Enhancing the Efficiency of the African Standby Force: The Case for a Shift to a Just-in-time Rapid Response Model?

The general effort to establish the African Standby Force (ASF) has contributed significantly to the capacity of the African Union (AU), the regions and AU member states to plan, prepare, train and deploy military, police and civilian capacities to actual missions. However, the standing readiness dimension of the ASF concept – that is the idea of specific pre-identified military and police units being prepared, verified and then placed on standing readiness, so that they can be deployed rapidly when called upon to do so – has not, and is unlikely to be used as assumed in the design of the ASF.

The UN Standby High-Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) initiative, the EU Battle Group concept and the ASF share these same vulnerabilities. The SHIRBRIG initiative has already been abandoned, and it is unlikely, that the EU Battle Group and the ASF’s standing readiness capacity will be used as envisaged. This is because each crisis is unique and it is unlikely that a generic standby capacity can sufficiently match the needs, both in terms of the political coalition and the operational capabilities, posed by the specific challenge. Each crisis requires a context-specific solution, including the coming together of a unique set of countries that have a political interest in the resolution of the conflict, or have an interest in being part of that particular mission. Each crisis also requires a slightly different set of capacities, and the off-the-shelf generic standby brigade model does not meet such needs. This explains why the AU, EU and UN have not found a direct use for its standing readiness arrangements to date.

 This leads to the recommendation that we should adjust the post-2015 ASF concept to one that is aimed at generating a just-in-time capacity, rather than a standing readiness capacity.

Mali may have been a reminder that we will not always succeed in deploying rapidly, but Somalia and the CAR have also shown us that the AU, together with its member states and partners, can deploy troops at remarkable speed. The reasons why we were able to deploy much faster in the latter cases has less to do with pre-designed standing readiness arrangements and more to do with the kind of political will the AU was able to generate, and the context-specific coalitions the AU, interested member states and partners were able to put together. This is why a just-in-time standby arrangement is likely to be the more realistic and cost effective option for the future of the ASF.

Full article published in ACCORD’s Conflict Trends 2/2014: http://www.accord.org.za/images/downloads/ct/ct214_Enhancing_the_Efficiency_of_the_African_Standby_Force.pdf


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