Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Darfur : Mission Half Assed II

Now I've looked around and find I'm not the only one to have immediate logistical nightmares even thinking about Darfur. ZacZaca's Blog Turning to NATO for Darfur which had some great commentary :
On February 19, 2006 - 9:53pm hcberkowitz said:

Hello? General Clark? Have you forgotten the logistics courses at the Command and General Staff College?

OK. We have eight infantry battalions. Given the sparse population density outside the refugee camps, those battalions can't be foot-mobile light infantry, and will need vehicles. They won't need armored vehicle, but those trucks, all-terrain cars, etc., will need fuel and maintenance. Eight battalions alone won't be enough; there will need to be headquarters and support personnel. The soldiers need to eat, get water (in an arid area), have replacement clothing, and, if they fight, ammunition.

I haven't yet pulled out my Combat Service Support Guide, and really would prefer to get an Army friend with access to logistic planning software than do it myself by hand, but you are talking about tons of supply per day.

There are no paved roads in Darfur. It's a dry area, so that may not be as terrible in wetter areas, but heavy trucks will break up dirt roads and make them more and more difficult to pass.

One easy-to-attack rail line runs from the secure Sudanese rail junction at Babanusa to the Darfur city of Nyala. Nyala has a very limited airfield. The best airfield in Darfur is at El Fasher, linked by road to Nyala. All fuel in El Fasher needs to be flown or trucked in; aircraft flying in usually pay the weight penalty of carrying round trip fuel. El Fasher is also very limited in unloading and warehousing facilities.

The transportation routes do not yet exist to support a force of this size, if it does more than sit in garrison on short rations. While it might not have the glamour of "peacekeeping", the prerequisite to doing anything useful is going to include improving roads, securing the rail line (which has an inactive branch that goes into Chad), and making airlift more efficient.

An excellent start on the latter would be to stage supply flights not out of Lagos, Nigeria, where they have been originating, but from Khartoum International in Sudan. Khartoum has a nearby refinery, much greater traffic capacity, and road and rail routes to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Nyala airfield needs instrument landing facilities, unloading, and maintenance facilities.

If the peacekeepers use helicopters or light aircraft to spot the roving militias, the fuel and maintenance requirement for this capability goes up enormously. The militias move primarily on horses and camels. The militia most associated with atrocities is called the janjaweed, which translates to "man on a horse".

Is no one looking at Darfur on a map, and seriously considering the needed infrastructure improvements -- which would be good for Sudan in general? It may also be effective to improve road and rail transportation into Chad, where there is new oil production.

There is a legitimate humanitarian concern, but I suffer from the disadvantage of having studied Sudan in some detail. That study makes me regard the current suggestions as out of touch with reality.
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On February 20, 2006 - 9:19am hf jai said:

Excuse me? Are you saying NATO, with US participation, cannot provide logistic support to EIGHT maneuver battalions? A division minus? Complicated by a multinational composition to be sure, but with the support of American command & control and lift capabilities, I can hardly see overwhelming difficulties in such a deployment.

Yes, there's a need for logistical support planning. Yes, I'm sure there will be infrastructure building to be done. I don't see those as show-stoppers.

Perhaps the lesson you've missed in your Command & General Staff course is the need to provide sufficient force to accomplish the mission and provide force protection. And if there's any lesson to be taken from the mess in Iraq, aside from the strategic mistake of invading in the first place, it is the folly of undertaking military operations on the cheap. They appear on track to make the same mistake in Darfur.

Seems to me that General Clark has sketched out a thumbnail of what's needed operationally. The NATO planning staff, aided by the Pentagon, is fully capable of determining the support requirements and delivering a sustainable combat force.
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On February 20, 2006 - 10:07am hcberkowitz said:

Given the terrain and infrastructure, that is exactly what I am saying, until a good deal of civil engineering -- which may take force protection -- takes place. For all the problems in Iraq, it had a fairly decent road network, substantial airports that could be returned to service, and, again needing overhaul, at least one port connected to the road network. Not all the roads in Iraq are the nice freeways with US-looking green-and-white signs, which you might find on around Baghdad or on the Basra-Kuwait road.

