U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 2085 authorizing political, training and military action to restore control over North in Mali; confused resolution launches international bureaucratic and decision-making monstrosity

For those that have been following or are only dimly aware of recent events in Mali, where Tuareg revolutionaries and al-Queda linked terrorists have taken control of the northern part of the country, the news that the United Nations Security Council has acted unanimously, under Chapter VII of the Charter, to adopt a resolution creating something called the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) may sound like good news.

See Security Council, Press Release, “Security Council Authorizes Deployment of African-led International Support Mission in Mali for Initial Year-Long Period; Resolution 2085 (2012) Stresses Need to Further Refine Military Planning” U.N. Doc. U.N. Doc SC/10870, which contains the full text of Security Council Resolution 2085 (December 20, 2012).

See also the following:

Rick Gladstone, “U.N. Council Votes to Help Mali’s Army Oust Islamists,” New York Times, December 20, 2012. Gladstone quotes officials as saying no international military intervention is likely before September or October, 2013.

Louis Charbonneau (Reuters), “L’Onu vote l’envoi d’une force africaine au Mali,” Le Nouvel Observateur, 20 décembre 2012 (mis à jour le 21-12-2012 à 09h02).

“Evènements: Mali – Adoption de la résolution 2071 par le Conseil de sécurité (15 octobre 2012), France Diplomatie, 15 octobre 2012.

Inès OLHAGARAY (vidéo) et Gaëlle LE ROUX, “L’ONU donne son feu vert au déploiement d’une force africaine au Nord-Mali,” France24, 21 décembre 2012.

Philippe Pognan and Georges Ibrahim Tounkara, “Feu vert pour une force africaine au Mali,” DW, 21 décembre 2012.

The resolution was presented by France and followed Resolution 2071, also presented by France with other co-sponsors on October 15. Both were in response to pressures from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for authorization of a peace-keeping force to regain territory lost to terrorists and rebels and to restore order in the country.

The resolution calls for a political process that might lead to a resolution of the crisis by peaceful means.

But it also establishes a military training process, and what looks like a potential peace-keeping force known as the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).

The training process and the mission of AFISMA are set forth in the text of Resolution 2085, as follows:

The Security Council,

Determining that the situation in Mali constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

I. Political process
(Paragraphs 1-5)

“II. Security process

7. Urges Member States, regional and international organizations to provide coordinated assistance, expertise, training, including on human rights and international humanitarian law, and capacity-building support to the Malian Defence and Security Forces, consistent with their domestic requirements, in order to restore the authority of the State of Mali over its entire national territory, to uphold the unity and territorial integrity of Mali and to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organizations and associated groups, further invites them to regularly inform the Secretariat of their contributions;

8. Takes note of the commitment of Member States and international organizations to the rebuilding of the capacities of the Malian Defence and Security forces, including the planned deployment by the European Union of a military mission to Mali to provide military training and advice to the Malian Defence and Security Forces;

“Deployment of AFISMA

9. Decides to authorize the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) for an initial period of one year, which shall take all necessary measures, in compliance with applicable international humanitarian law and human rights law and in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Mali to carry out the following tasks:

(a) To contribute to the rebuilding of the capacity of the Malian Defence and Security Forces, in close coordination with other international partners involved in this process, including the European Union and other Member States;

(b) To support the Malian authorities in recovering the areas in the north of its territory under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups and in reducing the threat posed by terrorist organizations, including AQIM, MUJWA and associated extremist groups, while taking appropriate measures to reduce the impact of military action upon the civilian population;

(c) To transition to stabilization activities to support the Malian authorities in maintaining security and consolidate State authority through appropriate capacities;

(d) To support the Malian authorities in their primary responsibility to protect the population;

(e) To support the Malian authorities to create a secure environment for the civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees, as requested, within its capabilities and in close coordination with humanitarian actors;

(f) To protect its personnel, facilities, premises, equipment and mission and to ensure the security and movement of its personnel;

10. Requests the African Union, in close coordination with ECOWAS, the Secretary-General and other international organizations and bilateral partners involved in the Malian crisis, to report to the Security Council every 60 days on the deployment and activities of AFISMA, including, before the commencement of offensive operations in the north of Mali, on:

