Sudan: NATO's assistance to the African Union for Darfur

Originally published
Following a request by the African Union (AU), NATO has helped the AU expand its peacekeeping mission in Darfur by providing airlift for additional AU peacekeepers into the region and by training AU forces.
The Alliance continues to support the African Union by providing airlift for troop rotations.

What does this mean in practice?

NATO helped to provide air transport for peacekeepers from African troop contributing countries into Darfur. It also has trained AU troops in strategic-level planning and operational procedures, and provided support to a UN-led map exercise.

From July to October 2005, NATO helped to provide airlift into Dafur for almost 5,000 African Union peacekeepers, significantly boosting the force on the ground.

In addition, several hundred AU officers have taken part in training provided by NATO.

As of February 2006, the Alliance is providing airlift for the rotation of troops. To date this has involved transporting about 2,000 troops in and out of Darfur, with further flights scheduled until May.

The co-ordination of NATO's airlift is done from Europe.

A special AU air movement cell at the African Union's Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is co-ordinating the movement of incoming troops on the ground in Africa.

Both NATO and the EU - which is also providing airlift assistance - is providing staff to support the AU cell, but it is the African Union that is in the lead.

No NATO troops have been or will be deployed to Darfur.

How did it evolve?

The African Union is significantly expanding its peacekeeping mission in Darfur in an attempt to halt the continuing violence in the region. On 26 April 2005 the African Union asked NATO to consider the possibility of providing logistical support to its operation in Darfur.

The request was made in a letter from the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, to the NATO Secretary General.

On 17 May, Mr. Konaré visited NATO, providing details on the kinds of assistance that the African Union would require. This was the first visit by an African Union official to NATO.

The following day, the North Atlantic Council - NATO's principal decision-making body - agreed to task the Alliance's military authorities to provide, as a matter of urgency, advice on possible assistance NATO could offer to the African Union in Darfur.

This advice was prepared in full consultation, transparency and complementarity with the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations.

On 24 May, the North Atlantic Council agreed on initial military options for possible NATO support. These options include support to the African Union in the areas of: strategic deployment; training, for example in command and control and operational planning; and improvement of ability of the AU's mission in Darfur to use intelligence.

On 26 May, the Secretary General participated in a meeting in Addis Ababa on international support for the African Union's mission in Darfur, chaired by UN Secretary General Annan and AU Commission President Konaré.

Following that meeting, and based on further clarification and confirmation of the AU's requirements, as well as consultations with the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations, NATO's North Atlantic Council agreed on 8 June on the detailed modalities and extent of Alliance support.

The decision to support the AU with strategic deployment and staff capacity building was formally announced on 9 June, at the meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels.

The first airlifts began on 1 July 2005. By 7 August, NATO had coordinated the transportation of about 1,900 African troops into the region.

At the beginning of August, the African Union requested that NATO also assist in the transport of civilian police.

The North Atlantic Council agreed to the request on 5 August, in close coordination with the European Union, which has the lead on police matters in Darfur.

Extending NATO's support

On 21 September 2005, the North Atlantic Council agreed to extend the duration of NATO's support until 31 October 2005 in order to ensure the airlift of the remaining peacekeeping reinforcements in Darfur.

On 30 September 2005, the Council agreed to continue to offer support to the African Union until 31 March 2006, for the coordination of strategic airlift during further troop rotations of the peacekeeping forces as well as additional staff capacity building, in order to add to the military skills of the African Unions' officers.

On 9 November 2005, the Council agreed to extend NATO's coordination of strategic airlift by a further two months until the end of May 2006, in view of the schedule of the AU's troop rotation plan. The coordination of strategic airlift will be done together with the EU, using the same mechanisms as during the first phase of NATO support.

In April 2006, following a verbal request by the United Nations Secretary General, the Council took further important decisions on Darfur, on its readiness to continue its current mission until 30 September 2006, covering strategic airlift and capacity-building. Of course, a formal request by the African Union will also be required before proceeding with such support. In this context, NATO puts a strong emphasis on consulting and coordinating closely with all other organisations to ensure complementarity of efforts.

NATO military authorities have been tasked by the Council to explore options for enriching our assistance in the area of training (capacity building) to African Union forces prior to a UN takeover.

In all its efforts, NATO aims to work in full consultation, transparency and complementarity with the EU, the UN and all other donors concerned.

The AU remains in the driving seat for solving the conflict in Darfur.