(by Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com) – Amid growing calls for the U.S. to play a larger role in ending the bloodshed in Sudan’s Darfur region, the government is playing down suggestions that the United Nations wants America to provide troops as part of a blue-hat peacekeeping mission.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also skirted the issue after holding talks with President Bush in Washington this week.
Annan said Bush “did agree that we need to get the right type of force on the ground” but added that the issue remained in the contingency planning phase.
“Once we define the requirements, then we approach the governments to see specifically what each of them will do in terms of troops, in terms of equipment, in terms of communication material and other force multipliers.”
Earlier, Annan strongly hinted that Western soldiers were needed.
He said at U.N. headquarters last week that the type of force needed to replace the 7,000-member African Union (A.U.) mission currently in Sudan was one that was highly-mobile and had tactical air assets.
This would require the participation of countries with highly trained and well-equipped troops.
“It is not going to be easy for the big and powerful countries with armies to delegate to third world countries,” Annan said. “They will have to play a part if we are going to stop the carnage that we see in Darfur.”
Similar pressure is also coming from lawmakers and non-governmental organizations.
Senator Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called last week for NATO to deploy “a few thousand” troops to Darfur to work alongside the A.U. force until a future U.N. force is in place.
“The United States should make it clear that we are prepared to take the political lead at NATO and willing to contribute U.S. troops to a NATO mission if need be,” he said.
In a letter to Bush and the Security Council, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group called for a peacekeeping force of around 20,000, “with capabilities that, realistically, only countries with significant military assets and mobility will be able to provide.”
Pressed on whether Annan wanted U.S. troops, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday it was “premature to speculate about what kind of involvement the United States might have.”
He said there was neither a Security Council resolution nor an agreed list of requirements for a force, but that the U.S., during its presidency of the council this month, was making achieving a resolution a top priority.
McCormack also pointed to U.S. contributions to the A.U. mission so far, including $190 million in funding, movement of 150,000 tons of equipment and transportation of African peacekeepers.
The A.U. is attempting to protect civilians in a region wracked by violence since early 2003, when conflict broke out between rebels and government forces and government-backed militias.
The U.S. estimates that the fighting and related famine and disease have cost 180,000 lives, and that two million people have been displaced.
Some experts have questioned the wisdom in the current international climate of having troops from Western countries inserted into a country ruled by an Islamist regime.
Annan acknowledged that those types of concerns had also been raised by “some people in Sudan.”
The U.N., with A.U. help, needed to convince Khartoum that the troops “are coming in to help contain the situation, but they are not coming in as an invading or a fighting force,” he said.
“I do not think it is impossible to get them to agree to allow a U.N. force, which contains troops from outside Africa, to come to Darfur.”
For many Americans, there are other worries too.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was set up three-and-a-half years ago to deal with cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and other rights violations.
Washington opposed the initiative, due to concerns that the tribunal would be used to bring politically-motivated cases against Americans – especially U.S. troops abroad.
To further minimize the chances of that happening, the U.S. has signed agreements with some 100 countries whose governments have agreed not to surrender American citizens to the ICC without Washington’s consent.
They are known as “article 98” agreements, after the relevant article of the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute.
Although Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute and so could not bring a case before the ICC, other countries that have ratified it include some – like Sudan’s neighbor, Kenya – that have refused to sign “article 98” agreements.
In the event U.S. soldiers were to take part in a peacekeeping mission in Sudan and be accused of crimes, they could in theory find themselves before the tribunal.
(Being referred by a ratifying country is not the only way a case can reach the ICC. Cases can also be initiated by the Security Council, or by ICC judges where a case has been initiated by an ICC prosecutor.)
Tom Kilgannon, president of the Freedom Alliance, said Tuesday Bush should reject a U.N. plea for U.S. forces to take part in a mission in Darfur.
“We ask our men and women in uniform to sacrifice a great deal, but asking American service members to risk their lives in a civil war and potentially answer to the anti-American whims and dubious legal machinations of the International Criminal Court at the same time is asking too much,” he said.
Last May, anti-war groups in the U.K. made submissions to ICC prosecutors accusing the British government of acting unlawfully by participating in the war in Iraq, and alleging that British soldiers had acted unlawfully by detaining and mistreating Iraqi civilians.
Although those complaints dealt with troops in combat rather than peacekeepers, the case provided an example of the types of concerns the U.S. has about the ICC.
Reprinted here with permission from Cybercast News Service. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.
1. List the countries that border Sudan. (For a map, go to WorldAtlas.com.)
2. Who is Kofi Annan? Why does he want to send troops to Darfur, Sudan?
3. Define “genocide.” The U.N. has still not labeled the murders in Darfur as genocide. Why do you think they have not done so?
4. What requests will the U.N. make of its member countries regarding Sudan?
5. What is the A.U.? What is it attempting to do in Darfur? In what three ways has the U.S. assisted the A.U. mission thus far?
6. Two of the reasons that some have for wanting U.S. troops to stay out of Darfur are:
-it is not a good idea to send troops from Western countries into a country ruled by an Islamist regime
-if U.S. soldiers took part in a peacekeeping mission in Sudan and were accused of crimes, they could go before the International Criminal Court (ICC)
a. What types of cases was the ICC set up to deal with?
b. Why was the U.S. opposed to the creation of the ICC?
c. What did the U.S. government do to protect Americans from the ICC?
7. Which of the following do you think the U.S. should do:
–send troops to Darfur as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission
–continute to provide the same type of support it has provided the A.U.
Explain your answer.
A brief background of Darfur:
Darfur’s conflict began in 2003, when the Islamic government of Sudan launched an ethnic-cleansing campaign against blacks. It backed Arab militias called the Janjaweed, which cleared out villages, raped women, and plundered livestock. With rebel groups fighting back, the conflict has killed some 300,000 and displaced a further 2 million from their homes.
In September 2004, then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled the situation in Darfur genocide. As of March, 2005 the attacks had not abated, despite international scoldings and a ceasefire signed in 2004.
(For a comprehensive report on Darfur with a map and photos, go to Human Rights Watch.)
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