Securitization of everything or how to lose the sense of security at all

by Patrick Truffer. He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and completes a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freien Universität Berlin.

2015-001We live in a VUCA-world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (Judith Hicks Stiehm, “The U.S. Army War College: Military Education in a Democracy“, Temple University Press, 2002, p. 6). In this world, “security” seems to have been lost: the economic carelessness of some European countries threatens social security, the war in Ukraine could endanger public order and therefore the security of Europe, the terrorist organisation “Islamic State” threatens regional security in the Middle East, jihadists returning to the West endanger the security of social cohesion and epidemics, such as Ebola, endanger health security. This list could be continued, which symbolises the underlying problem: The original narrowly defined term “security” has been used since the 1980s in an extended sense (Ole Wæver, “Securitization and Desecuritization” in On Security by Ronnie D. Lipschutz, Columbia University Press, 1995, p 46f). Based on the Copenhagen School, a topic is attributed to “security” in international relations if it deals with an existential threat that needs to be addressed immediately with extraordinary measures, which may also legitimise the use of force. Accordingly, the prioritisation of a non-existentially threatening issue, which is addressed subsequently with extraordinary measures, is referred to as securitization (Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver, and Jaap de Wilde, “Security: A New Framework for Analysis“, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998, p. 21ff).

With the example of the securitization of the US aid deployment to combat Ebola this article shows how it is possible to securitize nearly everything with the purpose to enable the implementation of extraordinary measures.

Securitization of the Ebola epidemic by the US government
There have been repeated outbreaks of Ebola in Africa since 1976, but the number of deaths per outbreak was limited to a few hundred until 2014. With over 24,000 cases and nearly 14,000 deaths until end of March 2015, the epidemic that has existed for nearly a year represents a new dimension, and has affected countries, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, that were previously spared from Ebola (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Outbreaks Chronology: Ebola Virus Disease“). Carried via air traffic, four “uncontrolled” cases occurred in the US, with one death. The securitization of the Ebola topic in the US took place after four American citizens in West Africa were infected, evacuated to the US and treated, but before the first “uncontrolled” Ebola case occurred in the US.


On 16 September 2014, US President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before he met “with some of these men and women, including some who recently returned from the front lines of the outbreak”. According to the Copenhagen School, Obama’s address at the CDC was a main securitizing speech act, which was aimed at three recipients: the US congress, to grant extraordinary measures to combat the disease, the US population, to put the US congress under pressure to grant the extraordinary measures, and the international community of states, to mobilise them to contain the epidemic.

In his speech, Obama noted that this epidemic “is not just a threat to regional security – it’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic”. He therefore justified his decision, to treat Ebola as a “national security priority“, to provide extraordinary measures to combat the epidemic and to deploy military resources in Liberia at their request. The US forces were therefore meant to introduce “their expertise in command and control, in logistics, in engineering”, which are better at this “than any organization on Earth”. For this purpose, he urged the US congress to grant the necessary funds for the deployment.

Through this securitization, the US congress was pressured to grant the requested funds. Since Ebola was presented to the US population as an existential threat, which endangers global security and therefore also one’s own safety, a member of congress would think twice about whether he would vote against the approval of funding. Obama’s strategy was in fact successful: in October 2014, the US congress approved 750 million US dollars for the deployment of 4,000 US soldiers.

At the international level, the UN Security Council resolution 2177 was adopted on 18 September 2014. The resolution called for immediate assistance and to end the isolation of the affected states. However, the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) – the first-ever UN emergency health mission – is not part of resolution 2177, it was decided upon in the same session of the UN Security Council. While the consequences of HIV/AIDS for the security of Africa were discussed in the UN Security Council on 10 January 2000, resolution 2177 first dealt with a health issue under the context of international peace and security (Gian Luca Burci, “Ebola, the Security Council and the securitization of public health“, Questions of International Law 10, 23.12.2014, p. 32). As a consequence of the resolution, the states concerned were provided with around 1.2 billion US dollars available until mid-November 2014. These funds helped to slow down the spread of the Ebola epidemic.

A U.S. Air Force Airmen part of the Joint Task Force assigned to the 628th Medical Group at Joint Base Charleston checks the temperature of personnel gaining access to Roberts International Airport as a safety precaution (Photo: Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez).

A U.S. Air Force Airmen part of the Joint Task Force assigned to the 628th Medical Group at Joint Base Charleston checks the temperature of personnel gaining access to Roberts International Airport as a safety precaution (Photo: Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez).

With the securitization of Ebola, the Obama administration achieved the granting of extraordinary means. Due to the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives and the small Democratic majority in the Senate, these extraordinary means would hardly have been approved without securitization. At the international level, the assessment is difficult, because the US is only one of the members of the UN Security Council. If the securitization was also not crucial for the mobilisation of additional funds at the international level, it at least increased the pressure on other member states and UN organisations.

Despite the importance of Ebola, the designation as a “threat to global security” is hardly justifiable. By comparison, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic claimed an estimated 284,000 lives world wide. With a securitization, possible negative side effects must also be weighed, for example panic reactions, such as those that were fueled by the media after the first “uncontrolled” Ebola cases in the US, discrimination against groups of persons or the unnecessary restriction of basic rights (cf.: Burci, p. 35ff). For example, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Illinois announced at the end of October 2014 that they wanted to subject all medical personnel from West African countries affected by Ebola to a 21-day quarantine and some US politicians have requested a restriction of freedom of travel to and from the West African countries affected by Ebola.

Another side-effect of securitization is the unnecessary implementation of extraordinary measures. In case of the deployment of US troops of a size of a brigade it is questionable if it was the most efficient use of the available resources. Until April 2015, the US has spent 1.4 billion US dollars on its Ebola mission in West Africa, with most of it going to Liberia. Deploying the military alone cost 360 million US dollars, not including the construction, staffing and operating expenses at the treatment centers it built. After all, the US ended up creating facilities that have largely sat empty: Only 28 Ebola patients have been treated at the 11 treatment units built by the US military – 9 centers have never had a single Ebola patient. The wasted money, for example, could have been put toward rebuilding Liberia’s shattered health care system or backing the efforts of local communities. Unfortunately, in case of a securitized issue, resources are often used where they generate a positive public relation for the securitizer instead where they may have the biggest impact to solve underlying problems (Norimitsu Onishi, “Empty Ebola Clinics in Liberia Are Seen as Misstep in U.S. Relief Effort“, The New York Times, 11.04.2015),

Last but not least, health issues traditionally are not part of the responsibility of the UN Security Council. They should be reserved primarily for the WHO or the UN General Assembly. An extension of the responsibility of the UN Security Council could overburden this institution and undermine its credibility due to lack of effective measures. UN resolution 2177 therefore lists no effective measures, but rather it is more a symbolic incitation.

A Liberian soldier in the Ebola Task Force tried to enforce a quarantine in August 2014 by confronting a woman in Monrovia (Photo:  John Moore).

A Liberian soldier in the Ebola Task Force tried to enforce a quarantine in August 2014 by confronting a woman in Monrovia (Photo: John Moore).

The problem with securitization is that nearly everything (not only Ebola, also HIV/AIDS and other diseases, Cyberspace, electrical power supply, terrorist attacks and so on) can be placed in a context of a hypothetical existential threat. This exaggerates a real threat potential, generates – under the impression of an immediately necessary response – pressure on people in power, and unnecessarily enables the use of extraordinary measures. The associated medial coverage creates a sense of a continuing state of emergency as it was after the September 11 attacks (interestingly that wasn’t the case after the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 7 July 2005 London bombings). Jumping from one alleged existential threat to another, people will finally lose the sense of security at all – or who still speaks about the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa anymore?

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A land of plenty or plenty of illusions: Development and natural resources in Senegal

by Peter Dörrie (Homepage / Twitter). He is a freelance journalist, who writes mainly about resource politics in Africa. This article is the results of a six-week research in Senegal in October and November 2014, made possible by a grant from the Heinz-Kühn-Foundation.

How do you transform an economy? How do you make the jump from a society stricken by poverty and stagnation to an emerging market with dynamic, but more or less equitable growth? Some countries, like South Korea and arguably China and India have managed to do so, but their examples don’t supply blueprints which could be copied one to one.

It is a question that is relevant especially to African countries, many of which have known relative political stability in recent years, but are yet to reap the economic rewards. One of those countries is Senegal, situated on the continent’s westernmost tip.

Unlike Angola, Equatorial Guinea or Nigeria, Senegal isn’t blessed (or cursed, depending on your viewpoint) with oil reserves that could push the economy into middle-income territory in a heartbeat. But its natural resource potential is still considerable, ranging from world-class fisheries over underused agricultural zones to mineral deposits like gold, phosphates and zircon.

Senegal shares this respectable, but on the first sight unremarkable natural resource potential with many other African countries, all of which are currently looking for ways to develop their economies. But finding the right answers is much harder for these countries than in places where a single resource like petrol can provide the potential foundation for a whole national economy. Simply saying “good governance” over and over again and combating corruption won’t help in Senegal, where roadblocks to equitable economic development are much more complex and developments in one economic sector can have unforeseeable consequences in others.

A proportional representation of Senegal's exports (2012; MIT Harvard Economic Complexity Observatory). The main industries include food processing, mining, cement, artificial fertilizer, chemicals, textiles, refining imported petroleum, and tourism. Exports include fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, groundnuts, and calcium phosphate. The principal foreign markets are Mali 14.4%, Switzerland 14.1%, India 11.9%, France 4.7%, Guinea 4.2% (2012; The CIA World Factbook.

A proportional representation of Senegal’s exports (2012; MIT Harvard Economic Complexity Observatory). The main industries include food processing, mining, cement, artificial fertilizer, chemicals, textiles, refining imported petroleum, and tourism. Exports include fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, groundnuts, and calcium phosphate. The principal foreign markets are Mali 14.4%, Switzerland 14.1%, India 11.9%, France 4.7%, Guinea 4.2% (2012; The CIA World Factbook).

To explore these connections and talk with the people shaping them, I traveled to south-eastern Senegal. The area is part of the West African gold belt, one of the richest mining areas in the world. The shiny metal can be found here in many places only a few metres below the surface, accessible to everybody.

The village of Tomboronkoto, about thirty kilometres north of Kédougou, the capital of the synonymous region, is such a place. A dusty moonscape is situated on its outskirts, not far from the banks of the Gambia river, although similar sites exist throughout the area.

A few dozen people are working on the site, only a fraction of the crowd that is usually active here, explains my guide. Artisanal gold mining is currently prohibited in Senegal, which is why my companion, who is responsible for coordinating and organising the activities around the open pit mine doesn’t want to have his real name printed. Mohammed, as I will call him from now on, shows me the various stages and methods of extracting the ore. At one end of the mine, a number of narrow holes have been dug into the ground. Up to five metres deep, one or two children are working to drive them deeper into the ground, or to dig into promising sediment laterally. It is dangerous work because the holes are not secured and the sand is hoisted out of them in heavy buckets attached to strings that have seen better days. Needless to say that human rights organisations have no trouble coming up with lists of accidents in which children or adult gold miners were killed.

Gold is extracted from the sediment by using a combination of washing to sort the heavier gold particles from the lighter sand and treating it with mercury, explains Mohammed, which bonds with gold into an amalgam. Mercury is highly poisonous and can enter the human body through the skin, via contaminated food or in its evaporated state through the lungs, leading to severe impairments of sight, movement and mental capacity. Despite this, the dangerous element is handled without any kind of safety equipment.

The miners know that mercury is dangerous, says Mohammed, but it is cheap and makes mining a one-man operation without any investment needed for expensive machinery. While he guides me through the mine, Mohammed’s mobile rings every five minutes. People are calling him to complain about an Italian gold exploration company that has not employed enough locals. “We will talk with them,” Mohammed shouts into the mobile. “They can’t just bring people from Dakar to work here. If they don’t listen, we will try to shut them down.”

On the other side of the mine a group of young men are shovelling earth onto two beat up trucks. When he discovers them, Mohammed angrily starts an argument, because the area isn’t supposed to be worked on. “I’m the one telling you where to work,” he explains to the men who obviously don’t recognise him. “You go over there.” They grudgingly oblige. The men are from Burkina Faso, Mohammed explains, some of the thousands of migrant gold miners who have flocked to Senegal from across western Africa.

