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Green Berets to Train African Troops in Peacekeeping

Military: U.S. hopes to avoid future deployments by teaching region's armies to police their own continent.

July 02, 1997|STANLEY MEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Hoping to help prepare African armies to police their own continent, the United States plans to send more than 100 Green Berets and other Army troops to Senegal and Uganda later this month to train soldiers there in peacekeeping techniques, Pentagon sources said Tuesday.

The dispatch of the U.S. troops from Ft. Bragg, N.C., and Ft. Campbell, Ky., marks the first tangible steps in a plan, proposed by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher last year, for African troops to quell disturbances and monitor cease-fire lines in African conflicts.

In all, more than 400 American trainers are preparing to work with troops in seven African nations in the year ahead.

The plan reflects the Clinton administration's reluctance to become directly involved in the increasing incidences of bloody violence in Africa.

Ever since a debacle in Somalia in 1993 left 18 U.S. soldiers dead during a futile manhunt for a warlord, the administration has refused to commit troops to U.N. peacekeeping missions in sub-Saharan Africa. Washington, which is supposed to pay 30% of the costs of all U.N. peacekeeping missions, has hesitated to support the U.N.'s deployment of other troops there.

There has been some skittishness on the part of African governments to acknowledge their acceptance of the U.S. personnel, and the State Department and the Pentagon have been hesitant about revealing the names of the countries involved.

But Maj. Tom McCollum of Ft. Bragg confirmed reports that the first Green Berets will leave for Senegal and Uganda, and that Tunisia, Ethiopia, Mali, Ghana and Malawi may receive U.S. trainers later. Other Pentagon sources said each training unit will be made up of 60 Green Berets and support troops.

"We hope to strengthen African capacities," a State Department official said, "and to decrease African reliance on outside intervention to resolve African crises."

The U.S. program--which the Pentagon calls the Africa Crisis Response Initiative--does not envision a standing African peacekeeping army.

African governments will still have to volunteer to send troops at the request of the Organization of African Unity, the United Nations or some other international organization when violence erupts on the continent. But the United States hopes that, once ordered into action, the African troops will be well-trained and ready to move quickly.

A Pentagon official said the training will include instruction in convoy security, establishment of checkpoints, setting up security and appropriate conduct of patrols.

The official said Congress had approved $15 million for the training program in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

However, there is some ambivalence in the congressional attitude toward continuation of the program in the 1998 fiscal year. The House has approved another $15 million for the program, but the Senate has not.

The issue will have to be ironed out in a conference of senators and House members after the July 4 holiday.

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