Constabulary Forces and Postconflict Transition: The Euro-Atlantic Dimension

By Armitage, David T., Jr.; Moisan, Anne M. | Strategic Forum, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Constabulary Forces and Postconflict Transition: The Euro-Atlantic Dimension


Armitage, David T., Jr., Moisan, Anne M., Strategic Forum


Key Points

There is a growing need for an international paramilitary police force that can fill the security gap between the end of military combat, peace support, relief operations, and the start of restoration of civil authority.

Several governments of the European Union, drawing on longstanding paramilitary national police forces, are creating a multinational European Gendarmerie Force (EGF), which could fill some of the security gap. With a permanent headquarters based in Italy, the EGF would act as light expeditionary forces, configured to serve both as keepers of public order (so-called substitution missions) and as advisers and trainers of local police (strengthening missions).

The United States needs to consider the best way to develop these kinds of capabilities, which it does not possess today. While the American military should retain its multi-mission character, the U.S. objective should be a mix of capabilities that allow for a seamless shift from ground combat to operations of a law enforcement character.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union should establish liaison and training relationships that allow for regular military forces, constabulary forces, and civilian police and law enforcement officials to explore techniques, training, and procedures for stabilization missions that permit adoption of best practices and facilitate coordination, cooperation, and planning.

Since the early 1990s, multinational stabilization efforts in the wake of conflicts or major natural disasters have repeatedly encountered problems in filling the so-called security gap. In places such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, outside interveners have faced a compelling need to use specialized capabilities that can fill the gap between the point where military operations--whether for combat, peacekeeping, or counterinsurgency--leave off and community-based policing activities pick up. In particular, ensuring a capacity to manage and defuse civil disturbances and other threats to public order has become a sine qua non for overall mission success. (1)

A number of European countries--most notably France, Italy, and Spain, but also Portugal and the Netherlands--have long possessed such capacities via their well-established national constabulary services. But the United States has not made comparable investments in this kind of capability for its own needs and consequently has been slow to embrace this requirement in overseas venues. Nonetheless, pressures are growing to embrace creatively the necessary transformational shifts in U.S. military organization, doctrine, equipping, and training. Among other groups, the prestigious U.S. Defense Science Board documented the inadequacy of U.S. postconflict capabilities in detail in its seminal 2004 study, Transition To and From Hostilities. (2)

American consideration of European capabilities in this area has often been subordinated to policy reservations regarding the European Union's (EU's) nascent European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), the quasi-operational European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF), and low European defense spending. When it comes to avoiding unintended duplication with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), such concerns are understandable. Yet it would be unfortunate if Washington overlooked a unique and valuable European contribution in providing this intermediary support to postconflict stabilization--in essence, filling the gap between what are not quite combat operations and yet not exactly peacekeeping activities as traditionally defined by the United Nations.

This essay explores the factors that give rise to the need for constabulary capabilities in fragile postconflict settings, assesses EU efforts to develop greater capacities via the newly formed European Gendarmerie Force (EGF), discusses the implications of these developments for U. …

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