Artisanal gold mining: A mine worker in Kharakhena, Senegal, who uses a machine to crush the ore before the gold can be separated (Photo by Kelly Boyer).

artisanal gold mining: A mine worker in Kharakhena, Senegal, who uses a machine to crush the ore before the gold can be separated (Photo by Kelly Boyer).

We hop on a dirt bike. He wants to show me where the trucks bring the sediment that the men have been extracting. After a short drive through green fields along a dirt track, we arrive at a large clearing. About a dozen diesel-driven earth crushers are standing in a semicircle. The noise is deafening. Together with the men working at the mine, at least twenty people are involved in this operation, stretching the meaning of the word “small-scale”.

Here, Mohammed says, no mercury is used, the process is completely physical. The crushers need substantial amounts of fuel and water, the latter being drawn from the majestic Gambia river that flows only a few metres away. Of course, at the end the muddy water also flows back into the Gambia, complete with fuel and machine oil residues mixed in.

Small-scale mining is important for communities in Senegal’s remote south-east, says Mohammed. People have been able to build proper houses in his village due the income from gold mining. The same income would never have been possible from agriculture. Before he returns me to the main road so that I can drive back to Kédougou, he tells one of the workers to search for two pieces of gold. “Here,” he says only seconds later, holding in his hands two nuggets barely larger than the tip of a needle, “a present.” I try to respectfully decline, but he insists. “It is my operation here, I can give the gold away to whom I want.”

As in the rest of the world, artisanal gold mining has boomed in Senegal after the financial crisis of 2008 let to astronomical increases in world market prices for the precious metal. Today, gold is Senegal’s top export commodity and touted by the government as an important foundation of future economic growth. But the government sees no role for artisanal miners like those in Tomboronkoto in these grand plans. Small-scale mining is a dirty affair, in more than one sense. It is very hard to regulate and control, leading to such things as child labour. Especially larger mining settlements – there are some in Senegal that are home to as many as 15,000 informal miners – have high rates of violence and prostitution. Also, small-scale mining is notoriously hard to tax.

The government is instead betting on international mining companies. Dozens are active in Senegal, although most are small outlets only engaged in exploration. Only one industrial mine has entered production, the Canadian-owned Sabodala Gold Mine.

Sabodala open pit mine

Sabodala open pit mine

Sabodala is about 100 kilometres from Kédougou and used to be a pretty typical Senegalese village. It is still that, the only obvious thing setting apart the thatched huts and crude brick houses being the well-maintained dirt road and more small shops than would be usual for a village of the size. But to get to Sabodala, you drive past a massive hole, a crater-like open pit mine that is continuously being blasted into the bedrock next to the village. From this pit, gold worth 300 million USD was extracted in 2013. For most people here this is unimaginable wealth, but it is wealth that they have been excluded from.

Everybody I talk to in Sabodala says that the mine doesn’t provide enough jobs. The village is full of people idling about, many of which moved to Sabodala to find work at the mine. The complaints are echoed by a, member of the village committee that allocates open positions at the mine in cooperation with the company. “In the beginning, many people were employed. But today it is the opposite. At the moment the locals don’t benefit from the mine.”

Abel Page, who is with me at the meeting, grimaces at the comment. The young Frenchman works for Sabodala Gold Operations (SGO), the local subsidiary of Teranga Gold, the mining company that owns the mine. Together with a Senegalese colleague, he is responsible for the social and environmental responsibility projects of the company, as well as community relations.

As far as I can tell, Teranga Gold makes a real effort to be a good “corporate citizen”. It produces a shiny and comprehensive “responsibility report“, currently builds a kindergarten and a community radio station for Sabodala, provided running water to all compounds in the village and runs a tree nursery, a women’s vegetable farming area and agricultural training programs. Forty percent of the company’s staff is from Kédougou region and expats make up only ten percent of its total workforce. It has also helped push forward the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, an effort to publish all payments from and to government relating to the mining sector.

Some workers at Sabodala Gold Operations

Some workers at Sabodala Gold Operations

Of course, Teranga Gold is still a mining operation and no social welfare programme. There is no question that the open pit mine, which will be substantially enlarged in the coming years, is highly disruptive of the environment. Cyanide is used to extract the gold from the bedrock. The poisonous tailings are stored in open dams, which have been secured against leakage and are industry standard, as Page is quick to point out. In theory, UV-light emitted by the sun will break down the cyanide, but one has to take the company’s word that the reservoir is secured and that the tailings dam will hold for the next few decades. The history of mining is full of broken tailings dams, spilling death over the surrounding countryside.

But the company is confident that it does its share to make the risks worth it for Senegal’s economy. In 2013 it payed 22 million USD to the government, split between royalties, taxes, social security and pensions. Its total contribution to the economy, including wages paid to Senegalese nationals and local sub-contractors tops 140 million USD, according to company reports.

Both Mohammed and his small-scale miners and the international mining company Abel Page is working for are pieces of a complicated puzzle that doesn’t only include gold mining, but also Senegal’s fishing sector, agriculture and other mining endeavours. Senegal’s government is working to put the pieces together, so that the country’s natural resources can serve to kickstart the economy, transforming Senegal into an emerging market by 2035, on par with China, India and Turkey today.

This project, dubbed “Plan Sénégal Emergent” (PSE), reflects the frustration of Senegalese society with the mismatch between its political and economic development. As the executive summary of the PSE notes, “For more than fifty years, Senegal has experienced rates of economic growth close to the rate of population growth. This poor performance has not permitted a sustainable reduction in poverty.”

Over the same period, Senegal has developed into one of Africa’s most stable democracies, praised for its inclusive politics and social stability. Still, the country languishes on the bottom rungs of the Human Development Index, in the neighbourhood of war-torn countries like Sudan and Syria. The city centre of Dakar, Senegal’s capital, is a shiny beacon of western consumerism, but on the city’s outskirts and in the countryside I feel reminded of nearby Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries.

Le Monument de la Renaissance africaine is a 49 m tall bronze statue located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles, outside of Dakar, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the Ouakam suburb. It is the tallest statue in Africa.

Le Monument de la Renaissance africaine is a 49 m tall bronze statue located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles, outside of Dakar, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the Ouakam suburb. It is the tallest statue in Africa.

The PSE is supposed to change this and natural resources play an important part in it. But the Senegalese government, small-scale miners, artisanal fishermen, subsistence farmers and international investors are still searching for and fighting over the right formula to unlock their potential. All too often, priorities, perceptions and expectations collide.

The industrial mine in Sabodala, as well as its artisanal counterpart in Tomboronkoto are excellent examples of this. In Sabodala, the local village chief tells me that of all the impacts of the mine, “only three or four percent have been positive.” He complains much like other locals that the company doesn’t offer enough jobs and that since it has arrived, locals are not allowed to practice artisanal mining any more. “I am afraid of the company,” he says, because it wants to explore possible deposits below the village itself, which could lead to a complete resettlement.

He understands the fears, says SGO’s Abel Page, but the company has entered into a contract with the government that both gives it the right to explore for further deposits, as well as the duty to do so. The problem, he argues, is primarily one of unrealistic expectations about the role of the company. “We can’t give everybody a job,” he says. He feels that the state doesn’t show enough presence in Sabodala and argues that his company isn’t responsible for stimulating the local economy.

Page has a point, of course. After all, one would expect that the taxes and royalties paid by the mining company get reinvested into the region, to diversify and develop the economy. But a researcher from a German political foundation tells me that seventy percent of all government expenditure is spent in Dakar, the capital city. Not a lot remains for regions like Kédougou and due to the centralized system of governance, getting access to these funds is largely dependent on good personal connections between local dignitaries and central government officials. The result: many villagers make little difference between the western mining company and the state, holding them equally responsible for service delivery and economic development. This creates tensions that none of the actors is able to overcome on his own and differentiates industrial mining from its artisanal counterpart that has immediate and visible benefits for the local population.

Despite the undeniable economic benefits it brings to the local population, the government has taken a critical stance regarding artisanal and small-scale mining. Too frightening are the vices that go along with it in many places, but the main sticking point is its competition with agriculture. Many young men and women find it more profitable to dig for gold rather than tilling the fields. But a stronger agricultural production is a major aspect of the PSE, while the government would like to leave the mining sector to better regulated and easier to tax companies.

Agriculture in Senegal

A major emphasis is put on rice production. Rice is the country’s preferred staple food, but despite a considerable local production potential up to 80 percent of local consumption is imported from Asian countries. World market prices for rice are volatile and an increase can easily cost the Senegalese economy and consumers tens of millions of Dollars.

The government has therefore made self sufficiency a priority, explains Dr. Ibrahima Hathie, agricultural economist and research director of Dakar-based organisation IPAR. “They have set the goal for 2017. But if you ask me that is not a realistic objective, it is impossible,” he tells me in his office during our interview.

In 2005, Senegal imported an estimated 850,000 tons of rice. Increasing local production by this amount, Dr. Hathie argues, is not only a question of providing additional paddies and irrigation, although this is challenging enough. “You have to establish structures for the commercialisation and regulation of the trade,” he says. These structures don’t exist yet for locally produced rice, because a substantial share is consumed directly by the farmers themselves.

Given the monumental scope of this project and the government’s bad track record – successive administrations have created new but ultimately unsuccessful agricultural initiatives for decades – it is hard to argue with Dr. Hathie’s pessimism. But his criticism goes beyond the overly ambitious nature of the government’s self-sufficiency plans for rice. “Rice is very important, its true, but one shouldn’t ignore the other cereals. How do we want to achieve a lower vulnerability and diversify in the long term? There is nothing in the PSE about climate change and we don’t know how rice production will be affected by it.”

In the end, Dr. Hathie says, the success of the governmental agricultural policy won’t be decided by raw production anyway. If the goal is to reduce poverty and to support an equitable economic development of the country, increasing productivity could even be harmful if done wrong.

Those few industrial agricultural projects that currently exist in Senegal, like a Spanish project in the country’s north near the town St. Louis or a Lebanese-run farm close to Dakar, are geared almost exclusively towards the export of raw agricultural products. Existing agricultural value chains are rudimentary, like the production of peanut oil and tomato paste from locally grown fruits.

The agricultural sector currently employs 77.5 percent of the population, but only contributes 15 percent to the production of the national economy. If the government succeeds in increasing this low productivity, but neglects creating corresponding jobs in higher agricultural industries, mass unemployment and reduced food security would be the effect.

Building up whole industries from scratch based on the transformation of agricultural products is hard and requires substantial capital and political commitment. And Senegal doesn’t even have a very good starting position, despite considerable untapped agricultural potential. The national economy is deeply integrated into the world market, with few barriers protecting local producers from cheaper imports. At the same time its main export market for agricultural products, the European Union, has no qualms about closing its borders against imports that would threaten its domestic farmers. Also, because Senegal is member of the West African monetary union and its currency, the CFA-Franc is fixed against the Euro, it is hopelessly overvalued, stacking the odds against Senegalese producers.

Nobody I talked to in Senegal feels that the government – or anybody else, for that matter – has the solution to these issues or the political vision to change the system fundamentally. And this is not only a problem for the agricultural sector. If anything, the challenges for reforming the fishing sector are even greater.

monster_boat-001I find myself on the beach of Bagny, 30 kilometres from the city centre of Dakar. The sun is burning down mercilessly, while I observe how a photographer who has positioned himself on the roof of a car is directing a crowd in this direction or that. Some people hold banners and in the middle a small fishing boat has been lowered into a shallow grave. “Here lies the last pirogue” declares a tombstone next to it. I am witness to a demonstration organised by the local chapter of Greenpeace. It is part of an international day of action against so called “Monster Boats”, huge industrial fishing vessels that Greenpeace oceans campaigner Marie Suzanne Traoré says are responsible for some of the most egregious examples of overfishing.

The crowd is made up of local Greenpeace volunteers, fishermen and female fishmongers. In Senegal it is easy to find people willing to protest against the activities of international fishing companies. More than 90 percent of all catches landed in Senegal are supplied by artisanal fishermen, plying the country’s world-class fisheries in boats ranging from three metres in length to pirogues with a crew of up to twenty which stay at sea for up to two months. Apart from motors and ice machines, the use of machinery is virtually non-existent. The sector relies on cheap manual labour and estimates go as high as two million people who rely directly or indirectly on maritime fishing for their livelihoods. Fish is also the major source of animal protein in Senegal.

Artisanal fishermen love to complain about foreign companies exploiting Senegalese stocks and they have all reason to do so. Like virtually all stocks around the world, Senegalese waters are heavily overfished. Until a few years ago the government more or less gave fishing rights away and corruption was rampant. With no coast guard to speak of, the authorities were often unable to police the national waters and enforce regulations.