(i) the progress in the political process in Mali, including the road map for the restoration of constitutional order and negotiations between the Malian authorities and all parties in the north of Mali who have cut off all ties to terrorist organizations;
(ii) the effective training of military and police units of both AFISMA and the Malian defence and security forces in their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law;
(iii) the operational readiness of AFISMA, including the level of staffing leadership and equipment of the units, their operational adaptation to the climate and terrain conditions and ability to conduct joint armed operations with logistical, air and ground fire support;
(iv) the efficiency of the chain of command of AFISMA, including its interaction with that of the Malian Defence and Security Forces

and further expresses its willingness to monitor closely these benchmarks before the commencement of offensive operations in the north of Mali;

11. Emphasizes that the military planning will need to be further refined before the commencement of the offensive operation and requests that the Secretary-General, in close coordination with Mali, ECOWAS, the African Union, the neighbouring countries of Mali, other countries in the region and all other interested bilateral partners and international organizations, continue to support the planning and the preparations for the deployment of AFISMA, regularly inform the Council of the progress of the process, and requests that the Secretary-General also confirm in advance the Council’s satisfaction with the planned military offensive operation;

In effect, there is going to be a European mission to Mali, an African-led mission to Mali (AFISMA), the participation of ECOWAS, and the participation of other regional states and other regional and international organizations, all providing reports to,(but not necessarily reporting to),  apparently, the Secretary General. However, the African Union will presumably be in charge of military forces.

To anyone familiar with the panoply of international actors present in Afghanistan, including those under the U.N. umbrella, this scheme may seem familiar enough, though they are likely to be amazed at the elegant simplicity of what took place in Afghanistan, as compared to the bureaucratic nightmare that is looming with a horde of international actors in Mali, under lines of command and control and accountability that can only be imagined.

The problematic nature of the enterprise is suggested by the very limitations contained in the authorization of AFISMA, “which shall take all necessary measures, in compliance with applicable international humanitarian law and human rights law and in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Mali to carry out the following tasks:…(emphasis added)”

Numerous problems could arise. For example, can AFISMA act contrary to the demands of the government of Mali without violating the country’s “sovereignty”? What if a government comes into power which doesn’t want to pursue the tasks, or all of the tasks, in AFISMA’s mandate? These issues are not just theoretical, as one paragraph of the Resolution made clear:

I. Political process

4. Condemns the circumstances that led to the resignation of the Prime Minister and the dismissal of the Government on 11 December 2012, reiterates its demand that no member of the Malian Armed Forces should interfere in the work of the Transitional authorities and expresses its readiness to consider appropriate measures, as necessary, against those who take action that undermines the peace, stability, and security, including those who prevent the implementation of the constitutional order in Mali;

Hopefully, this will all get straightened out, and effective international action will be taken to advance a political settlement, to strengthen Mali’s security forces while maintaining their allegiance to the goals of AFISMA’s mandate and Resolution 2085, and to take effective military action, if necessary, to regain control over all of the national territory of Mali.

For now, however, the resolution has all the hallmarks of a collage which has been cobbled together in the absence of agreement on core objectives, and lines of command, control, and accountability, while inviting chaotic coordination among the many national, regional and international actors who are called upon to support the initiative.

The hard truth is that the African Union and the United Nations had difficulty in lining up enough military forces to undertake an effective operation in Mali. Now, they have effectively kicked the ball down the road, hoping that somehow it will all take shape. Absent a hierarchy of control,  coordination and accountability, however, this is not likely to occur.

What is needed now is some clear thinking by the most important actors in the African Union, ECOWAS, Europe and the Security Council, so that they can come up with a well-defined operation which has some likelihood of enlisting support and achieving success. It would be a good idea to spell out the objectives and organizational requirements of that operation in a subsequent Security Council resolution.

One should recall the old adage that “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” The good intentions expressed in Resolution 2085 require a good deal of further thought and negotiation before an operative plan with good chances of success can be put into action.

The Trenchant Observer