Sunday, February 12, 2012

‘Speed up Building Military Capacity’

- Says UNMIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Khalid UNMIL Force Commander, Major General Muhammad Khalid, have urged the Government of Liberia to expedite building up the capacity of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) ably serve and protect the country after the departial of the UN mission. Maj. Gen. Khalid made this remark at symposium ahead of the Armed Forces Day’s celebration when he answer to the question what are two things he would suggest the GOL do in preparation for the drawdown of the UN mission which have been aiding in keeping peace. Though he did not state when the UN mission was to be concluded in the country, Maj. Gen. Khalid said over the past six years the GOL has been slow in beefing up the AFL to be able to take over the roles that the mission is playing in the country. “UNMIL will not be here forever. Over the past six years the Government of Liberia has been slow in building up the capacity of the military after the mission is gone. I would suggest that this tenure of government should work to see the military being develop a lot faster,” Maj. Gen. Khalid said. The Force Commander also served as the keynote speaker at the symposium which was held under the theme: enhancing military capacities and professionalism; prospect and challenges facing the Armed Forces of Liberia in a democratic Liberia. During his keynote presentation, Maj. Gen. Khalid spoke on the following: the historical influence of AFL in democracy of Liberia, functional concept of military professionalism in a democratic environment, challenges militating against military professionalism in a democratic Liberia and the emerging roles for the AFL in democracy. On the historical influence of the AFL, the UNMIL Force commander recalled the incursion of the state defence forces into politics by the late Liberia president Samuel K. Doe in the early 1980. “In this period, military professionalism was exacerbated by considerable politicization which invariably ushered the AFL into the realms of national politics. The Doe Government initially sought to correct the entrenched enmity between different ethnic groups but ended up polarizing the military along ethnic lines. The regime was characterized by the exclusion of majority ethnic groups from mainstream Liberian politics. This had a ripple effect on the AFL resulting in ethnic sentiments. This signaled the beginning of the collapse of professionalism within AFL,” Maj. Gen. Khalid said. He further recounted of the sidelining of the AFL by the Taylor-led government that ruled from 1997-2003 which established personal outfits like ATU and consequently destroyed the functionality of the AFL which prompted the subsequent transformation of the force. “The fundamental and cultural differences in the norms that govern political leaders and military personnel,” the Force Commannder added, “often create tension between both parties in a democratic setting.” He noted ‘while politicians thrive on ambiguity and uncertainty, and achieve success when they are able to master such conditions, soldiers, by contrast seek clarity of mission and certainty of condition. The reason being that in war the lack of either can result in bad decisions with devastating consequences. As such, the military may encounter certain abnormalities militating against its achievement of a constituted mandate within a democracy. However, military professionalism imbues the tenets of self-control on the part of the soldier thereby restraining him from transgressing democratic norms and ethos. It makes the soldier self conscious of the fact that he is bound by 2 distinct but complementing laws.’ He acknowledged that some of the emerging challenges that are confronting the AFL in a democracy are similar to those experienced by militaries emerging out of war world over. Some of the challenges he highlighted include the lack of sound doctrinal base insufficient funding, lack of awareness on the roles of the military, inadequate mechanism for civil-military relations, reduction in military structure and the lack of media awareness or cooperation amongst others. He said to improve the capability of the AFL, there was a need to re-assess ongoing training, research and development and the initiation of what he termed as C4I. Maj. Gen. Khalid: “With global growing dependency on Information technology, AFL will have to initiate a C4I System, command, control, communication, computers and Information system within the Institution. This system will not only evade any threat in web espionage but will make the AFL compatible to any future induction of military hardware and software.”

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