A Sight on European Defence

The EU operations in Somalia reveal a complex landscape, as involved in Somalia are two military operations with different commanders, both referring, I suppose, to the EU military staff, a multitude of programs, NGOs, organizations in charge of the civilian side and getting money from the EU. By the way and because of the ongoing restructuring of the EU external action service, I will suppose that the tasks previously fulfilled by the Commission and the work performed by the Council will be very soon closely synchronized.

Anyway, from a pure logical point of view, I still have difficulties to understand who is in charge of coordinating all those action, in order to make sure that they converge towards the same goal. In fact, I could not find on the EU web site the name of a EU Special Representative in charge of Somalia. As the primacy of politics on the military cannot be disputed, at least the political leadership should be easily identifiable.

Why? In any conflict, operation, or action, the people working on the field need orders, tasks to perform and those need to be controlled. This corresponds to the basic principle of unity of command.

Then, if the concept of centre of gravity does not suite with the complexity of the situation where you have to address so many problems, the idea of lines of operations, aiming at one common goal should remain. Those lines of operations are not necessarily purely military or civilian ones. At least, lines of operations give us a view, even inaccurate, on the way ahead and the progress, or bottlenecks of an operation. However, in the various EU fact sheets, I could not discriminate where are those lines of operations, and what is the end state, that is, what are the conditions to declare that the operations in Somalia can be declared as achieved.

The difficulty to read and understand the strategic goals of EU in Somalia let think that the goals of EU commitment in Somalia have been blurred by the multiplication of actions. For instance, if the purpose of EU aid is to contribute to Somalia development, it is all right.

On the other hand, piracy cannot be fought against, only by arresting the pirates. Rule of law, substitution income and livelihood are to be developed and proposed in the areas where those pirates come from. But, as the EU has outsourced the operations to NGOs and African Union or the EU, how do they make sure that on the long-term, those areas do not produce pirates anymore? Shortly, how do we make the EU military and the NGOs and IOs work together?

In fact, what I would like to say is that, without a real planning, command and control staff, able to encompass civilian and military aspects of an operation, it will be almost impossible to the EU to manage the comprehensive approach operations in Somalia. I do not mean that the EU does not know what the NGOs and IOs do out of its money. I simply say that the evaluation of the performance and the subsequent command and control must not be that easy.

Then, in case of flawing control of the operation, the risk could be the following one:

-The operations go on until nations get fed up paying for something, which does not improve and suddenly they decide that the military operation has been a success and they can reduce the volume of forces to a so-called deterrent posture. For instance, the EU Training Mission in Uganda is planned to train 2,000 people in the security sector for Somalia, and that’s it. Check the effectiveness of this training will be extremely difficult without having a EU police force over there, to mentor the police in its daily business.

-The EU goes on providing money to NGOs without looking precisely at the results, with the only objective to get clear conscience, so that the EU is not subject to the usual accusations of the rich and stingy North not willing to aid the poor South.

As a conclusion, I would say that for the sake of Somalia and its inhabitants, a bolder approach of EU crisis management structure, encouraging its development, would be beneficial to the European tax payer who would get the guarantee that his money is spent properly and that population of this country can really be put on the tracks of economical and social development.

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