There is not one paved road in Darfur. There is one airport that can handle roughly two C-130 loads at once, has no particular refueling or maintenance capability, or more than minimal unloading and warehousing space that can tranfer to trucks. Incidentally, those same unloading, warehousing, and distribution problems were the limiting factor in the immediate airlift into the area were the limiting factor in Hurricane Katrina relief -- and that was a matter of having existing facilities needing repair. Assumptions were made about Mogadishu Airport being adequate for Somalian relief, until the runways started collapsing under the wheels of heavy transports.

There is a reason that the US Air Force has a whole base building system based around "Red Horse" engineering squadrons, which still usually need pathfinders and ground security forces, and are limited in capability until they can link up with heavy ground or sea transport. The British have equivalent organizations.

Now, if someone were to offer a proposal to bring motorized infantry into the eastern and western areas of Darfur, protecting road construction and providing security to rail repair, I'd see some reasonability -- as long as those proposals had a plausible timetable and budget. It's entirely likely that there may need to be as many or more troops in what the US Army now calls Maneuver Enhancement Brigades (engineers, military police, base defense, permanent communications) as in Maneuver Brigades of infantry or combined arms. I'm assuming that Chad will cooperate in being a source of petroleum, oil, and lubricants from the west, just as there will need to be a POL flow by rail from Khartoum in the east to Babanusa, and then to Nyala by protected rail, or by truck convoy.

Perhaps you didn't understand the lesson on military operations on the cheap. Without an adequate supply line, those maneuver battalions won't be able to maneuver very much. Supply restrictions also contribute to refugee suffering, as the World Food Programme tries to get supplies into Darfur from Uganda, while the Sudanese government could be doing a lot more.

Putting maneuver battalions into Darfur, without adequate combat service support, is exactly what you describe as trying to undertake military operations on the cheap. Going back somewhat, the US had no real capability to bring more than a brigade force of Marines into Viet Nam until there were upgraded port facilities in Saigon, and much more infrastructure at both logistic centers like Cam Ranh Bay and in interior improvements.

8 maneuver battalions? For an area larger than Iraq I was thinking of more like 40-50. Of course, but I had forgotten to factor one thing in : the ethnic cleansing is already fait accompli(see the chart opening), with 2.5 million already cleansed (some killed and the rest mostly in concentration refugee camps). If the intent is only to defend existing camps than 8 battalions may be enough, and they would be considerably more static (= less log overhead). Of course, that would also turn those refugee camps into permanent conclagers, to the horror of the world and inhabitants, but in line with the wishes of the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government will of course agree to ghettoising Darfur, but will presumably oppose a stronger force that could roll back the cleansing.

Of course, 8 maneuver battalions is still most of a 20000 man division - the same as pacified Kosovo - and still verging on logistically unsustainable as per the quoted comments. (I'll have to do some reading for a tonnage per day guesstimate, but it is HUGE.)

One rail line, no roads, two airfields (that is airfields and not airports). The rail line from Chad is the only option, since running a single rail line from central Sudan against a uncooperative or hostile Sudanese government is a non-starter. But that line is not running, nor presumably does Chad have much support to offer from the desolate Sudan border region. Furthermore, access to Chad is even worse than to Sudan.

Of course, the trouble in Darfur started when two indigenous rebel groups attacked the government, and not the other way around. However, unfettered by western liberal values, the Sudanese government has carried out a good old fashioned evil counter-insurgency operation by draining the swamp ethnically cleansing the entire supporting population base for the rebels. Even more clever evil yet, they have delegated the ethnic cleansing to deniable local rag tag militias, and avoided using their regular army to do too much dirty work.

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