But some things have changed in recent years. Under president Macky Sall, who came into power in 2012, a new fishery agreement with the European Union was negotiated that provides substantially better terms to Senegal than previous ones and excludes species that are caught by artisanal fishermen. Sall’s administration also arrested a Russian trawler and its crew for pirate fishing, only releasing the boat after a hefty fine was paid by its owners. Artisanal fishermen and their representatives have gained increased influence over political decisions that touch their interests.

Joint Patrol of the Senegalese Navy vessel Poponquine (right) alongside the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare (left).

Joint Patrol of the Senegalese Navy vessel Poponquine (right) alongside the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare (left).

But, like with artisanal gold mining, small-scale fishing is hardly a one-dimensional, exclusively positive affair. Working conditions are terrible and dangerous. From accidents on the boats to fish smokers that increase the rate of respiratory illnesses, working in the Senegalese fishing sector is no walk in the park. And while hundreds of thousands of people rely on fishing for their livelihood, it has allowed only a select few to achieve even moderate wealth. More commonly, fishing can provide the daily food on the table, but little beyond. On top of it, artisanal fishermen contribute to overfishing just as their international industrial counterparts do. An apt comparison would be that of India or China and the U.S.A. when it comes to climate change: The industrialised world started the problem and certainly has a greater responsibility for solving it. But without concessions from the developing countries, the problem can’t be solved at all.

Neither NGOs like Greenpeace, nor the Senegalese government seem to be keen on telling the artisanal fishermen that they, too, will have to change. The sensible thing to do would be to set and enforce quotas not only for foreign vessels, but small boats as well. Although, as one foreign diplomat tells me, setting these quotas is hard, because there is little knowledge about the productivity and level of overfishing of Senegalese stocks, because the requisite studies have so far been neglected.

Similar to the agricultural sector, productivity of fishing activities would have to be increased to allow individual fishermen to take home higher wages and leave poverty. But, just like with agriculture, this would actually reduce the number of available positions in the sector, making the establishment of well-managed value chains necessary to avoid rampant unemployment. Unfortunately, such a reform isn’t even on the political horizon. Without a broad social consensus, trying to limit artisanal fishing would be akin to political suicide for any politician.

When I drive home from the Greenpeace demonstration together with Abdoulaye, the representative of an organisation of fishery workers and squid merchant, he echoes my trepidation. “I am afraid for the small-scale fisheries,” he says. “The crash will come.” A possible template and warning example is the European Union. Due to overfishing and declining stocks, European countries lost half of their 300,000 professional fishermen from 1990 to 2007. And it would have been much worse if the political and economic weight of the Union wouldn’t have allowed it to gain access to long-distance fisheries like those in Senegal.

Fishermen at work in artisanal fishing pirogues with seine nets off of the Senegalese coast, Kafountine, Casamance (Photo: Clément Tardif / Greenpeace).

Fishermen at work in artisanal fishing pirogues with seine nets off of the Senegalese coast, Kafountine, Casamance (Photo: Clément Tardif / Greenpeace).

Senegalese fishermen won’t be able to follow the fish to other oceans once local stocks collapse. There are indications that this point will be reached sooner, rather than later. Catches have plateaued since 1997, never exceeding 430,000 tons while crashing in some years as low as 334,000 tons. An uncontrolled reduction of catches which would be the inevitable consequence of a collapse of the stocks, would have dramatic consequences, both for Senegal’s economy and food security of the local population.

Consequently the fisheries demonstrate perhaps most clearly what is true for all natural resources in Senegal, including those not discussed in this article: Business as usual is no longer an option. While until now Senegal’s economy has managed to at least keep up with population growth and deliver some statistically measurable improvements to the wellbeing of the population, increasing overexploitation and a changing geopolitical and economic environment could actually push Senegal’s economy into crisis. To avert this, Senegal’s economy will have develop new dynamics. Changing its approach to the management of natural resources will play a huge role in this.

Some encouraging examples exist. Early in 2014 a mineral sands mine has taken up operations north of Dakar. The Grand Côte project is the third largest of its type in the world. In comparison to the gold mine in Sabodala, it is hard to find anybody who is critical of the project. There were a few conflicts around resettlements, but even according to local civil society representatives, these were resolved more or less amicably, aided by the fact that the project exploits a chain of old dunes that are not intensively inhabited or used anyway. The company draws most of its employees from the local population and runs a training program to satisfy its need for qualified labour. According to company representatives it trains considerably more people than needed for its own operations.

There are of course still issues: the minerals produced in Grand Côte are exported in their raw state, excluding Senegal from much of the value creation associated with them. And according to experts I interviewed on the issue, the Senegalese mining code is exceptionally generous to investors, leaving the government with a smaller share of the mining profit than is internationally common. The latter point is also an issue with the gold mining activities in Sabodala, where the government share of the value generated is a measly ten percent.

Mining of sand at Grande Côte

Mining of sand at Grande Côte

This touches at one of the main problems that Senegal faces when it comes to developing its natural resources for the benefit of the larger society. In almost every interview I conducted, the interview partner would sooner or later bemoan the “lack of vision” on part of the government. While it is tempting to see this as a specific problem of the administration of President Macky Sall and perhaps his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade, my impression is that Senegal’s political and social elite in general is either not willing, or unable to develop the necessary political will and dynamic to drive the country the decisive step forward.

In many cases, like with the small-scale mining entrepreneur Mohammed or the squid-trader Abdoulaye, people it spoke to were acutely aware of the problems associated with natural resource exploitation. Senegal’s society is in general quite committed to compromise and balance. If supported by enough political will and energy, I am sure that even monumental economic reforms could be successful here.

But the political elite is currently more committed to preparing for the next general elections (coming up in 2017) than to face the country’s real problems, of which the management of natural resources is only one. It is telling that many people would not so much complain about government corruption, mismanagement or ill will, although these issues certainly exist as well, as about a general feeling of being left behind, without any enthusiasm for the future.

Although this is a pessimistic assessment, it bears also a kernel of great hope. In many ways, Senegal is a country full of potential, just waiting for the right time to realise it. The country’s natural resources are part of this optimistic perspective and given the right circumstances could contribute to a transformation that would leave society and economy barely recognisable, in a good way, within the span of a generation.

Posted in English, Peter Dörrie, Senegal | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Comprehensive Anti-piracy Strategy

In January 2015, CIMSEC announced a High School Scholarship Essay Contest. This article by Griffin Cannon won the second prize in the contest. Cannon is a senior at the Vermont Commons School in South Burlington, Vermont. As a graduating senior he plans on attending university at the U.S. Naval Academy or on a NROTC scholarship. Griffin hopes to pursue a career in either engineering or defense policy after serving in the Navy.

Belgian SOC Pathfinders on the Belgian frigate Louise Marie during its anti-piracy mission off Somalia. March, 2015.

Belgian SOC Pathfinders on the Belgian frigate Louise Marie during its anti-piracy mission off Somalia. March, 2015.

Piracy has been a threat to the safety of the seas since the seas were first used for transport and it has been a danger ever since. From the Barbary Corsairs to the privateers of the Caribbean, pirates have found ways to succeed or even thrive no matter the situation. For years pirate skiffs from Somalia have been attacking marine traffic to hold the ships and/or their crews for ransom. These brazen attacks have drawn the attention of the media and even, in the case of the MV Maersk Alabama, Hollywood. Of course any security issue that comes to the attention of the general public has first passed through the halls of numerous defense ministries across the globe so it should come as no surprise that before, during, and after these events, efforts were made by various navies including the US Navy and a coalition task force from the European Union to combat this growing problem. In this essay I would like to address what they have done and how it could be done better and in a more sustainable manner.

The primary approach was taken thus far is to use large surface combatants such as frigates and destroyers as escorts for merchant ships as well as touring African nations and training their respective navies in counter-piracy operations. These measures, when combined with better safety measures taken by commercial vessels, have been extremely effective since 2012 and attacks off Somalia have become almost vanishingly rare at this point in time (“(U) Horn of Africa / Gulf of Guinea / Southeast Asia: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 8 – 14 January 2015“, US Office of Naval Intelligence, 2). This being said, these measures are fairly expensive both in money and in combat forces and while the threat off the Horn of Africa has been put into remission temporarily, the underlying issues that lead to the growth of piracy in the region remain (Jon Gornall, “Somali Piracy Threat Always on the Horizon“, The National, 16.12.2014). Thus if the governments responsible for this crackdown on piracy wish to continue to suppress piracy without devoting significant monetary resources and a handful of large surface combatants to the region a change in strategy is required.

The 18th escort taskforce of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG-104) conduct a China-U.S. joint maritime anti-piracy drill in the waters of the Gulf of Aden on Dec. 11, 2014. (Photo: Sun Haichao).

The 18th escort taskforce of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG-104) conduct a China-U.S. joint maritime anti-piracy drill in the waters of the Gulf of Aden on Dec. 11, 2014. (Photo: Sun Haichao).

Currently the platforms responsible for this mission are surface combatants and Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRAs). These platforms belong to three multinational forces and four single state task forces are deployed in the region (PLAN, JMSDF, Russian Navy, CTF 151, NATO TF 508 and EUNAVFOR). This is overkill. While the current system has worked, it is large and inefficient and when the political will runs out, this bureaucratic nightmare will be one of the first things to go. Thus there is a need for immediate change.

First of all, the platforms now being used for security operations are not ideal for the job. The P-3 Orion and other manned MPRAs used for wide area maritime surveillance in the area are high value assets in the navies of their respective countries and can be used for missions as diverse anti-submarine to search and rescue missions. In contrast, the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial System was designed without the anti-surface and anti-sub capabilities of most MPRAs and focused instead on long endurance patrol of large bodies of water. With an acquisition cost only 68% of the P-8A (the US Navy’s current MPRA; US Government Accountability Office, “Defense Acquisitions: Assessment of Selected Weapon Programs“, March 2013, p. 109, 115) along with lower operational costs, the Triton is the clear choice for maritime patrol in low threat environments such as the coast of Somalia.

As for surface combatants, the frigates and destroyers currently allocated for these missions are large and often significantly over-armed for confrontations with pirates in small motorboats. An alternative would be smaller platforms, both manned and unmanned, which could provide sufficient armament and speed to effectively combat the threat while requiring significantly less time, money, and logistical support.

The manned platforms suited to this task that are available for use today are the Cyclone patrol ships, eight of which are currently forward based in the Persian Gulf, the MK VI Patrol Boat, and the MK V Special Operations craft. These craft could be used as a rapid response force, responding to threats at speeds of between 35 knots (the Cyclone) and 50 knots (the MK V) with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance support from Triton UASs in the area. Of course these platforms unfortunately lack the persistence afforded by larger displacement surface combatants, which is where the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) comes in. While the manned platforms listed above are an ideal and sufficient force to deal with crises such as the successful hijacking of a ship, they lack the ability to stay on station in the shipping lanes for long durations. Having these vessels in position to intercept any threats detected by airborne search radar is essential to prevent hijackings before they happen. The US Navy as well as a number of others have invested in the development of USVs primarily to protect large combatants from swarms of small, hostile boats armed with short range anti-ship missiles. Unfortunately the USVs currently in inventory are not armed but models in the near future will be.

Textron Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. In fall 2014, Textron Systems has won a $33.8 million US Navy contract for the production of the CUSV. It will to be used as the carrier platform for the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) as part of the LCS’ Mine Countermeasure (MCM) mission package. The first increment of the MCM package — designed to find and neutralize less complex but more plentiful contact mines — is slated to be tested onboard USS Independence (LCS-2) this year.

Textron Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. In fall 2014, Textron Systems has won a $33.8 million US Navy contract for the production of the CUSV. It will to be used as the carrier platform for the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) as part of the LCS’ Mine Countermeasure (MCM) mission package. The first increment of the MCM package — designed to find and neutralize less complex but more plentiful contact mines — is slated to be tested onboard USS Independence (LCS-2) this year.

With all these niches filled, a comprehensive anti-piracy strategy begins to emerge. First, a small, manned contingency response group, based in the gulf and rotated through ports of friendly nations will be constantly in the area to safeguard against crises. Second, the unmanned surface element will patrol threatened areas regularly to defend shipping against small-scale attacks and will be constantly on station, ready to intercept threats if and when directed to do so. Finally, the Triton element will provide a persistent “eye in the sky” for surface elements.

