Friday, May 21, 2010

Irish Troops Return Home

The last of the Irish troops stationed in Chad arrived back in Dublin airport yesterday. Thankfully there was no fatalities during the two year UN/EU mission among Irish troops either from combat, accidents or illness. The principal objective of the mission was to protect Chadian refugees in the district that the Irish occupied. It appears this was a success which was not easy considering the area under Irish control bordered Darfur, meaning the troops had to deal with refugees from the Civil Wars in both Chad and Sudan. However the wisdom of only serving in overseas operations that are UN sanctioned has to come into question given that the mandate in this instance was quite weak compared to our last major mission in Liberia. In addition the Chadian government no longer found it politically advantageous to have UN troops in the country and has thus asked us to leave. The reality is that the regime of Chadian dictator Idriss Deby appears to no longer be in danger of falling to the rebels so he does not desire our presence any further.

The fact that the French backed Deby regime had its own agenda does not in my opinion invalidate the mission as a whole because protecting the refugees from potential harm was always a noble goal, despite what the leftist synics say. However, one must question the wisdom of participating in a mission that is subject to the whims of an African dictator. That being said, the logistical challenged faced by the Irish forces were probably the most difficult faced by the Irish Defence Forces since they began participating in UN peace keeping operations back in 1955. The lessons learned will certainly do no harm in future missions. This from The Irish Times.

The final batch of 186 Irish troops from the United Nations mission in Chad returned to Dublin airport this evening.

For the last two years members of the Defence Forces protected more than 400,000 refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) occupying refugee camps along the border with Darfur.

A UN delegation which visited the Chadian capital N’Djamena in April was unable to persuade the Chadian government to allow the peace enforcement mission, Minurcat, remain after the current mandate expired on May 15th.

The regime told the UN its force was no longer required and that it would not be granted permission to stay. Under national and international law, the Irish troops cannot remain in any overseas posting without a UN mandate.

Despite the Chadian government position, the UN wanted Minurcat to remain on to provide safety for hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons who have fled fighting in the region and are now living in camps in Chad.

The decision to bring the troops home was made after a deadline passed for any change of policy regarding the withdrawal.

Acting Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Major General Dave Ashe welcomed the 186 soldiers at Dublin airport. The final contingent of personnel travelled from the Irish base in Goz Beida to N’Djamena, where they boarded a chartered flight to Dublin.

A major logistics operation has been underway since the decision was taken to withdraw the main body of Irish troops from the mission. The majority of Irish equipment is now in N’Djamena, after travelling some 800km across the desert from Goz Beida.

The next phase of the operation will involve an air, road and rail move to get the equipment the 1500km from N’Djamena to the Cameroonian city of Douala and then onwards to Dublin by ship, a further 9,000km.

The equipment is due to arrive in Ireland at the end of July.

The mission to Chad represented one of the most challenging logistical operations ever undertaken by the Irish Defence Forces.

Chad, which is approximately twice the size of France, has little or no infrastructure with Goz Beida almost 2,000km from the nearest seaport in Cameroon and 800km from the nearest international airport in N’Djamena.

Over the course of the deployment phase 139 vehicles and wheeled units and 269 containers were moved to the Irish camp in Goz Beida. The operation also required 21 cargo flights, 14 road convoys and eight rail convoys

An Irish soldier at Dublin airport yesterday.

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