Algeria to host rapid reaction force

Algeria will host the headquarters of the North African Regional Capability (NARC) under the African Standby Forces (ASF). Under an agreement inked on Tuesday (January 25th), Algiers will be the seat of both NARC headquarters and the force’s administration.

“By housing that key logistic base, Algeria has become the first country in North Africa to complete that important phase,” Foreign Ministry Director for Africa Nourredine Aouam told APS.

In 2002, African leaders agreed to establish a rapid-reaction force to handle the crises that take place on the continent in lieu of international forces based in a number of African states. The outburst of conflicts and the inability of some countries to ensure their own security led heads of state to set up the ASF within the African Union framework.

“Standby forces have the right to immediately intervene in case of a conflict or crisis in the region,” says the agreement, signed by Foreign Ministry General Director Fouad Bouattoura and NARC representative Nefatti El-Fitouri Zarras.

The act “reflects Algeria’s strong commitment, before the Peace and Security Council, affiliated to the African Union, that enables the African continent to play its role in managing peace and security,” Zarras noted.

The base will be located in the wilaya of Jijel, 350km east of the capital.

NARC is one of the five regional brigades, which constitute the force. The ASF is made up of an executive secretariat, a planning mechanism and a Libya-based financing fund. One brigade is located in Egypt, and two administrative bases are located in Algeria and Egypt. Algeria decided to contribute two military regiments to the brigade and a third from the military police, while Egypt contributed one regiment.

The activation of the force was scheduled for the end of 2010 so as to allow for “speedy and efficient” intervention in relation to the numerous crises raging in some parts of Africa. The ASF will undertake six kinds of missions, including military assistance for peace, humanitarian missions to aid emigrants or displaced people, administrative missions, as well as missions calling for disarmament.

The rapid-reaction troops must intervene immediately in cases of massacres that claim the lives of civilians, when the international community does not show prompt response to the unrest on the African continent.

Experts, however, expressed concerns about the costs and constraints of implementing the AFS.

“Spreading an African force will run into financial obstacles,” strategy analyst Omar Abdi said, adding the budget of the African Union Peacekeeping Fund is almost 300 times lower than that of the UN Peacekeeping Forces.

“Financing is still a problem facing the actual realisation of the African Union with regards to maintaining peace and stability, despite promises from some donors such as the EU, to offer a grant of 250 million euros dedicated to reinforcing the capabilities of ASF in managing crises,” he added.

According to AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra, during the period between 2011 and 2015 the ASF is expected to “attain full operational capabilities”.

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