Piracy is an issue, both off the Horn of Africa and around the world but as we have seen in the past few years it can be beaten. I believe that with a force such as the one described here, navies around the world could use the advantages of new technology to fight this age old threat.

Posted in Drones, English, International, Piracy, Sea Powers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Zwischen dem 02.-20. März 2015 fand die Frühjahressession der Eidgenössischen Räte statt und nach langer Pause lohnt es sich wieder einmal aus sicherheitspolitischer Perspektive eine Rückschau auf einige behandelte Themen zu halten.

Foto: Bat Chars 17

Foto: Bat Chars 17

Weiterentwicklung der Armee: Änderung der Rechtsgrundlagen
Nach einer Verzögerung von vier Monaten bedingt durch die gescheiterte Gripen-Beschaffung wurde die Änderung der Rechtsgrundlagen bezüglich der Weiterentwicklung der Armee vom Ständerat als Erstrat behandelt. Bereits vorgängig beschäftigte sich die Sicherheitspolitische Kommission des Ständerates (SiK-S) mit der Vorlage und brachte einige Abänderungen am Gesetzesentwurf des Bundesrates an, welche schliesslich durch den Ständerat angenommen wurden. Hier die wichtigsten Anpassungen im Überblick (Lukas Hegi, “Vorschau Frühlingsession (2. – 20. März)“, KOG Schaffhausen):

  • Die Festsetzung des Armeebudgets von 5 Milliarden Franken pro Jahr in einem Finanzierungszyklus von vier Jahren;
  • die Aufhebung der unsinnigen Diensttage-Plafonierung auf maximal 5 Millionen pro Jahr;
  • die Beibehaltung der 3-wöchigen Wiederholungskurse (WKs) für alle Truppen (anstatt wie vom Bundesrat vorgeschlagen 2-wöchig), dafür jedoch die Reduktion der Anzahl der WKs von den vorgeschlagenen 6 auf 5;
  • die Beibehaltung der Armeeorganisation in einer Verordnung über welche die Bundesversammlung abstimmt (dementsprechend keine Regelung im Militärgesetz, wo sie bei jeder Anpassung wiederum dem fakultativen Referendum unterstehen würde);
  • sowie die Schaffung einer zusätzlichen mechanisierten Brigade.

Foto: Bat Chars 17

Foto: Bat Chars 17

Mit der Weiterentwicklung der Armee werden die hauptsächlichen Mängel der Armee XXI ausgemerzt: die Bereitschaft wird erhöht, die Kaderausbildung verbessert, die vollständige Ausrüstung sichergestellt und die Armee regional wieder besser verankert. Der Sollbestand der Armee soll auf 100’000 Mann reduziert werden, was wegen Verschiebungen, Abwesenheiten, Krankheiten usw. bei einem Umrechnungsfaktor von 1,4 einen Effektivbestand von 140’000 entspricht. Dazu meinte Ständerat Roberto Zanetti (SP,SO), dass “die Hunderttausender-Vorgabe des Parlamentes [vom Bundesrat] recht grosszügig interpretiert” wurde. Ganz anderer Meinung war Ständerat Peter Föhn (SVP,SZ). Er beantragte einen Sollbestand von 140’000 Armeeangehörigen und bezog sich bei seiner Begründung auf den Anti-Terror-Einsatz der französischen Behörden nach dem Anschlag auf “Charlie Hebdo” am 7. Januar 2015 in Paris, wo 88’000 Sicherheitskräfte im Einsatz standen. Bei seinen Ausführungen relativierte Bundesrat Ueli Maurer den französische Mittelansatz und hielt fest, dass auf die Schweiz heruntergebrochen ein vergleichbarer Einsatz rund 10’000 Armeeangehörige umfassen würde. Da die von Ständerat Föhn beantragte Bestandeserhöhung Mehrkosten von 1 Milliarde Franken zur Folge gehabt hätte, war die Unterstützung seines Anliegens im Ständerat gering, so dass er seinen Antrag schliesslich zurückzog.

Mit der Weiterentwicklung der Armee wird auch die offiziell ausgewiesene Reserve abgeschafft. Gemäss der SiK-S sollen Durchdiener — welche wie bisher max. 15% der Anzahl der Rekrutenjahrgangs ausmachen dürfen — nach Abschluss ihrer Dienstleistung mit einem Teil ihrer persönlichen Ausrüstung noch für 4 Jahre in der Armee eingeteilt bleiben (inklusive obligatorischer Schiesspflicht) und bei Bedarf aufgeboten werden können. Damit würde eine “stille Reserve” von rund 12’000 Mann geschaffen. Bundesrat Maurer begrüsste diese Anpassung — nicht diskutiert wurde die dabei zwangsläufige Benachteiligung der Durchdiener. Bei einem regulären Soldaten, welcher nach der Rekrutenschule WKs absolviert, sieht die Regelung nach der Rekrutenschule eine Armeeeinteilung von 9 Jahren vor, in denen er gemäss dem Entscheid des Ständerates 5 WKs absolvieren muss, in jedem Fall jedoch am Ende seines 34. Altersjahres unabhängig von der Erfüllung der Dienstpflicht aus der Armee ausscheiden wird. Im Gegensatz zu den Durchdienern, welche in jedem Fall ihre Dienstpflicht vollständig erfüllen und dabei sogar noch mehr Diensttage zu leisten haben, werden WK-pflichtige Soldaten in keine “stille Reserve” versetzt. Da Durchdiener sich für dieses Modell entscheiden, um die ganze Dienstpflicht am Stück und endgültig zu erledigen, müssten sie sich mit der Einführung dieser “stillen Reserve” über den Tisch gezogen fühlen.

Mit den vorgesehenen 5 Milliarden Franken im Jahr wird die Armee wie bis anhin haushälterisch umgehen müssen, doch scheinen Finanzen und erwartete Leistung endlich wieder ausgewogen zu sein. Gemäss Bundesrat Maurer stillt die Fähigkeit 35’000 Mann innerhalb von 10 Tagen aufzubieten ein wesentlicher Kostenfaktor dar. Material muss wieder stärker dezentralisiert eingelagert werden, was zu einer Erhöhung der zu unterhaltenden Standorte und den damit verbundenen Kosten führt. Ausserdem muss jeder Soldat wieder über das für den Einsatz notwendige Material (persönliches Material und Korpsmaterial) verfügen. Dazu kommt, dass das Einsatzmaterial wegen der technologischen Entwicklung schneller erneuert werden muss. Im internationalen Vergleich befindet sich die Schweiz mit ihren Militärausgaben eher am Ende der Liste. Sie entsprechen ungefähr 0,9% des Bruttoinlandsproduktes. Die NATO beispielsweise fordert ihre Mitgliedsstaaten auf, Militärausgaben von 2% des Bruttoinlandsprodukt auszuweisen, was jedoch von den meisten Mitgliedsstaaten nicht erfüllt wird (siehe Diagramm unten).


Die von der SiK-S geforderte und durch den Ständerat beschlossene zusätzliche mechanisierte Brigad wird die Kosten nur geringfügig beeinflussen. Es geht dabei primär um die Zusammenfassung der dem Heer direkt unterstellten Bataillione unter ein Brigadekommando. Ausser einen zusätzlichen Brigadestab gibt es dafür weder mehr Personal, noch mehr Mittel oder Geld. Die Details, wie beispielsweise die Gliederung dieser Brigade, ist Sache des Eidgenössischen Departements für Verteidigung, Bevölkerungsschutz und Sport (VBS) und der Armeeführung. Basierend auf einen Antrag von Ständerat Hans Hess (FDP,OW), welcher schliesslich auch von Bundesrat Maurer gutgeheissen wurde, werden nach einer Übergangszeit von 5 Jahren die Losgistikbasis und die Führungsunterstützungsbasis der Armee unter einem Unterstützungskommando zusammengefasst.

Die Vorlage wird voraussichtlich in der Sommersession im Nationalrat behandelt werden, was erfahrungsgemäss zu heftigeren Diskussionen führt. Anschliessend unterstehen die Gesetze dem fakultativen Referendum, welches womöglich von der Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee und von der Gruppe Giardino (eventuell zusammen mit Pro Militia) ergriffen werden könnte (siehe auch Christian Brönnimann, “Die kleinere Armee eckt an“, Tagesanzeiger, 20.03.2015).

Die Aussicht, dass sich sowohl die Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee (GSoA) als auch die Gruppe Giardino, die für eine starke Schweizer Milizarmee einsteht, ernsthaft Gedanken machen, das Referendum gegen die Vorlage zu ergreifen, erfüllt mich mit Sorge. Nicht, weil ich diesen Organisationen ein demokratisches Grundrecht absprechen möchte, sondern weil insbesondere armeefreundliche Organisationen – in diesem Zusammenhang ist auch noch Pro Militia, die Vereinigung ehemaliger und eingeteilter Angehöriger der Schweizer Armee zu erwähnen – mit ihrer Opposition zur Weiterentwicklung der Armee zu Verbündeten, ja zu Steigbügelhaltern für die eigentlichen Armeeabschaffer wie die Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee werden könnten. — Ständerat Joachim Eder (FDP,ZG), Frühjahressession 2015, 10.03.2015.

Neuevaluation und Beschaffung von Transportflugzeugen
Die Überlegung ein Transportflugzeug für die Schweizer Armee anzuschaffen ist nicht neu. Im Rüstungsprogramm 2004 schlug der Bundesrat die Beschaffung von zwei kleinen Transportflugzeuge vom Typ CASA C-295M vor, was jedoch in der darauf folgenden Debatte vom Nationalrat abgelehnt und aus dem Rüstungsprogramm gestrichen wurde. Der damalige Nationalrat und jetzige Bundesrat Didier Burkhalter stiess mit einer Motion im Oktober 2007 die Diskussion über die Beschaffung von Transportflugzeugen erneut an. In der Wintersession 2008 wurde die Motion angenommen und der Bundesrat beauftragt, ein neues Konzept für Transportflugzeuge zur Unterstützung ziviler und militärischer Einsätze im Rahmen der humanitären Hilfe und der Friedensförderung im Ausland auszuarbeiten. Nicht nur sollten die Transportflugzeuge in diesem Pool zivil und militärisch genutzt werden können, die geschaffenen Transportkapazitäten sollten auch mit anderen Staaten, die eine vergleichbare Politik der Friedensförderung verfolgen (beispielsweise Österreich, Finnland oder Irland), geteilt werden. Seit der Annahme der Motion verschwand die Angelegenheit jedoch in einer Schublade des Bundesrates. Noch im August 2014 hielt der Bundesrat auf eine Interpellation von Nationalrat Pierre-Alain Fridez (SP,JU) fest, dass “[d]ie Beschaffung eines Transportflugzeuges […] sich nach wie vor nicht [aufdrängt] und […] auch nicht absehbar [ist]. Für regelmässige Flüge z. B. zum Schweizer Kontingent in der KFOR [seien] kommerzielle Anbieter wesentlich günstiger als der Besitz und Betrieb eines eigenen Transportflugzeuges”. Trotzdem beschäftigte sich gemäss Aussagen von Bundesrat Maurer die “Verwaltung” seit September 2014 mit dieser Frage.

Zusammenstellung möglicher Transportflugzeuge (Diego Heinen, “Luftmobilität – Eine Herausforderung für die Schweizer Armee“, Military Power Revue Nr. 2, 2014, S. 36).

Zusammenstellung möglicher Transportflugzeuge (Diego Heinen, “Luftmobilität – Eine Herausforderung für die Schweizer Armee“, Military Power Revue Nr. 2, 2014, S. 36).

