The U.S. has announced a new interagency plan to reform policy toward international peacekeeping operations. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright unveiled the directive from President Bill Clinton during a special briefing in Washington Thursday. RFE/RL State Department correspondent Lisa McAdams reports:
Washington, 25 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says President Bill Clinton's decision to direct a stronger response to maintaining order and establishing effective judicial structures in societies recovering from conflict was timely. Albright said it was a job the international community had undertaken with "mixed success" over the past decade, and where it faced difficult tests today, especially in the former Yugoslavia, East Timor, and parts of Africa.
Albright said the president's directive, which calls for responses from State, the Justice Department, the Agency for International Development (AID) and the United Nations (UN), is aimed at two related goals:
"The first is to improve coordination of U.S. efforts. The second is to enhance the ability of other countries, the UN and regional organizations to plan, mount and sustain operations in support of the rule of law."
Albright said Clinton has instructed the State Department to create an office responsible for issues associated with U.S. participation in the criminal justice component of peace operations.
Albright said she was directing Assistant Secretary of State Randy Beers to establish the office, which will be responsible for developing policy, setting priorities and coordinating U.S. agency activities.
Money for the effort -- an estimated $10 million -- was already included in Clinton's fiscal year 2001 budget request.
The president's initiative also calls for improved capacity in providing U.S. civilian police, or CIVPOL, to overseas operations and stand-by arrangements developed by the United Nations. It also seeks to enhance U.S. capacity to train foreign police forces during peace operations and, lastly, to improve the ability to provide emergency training and other necessary help to nations that have suffered a breakdown in their legal systems.
Albright said the action highlights the foreign-policy importance of preventing security vacuums from arising in post conflict situations.
"This in turn creates a sense of security that permits societies to begin mending and to move forward with steps required for economic recovery and political progress."
Albright acknowledged that the impact of the plan would not be immediate, but said she hoped it would spur momentum toward fuller international support for ongoing missions.
She said current processes are not as consistent or as rapid as present-day situations demand, citing recent attacks on NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo as a prime example.
Currently, there are between 700 to 800 Americans serving in CIVPOL operations abroad. Assistant Secretary Beers said needs far exceed the means. Beers said there is a particular sense of "urgency" as regards getting on-site police capability to match military deployment:
"This is an effort to make clear the distinction between military and police functions in states in transition, a subject which hasn't always been clear and sometimes gets confused, and sometimes finds military taking on functions that are more appropriate for police forces. It is a recognition of the evolution of the concepts of peacekeeping over the last eight years."
Eric Schwartz, a senior director at the National Security Council, noted with import that the directive calls for a "stand-by" not "standing force."
"This is not about the U.S. going it alone, this is much more a case of the U.S. doing its part in a circumstance where other governments are actually quite well advanced as well in the area of deployment of what we call CIVPOL. A number of European and other governments have already been deeply engaged in the process of identifying a core of their own locals who can play the role of police monitors and do this kind of work."
Schwartz rejected any suggestion that this was yet another example of the U.S. attempting to be the world's policeman.