14 October 1997


(Pentagon's Kern describes FTX to lawmakers) (1000)

By Jim Fisher-Thompson

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- A top Pentagon official October 8 told Congress that the
recent successful completion of a joint training operation in Africa
by military units from several sub-Saharan African nations validates
the concept of an all-African peacekeeping force being promoted by the
Clinton administration.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Vincent Kern
II reported to the House Africa Subcommittee, holding hearings on the
African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), that 60-day training
sessions in peacekeeping methods in Senegal and Uganda were recently
capped by a joint operation called a Field Training Exercise (FTX).

Kern described a high level of cooperation and expertise achieved
among the African units as they practiced security and logistical
support for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to provide
food and medical relief to people in a simulated crisis situation.

According to the official, the FTX was a complete success and showed
that "training in the field is achieving the goal of the ACRI, which
is to enhance the peacekeeping capabilities of African nations so that
they can participate in further international operations in Africa and

ACRI was first proposed as a formal U.S.-African partnership to
prevent or help resolve violent conflicts by former Secretary of State
Warren Christopher during a visit to Africa last October. After almost
a year of consulting with African nations and allies such as Britain,
France, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and Canada,
the Clinton administration set aside $35 million to implement the
partnership initiative from September 1996 to October 1998.

Kern was quick to point out to the Africa Subcommittee that "ACRI is a
training initiative." And he emphasized that "we do not intend to
create a standing African force and we are not providing training to
create elite forces for instability."

Asked by Africa Subcommittee Chairman Ed Royce if "by upgrading
African military efficiency," the ACRI was not creating potential coup
makers for the future, Kern acknowledged that remote possibility but
added, "We have been very careful" to ensure that the units are
trained within the U.N. peacekeeping framework, emphasizing human

In addition, he added, "We have also been careful to pick countries
where there is a firmly rooted sense of civilian control of the

Noting that it is absolutely essential that "there be African
ownership of the initiative," Kern told the lawmakers that the recent
FTXs seemed to confirm that objective.

Interoperability, or the integration of similar equipment, supplies,
and methods, is the cornerstone to cooperation among foreign military
units, Kern pointed out. He noted that the United States helped to
ensure interoperability during the 60-day ACRI training period by
providing equipment such as hand-held radios, water purification sets,
uniforms, boots, mine detection gear, laptop computers, and

Kern explained that the "scenario" or hypothetical crisis established
in the FTX was "for the battalions to be involved in a [U.N.] Chapter
6 operation conducted in a fictitious country torn by political and
ethnic tensions." Chapter 6 of the U.N. Charter refers to the use of
security units in facilitating humanitarian and peacemaking
operations, whereas Chapter 7 involves the use of combined military
forces to respond to and deter international aggression.

The battalions' missions, he said, included "monitoring buffer zones
between the factions and providing an environment for negotiations. In
both cases we involved the local populace as role players and as
recipients of actual medical and civil affairs assistance."

In both the Senegalese and Ugandan FTXs, Kern said, "we sought and
achieved transparency [openness]. The training was visited by
congressional staff and was covered by journalists from Africa and

Foreign military attaches were also encouraged to observe the FTX, the
official added, which was particularly the case in Senegal, where
Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, and
Cape Verde all sent observers.

Kern said that in Uganda the ACRI concept was summed up by a British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reporter, who said: "This is something
positive for Africa." When he was informed that the overall price tag
for the initiative was $15 million, Kern said, the reporter seemed
surprised and asked: "How much does Bosnia cost?"

One departure from traditional FTXs, Kern pointed out, was the
inclusion of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the process,
which made the training in peacekeeping much more realistic. "In both
nations, civil/military operations centers were set up" in the
countryside, where they practiced relief and security functions with
NGOs and local authorities.

The World Food Program (WFP) representative in Uganda admitted that
she and her colleagues had some reservations regarding their
participation in the FTX," Kern said. But later "she said she was
pleasantly surprised" at the good working relations they had with the
African ACRI detachment commander who guarded their food relief convoy
-- a part of the exercise -- and "his eagerness to include them in
every facet of the FTX."

In Senegal there was also successful NGO participation in the ACRI
FTX, the official said, where the local Red Cross offered 25 of their
volunteers as role players in managing a make-believe displaced
persons camp established for the exercise.

Kern said that in a conversation with a member of his staff, a Ugandan
lieutenant put the ACRI in perspective when he said: "Africans need
the capabilities to solve their own problems. We shouldn't have to
rely on the Europeans and Americans to come in [and save us in

According to Kern, the Ugandan soldier said the most valuable lesson
he learned during the ACRI training was "the proportional application
of force." Characterizing the Ugandan soldier as "always having to be
tough and aggressive when confronted," Kern said the ACRI training
showed that "one must adjust the reaction to the level of
confrontation," which is a key to any successful peacekeeping
operation, he concluded.