Diplomatic Fallout: U.N.’s ‘Intervention Brigade’ Raises Cost of Interference in DRC

Diplomatic Fallout: U.N.’s ‘Intervention Brigade’ Raises Cost of Interference in DRC

Policy discussions about peacekeeping frequently get bogged down in technical details, such as the wording of United Nations resolutions, rather than tackling big strategic questions. This has been true of most commentary on the U.N. Security Council’s decision in late-March to mandate an “intervention brigade” to “neutralize and disarm” armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There has been a lot of talk about the council’s unusually aggressive language, and less about the new brigade’s role in the complex political struggle for access to the DRC’s natural resources.

Peacekeeping experts are excited that the council has directed the new brigade -- which will be part of the existing U.N. operation in the DRC, MONUSCO -- to undertake “targeted offensive operations” against militias. Although U.N. forces have gone on the offensive in the past, the council has not authorized a peace-enforcement mission in such explicit terms before. This has made some regular military contributors to blue helmet operations, apparently including India and Pakistan, nervous. In an effort to reassure them, the Security Council specified that this is “exceptional” and creates no precedents.

As if to prove this point, the U.N. Secretariat has strongly argued that any potential blue helmet mission in Mali should not be responsible for counterterrorist operations. Instead, a French-led “parallel force” will mop up against Islamist groups, at least for the rest of this year. The U.N. is in no particular hurry to switch from peacekeeping to war-fighting there.

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