NATO officials cautious on support for Darfur peacekeepers
The Washington Post reported the Bush administration wants the advisers assigned to African Union headquarters units to assist with logistics, communications, command and intelligence. Citing administration officials, the report said plans under consideration envisaged fewer than 500 NATO advisers including some US troops.- - -
NATO military planners are drawing up options for boost the alliance's support for the AU force in response to a request last month from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. However, officials at alliance headquarters said the US would struggle to persuade allies to commit so many troops.
One official said the military planners were looking at dozens rather than hundreds of NATO experts to support the AU. The military is expected to submit options to NATO's political authorities this month, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the planning.
NATO planes helped fly in the current 7,000-strong African peacekeeping force and the alliance has sent a small number of experts to AU headquarters in Ethiopia to provide training and advice. Officials said the number of NATO experts there rarely reached double figures.
The UN is seeking to replace the AU force with a stronger UN peacekeeping mission and has asked NATO to help prepare the changeover.
NATO has agreed to increased support, but allied and UN officials want to keep the mission African-led. They are concerned any deployment large numbers of European or North American troops could inflame regional sensitivities - particularly if the mainly Muslim Sudanese government opposes a NATO deployment.
NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has repeatedly said increased support for the African peacekeepers will not entail allied "boots on the ground" in Darfur.
Mar 7 2006 NATO rules out troop presence in Darfur