Der Entscheid des Bundesrates, aufgrund fehlender logistischer Unterstützung — unter anderem für die geplanten Luftbrücken — auf einen militärischen Beitrag zur humanitären Hilfe in den von Ebola betroffenen Gebieten zu verzichten, brachte das Thema der Beschaffung eines Transportflugzeuges wieder auf den Tisch (siehe auch Nationalrätin Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter (CVP,BL), “14.4247 – Interpellation: Einsatz der Schweizer Armee zur Bekämpfung von Ebola“, Curia Vista – Geschäftsdatenbank, 12.12.2014). Sowohl die Motion von Ständerat Peter Bieri (CVP,ZG) wie auch von Ständerätin Géraldine Savary (SP,VD) wollen den Bundesrat erneut beauftragen, den Kauf von einem oder zwei militärischen Transportflugzeugs zu prüfen und in einem der nächsten Rüstungsprogramme — jedoch spätestens bis 2018 — dem Parlament vorzuschlagen. Bundesrat Maurer begrüsste die Motion und wies darauf hin, dass ein solches Transportflugzeug nicht nur im Rahmen von Auslandseinsätzen der Schweizer Armee, sondern auch zu Gunsten des Eidgenössisches Departement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten zur Rückführungen diplomatischen Personals und des Eidgenössisches Justiz- und Polizeidepartement zur Rückführung von Asylbewerbern (!!) genutzt werden könnte. Da bereits einige Abklärungen getätigt wurden, wird sich der Bundesrat mit der Frage noch voraussichtlich im ersten Halbjahr 2015 befassen und dem Parlament bis Ende Jahr eine Antwort zukommen lassen.

[Bei den Luftransportkapazitäten ist die Schweizer Armee] derzeit auf den goodwill von Partnernationen angewiesen, eine Situation, welche sich eine militärische Institution nicht erlauben darf. Man stelle sich vor, kein internationaler Partner hat — aus welchen Gründen auch immer — die Kapazität die Schweiz zu unterstützen; sollen AdA oder Zivilpersonen dann im Krisengebiet zurückgelassen werden? — Diego Heinen, “Luftmobilität – Eine Herausforderung für die Schweizer Armee“, Military Power Revue Nr. 2, 2014, S. 32.

Auch das nach einiger Verzögerung im Nationalrat behandelte Nachrichtendienstgesetz kann auf eine bewegte Geschichte zurückblicken. Bereits mit dem zweiten Revisionsschritt des Bundesgesetzes über Massnahmen zur Wahrung der inneren Sicherheit (BWIS II, im Juni 2007 vom Bundesrat verabschiedet) wurde der Ausbau der Beschaffungsmassnahmen zur Terrorismusbekämpfung vorgesehen. Unter der Federführung von Urs von Däniken, damaliger Chef des Dienst für Analyse und Prävention (DAP), glich BWIS II einem Blankoscheck zur Überwachung der Bürger. Dieser erste Entwurf wurde zwei Jahre später vom Parlament an den Bundesrat zur Überarbeitung zurückgewiesen. Beim darauffolgenden “BWIS II reduziert”, welcher im September 2011 vom Parlament verabschiedet wurde, übernahm der Bundesrat ausschliesslich die im Parlament unbestrittenen Punkte — alles Weitere soll nun in einem einheitlichen Nachrichtendienstgesetz geregelt werden, welches das Bundesgesetzes über Massnahmen zur Wahrung der inneren Sicherheit (BWIS) und das Bundesgesetz über die Zuständigkeiten im Bereich des zivilen Nachrichtendienstes (ZNDG) ersetzen soll. Damit wird ausserdem dem Umstand Rechnung getragen, dass der DAP und der Strategische Nachrichtendienst (SND) sich seit dem 1. Januar 2010 zusammengefasst im Nachrichtendienst des Bundes (NDB) innerhalb des VBS befindet.

Das Nachrichtendienstgesetz wartet im Wesentlichen mit folgenden Neuerungen auf:

  • Neuausrichtung der Informationsbeschaffung: Es wird nicht mehr zwischen Bedrohungen aus dem Inland und dem Ausland unterschieden, sondern zwischen gewalttätigem Extremismus mit Bezug zur Schweiz (wo keine genehmigungspflichtigen Beschaffungsmassnahme zum Einsatz gelangen) und den übrigen Bedrohungsfeldern. Die Abgrenzung ist Sache des Bundesrates und geschieht mittels einer jährlich aktualisierten Liste, auf welcher Gruppierungen aufgeführt werden, welche als gewalttätig-extremistisch einzustufen sind.
  • nachrichtendienst-001Einführung von neuen genehmigungspflichtigen Beschaffungsmassnahmen: Es handelt sich dabei um die ursprünglich in BWIS II vorgeschlagenen und im Nachrichtendienstgesetz überarbeitet aufgenommenen Beschaffungsmassnahmen. Darunter fallen die Überwachung des Post- und Fernmeldeverkehrs, das Abhören und Aufzeichnen von Privatgesprächen, das Beobachten an nicht allgemein zugänglichen Orten (auch mittels technischem Überwachungsgerät), das Durchsuchen von Räumlichkeiten, Fahrzeugen oder Behältnissen, der Einsatz von technischen Ortungsgeräten sowie das Eindringen in Computersystemen um Informationen zu beschaffen bzw. den Zugang zu Informationen zu stören, zu verhindern oder zu verlangsamen. Diese Beschaffungsmassnahmen können ausschliesslich in den Bereichen Terrorismus, verbotener Nachrichtendienst, Proliferation und Angriffe auf kritische Infrastrukturen und zur Wahrung weiterer wesentlicher Landesinteressen eingesetzt werden. Nach Auffassung des Bundesrates sind sie notwendig, weil die heutigen stark eingeschränkten Möglichkeiten des Nachrichtendienstes angesichts der aggressiveren und komplexeren Bedrohungsformen nicht mehr ausreichen. Natürlich werden von der Überwachung betroffene Person (oder auch Drittpersonen) während der Durchführung der Massnahmen nicht in Kenntnis gesetzt, müssen jedoch nach Abschluss der Operation innerhalb eines Monats darüber informiert werden.
  • Kontrolle und Aufsicht: Die genehmigungspflichtigen Beschaffungsmassnahmen sowie die Kabelaufklärung (gemeint ist damit die Überwachung des Internets mittels Stichworten) gelangen nur dann zur Anwendung, wenn das Bundesverwaltungsgericht der betreffenden Massnahme zugestimmt und anschliessend der Departemenschef VBS nach Konsultation des Sicherheitsausschusses des Bundesrates die Freigabe für die Durchführung des Einsatzes erteilt hat. Dieses Bewilligungsverfahren soll eine erneute Datensammelwut des Nachrichtendienstes verhindern. Gemäss Bundesrat Maurer kämen die genehmigungspflichtigen Beschaffungsmassnahmen bei gleichbleibender Bedrohungslage in rund 10-12 Fällen im Jahr zur Anwendung — diese Zahl scheint jedoch ziemlich aus der Luft gegriffen zu sein. Die Tätigkeiten des NDB unterliegen einer dreifachen Aufsicht durch das VBS, den Bundesrat und die Geschäftsprüfungsdelegation des Parlaments. Die Funkaufklärung (jedoch nicht die Kabelaufklärung) unterliegt zusätzlich einer gesonderten fachlichen Überprüfung durch die unabhängige Kontrollinstanz.

Bereits seit über 10 Jahren ist die Überwachung des Post- und Fernmeldeverkehrs in der Schweiz “dank” dem Bundesgesetz betreffend die Überwachung des Post- und Fernmeldeverkehrs (BÜPF) eine Realität. In der Schweiz müssen Anbieter von Telefon- und Internetdiensten das Kommunikationsverhalten (wer hat wen wann angerufen und wie lange dauerte das Gespräch, wer hat sich wann mit welcher IP und wie lange ins Internet eingeloggt, wer hat wann wem eine EMail oder ein SMS verschickt, wo hat sich das Mobiltelefon aufgehalten; siehe Digitale Gesellschaft, “Vorratsdatenspeicherung“, 2014) ihrer Kunden für 6 Monaten auf Vorrat speichern. Auf diese Daten hatte der NDB im Rahmen seiner präventiven Arbeit bis jetzt keinen Zugriff und wurden nur auf Verlangen der Strafverfolgungsbehörden herausgegeben. Zufälligerweise wird das BÜFP momentan ebenfalls total revidiert und verschärft (beispielsweise: Ausweitung der Vorratsdatenspeicherung auf 12 Monate).

Überwachungsmassnahmen auf Verlangen der Strafverfolgungsbehörden.

Überwachungsmassnahmen auf Verlangen der Strafverfolgungsbehörden.

Die Ausweitung der nachrichtendienstlichen Informationsbeschaffung ist kritisch zu betrachten, da sie Personen betrifft, welche weder unter Tatverdacht stehen noch strafbare Handlungen durchführten. Da diese Informationsbeschaffung für die betroffene Person nicht erkennbar ist, hat sie keine Möglichkeit sich bei falscher Interpretation durch den Nachrichtendienst zu rechtfertigen. Kritiker argumentieren unter anderem das mit dem Nachrichtendienstgesetz die Kompetenzen des NDB unverhältnismässig stark ausgebaut würde, dass die genehmigungspflichtigen Massnahmen weit über eine defensive Gefahrenabwehr hinausgehen würde, dass damit präventive Massnahmen über die strafprozessualen Zwangsmassnahmen hinaus ergriffen würden, was die Grundrechte der Betroffenen in unzulässiger Weise einschränkt. Für eine detaillierte Kritik am Nachrichtendienstgesetz siehe Demokratische Juristinnen und Juristen der Schweiz, “Stellungnahme zum Entwurf eines Nachrichtendienstgesetzes (NDG, Entwurf 1, BBl 2014 2237)“, März 2015.

Im Gegensatz dazu war der Nationalrat der überwiegenden Meinung, dass mit dem Nachrichtendienstgesetz die Güterabwägung zwischen Sicherheit und Schutz von Persönlichkeitsrechten unter Berücksichtigung der Verhältnismässigkeit gut gelungen sei. Schliesslich stimmte er mit 119 zu 65 Stimmen dem Gesetzesentwurf zu, wobei die ​Sozialdemokratische, Grüne und Grünliberale Fraktion nahezu vollständig gegen das Nachrichtendienstgesetz votiert hatten. Die Vorlage wird voraussichtlich in der Sommersession im Ständerat behandelt werden. Ebenfalls könnte das totalrevidierte BÜFP in der Sommersession im Nationalrat als Zweitrat behandelt werden. Anschliessend unterstehen beide Gesetze dem fakultativen Referendum, welches vermutlich von Organisationen zum Schutz von Grund- und Persönlichkeitsrechten (beispielsweise, und womöglich von der Grünen Partei der Schweiz sowie von den Jungparteien ergriffen werden könnte.

Exkurs: “Wir tauschen mit der NSA keine Daten aus”
Wenn Bundesrat Maurer verlauten lässt, dass die genehmigungspflichtigen Beschaffungsmassnahmen bei Annahme des Nachrichtendienstgesetzes in rund 10-12 Fällen im Jahr zur Anwendung kommen könnte, dann ist eine gesunde Portion Misstrauen nicht fehl am Platz — das zeigt eine andere Aussage, welche Bundesrat Maurer am 30. Oktober 2013 von sich gab. Im Zuge der Snowden-Enthüllungen über die Tätigkeiten der NSA, sagte Bundesrat Maurer, dass der NDB keinen Kontakt mit der NSA hatte und keine Daten ausgetauscht hatte. Fachkundige zweifelten am Wahrheitsgehalt dieser Aussage und weitere Enthüllungen am gleichen Tag schienen diese Zweifel zu bestätigen: Die Schweiz steht auf einer Liste von Ländern, mit denen die NSA eine “focused cooperation” pflegt (siehe Bild unten). Es handelt sich dabei um die zweithöchste Stufe der Zusammenarbeit. Die Gruppe umfasst 17 europäische Länder sowie Japan und Südkorea (siehe auch Martin Steiger, “NSA: Schweizerisch-amerikanische Zusammenarbeit“, Steiger Legal, 30.10.2013).


Statistics rules!
Zum Schluss noch einen Ausblick auf die Parlamentswahlen vom 18. Oktober 2015. Bereits jetzt scheinen sich die Kandidaten in Szene setzen zu müssen. Jedenfalls könnte dies der Grund für die nicht ganz unverfängliche Frage des radikalkonservative Nationalrates Walter Wobmann (SVP,SO) zu sein. Er wollte vom Bundesrat den Anteil von Ausländern und Muslimen in Schweizer Gefängnissen wissen. Gemäss Bundesrätin Simonetta Sommaruga befanden sich 2013 6’607 Personen in Haft. Darunter waren 1’786 Schweizer und 1’382 Ausländer der ständigen Wohnbevölkerung, 854 Asylsuchende sowie 2’585 Personen, die über keinen geregelten Aufenthaltsstatus in der Schweiz verfügen oder deren Aufenthaltsstatus nicht bekannt ist. Im Jahr 2013 befanden sich ferner 375 Ausländer in Ausschaffungs- oder Auslieferungshaft und weitere 160 Personen in einer anderen Haftform, wobei keine statistische Unterscheidung nach Nationalität vorliegt. Die Religionszugehörigkeit der Insassen wird vom Bundesamt für Statistik nicht erfasst; eine entsprechende Aufschlüsselung auf Muslime ist somit nicht möglich.

