The United States on Tuesday announced that it would be providing $60 million worth of defense equipment to international forces attempting to restore peace in the Central African Republic, a much-needed boost for the troops currently on the ground.
In a brief memorandum, President Barack Obama took the largest step yet in involving the United States in the efforts to restore order in the CAR. Namely, the order directed Secretary of State John Kerry be given the authority to drawdown “$60 million in defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense (DOD) and defense services of the DOD” to provide to the peacekeeping mission currently authorized to stop the fighting that has taken hundreds of lives and displaced tens of thousands more.
Specifically, Kerry is granted the ability to give that assistance to “France, the African Union, the Republic of the Congo, Chad, Cameroon, Gabon, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, and other countries that contribute forces to the African Union-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic [MISCA].” The State Department’s new assets “could be used to provide logistics support, including strategic airlift for French and African forces deploying to CAR, aerial refueling, and programs to train and equip MISCA troop contributing countries,” National Security Staff spokesman Jonathan Lally told Military.com.
American planes have already begun assisting the soldiers trying to prevent further sectarian violence between the Christian and Muslim communities in the Central African Republic, airlifting 850 African troops from Burundi to join in the African Union mission currently deployed. The boost in aid comes as the international community finally begins to shift towards taking action in the CAR. France already has sent roughly 1,600 well-trained forces into the country to combat both the rebel group known as “Seleka,” which seized power in March, and the anti-balaka — or “anti-machete” — group that rose up in response.
Clashes between the two sides, the former mostly Muslim and the latter Christian, has become the new flashpoint for violence, after a period where the Seleka looted and raped with no impunity. The anti-balaka movement and their supporters, however, have taken to attacking members of the Muslim community only suspected of providing support to Seleka, destroying mosques and looting Muslim-owned stores.
French president Francois Hollande visited the country yesterday in route from South Africa, meeting with the former rebels now serving as the transitional government in the CAR. “Your goal is to disarm the militias and the groups, to restrict them and to avoid clashes,” Hollande told the French forces. “It’s a risky task, and the death of Antoine Le Quinio and Nicolas Vokaer is a painful reminder of that,” he continued, naming the two French soldiers killed in the fighting. “There is danger everywhere.”
The European Union is meanwhile considering sending another 1,500 troops from its EU “Battle Group” to join the international efforts, though France and the United Kingdom reportedly remain wary of the concept. While designed as a rapid-response force and formally created in 2007, it has yet to be sent into battle, due to fighting among the Union’s members over possible deployment.