Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Preparing for Operations Other Than War: How Equipped Is the SANDF to Deal with "Soft Missions"? *

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Preparing for Operations Other Than War: How Equipped Is the SANDF to Deal with "Soft Missions"? *

Article excerpt

Armed forces across the world are increasingly deployed in operations where they are required not to fight, but to protect, help and save. Yet, most are still trained primarily for warfighting. Thus, the question is whether the education, training and development SANDF officers receive matches the numerous tasks they are expected to fulfil, given their extensive deployment in military operations other than war. A survey conducted among SANDF officers indicates that whilst their training largely fits such missions, certain difficulties and shortcomings are experienced with respect to their education and mental preparation for these missions. Other problems relate to the sustainment of forces in terms of equipment, logistics and administration, partly due to budgetary constraints, but also due to the fact that the military is still staffed, equipped and trained for conventional roles. Besides these concerns, HIV/AIDS is seen as another factor that will impact on the SANDF's ability to deal with the wide range o f issues it is tasked to contend with.


During the past decade, referred to as the post-Cold War period, the armed forces of most Western democracies have been used for what has been called "interventions of a policing type". These have ranged from classic peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, through more muscular peace enforcement operations abroad, to rendering assistance to police in controlling mass immigration, ethnic conflicts, urban terror and criminal activities within their own territories. All these missions have two things in common -- firstly, they take place within the civil society of the own or another country; and secondly, they are non-war fighting military missions. In South Africa, it is precisely in these non-traditional military roles that armed forces have been historically and are presently deployed.

The question is whether the armed forces are the proper instrument for handling these kinds of policing operations in and out of area. The classic task of armed forces is national defence. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996), Article 200 (2) for example states that the primary object of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) "is to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force". The first and primary role of the SANDF is defence against external aggression and it is for this core function that it is funded, structured, trained and equipped. However, it is for its secondary functions, to defend and protect its people in accordance with the Constitution and principles of international law, that the SANDF is most operational.

A growing tension appears to be developing on whether the execution of these secondary roles with the collateral utility derived from the primary function, is sound logic. The following questions arise: "Are the armed forces adequately trained, equipped and prepared for these secondary roles, where they are asked not to fight, but to protect, help and save?" (1) "Are they able to deal with the entire spectrum of potential tasks associated with these soft missions?" "Should the SANDF continue to do as present, train for war and then down-train for missions which require a more restrained use of force?" (2) "How do soldiers experience these missions -- do they find it difficult to adjust, or are the skills and qualities required in conventional operations equally applicable to operations other than war?"

This leads to the question: "How equipped is the SANDF to deal with these soft missions?" To answer this, all the components that contribute towards the effective execution of these missions need to be considered. These include, firstly, force preparation, namely the education, training and development (ETD) members receive for such missions; secondly, the force employment component, namely the extent of current deployments in operations other than war (OOTW) and the challenges these missions pose for members on the ground; and thirdly, the aspect of force sustainment, for no matter how prepared the forces are, without the necessary support no mission can be effectively executed. …

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