Danger Room Reports:
Amid Arms Race, U.S. Trains Up South Sudan Army
By Nathan Hodge | July 10, 2009 | 7:45 am
The conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region gets the most headlines. But the simmering north-south conflict has the potential to eclipse Darfur. While the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) forbids both sides from rearming, strong evidence suggests the two may be tooling up in advance of a crucial 2011 referendum that could lead to independence for the south. Last year, the Khartoum government confirmed the purchase of around a dozen MiG-29 fighter aircraft; and earlier this week, Jane’s Defence Weekly used satellite imagery to track apparent shipments of heavy weaponry to the government of South Sudan.
The South is also benefiting from some low-key military support from the United States — albeit in a very limited way. The State Department last year awarded a contract to security firm USIS to send training and advisory teams to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, Danger Room has learned. The teams will provide training and mentoring to Sudan People’s Liberation Army soldiers and senior officers, teaching them how to shoot, move and communicate like a conventional military.
In a recent interview with Danger Room, a State Department official said the purpose of this program — the price tag of which has not been disclosed — is “take them [the SPLA] out of the bush, basically, within the construct of the CPA – as a force that can come together in a unity government. Or if in 2011, the south secedes, that force could become the element of a South Sudan that’s sovereign.”
In support of the peace deal, the Department of State is helping transform the SPLA from a guerrilla force to a regular military. Depending on the outcome of the referendum, that force will either become the standing army of an independent South Sudan or become part of Sudan’s national army. Sudan is currently under sanction, but the United States government has authority to provide non-lethal equipment to support security sector reform in south Sudan under a presidential waiver. “We have not provided arms and ammunition,” the official said.
Jane’s Defence Weekly, however, has confirmed a series of arms shipments to South Sudan from Ukraine, including tanks and artillery. With the latest news, however, it’s worth wondering whether the United States is turning a blind eye to a rearmament push. The situation in Sudan is incredibly complicated: Banditry and insecurity still haunt Darfur; Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for war crimes; South Sudan is taking halting steps toward disarming and reintegrating former SPLA fighters. One hopes that the policymakers know what they are doing.
[PHOTO: Jasbir Lidder via Jan Pronk]
- ‘Sudan’s Most Wanted’ Takes a Holiday
- Sat Marks the Spot, Uncovers Pirate Weapons Haul
- ‘Dozens of Aircraft’ in Israel’s Sudan Strike
- Sudan Prez Charged with Darfur War Crimes
- Debating a No-Fly Zone over Darfur
- Grounding Sudan’s Air Force
No related posts.
Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.