Posted in Armed Forces, Intelligence, Security Policy, Sessionsrückblick, Switzerland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

US Expands African Drone Aprons

DG (MAR 2015) Chabelley Drone Aprons

DG (MAR 2015) Chabelley Drone Aprons

Satellite imagery shows that the U.S. has expanded drone aprons at African airfields in Djibouti and Niger. New clamshell shelters and clearing activity suggest that the US is increasing its surveillance capability of nearby hotspots.

At Djibouti’s Chabelley airfield, space snapshots acquired in March 2015 shows the addition of four more clamshell shelters. Two were erected in December at the existing drone apron while two more were visible at the airfield’s older parking apron. Those on the older apron were erected between May and October. Historical imagery shows Predators parked in front of both new shelter sets.

It’s fortunate the US increased its drone combat air patrols in the region as things across the Bab-el-Mandeb in Yemen deteriorate. While it may be a coincidence, it also could suggest that US intelligence professionals had insight into things to come. Of course, we can never be sure.

Next door at Djibouti’s Ambouli international, two new aircraft hangars, an extended parallel taxi-way and a large parking ramp were still under construction in early 2015. The parking ramp measures approximately 130,000 sq meters. Imagery also shows that construction activity is ongoing at other parts of the airfield. In May, the US secured a 20-year lease with the East African country and has plans to spend USD 1 billion upgrading Camp Lemonnier into a major regional base.

With the 20-year lease, Djibouti was able to extract USD 63 million per year for base rents, up from USD 38 million previously. Djibouti’s GDP in 2013 was USD 1.46 billion.

DG (23 FEB 15) Niamey Drone Apron

DG (23FEB15) Niamey Drone Apron

Meanwhile in West Africa, recent imagery of Niger’s Diori Hamani from February shows clearing and paving activity next to a clamshell shelter housing US Reapers. Imagery from late December showed crews emptying the area of equipment and relocating the Ku-band array.

Space shots continue to show the expansion of the airport with new aircraft support shelters, additional leveling and the construction of aircraft hardstands. Ongoing construction activity emphasizes how important Niger is as a regional hub for French and US counter-terrorism operations — an importance that’s been growing since the 2011 US-led intervention in Libya.[1]

In September, the Washington Post reported that the US was preparing to open a second drone base at the Mano Dayak International airport in Agadez, partly in response to the arms trafficking from Libya. A review of historical imagery has not shown any construction activity that would support a drone base at the airport at this time.[2] The absence of additional infrastructure may suggest the clearing activity at Diori Hamani could be related to basing additional drones in Niamey, not Agadez. With the next imagery update, we wouldn’t be surprised if another clamshell shelter was erected next to the existing shelter.

Beyond West Africa, imagery has not shown a return of drones to the Seychelles, though visits from P-3s and other surveillance aircraft were observed at Victoria airport throughout 2014. The US continues to maintain its drone site focused on the horn at Ethiopia’s Arba Minch.

[1] As an example, see the shift in section 1206 funding of the US National Defense Authorization Act for Niger between 2011 (nil) and 2012 (USD 11.7 million) For more information see also here: Joseph Trevithick, “Niger is the New Hub for American Ops in North, West Africa“,, 20.05.2014.
[2] However, ongoing activity noted in the last half of 2014 included the touchdown of surveillance and cargo aircraft at the airport. This helps explains why the US Department of Defense ordered more than 7 million gallons (about 26.5 million litre) of jet and diesel fuel for the airport last year.

Posted in Chris B, Drones, English, International, Niger, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Imagery of the Week: RAF Akrotiri Deployments


Recent imagery acquired by DigitalGlobe from January 2015 confirms ongoing deployments to RAF Akrotiri, the UK’s airbase located in Cyprus. The southeast section of the airfield shows three Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules along with four CH-47 Chinook parked at the aircraft dispersal area. The UK reportedly sent the aircraft to support operations in Iraq, also known as Operation Shader. The C-130Js were deployed to the region in August 2014 to drop aid to the Yazidi refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar, while the CH-47s were sent to assist in the potential evacuation of the displaced persons. (The Yazidis have since relocated to Turkey).

Beyond the transport role, a single RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft was also observed refueling in the dispersal area. It is understood to be one of six fighter aircraft based in Cyprus currently carrying out intelligence surveillance reconnaissance and strike missions. RAF Tornados are equipped with DB-110 RAPTOR and Rafael Litening III advanced targeting pods.[1]

Initially, it was widely reported that the UK required the Tornado to scout out potential aid drop sites in order to avoid injuring the refugees. After a Parliamentary vote in September however, the aircraft were conducting strikes against ISIS fighters. According to UK House of Commons documents, the Tornados fly in pairs and conduct up to two sorties a day. The aircraft are then refueled in air by a Voyager KC2/3 tanker-transport before returning to Cyprus. In separate satellite imagery also dated from January, a Voyager KC2/3 was also observed at RAF Akrotiri.

In the meantime, imagery also shows the erection of six new aircraft shelters since early 2014 which further suggests the UK is considering a more long-term deployment. Previous rotations of RAF Typhoons and Tornados were noted in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

[1] Other aircraft assisting UK efforts include a Rivet Joint aircraft and RAF Reaper drones operating from Kuwait.

Posted in Chris B, English, Intelligence, International | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ASEAN Fault Lines

by Paul Pryce. Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in political science from universities on both sides of the pond, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces. His current research interests include African security issues and NATO-Russia relations.

Map of territorial disputes in South China Sea.

Map of territorial disputes in South China Sea.

Much international attention remains focused on maritime disputes in the South China Sea –- and with good reason. How the current Chinese leadership and their eventual successors exert their claims over the Spratly Islands and other disputed features in the region goes some way toward revealing China’s attitudes on the use of military force elsewhere. But this has meant that serious conflicts among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states are often overlooked, contributing to at times unrealistic expectations that ASEAN can serve as a united front to contain Chinese influence.

Most recently, the Sabah conflict has contributed to tensions between Malaysia and the Philippines. As Sabah was originally seized from the Sultanate of Sulu by the British North Borneo Company, and as the territory is home to a significant ethnic Filipino population, the status of this land has been disputed since the recognition of Malaysian independence in 1957. In February-March 2013, tensions rose when some 200 armed militants travelled by boat from the Philippines to Sabah and claimed to be restoring the territory to the rule of Jamalul Kiram III, the apparent successor to the old Sultanate of Sulu. A harsh crackdown by Malaysian forces ensued, repelling the militants. What followed was a series of diplomatic snubs in Malaysian-Filipino relations: the Philippines asked Malaysia to address allegations that Malaysian forces had engaged in atrocities against the ethnic Filipino community in Sabah, which prompted a stern rebuke from Malaysia and a boycott of the 2013 Asian Confederation Youth Boxing Championship, and so on.

In January 2014, the rebels threatened once again to seize Sabah for their “sultanate” but ultimately did not follow through with an attack. Rather than coordinating a response to the threat posed to regional security by the self-styled “Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo”, the Malaysian and Philippine governments accused each other of heinous acts. Had the rebels delivered on their 2014 threat, tensions might well have spiraled out of control. Also of concern, ASEAN remained aloof throughout the fighting in Sabah, making no visible effort to mediate the crisis or to discourage conflict between two of its members.

Further complicating the Sabah conflict, Malaysia and Indonesia have advanced competing claims against the islands of Ligitan and Sipadan, which are both located off the coast of Sabah in the Celebes Sea. In 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded the islands to Malaysia, though not before the Philippines applied to intervene in the proceedings on the basis of its historical claim to Northern Borneo. Though Indonesia has honoured the ICJ’s ruling and left Ligitan and Sipadan to Malaysian administration, this three-way dispute speaks to the volatile relationships among ASEAN member states. As recently as 2010, Indonesian protesters have gathered outside the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta to burn Malaysian flags -– and even attempted to storm the Embassy -– as an expression of animosity.

Cambodian troops make their way through the ancient temple of Preah Vihear in October 2008 following renewed hostilities with Thailand over a long-standing border dispute.

Cambodian troops make their way through the ancient temple of Preah Vihear in October 2008 following renewed hostilities with Thailand over a long-standing border dispute.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, a century-long territorial dispute persists between Cambodia and Thailand. In June 2008, both sides deployed forces to the area surrounding the 11th century Hindu temple Preah Vihear on the Thai-Cambodian border. A series of skirmishes followed until 2011, in which reportedly 20 Cambodian soldiers, 16 Thai soldiers, and five civilians were killed, while dozens of others on both sides were wounded. In November 2013, the ICJ ruled in favour of Cambodia’s claim and called for the immediate withdrawal of Thai troops, but it rejected Cambodia’s claim of ownership over Phnom Trap, a hill located three kilometres northwest of the temple. The nuance as to who has sovereignty over what in this border region leaves some degree of uncertainty and could always contribute to renewed clashes.

Thailand and Burma have long disputed their border, particularly in relation to the strategically important Three Pagodas Pass. To add to tensions in this area, Burmese forces engaged in frequent skirmishes close to the Thai border with insurgents from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) from November 2010 until the start of ceasefire talks in January 2012. More recently, the Burmese junta ran afoul of China when the Myanmar Air Force, in its efforts to attack ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels, accidentally struck a sugarcane field on China’s side of the border. The airstrike killed four Chinese citizens and wounded nine others, prompting a warning from Chinese military officials that, should there be further harm to China’s citizens as a result of Burmese actions, “the Chinese military will take resolute measures to protect the safety of Chinese people and their assets.”

Border demarcation between Thailand and Laos is still ongoing, although the Thai-Lao Joint Boundary Commission was established in 1996 to settle ownership of four villages and clarify the 1,810 kilometre boundary between the two countries. Confusion resulting from a set of maps made by French surveyors in 1907 resulted in several skirmishes in 1984. The conflict intensified, eventually resulting in a full-scale border war between Thailand and Laos in 1987-1988. Vietnamese forces intervened in support of Laos, and the conflict is estimated to have resulted in more than a thousand deaths before Laos was left in de facto control of the disputed territory.

It is not all doom and gloom across Southeast Asia, however. Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia were able to resolve their dispute over 483 kilometres of land border through a peaceful exchange of views, with delimitation of the land border initiated in November 2014. It is also worth emphasizing once again that disputes relating to the Cambodian-Thai border and to the islands of Ligitan and Sipadan were resolved not in combat but in the courts. This suggests an emerging norm in Southeast Asia for inter-state conflicts to be resolved peacefully. It has only been those disputes in which non-state actors have become engaged in which violence is employed, such as Burma’s attacks on the Kokang rebels or Malaysia’s efforts to repel the “Sultanate of Sulu”.

Source: Teo Jing Ting, "Never take our peace for granted", Singapore's Ministry of Defence, 05.03.2015.

Source: Teo Jing Ting, “Never take our peace for granted“, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence, 05.03.2015.

It may be that the heightened tensions between Malaysia and the Philippines in relation to the Sabah conflict can be attributed to the aggravating role of non-state actors. The 21st century has seen governments increasingly employ hybrid warfare to advance their interests abroad. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine are a recent example of hybrid warfare in practice, using Special Forces units in conjunction with Russian-trained and equipped militias to advance claims on the ground while a coordinated information warfare campaign seeks to turn public opinion in favour of the Kremlin’s position on the conflict. In Sabah, Malaysian officials were clearly suspicious that the rebels were not in fact acting on their own initiative but were rather quietly backed by the Philippines. The keen interest of Philippine officials in the status of the ethnic Filipino community amid fighting only fed into these suspicions, resembling to some degree an attempt to smear Malaysia’s counter-insurgency operations and cast Malaysia as the oppressive villain in the conflict.

In order to ensure such intra-state conflicts do not become inter-stated clashes, it is necessary for ASEAN to explore means by which to share resources on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. In the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China has advanced the idea of “Three Evils“: terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Identifying these as the chief security threats in Central Asia, the SCO has managed to achieve greater cohesion than seen in previous years. Adopting a similar statement of principles and introducing related policy measures to be pursued jointly by ASEAN member states would ensure that Southeast Asia focuses its energies constructively. Its present fragile state leaves ASEAN as something of a paper tiger – threatening to an outside aggressor, but hardly able to withstand an actual challenge from China.

