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On Hot Spots

Szöveg: Béla Szabó |  2011. február 13. 10:50

In addition to deploying their largest contingents to prioritized crisis zones, the Hungarian Defence Forces also participate in crisis response operations (CRO) in several other hot spots around the world. Although most of these missions, which are running mainly in Africa and the Middle East, involve only a few peacekeepers or a number of officers posted to hold individual positions, they are by no means less significant than the “large ones”.

One such HDF military observer (MILOB) contingents participates in MINURSO (Mission des Nations Unies pour l’ Organisation d’ un Referendum au Sahara Occidental), the UN peacekeeping mission for the referendum in Western Sahara which has been running for 15 years. The United Nations Security Council decided to establish MINURSO in 1991 with the aim of putting an end to the fighting that began in 1973 in a Moroccan-occupied 266,000 km2 area between Morocco and Mauritania, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. That was the year when an armed conflict broke out between the occupying Moroccan army and the Polisario (Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia El-Hamra y Rio de Oro), an organization fighting for the independence of that land. Morocco and the Polisario had both agreed to the UN’s settlement proposals of 1988 for the Western Sahara, a development which played a major role in launching the mission for a referendum which would give Western Saharans an opportunity to choose between independence and integration into Morocco as a province with certain special rights.

The primary function of MINURSO is to supervise the ceasefire that entered into effect as a result of this peace plan. The HQ of the mission is located in Laayoune, a town lying in the centre of the zone occupied by Morocco, and the MILOBs are on duty at 11 Team Sites in the desert. At present, there are 188 MILOBs, eight police officers, 95 international civilian personnel, 23 UN volunteers and a local civilian staff of 161 working in the area of responsibility (AOR) of the mission. 25 countries contribute personnel to the MINURSO mission (Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, the Republic of Guinea, South Korea, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Croatia, Ireland, Kenya, China, Poland, Hungary, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Italy, Russia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay). The greatest Hungarian achievement in the mission so far has been the appointment of Maj.-Gen. György Száraz to MINURSO Force Commander at the request of the UN, with a mandate running from August 2002 to August 2005. Today there are seven MILOBs representing the Hungarian Defence Forces in the region.

Anarchy and pirates

The next mission of the Hungarian Defence Forces in Africa is the EUSEC RD Congo (EU Advisory and Assistance Mission for Security Reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo). The Congolese conflict originates from the fight for the country’s raw materials, which runs through Congo’s bloody history, a history that is plagued with civil war and suffering. The country declared its independence in 1960, and tribal leaders and neighboring countries tried to get their hands on the mineral deposits of the anarchy-stricken state, just as the Belgian colonizers had done before independence was achieved. Since the breakout of the conflict which is often referred to as the first “African world war", the armed fighting and the humanitarian disaster in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been considered the largest contemporary crisis in Africa in need of resolution.

Following an official request by the DRC government in Kinshasa, the European Union decided to establish an advisory and assistance mission involving only eight experts. The EUSEC RD Congo was launched on June 8, 2005. The Hungarian Defence Forces are present in the contingent with two officers and a non-commissioned officer (NCO), and there are two HDF subject matter experts (SME) in the EU advisory team.

It may come as a surprise to many that the Hungarian Defence Forces contribute an officer to assist in the ongoing fight against the pirates in the Gulf of Aden. In December 2008, the European Union launched EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta with the aim of conducting counter-piracy operations to take action against the increasing number of attacks carried out by pirates off the coast of Somalia (in the Gulf of Aden and its environs). A number of non-EU member countries have also joined the initiative (NATO member states, Russia, China, South Korea, India). In recent years, pirate attacks have been carried out around the Seychelle Islands as well, which has led to an extension of the area of operation, although currently it is EU warships that are still patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

Hungary posted Sgt. 1st Class József Csorna to the EU NAVFOR mission. He is working as a web admin at the EU NAVFOR HQ in Northwood, England. He is responsible for all registrations (users, vessels) on the official website of the operation, and for the management of a website created to facilitate communication between warships. The lines of communication between commercial vessels and warships has presumably been working reliably during pirate attacks as well, as the EU NAVFOR HQ recently requested the extension of SFC Csorna’s tour of duty by three months.

Advisors and trainers

Another crisis zone with another small HDF team of experts present: this is the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). The UNIFIL was established by the UN Security Council in 1978 to verify the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon and support the Lebanese government in exercising its power in the southern regions. Following a new wave of armed fighting resulting in heavy casualties in July 2006, the UN SC decided to increase the troop levels of the mission to 15,000, and to extend its area of responsibility (AOR). In line with these developments, the UNIFIL contributes to the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process of armed groups, prevents any form of hostility, assists and supports the deployment of the Lebanese armed forces to South Lebanon, manages the transport of humanitarian aid for the civilian population and ensures the safe and free return of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The Hungarian Parliament endorsed the participation of the Hungarian Defence Forces in the mission until the expiry of its mandate. So far the UN has requested the HDF to post four cartographer officers to hold positions in the mission. The military cartographers are doing their tour of duty in Lebanon at Naqoura, the joint (civil–military) geoinformation systems (GIS) cell of the UNIFIL HQ. The Hungarian cartographers participate in terrain analysis tasks conducted along the “Blue Line" zone between Israel and Lebanon in minefields or areas contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO) and they are tasked with the mapping of the terrains as well.

In the past some years, one of the most outstanding roles of the Hungarian Defence Forces abroad was their participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following the pullout of the HDF Transport Battalion, the Hungarian officers serving at the Coalition forces HQ in Baghdad and those on the staff of the Poland-led division in Babylon, HDF troops continue to deploy in the country. At first, 15 HDF personnel rotated with the MALT (Military Advisory and Liaison Team) contingents to assist with the training of the new Iraqi army, and since their withdrawal in 2008, the Hungarian Defence Forces have been participating in the NTM-I (NATO Training Mission – Iraq) rotations. The NTM-I is responsible for training and advising a team drawn from the general staff of the Iraqi army, assisting the establishment of a military college and a training and doctrine centre (TRADOC), coordinating national contributions in the fields of military equipment and education and assisting the establishment of the Iraqi training and doctrine command (ITDC). Currently three Hungarian staff officers are posted to the NTM-I.

Piracy must be combated on the mainland, too, so there is a need for the training of the Somalian security forces. The European Union finalized its political strategy and crisis management concept concerning the “Horn of Africa" by December 2009. In order to implement these ideas in practice, the EU has established a Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia) with the primary aim of helping the Ugandan army with the training of Somalian security forces within a modular system in some special areas that the Ugandan armed forces are less familiar with. The Hungarian Defence Forces contribute three trainers to assist the NCO basic training in the mission and have posted a military advisor to the mission HQ in Kampala.


Photo: internet and mission archive