After years of trying to minimize U.S. participation in peacekeeping operations, the Bush administration is embarking upon an ambitious effort to improve the ability of the military services--and related civilian agencies--to conduct such missions as part of its global war on terrorism.
At press time, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was preparing to issue a new directive spelling out how his department would plan, train, conduct and support peacekeeping assignments, which the Pentagon prefers to call stability operations.
"Stability operations connote something different from traditional peacekeeping missions," Jeffrey Nadaner, deputy assistant defense secretary for stability operations, told National Defense. "They are more than UN blue helmets manning border checkpoints."
Since it was created after World War II, the United Nations has conducted 48 peacekeeping operations. Such missions typically have involved lightly armed uniformed observers monitoring a ceasefire between two warring parties, with little authority to intervene.
In contrast, stability operations, as defined by the Defense Department, are conducted, at least in part, by robust, combat-equipped military units that can use whatever force is necessary to end fighting and restore a functioning society in a war-torn region, Nadaner said.
Although Rumsfeld has yet to sign the proposed directive, it already "has launched a huge process within the Department of Defense and all of its components," Nadaner noted. All of the services, regional combatant commands, U.S. Joint Forces Command and Special Operations Command are scrambling to figure out their roles in such missions, he said. The Defense Department has been doing stability operations for at least 15 years, but "we need to do them better," he explained.
"Stability operations need to receive a similar priority as major combat operations. That involves developing a set of metrics for measuring bow to flesh out contingency plans for stability operations, just like we have for combat scenarios."
Among the issues that planners are studying is what percentage of officers should have training in certain languages, Nadaner said. Military units need to be able to operate immediately in almost any culture, he noted. "Before 9/11, one could never have imagined U.S. troops in Afghanistan."
In addition, the department is considering whether the uniformed services need to create whole new units dedicated to peacekeeping. One National Defense University proposal calls for converting two active-duty Army divisions into fulltime stabilization and reconstruction units. These organizations would include military police, engineer, medical, civil affairs and psychological operations units--all of which have been in high demand for peacekeeping operations--long with a medium-weight Stryker brigade.
Nadaner, however, doesn't think that is a good idea. "My thinking is that creating specialized units could be very costly and not create the capabilities that you need in stability operations," he said.
A former Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Charles C. Krulak, once said that the United States needs to be able to fight a three-block war, Nadaner noted, with one block engaged in heavy combat, another in stability operations and a third in recovery.
"I think the United States needs an all-utility force. Troops should be very adaptable. It would serve the nation very well if they had more stability-operations training, but when they are deployed, they have to be ready for combat. In today's environment, there is no front or rear."
The Bush administration also has become convinced that stability operations require a stronger effort from U.S. civilian agencies. (see related story)
The shift toward stability operations is a big change of direction for this administration, which came into office resisting the idea of using U. …