Posted in English, General Knowledge, Indonesia, Paul Pryce, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Belarus: Return to the Empire?

Sören Behnke is a Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Circle based in Berlin and is currently enrolled in the ‘Military Studies’ M.A. at the University of Potsdam.

Lukashenko’s Gamble
MINSK-1-Russia-EU-Ukraine-BelarusIn the early stages of 2015 all eyes were on Belarus, due to the Peace-Negotiations in it’s capital Minsk. It might have seemed to coincidental for western mainstream media to pick up on, but actually the location of the renewed peace talk was anything but that, and there is ample reason to keep an eye out for Belarus during the remainder of 2015. Once called “Europe’s last Dictator” (or Madman) Belarusian President, and proud Moustachio, Alexander Lukashenko has certainly used the war in Ukraine to his advantage, appearing as a somewhat more sane version of Rusian President Vladimir Putin (while in fact he is not), western leaders can rely on.

With Minsk being one of the last remaining places in Europe Putin will travel to, with the exception of Crimea for victory parades and Hungary, Lukashenko positioned himself cleverly to use both Russia and the European Union to his advantage.

Towards Russia
Russia and Belarus have traditional been seen as a kind inseparable tandem, cooperating in nearly every societal sector that politics can and will try to influence and control. Belarus is one of Russia’s most prized assets (or partners) in the newly found Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and it’ predecessors, the common tariff zone. This is important for Russia rather ideologically than from a pure business perspective, as the bilateral trade is primarily vital for Belarus and not Russia, but that is actually the whole point of the EEU. From a geopolitical and security standpoint, Belarus is extremely important for the Russian concept of defence against a possible threat from the EU/NATO. Just like Ukraine, the Kremlin regards Belarus as a geographical buffer zone, useful in particular with regards to its concept of strategic depth. Russia currently has one of its Volga radar stations situated in Belarus. Since 2012 Russia and Belarus share a common Air-Defence-Perimeter, and since 2013 there is much fuss over a planned Russian air base in Belarus.

After losing Ukraine, Russia’s partnership with one of it’s most important remaining allies, Belarus, seems to be crumbling as well. Rumours have long been abound that Lukashenko and Putin have had some private difficulties, but up until now, their alliance has not been strained by any possible personal animosities. Over the past few years, there have been ample occasions, where Minsk was able to play it’s bigger neighbours desire for a allies in clever way, gaining concessions, access to natural resources and other advantages simply for staying in Russia’s EEU. But in the latter months of 2014 significant trade disputes have arisen between the two states, with Belarus announcing that it might switch the currency of it’s bilateral trade back from rubles to dollars, due to the formers weakness.

The Eurasian Economic Union

Furthermore there has been a wave of accusations levered towards Minks by the Kremlin over illegal flows of European and other illicit goods via the Belarusian border, even though these flows are primarily thought to be conducted by Russian organised crime, i.e. the Siloviki themselves.

The latest episode starting when Lukashenko announced in January of 2015 “that he ‘does not exclude the possibility’ of withdrawal from the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC), if the association agreements are not observed”. This might simply be due to the fact that the Belarusian President has had enough of the bullying behaviour of it’s sisterly neighbour, but that’s in all probability not all there is. Lukashenko went even further when he, at least rhetorically, explored the possibility of Belarus having to defend itself at it’s eastern border, and one does have to wonder who the aggressor might be in that case.

Despite the rumblings between Minsk and Moscow, both are still engaged in a range of economic, cultural, military and other activities, and as long as Lukashenko still sees some perks to be had from Russia, he won’t abandon his long-time ally.

Towards the EU
But over the course of 2014, Lukashenko has used the Kremlin’s Ukrainian adventure to gain popularity at home and abroad, presenting himself and the political system he resides above as a slightly less dangerous authoritarianism. Which may be true on some points of the most common political and economic rankings. But overall when it comes to personal and business freedom, there is not much difference in between Russia and Belarus. Still the peace conference in Minsk has brought Belarus crucial recognition, as important western leaders where on Belarusian soil for the first time since the late Silvio Berlusconi visited Lukashenko in 2009. This in itself seems to be an important victory for Minsk, but there is probably more that the Belarusian administration is fishing for when it comes to it’s relations with the EU. And Lukashenko himself has publicly stated that he wants to “normalise” relations with the west, creating opportunities for foreign investment in Belarus, which is critical to the Belarusian economy.

Lukashenko and Putin during the CSTO Collective Security Council meeting in Moscow, 2012.

Lukashenko and Putin during the CSTO Collective Security Council meeting in Moscow, 2012.

The EU on the other hand seems to have quiet the opportunity of further weakening Russia’s EEU Project and it’s overall geopolitical hand, and thus applying even more pressure on the Kremlin to become conciliatory on a whole range of topics, could it drive a wedge between Belarus and Russia. Furthermore expanding the European influence in Belarus could help transform the political system of Belarus once Lukashenko, who will be nearing his late 60’s at the end of his next 5-year term as the Head of State, decides to step down. More importantly it could help enable a scenario like this at all, or at least European diplomats believe. A possible transition towards democracy requires after all some kind of safety guaranties for a departure of the ruling family, which after all is quite a delicate affair.

But besides the glimmer of hope, there are many obstacles towards an rapprochement between Minsk and the other European Capitals, and the EU as a whole would be wise not rush anything. First and foremost, many Belarusian officials are still under travel restrictions/bans by the EU including Lukashenko himself. These bans were issued by the EU in order to address the still dire human rights situation in Belarus, which hasn’t changed a bit over the recent past. Besides all of the feel good rhetoric coming out of Minsk, the political opposition is still oppressed and incarcerated, and though the regime may be less corrupt than it’s Russian counterpart, corruption is still rampant in Belarus, with no end in sight. Thus the EU should be careful not to overplay it’s hand and most importantly not to expect major changes from a political system, that for the last 20 years has resisted any and all attempts of reform.

At Home
So far it has worked out quite nicely for Lukashenko as he saw his popularity levels rising after expressing his solidarity with the brotherly people of Ukraine time and time again over the course of 2014. As there is a presidential election approaching in the autumn of 2015, another important point for Lukashenko is to appeal his home crowd, who’s solidarity for the people of Ukraine has been steadily rising since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

One could wonder, why of all people Lukashenko would need publicity stunts like that, as Belarusian elections aren’t know for any of the Schumpeterian attributes. But that would be to misunderstand the inner workings of this specific regime and authoritarian states in general. Even though every election can and will be fixed, it is still an important national political event. Rather than being a concrete day of decision it is more like political ritual, and Lukashenko needs to act accordingly. So even if the probability of him not being “re-elected” is rather slim, to say the least, it is still important to virtually appeal to his populace in the coming months leading up to the elections. This is also why the Belarusian authorities were stepping up their patriotic campaigns in the recent months, re-evaluating school textbooks, emphasising the importance of the Belarusian language etc. By inciting patriotic sentiments in the Belarusian populace Lukashenko is clearly aiming at presenting himself as a true and independent Belarusian Leader, which so far seems to have worked out quite well.

The Year of Belarus
Whilst many western analysts focus on the dangers for the Baltic states, that might be posed by Russia over the course of the Year, 2015 will be actually the a decisive year for Belarus, it’s political system and it’s alliance structures. Lukashenko is gaming on every possible angle, trying to squeeze favourable commitments from all sides, while enforcing his position at home. This could lead to a somewhat fierce competition between Russia and the EU with regards to influence and stakes in Belarus. This puts ordinary citizens in the most unfavourable spot, as any moves by either Russia or the EU will, at least in the short term, bolster Lukashenko.

This might mean that even though the EU might not be overtly willing to support Europe’s “last Dictator” it might feel forced to do so, in order to deny Russia further leverage over Belarus, whilst hoping for medium term improvement of the human rights situation. Germany even has it’s own catchy slogan for that kind of policy “Wandel durch Annäherung” (change through rapprochement), dating back to the Willy Brandt’s policy towards Eastern Europe. But has that ever worked out fine?

Posted in Belarus, English, Sören Behnke, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peacekeepers Want Gear That Doesn’t Suck

by Kevin Knodell. He is a staff writer at War is Boring, a regular contributor at and one of the authors of War Is Boring: A True War Comics Collection. Follow him on Twitter at @KJKnodell

U.N drone in the Democratic Republic of Congo. U.N./Sylvain Liechti photo

U.N drone in the Democratic Republic of Congo. U.N./Sylvain Liechti photo

• • •

What’s blue on top and yellow all over? A U.N. Peacekeeper.

• • •

It’s an old joke — a reference to the their blue headgear and their supposed cowardice in the face of danger. It’s a criticism that’s not entirely fair. Missions are frequently short on air assets, have shoddy communications gear and lack spare parts for the equipment they do have. Blue berets often struggle to protect themselves, let alone keep the peace or protect civilians. Fair or not, it’s led many to be skeptical of the blue beret.

But, that doesn’t stop the international community from authorizing missions on the regular. The annual U.N. peacekeeping budget is a little more than $7 billion. The United States is the largest financial backer, paying almost 30 percent. Today, more than 123,000 soldiers and police from 128 countries operate under the blue banner in support of 16 ongoing U.N. peacekeeping operations (“Financing peacekeeping“, United Nations).

Veterans of U.N. peacekeeping missions have long noted problems in the field. Hiccups with communications and logistics are often more than just frustrating – the consequences have been fatal. Today, many members of the peacekeeping community are pushing for reform.

In 2014 an international panel of security experts and retired military officers, funded by the Danish government, trotted the globe exploring how technology could help U.N. peacekeepers deal with some of the world’s worst conflicts. They talked to everyone from soldiers on the ground in war zones to tech gurus in start-up offices. They wanted to document the sorts of problems peacekeepers face, and figure out what tools they can use to overcome them.

In February 2015, the panelists published their findings in the form of a 144-page report (PDF). They concluded that peacekeeping missions need to catch up with the information age—and fast. The panel urged the U.N. to train “digital peacekeepers” and arm them with cheap, high-tech devices. That could mean peacekeepers monitoring Twitter for news, carrying smart phones and using apps to help identify unexploded land mines as well as some more far-out ideas like wearing visors streaming real-time information pulled from the Internet. And the panelists want peacekeepers to use drones. Lots of them.

Three peacekeepers killed in El Geneina, West Darfur

The aftermath of an ambush that killed three peacekeeprs in Darfur, Sudan. U.N./Albert Gonzalez Farran photo

Harsh Realities
But that future could be a long ways off. The panelists blasted the current state of U.N. peacekeeping. “Missions frequently lack a wide range of the very capabilities now considered by most militaries, law enforcement agencies and international organizations to be minimally necessary to operate effectively,” the report stated (page 3).

It asserted that the gap between what troops are supposed to have and what they do have is “so pronounced,” that it has discouraged richer countries with the most technological, logistical and financial capabilities from contributing troops or material. Most U.N. peacekeeping missions today depend on troops from developing countries. These armies struggle with logistics. Even the most professional of them often lack airlift capabilities to bring in armored vehicles and adequate equipment by themselves. Perhaps the most serious consequence has been problems with medical evacuations owing to a lack of helicopters and qualified medical personnel. “[W]ith few exceptions, missions struggle to deliver critical urgent care within the ‘golden hour’ — the 60-minute period beginning at the moment of injury that represents an internationally recognized time period within which casualties should receive lifesaving and urgent life sustaining care,” the report warned (page 41).

Though hi-tech gadgets can help peacekeepers, they’re no substitute for helicopters, heavy equipment and fuel. Logistics and resources are at the core of any military endeavor. The report found first and foremost that the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations needs to address basic operational needs.

Ironically, the hesitance of rich countries to provide missions with necessary logistical and technological help has led to a cycle in which troops on the ground consistently lack basic equipment and struggle to enforce their mandates. That’s created a perception that peacekeeping missions are doomed to fail and that current troops – mostly from countries in Africa and Asia – lack either the competency or the resolve to do their jobs. “This narrative has […] eroded the political and financial willingness of member states to ensure the peacekeepers in the field can operate at a level at least as sophisticated as any spoiler they may encounter,” the report suggested (page 5). But that hasn’t stopped rich countries from expecting poor countries contribute troops to these missions.

