Friday, September 16, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Epilogue

I'll go back to telling you a bit about my life soon, but enjoy the epilogue:

Epilogue:

Department Report, Permanent Peacekeeping Program of the United Nations
Subject: Northern Turkey Conflict, Successes and Failures of Elite PPP units

Approximately forty-eight hours before the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to deem the conflict in Turkey a genocide and thereby extend specific military and humanitarian authorization to peacekeeping forces, several units of the Permanent Peacekeeping Program were deployed to strategic locations in and around the country of Turkey. One unit, code-named Alpha was dropped into the heart of the country to secure a safe-point for fleeing refugees that was maintained by the Red Cross.

This action was a response to the sudden swing in political leanings of the Turkish government 24 months ago. The ruling regime, a radical Islamist group, instituted wide-ranging policies that were widely condemned by human rights groups (see UNICEF and UNHDP Report: Rise of Radical Islam in Turkey). The sudden extreme marginalization and violence caused by these new policies and supported by the regime prompted many citizens to flee from their country. As reports trickled into the UNPPP, the department head quickly petitioned the Security Council to take measures to end or mitigate the conflict.

While the United States was in the midst of an election season, and China was experiencing its fourth consecutive year of severe drought in its western regions, there was a low priority politically to engage in what was largely seen as 'someone else's conflict'. It was Russia, in a rare show of post-Soviet leadership, that spearheaded a way to make it politically a priority and feasible. The Siberian nation saw that the traditionally stable and liberal nation presented a 'domino effect' to the region, something that could possibly destabilize the still weak southern European Union countries. France, Germany, and Great Britain resolved to get behind a resolution provided that the US would support the resolution with military backing. The United States complied with the caveat that it would head major naval operations; and the PPP units were dispatched to their locations.

The major focus was to keep any aggressive forces at bay while a convoy of UN forces was mobilized to safely transport refugees to camps outside the borders of Turkey. It was well known to the Alpha unit that there would be almost no support until a UN resolution to start a peacekeeping mission was approved by the General Assembly. Strictly speaking they were there to 'maintain order as aid was handed out' (see Alpha Unit Mission Briefing). More generally, they were to defend at all cost, the safety and well-being of the refugees that came into their care. It was almost certainly illegal, but the prosecutors of the ICC issued a special exemption to the members of Alpha unit.

Approximately 1 hour before the General Assembly voted to approve a peacekeeping force, violence escalated to the point that the refugee camp was over-run by an encroaching army. The two UAV units and a satellite feed recorded in detail the 83 minute period that has come to international attention. In this period, with minimal support from outside sources, these 8 soldiers were able to fend of nearly six thousand Turkish soldiers and sixteen tanks. At the time of the last soldier's transmission over the radio, an entire convoy of reinforcements was about an hour's travel time distant from their position. When the convoy did arrive; there were still a significant number of survivors; almost 1200, including 20 homosexual minorities that had been kicked out of the mosque by other refugees.

While casualties were heavy, nearly 3300 in this engagement alone, and the genocide in Turkey was grave, it is worth it to note that these 8 soldiers are estimated to have saved 1200 refugees, and nearly 4000 citizens of their town. This is certainly a worthy feat and should be seen as good support for expanding the PPP program.

With elite training and strict protocols that these units are subjected to, they are able to quickly deploy and stay for long periods of time. Their training acts as a force multiplier, giving them the ability to take on forces that far outnumber them. The PPP program has had many successes in its short 10 year span: it is considered the reason that western Africa has stabilized so well, and why the uprisings in Yemen did not turn into full-scale war.

This event can be considered the PPP's greatest success and failure. The number of people saved is the largest number directly attributable to PPP action. But it is also a failure in that the program lost 8 of its most valuable asset—its well-trained soldiers and diplomats. Their conduct on the battlefield is admirable in the highest degree, and the program's tight funding has made it difficult to train new recruits to the same caliber as the 8 brave souls lost in that Northern Turkish town.

Going into the future, the board has made a unanimous decision to recommend greater expansion of the program pending a full review of the PPP's deployment policies. It is, of course difficult to see how the US will want to entangle itself further in the international peacekeeping arena and thus get the full support of the Security Council, but this board thinks it necessary to find the political will to continue and expand this program. If Alpha unit had been given better support and equipment there is no telling how many lives could have been saved.

As a final aside; while the footage of the engagement leaking into the public domain has been construed as a tragic exploitation of the deaths of all involved, it is worth it to note that many civilians in many countries are demanding expansion of this promising program.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Dahl, Chairman
Special Committee on the Turkey Conflict