Academic journal article Military Review

A New Way to Wage Peace: US Support to Operation Stabilise

Academic journal article Military Review

A New Way to Wage Peace: US Support to Operation Stabilise

Article excerpt

East Timor represents the past, present and future of US Army operations. Worldwide deployments were a hallmark of 20th-century operations, and peacekeeping missions have dominated the past decade In the coming years, support to coalitions may become the new paradigm as the US military leaves leadership roles to other countries. Collier reports on the Army's deployment in a surprising direction and its participation in successful multinational operations.

AS THE UNITED STATES GROWS increasingly weary of taking the lead in peace operations, it may prefer providing discrete support to ally-led coalitions. For a small, succinct and inconspicuous mission, successful US support to the Australian-led Operation Stabilise could have a greater influence than its obscurity would otherwise indicate.

The island of Timor lies near the eastern end of the Malay Archipelago, roughly 350 miles north of Darwin, Australia. East Timor was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years until the Portuguese dismantled their empire and abruptly left in mid1975. Indonesia filled the vacuum, invading East Timor on 7 December 1975. Since then, the often-- bloody and internationally ignored campaign has continued between independence-seeking guerrillas and the Indonesian military (TNI). In the 1990s international awareness began to grow as details of the conflict's more horrific atrocities reached Western news organizations. Indonesia faced mounting international criticism and threats of economic sanctions for its uneven stewardship of East Timor.1

The conflict boiled over on 30 August 1999 ofter the results of a United Nations (UN)-sponsored referendum became public. The people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly to reject Indonesian rule in favor of independence. Supported by elements of the Indonesian army, local militia groups immediately began a rampage throughout East Timor. Unable to control the situation and with international pressure mounting, the Indonesian government reluctantly agreed to allow a UN-authorized force to enter East Timor.

On 15 September 1999 the UN authorized the creation of International Force-East Timor (INTERFET). Requesting support from other nations, Australia volunteered to take the lead and provide the bulk of the troops. INTERFET's mandate from UN Security Council Resolution 1264 was to restore peace and security in East Timor; protect and support the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), the organization tasked with administering the referendum; and within force capabilities, provide humanitarian assistance.2

When the first Australian and coalition units arrived on 20 September, much of East Timor lay in smoldering ruins. News reports showed block after block of burned-out buildings in the capital, Dili. Most of the terrified populace had either retreated into the hills or been rounded up and sent across the border either into Indonesian-controlled West Timor or neighboring islands. The press frequently reported that as many as 300,000 people had fled East Timor-out of a population of 850,000-and that most of those who remained were in the hills starving, too scared of the militia to return to the cities. Rumors abounded of Balkan-- style atrocities. As many as 30,000 were reported killed in the three-week rampage.3

Forming US Forces INTERFET

On the same day that the UN authorized INTERFET, US President William J. Clinton established US Forces INTERFET (USFI). Clinton said that "a few hundred [personnel], in a clearly supportive capacity would deploy."4 The United States would provide logistics, intelligence, communications, civil affairs, and operations and planning augmentees for the INTERFET staff.5

Commander in Chief, US Forces Pacific, Admiral Dennis Blair directed the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) to establish a headquarters for USFI in Darwin.6 Blair designated US Marine Brigadier General John G Castellaw as commander, US Forces INTERFET. …

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