some years, and was at the heart of the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS), following the Treaty of Lisbon.

While the EU retains the option of deploying military forces for crisis management missions under a robust mandate (for example in CHAD/CAR, where the mission was to establish a Safe and Secure Environment), the provision of training for military forces has the advantage that it allows the EU to facilitate the host nation to help itself; in the case of Mali, it is intended to help the Malian authorities to reassert national sovereignty and to develop its own military capabilities. It also serves as a method of fostering the host nation’s efforts to improve its human rights, gender rights and other development capacities.

Considering this is the first time the Defence Forces have deployed on a mission on a joint basis with UK Armed Forces Personnel, and bearing in mind the modest commitment to the mission, do you envisage that this could signal further joint deployments with UK troops and increased levels of cooperation?
All Defence Forces deployments to overseas missions are firstly a policy matter and are therefore a matter for the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs in consultation with the General Staff.

The EUTM MALI mission is the first time the Defence Forces have embarked on a mission as part of a joint contingent with UK Armed Forces and is, as such, of historically significant, but the Defence Forces have deployed abroad on a range of such missions with other partner nations in the past. In East Timor (UNTAET), an Irish Platoon served with a New Zealand Battalion. In Liberia (UNIMIL) we had a joint Irish-Swedish Battalion, in EUFOR (Chad) we had a joint Irish-Finnish Unit, and a joint Irish-Dutch Unit. Again in Lebanon we have had 2 separate joint Irish-Finnish Units in UNIFIL since 2006. So for a small Defence Forces these joint Units allow us to operate more readily in Peace Support Operations. In the case of the EU Battlegroups, the Defence Forces have contributed to Units with five and sometimes six other EU Member States contingents in the one Battlegroup. With regard to future joint missions with the UK, all Defence Forces Missions are approached on a case-by-case basis, and never from a purely geopolitical or national relationships position. In the first case the nature of the Mission, National Defence Policy requirements and the Military requirements must be assessed, before the issue of contingent partnerships (or not) are considered. The Defence Forces will approach and plan for each potential mission as a separate entity, taking into account proposed partnerships where appropriate, and would not exclude any realistic partnerships with military from another EU Member State.

In the end such arrangements are as always a matter for Government decision. In the matter of potential enhanced military/security Cooperation between Ireland and the UK in future PSOs, our defence Cooperation is largely framed within the EU Pooling and Sharing Programme and structure, and any initiatives or synergies are progressed with our EU partners in general, again not placing any special emphasis on a particular bi-lateral or multi-lateral relationship. There are obvious benefits and efficiencies for the Defence Forces in co-operating with the UK Armed Forces on possible future PSOs (Training, Logistics, Common Language, etc.), but again it will be a matter upon which the Government will decide.

Do you think that any benefits could be had from standardising equipment and procedures between both military forces?

There is already a significant degree of interoperability in terms of equipment, ammunition natures, operational procedures and training between the Defence Forces and the British Army. This has arisen primarily out of our membership of NATO/Partnership for Peace (PfP) and our participation in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Defence Forces personnel routinely participate in courses in UK institutions and this is reciprocated.

In the context of the procurement of operational equipment, the Defence Forces are guided by the 10-Year Equipment Development Plan, which is an agreed basis between the Defence Forces and Department of Defence for procurement of major items of defensive equipment for the period 2009–2018. While this plan is subject to constant review given the changing nature of the security environment and the availability of adequate funding, the fundamental aspiration of acquiring, maintaining and managing equipment, weapons and ammunition for the Defence Forces at the appropriate level of operational readiness remains paramount. Within this principle lies the necessity to maintain interoperability with other EU member states and NATO/PfP partners.

Are there opportunities within the European Defence Agency (EDA) to progress military capabilities and standardisation in a more cost effective manner?

There is no doubt that opportunities exist for the EDA to progress military capabilities and standardisation in the context of its various projects. Given the constraints on the EDA’s own budget and those of the Member States, the issue of cost effectiveness remains a high priority. This aspect is one of the main drivers in the EU’s Pooling and Sharing (P and S) initiative, in which the EDA is heavily involved. While the recent financial crisis has placed particular emphasis on this area, the idea of saving costs by working together at the European level is not new. Even before the financial crisis, the EDA was working together with the Members States, its European Institutional partners and the European Defence Industry to develop effective and cost-efficient solutions to Europe’s capability requirements. Once again, there are similarities with work being done by the North Atlantic Alliance, where the P and S process is matched by NATO’s ongoing ‘Smart Defence’ and ‘Connected Forces’ initiatives.

In terms of the Defence Forces current overseas commitments, what effect/impact in terms of resources do these missions have on the Defence Forces?

The Defence Forces development of capabilities follow the tasks as laid out in the White Paper on Defence (2000), part of which is a commitment to serving in UN-mandated PSO missions abroad. While it has always been the experience (and aspiration) to have a major unit deployed on an overseas mission, most of the overseas missions consist of military observers or staff appointments in mission HQs. Therefore, it could be argued that the greatest resource that the Defence Forces contribute is its personnel.

Occasionally, a Government decision to commit a large troop deployment to a mission such as MINURCAT (Chad/CAR) can draw significantly on domestic resources. However, the Defence Forces inventory of equipment and supplies has been capable of committing and sustaining such deployments, while maintaining a sufficient degree of preparedness for domestic tasks.

How would you categorise the nature of the transformation that the Defence Forces has undergone over recent years and what effect has this reorganisation had on the military?

The Defence Forces reorganisation and transformation reflects a pragmatic and considered approach to the current fiscal environment. It is founded on the realities of our mission, our military teaching and our capabilities. Through this reorganisation and ongoing transformation we are fit for purpose and poised to develop our readiness and capabilities levels.

Considering the current financial situation, are small scale training missions likely to be more common for the Defence Forces in future?
As stated, certainly there are indications that the EU currently favours military operations of this type, and with its long experience in crisis management, Ireland is particularly suited to this type of mission. The relatively small size of training contingents and the low equipment footprint also suits our current financial constraints.

What capabilities could the Defence Forces contribute to the suggested follow-on peace support force in Mali?

The Defence Forces have considerable experience of deployments in Africa, both in the context of deployment as part of an EU led Force as in EUFOR CHAD/CAR, and in UN missions as in UNMIL. In both of these missions the Defence Forces has provided a mechanised infantry unit, with ISTAR2 and limited direct and indirect fire support. Given the nature of these assets, and assuming a UN context, the Defence Forces are particularly suited to roles where we can provide mobile, flexible and effective support to ground holding formations.

1. EUCAP NESTOR is a regional training mission under preparation, which aims at strengthening the maritime capacities of eight countries in the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean.
Op ATALANTA: Operation Atalanta, also known as European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU-NAVFOR-ATALANTA), is a current military operation undertaken by the European Naval Force to combat acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia.
2. Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance

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