EU Defense (Doctrine)PSDC crisis managementMissions Operations

Send these “damn” battlegroups to the Central African Republic, you do not think about it!

official visit before the battlegroup's duty during a VIP day (Credit: Lithuanian Ministry of Defense, May 2013)

(BRUSSELS2) The battle groups have, for the moment, never been deployed. And some, like the Dutch Minister of Defense, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, are perhaps right to emphasize that we must “use or lose” according to the English formula, which is much more impactful than its French translation (use or lose). . Should we use them just for the pleasure of finding a use for them? No of course. But the problem is not there today. No country really seems willing today to send these “damn” battlegroups anywhere. This is reality even if no one admits it.

Above all, don't move...

The reason may be political, economic or ideological. But whatever the motivation, the result is the same. The permanent battlegroup this semester is made up of the Balts, Dutch and British. Suffice to say that we can predict with almost certainty that he will remain quietly in the barracks… or in the wheat fields doing exercises. The following battlegroup (1st half of 2014) will be centered around the Greeks, Cypriots and Romanians. Here it is not a question of motivation that will prevent them from leaving but rather of financial means.

Any decision to send a battlegroup is made unanimously. That's part of the problem. But it is the countries under penalty which bear almost all the blows and all the costs! This is the reverse principle of solidarity. Various efforts have been made to increase the share of common costs. They have been reduced, for the moment, to a minimum acceptance for transport costs in 2014. But nothing more.

A textbook case

However, the situation in some countries could require rapid, limited and temporary intervention. The case of the Central African Republic is exemplary in this regard. We are almost in a textbook case which justifies, and even requires, the intervention of a battlegroup: an intervention within a radius of 6000 km from Brussels, for a period of between one and three months, to deal with a crisis situation, with a force of around 1500 men (what we call in France a GT1500 – combined arms tactical group).

Even all the other, unwritten conditions seem to be fulfilled:

  1. There is an international – and even African – consensus for a peacekeeping intervention, with a United Nations mandate.
  2. Setting up the African force takes time and it is necessary to have an interim force – a bit like with Eufor Chad in 2008.
  3. The country is not too big (it is not the Congo), the population is not very large (4,5 million inhabitants), in short, it is within the reach of a European effort.
  4. Insecurity on the ground is great, the risk of a slippage always present, and the need to ensure stabilization in the various centers of the country is necessary. However, we are not dealing with such difficult terrain and opposing forces as in Afghanistan or Somalia.
  5. The force of a Member State is ready to reinforce the European operation (if necessary). Nb: France in this case which already has several hundred on site controlling Bangui airport.
  6. The exit strategy is ready. Since the African force already has a UN mandate and is in the process of being constituted.

Despite everything, there will probably be no European intervention. Because no one is willing to do it or is blocked by internal provisions... Certain discussions carried out today at European level on the need, or not, to relax the conditions for the use of battlegroups or to allow modular use seems good useless if, even when the conditions are met, no one thinks of using them!

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

3 thoughts on “Send these “damn” battlegroups to the Central African Republic, you do not think about it!"

  • renato iellina

    European battle groups are not suitable for Africa. Too heavy, too slow for the implementation.
    No experience of Africa. It is better not to send them.

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