Even so, Peacekeepers in the field have often proved resilient and creative. In South Sudan, a lightly equipped U.N. peacekeeping force with troops drawn mostly from developing countries has saved thousands of lives. It created safe havens for civilians when civil war enveloped the country in December 2013. Blue helmets immediately opened bases for people fleeing both government and rebel death squads. They escorted refugees around the country in re-purposed trucks and buses while keeping tabs on threatened communities. Today, as government and rebel fighters continue skirmishing and accruing arms, blue helmeted troops maintain civilian protection sites scattered around the country with modest resources. However, they could save more lives — and better protect themselves — if they had better tools. The panelists don’t seem to think that providing peacekeepers with modern equipment such a lofty expectation. “Most modern technologies are neither too expensive nor too sophisticated to be within the reach of peacekeepers,” the report asserted (page 5).

Unexploded ordinance in the South Sudanese town of Malakal. U.N. photo

Unexploded ordinance in the South Sudanese town of Malakal. U.N. photo

Dangerous Ground
Bombs litter today’s war zones. In modern warfare, terrorists and guerrilla groups who can’t fight an opposing army directly frequently resort to improvised explosives and booby-traps. That doesn’t even include the countless mines and un-exploded ordinance that conventional armies and rebel groups often leave behind over decades of conflict. It’s a common problem — and danger — for U.N. missions. Yet the panel found that missions have routinely sent peacekeepers into heavily mined and booby-trapped territory without proper equipment and training to protect themselves or neutralize explosives. The panelists said that’s unacceptable. “Where IEDs are an identified threat, all convoys should deploy with the minimum ability to self-recover, together with sapper pioneering teams equipped with heavy vehicle extraction capability and organizational level repair and remediation technologies,” the report recommended (page 48).

UNMAS-001The panel suggested that convoys operating in areas known to be heavily laden with explosives should make use of mine-protected armored vehicles, rather than the vulnerable trucks that are regularly make up these convoys. Ugandan troops with the African Union force in Somalia have used mine-protected vehicles to shield themselves from insurgents with relative success. These vehicles debuted during the Rhodesian Bush Wars, developed by South African arms industry. They’re not rare in Africa.

But armored vehicles can be large, cumbersome and difficult to fly into remote locations. And spare parts can be difficult to track down. Many contingents get around in low cost, easy-to-transport pickup trucks. Peacekeepers have to be very deliberate about how – and when – to deploy heavy equipment. To make up for that the panel also suggested some simple, tech-based ways the peacekeepers can identify and protect themselves from bombs. The report noted that soldiers and police on the ground could use mobile apps to assess threats, in particular the U.N.’s open-source Landmine and Explosive Remnants of War Safety app — available to anyone for free (iOS / Android). The app tells users where known minefields are. It also helps users identify explosives, spot telltale signs of hidden bombs and allows them to report the locations of any explosives they come across directly to the U.N. Mine Action Service.

The panel singled out peacekeepers in Lebanon for effectively using this and other apps to help them in their mission. The panelists also proposed extensive use of tactical drones to help troops spot danger and scout ahead. “[C]onvoys may be equipped with small tactical UAVs as mobile intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms to survey choke points and hazard areas along the route as needed to enhance overall security,” the report suggested (page 46).

Blue helmets have already started using drones. During one field visit, the panelists interviewed a U.N. police officer that frequently used a miniature drone to assist with investigations. The peacekeeper provided them video of an investigation of a helicopter crash site.

A technician team prepare the launch of a U.N. drone is the Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. U.N./Sylvain Liechti photo

A technician team prepare the launch of a U.N. drone is the Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. U.N./Sylvain Liechti photo

Drones and Surveillance
In January 2013, the U.N. Security Council authorized the controversial deployment of drones to support peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The drones monitored rebel groups such as the brutal March 23 Movement. It was the world body’s first foray into robotic surveillance. But before the drones even reached the Congo, leaders in the Ivory Coast suggested that the U.N. consider using drones to augment the peacekeeping force in that country.

The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast reduced its forces in 2013, with more proposed cuts coming this year. The security situation has improved enough for the blue berets to continue a phased withdrawal but drones could help the shrinking force keep watch over its fragile security gains “This would help us to cope better with the difficulty we face in the west of the country and the heavily forested border area with Liberia which is very difficult to monitor and an ideal sanctuary for armed men,” mission spokesperson Sylvie van den Wildenberg told The Guardian. Peacekeepers around the world are definitely interested in using more drones to aid them in monitoring difficult environments.

But intelligence-gathering is a touchy subject in U.N. circles. Peace missions are supposed to be impartial. If peacekeepers covertly gather information, warring parties could perceive it as meddling. In 1993, U.N. officials in New York admonished Canadian general Roméo Dallaire when U.N. troops in Rwanda planned to raid weapons caches in Kigali discovered through help from an informant. The U.N. ordered Dallaire to stand down. Hutu extremists later used those same caches to commit the Rwandan Genocide and kill several of Dallaire’s troops.

In a community that already views gathering intelligence with skepticism, introducing drones is a huge leap forward. And there’s another hurdle — drones scare people. Pop culture regularly depicts drones as the embodiment of the surveillance state and the erosion of human rights. But countries and organizations all over the world are already using drones in increasing numbers. And their use isn’t limited purely to fighting terrorists and militants. Mexico recently began using drones to help protect endangered sea animals.

“Enabling a peacekeeping mission to use technology or other advanced means to gather information does not violate the basic principles of peacekeeping impartiality and state sovereignty,” the panel concluded. “[P]eacekeepers do not lose their impartiality simply because they are better aware of what is going on in their mission space.” (page 5).

The report conceded that drones and other surveillance technology can lead to abuses and would need substantial oversight. But ultimately, the panelists seemed to conclude that drones are here to stay — and that peacekeepers need them. The panel recommended the U.N. authorize the creation of a new kind of operation — called “Special Technical Missions” — specializing in technology and intelligence-gathering. “[The STMs would] enable the Security Council to call on, organize and legitimize the use of technical audio, visual, monitoring and surveillance technologies, ground and airborne sensors and other technical means […] to keep up with events on the ground in rapidly changing circumstances, inform their decision-making, prioritize action and aid in planning,” the report concluded (page 57).

The panel wants the U.N. to operate more drones. Like, now. “[The U.N. should] make maximum use of UAVs, greater use of smaller, tactical-level assets is required […],” the panelists wrote (pages 57 and 115). “[…] [m]iniature UAVs should be incorporated into standard requirements without delay.” (pages 54,57 and 115). And the report called for tracking devices for vehicles and heavy equipment, so that commanders can monitor their troops’ whereabouts. The devices could help in recovering stolen vehicles and heavy weaponry if rebels or bandits try to make off with them—a problem that has plagued missions around the world. “Real-time safety and security information is not a luxury, but rather, a life-saving necessity,” the panelists concluded (pages 6 and 34).

A South African peacekeeper snaps a photo with a digital camera during a patrol in Darfur, Sudan. U.N./Albert Gonzalez Farran photo

A South African peacekeeper snaps a photo with a digital camera during a patrol in Darfur, Sudan. U.N./Albert Gonzalez Farran photo

Digital Future
Communication is a constant problem for peacekeepers. It’s inevitable—troops come from all over the world and speak different languages. But the panel asserted that the problem peacekeeping troops most commonly report is their dependence on different sets of incompatible radio equipment, even when the U.N. — and not the troops’ own armies — provide the radios. “[This renders] communications between contingents, and even between members of a mixed patrol, difficult,” the report added (page 34). Though the panelists recommended that hi-frequency radio should remain the backbone of operational communications, they suggested peacekeepers make greater use of mobile communications gear connected to the Internet.

They want U.N. personnel — civilian and military alike — to have greater access to these devices. Regardless of their rank. “A number of mobile applications now exist for individuals to file travel plans, automatically communicate GPS locations on a periodic basis, and alert base stations or headquarters when they are overdue at their destinations,” the report stated (page 27).

The panel also wants peacekeepers to be social media savvy. Not just for communication, but to keep tabs on local political leaders, combatants and personalities. Warring factions regularly use Twitter and Facebook to make announcements, recruit fighters and spread propaganda. Monitoring social media is a hot-button topic that comes with a lot of concerns about personal privacy, freedom of expression and human rights. But the panel insisted that ignoring social media is a massive mistake, and hardly jeopardizes the peacekeepers’ neutrality. “No partiality is shown to peacekeepers in providing missions with the same access to information that people around the globe can readily and openly access […],” the report asserted (pages 5 and 23).

The panel also explored more ambitious technological advancements, suggesting individual peacekeepers wear Internet-connected visors that transmit and receive real-time mission updates. But Western military forces that have developed advanced battlefield communications devices have been slow to adopt them. The devices frequently prove expensive, prone to power issues in remote areas and become obsolete before they’re fielded. Adding more devices can make a mission more complex, rather than simplifying it. However, much of what the report suggests isn’t terribly expensive or hard to achieve — if the U.N.’s member states are willing to put a little bit of faith in the soldiers they continually send to the world’s most dangerous war zones.

Posted in Armed Forces, English, Kevin Knodell, Peacekeeping, Security Policy, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Izumo Helicopter Carrier Commissioned

DG 3

This past week, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) commissioned the lead vessel of its new class of helicopter carrier at a ceremony at the Yokusuka naval base less than 10 miles south of Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city.

The Izumo (DDH-183) is the island nation’s largest vessel superseding the Hyūga class, Japan’s first helicopter carrier post World War II. To get a clear sense of size, satellite imagery from March 2014 shows both vessels at the IHI Marine United shipyard. At the time, the 248 meter-long Izumo was still in the fitting out process while the 197 meter-long Hyūga (DDH-181) was located in a nearby drydock undergoing routine maintenance.

At 24,000 tons, the fully loaded Izumo is noticeably larger than its 19,000 ton predecessor and more capable.[1] Manned by approximately 470 sailors, the vessel can support up to 14 helicopters — broken up into seven Mitsubishi-built SH-60k ASW helicopters and seven Agusta Westland MCM-101 mine countermeasure helicopters.

According to Jane’s, the carrier is equipped with an OQQ-22 bow-mounted sonar for submarine detection, two Raytheon RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile SeaRAM launchers and two Phalanx close-in weapon systems for air defense.

“This [vessel] heightens our ability to deal with Chinese submarines that have become more difficult to detect,” an JMSDF officer told the Asahi Shimbum in late March.[2] Downplaying grander ambitions, JMSDF officials have often focused media attention on the ship’s role in undertaking border surveillance and humanitarian assistance missions.

IzumoBeyond the ship’s standard load, the vessel can also support the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and some have even suggested the vertical landing Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter. Although the latter has caused much controversy, putting F-35s on the Izumo seems unlikely given Japan’s Air Force acquired the advanced fighter and not its naval arm. And that says nothing of the additional retrofit costs to the vessel.

But that hasn’t stopped Chinese assertions and general concerns throughout East Asia of Japanese intent. “The Izumo proves that Japan has the technical capabilities and demand to develop aircraft carriers. It’s also possible that Japan may explore the possibility during the Izumo’s service,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based military commentator, told the Chinese Global Times newspaper. Beyond China, South Korea has also voiced concern.

While no one’s exactly sure how Japan will use the new carrier, it’s potential for power projection is undeniable. As geopolitical tensions increase, especially with disputed island territories and areas like the South China Sea, it’s not surprising to see Japan push to bolster her navy. With the election of officials like Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, defense spending has gone up and bans on arms exports have been lifted—suggesting Japan is preparing to reinterpret her role on the world stage. What this will ultimately mean for the service is still too early to say.[3]

In the meantime, the USD 1.2 billion Izumo will join JMSDF’s Escort Flotilla 1, based at the Yokosuka naval base, also home of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet.[4] The vessel was initially laid down on 27 January 2012 and launched on 06 August 2013. It will later be joined in 2017 by the second vessel in the series, the DDH-184, currently under construction at IHI Marine United Shipyard.

[1] Both measurements refer to the vessels at full load.
[2] In 2013, Japan said it detected Chinese submarines navigating near territorial waters of Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures.
[3] Japan has in recent years participated in amphibious warfare training utilizing the Hyuga class helicopter carrier in concert the US. For Example Dawn Blitz 2013.
[4] Japan has 4 Escort Flotillas with a mix of 7-8 warships each. Bases are located at Yokosuka, Kure, Sasebo, Maizuru, and Moinato. SSKs are organized into 2 Flotillas with bases at Kure and Yokosuka. Remaining Units assigned to 5 regional districts.

Posted in Chris B, English, Intelligence, International, Japan, Sea Powers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment