Conduct of UNPKO & UNPEO Under United Nations Counter Terrorism Centre (UNCCT)

Issues Details: 
Vol 12 Issue 5. Nov - Dec 2018
Page No.: 
Sub Title: 
Mindset and systemic reforms needed to effectively meet future challenges
Lt Gen SK Gadeock, AVSM (Retd)
Thursday, December 6, 2018

As the United Nations braces itself for a more definitive role in countering the scourge of terrorism, there is requirement for its member states and the UN Headquarters to evolve a new Peace-building architecture. The article highlights the mindset and required systemic reforms needed to effectively meet  future challenges


Ostensibly, there has been great concern in the UN HQ, articulated by the present UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres on the existing non-efficacious mechanisms to handle multifaceted macro and micro issues pertaining to global ‘Counter Terrorism’. Recently, there have been more member states of the UN, who have voiced serious apprehensions on the blatantly despicable terrorist activities afflicting nation states in the world.

This specific issue was effectively spearheaded by India at the 71st UN General Assembly on 26 September 2016, by Ms. Sushma Swaraj, Hon’ble External Affairs Minister, as an aftermath of the Uri terrorist attack.

The UN General Assembly has lately approved the establishment of the Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and the UN Counter Terrorism Task Force Centre (CTTFC) on 15 June 2018. The consensus resolution of 193 nations was passed, because of which, both the above-mentioned organizations and the offices are being moved out of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) to a newly designated office, headed by an Under Secretary General (USG). This positive development is an indicator of the paradigm shift in thought process to successfully leverage an operationalized strategy on sensitive matters dealing with Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The Secretary-General also proposed that the new Under-Secretary-General (USG) would chair the Task Force and be Executive Director of the UN CTTFC.

The General Assembly was confident that this resolution would enhance the United Nations' capability to assist Member States in implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy with its four pillars, by ensuring greater coordination and coherence across the UN system, by improving visibility & efficacy and resource mobilization for asymmetric operations, conforming to the United Nations' counter-terrorism efforts.

Complex Asymmetric Warfare Environment

The various missions of the UN are deployed with a limited scope of critical tasks in South Sudan, protecting civilian population, where there has been outbreak of Civil War in the newly independent nation; in Darfur the UN-AU alliance is monitoring the conflict zones, accentuating peaceful resolution through tenuous political structure; the protracted DRC conflict between regional and community level parties has coerced UN Forces to take offensive options to maintain the desired peace equilibrium. The jihadist rebel group Boko Haram has an ongoing armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria, which has traumatized the society and devasted peace and prosperity in the region. The strife torn areas in Yemen, Syria and Libya have been equally catastrophic and hence peace is a ‘pipedream’, since unanimity in global stand against extremism is lacking. The UN in its interoperable mandate with global security forces have taken measures for transition in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, where precarious conditions prevail with high unpredictability.

Terrorism: Security Threat Manifestation

The prognosis of terrorism reveals its ugly dimension of disruptive, non-developmental, parochial and anti-emancipatory women activities. It is remorseless victimization of well-established education practices, exhibits totalitarian character and dictatorial outlook, non-productive attitude, persecution/suppression of other communities, dangerous psychological collateral damage to growth-oriented activists, renowned artists and eminent personalities, regression dynamics in all government sectors and deprivation of attainment of higher targets in any enterprise. Terrorist activities are signposts of anarchy, mayhem, lawlessness, collapse of good governance, thereby eventually leading to a ‘Terrorist State’.

The political stability and governance in some member states of the UN is threatened by obscurantist radical rational outfits/ militant organizations. They enervate the security architecture, making it fragile, inflict heavy damage to infrastructure, religious places of pilgrimage, congregations of people, holy shrines, tourist destinations, microcosms of education and military units/establishments, vitiating the peaceful environment and fostering communal divide etc. The terrorists endeavor to escalate violence and carnage, consistently maintaining their aggressive radical agenda, contravening the policies of a democratically elected government through covert disruption militant activities, denouncing all types of developmental activities done by functional elected bodies by the popular vote of the people.

It was highlighted by the Indian Minister of External Affairs at the UN General Assembly, that the CCIT was proposed by India in 1996 and despite the protracted period, there has been no conclusion to this pending issue. Consequently, the development of norms under which terrorists are to be prosecuted or extradited yet remains to be institutionalized. Therefore, it was reiterated that the General Assembly must act with greater resolve and exhibit expediency on the subject to adopt this critical Convention.

The issue of terrorism being the biggest violation of ‘human rights’ was reinforced by the Indian External Affairs Minister, as it encompasses the indiscriminate decimation of innocuous humanity. It is the hydra-headed monster, backed by technological sophistication, funded by radical ideologically inclined governments, affecting the harmony and transformation progression of nations in the world.

Recommendations: Conceptual Changes in the UNPKO

The UN has 16 UNPKO forces in field comprising approximately 106,000 personnel with 19,000 civilians, it also provides logistics support to nearly 20,000 AU personnel. It has 23 Political Missions with 3000 personnel, inclusive of 10 Special Envoys with their teams. The essential objective of the UN is preventing conflict, peace mediation and civilian protection to maintain peace in the world.

There are some changes recommended to be initiated, to ensure enhanced efficacy of the UNPKO. These are: -

•             The UN HQ should be operationally more concerned with maintaining cardinal focus on neutralizing and ultimately decimating the safe ‘havens of terrorism’ in rural areas with popular support of the local masses, guaranteeing regional peace and prosperity.

•             The form and scope of mediation to be strengthened in the affected zones of low intensity conflict. New peace building architecture must be established with a substantial ‘Fund Outlay’ dedicated for its successful implementation.

•             The institutionalization of a coherent ‘Perspective Plan’ is mandated for a more comprehensive and durable peace and growth- oriented development strategy for the strife torn areas.

•             Integrated Operational Teams (IOTs) must be created and trained together in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to have a balanced fusion of operational and political dimension.

• There has to be acceptable, permanent sustainable ‘Political Solutions’, as military peace enforcement operations are not tenable enough, as to guide the PKO for enduring periods of time.

•             ‘Regional UNPKO’ offices to be established to expedite critical pending issues. They could contribute to assuaging the feelings of the local population about PKO and ensuring legitimacy of politico-military initiatives towards maintaining sustained peace equilibrium.

• The deterioration of law and order mandates equally aggressive synergized and meticulously calibrated military responses by the UN member states to sanitize the affected areas and usher harmonized functionality of the legitimate government.

•  The deficiencies in human and material resource, defined in quantitative and qualitative form, as also sustainable serviceable equipment and infrastructural facilities requires upgradation in the remote terrain configuration.

•             The PKO mandates high threshold of integrated team action/special multi-dimensional forces (SF) to maintain mission orientation; therefore proficiency of soldiers and efficiency in pre-deployment training of defence forces is desirable.

•             A new ‘Special Strategic Force (SSF)’ methodology should be evolved and implemented with political support of the Government in power, ensuring a more innovative and pragmatic approach, with better mobility, enhanced tactics and logistics support system.

•             It would be more prudent that the ‘host Governments (member states)’ should undertake such PKO, or a structured Regional Force/adhoc Coalition Force authorized by the UN Security Council. Better collaborative understanding and training must be undertaken with states in conflict.

•             The basic single-minded core issue by all commanders is to focus on human rights violations and mitigation of the same, disarmament of rebels and insurgent groups fighting against democratically elected governments and effective PKO.

•             The countries harboring terrorists and establishing safe sanctuaries, must be condemned, declared ‘Terrorist State’ and multiple sanctions must be imposed against them by the UN Security Council, till they relent and resurrect ensuring proper governance.

•             Extreme caution should guide the directive of enforcement operations undertaken in an asymmetric environment. They are ‘time critical’, to be professionally executed, undergone with complete awareness of risks and responsibilities of the UN Mission as a whole. Political vigilance to sustain peace, circumscribes engagements with affected communities towards building confidence in political processes and responsible state structures. There is perceivably an attempt to further strengthen synergy harmonics of ‘global and regional partnerships’, engaging ‘host gross popular support’ of locals, addressing issues of contemptible abuse, enhancing audit & accountability, improving leadership, management and connected reforms for a progressive society. 

  • The UNPKO owing to their composition and character are presently quite unsuited to engage effectively in military ‘Counter Terrorism’ tasks, primarily attributed to lack of specialized equipments, intelligence, logistics, capabilities and preparatory training for the same. The ‘Rules of Engagement’ should be well drafted to protect forces legally and empower them to attain the desired mission successfully through proactive/preemptive postures, with guaranteed safety to civilians. UN peace enforcement tasks were executed in Somalia, 1993 and in DRC, 2013. The offensive operations conducted by UN Forces should conventionally conform to a clear and achievable ‘political end state’ and abide by international humanitarian law. It is important to enforce reconciliatory symbiotic relationship, to rebuild trust between leadership and societies. The attempt to undertake ‘Consolidated Operations’ must be deemed appropriate in spirit.

Indian Role and Perspective

•             It may be considered by the authorities in PMO, that the ‘Counter Terrorism Task Force Centre (CTTFC)’at the UN HQ, New York, should preferably be spearheaded under the aegis of Indian Ministry of External Affairs and concomitantly work conjointly with the Ministry of Defence, as it exemplifies commonality in specific areas of its work content, characterized by both Ministries in perspective, towards better projection and thrust of politico-military diplomacy for conclusive outcomes. 

•             India progressed the draft definition of ‘Terrorism’ and it also champions the common approach under UN auspices. It was proposed by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi that, the UN must send an unambiguous message of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against terrorism, citing the threats posed by ‘non-state military actors.’ Our PM also called for the adoption of a comprehensive convention against ‘International Terrorism’ this year.

• Terrorism has expanded its geographical limits, with vast resources and new instruments to spread its radical ideology and draw recruits from all over the world. The menace of terrorism and extreme fundamentalism has acquired a new dimension that requires a ‘comprehensive response strategy’ by the CTTFC, at the UN HQ and assistance from the member states.

•             Identification and declaration of a nation/member state as a ‘Terrorist State’, if it perpetrates/sponsors/ harbors terrorism, through a comprehensively investigated UN ‘Inquiry Mission Report’, submitted by a designated Committee nominated for the same.

•             UN sanctions against the ‘Terrorist State’ and its isolation from the comity of nations about multi-cultural, Trade and commerce, Economic embargo, restricted military trade, Defence cooperation and the review of MoUs/ Defence pacts/ Exchange Programmes/Joint Military maneuvers and Exercises, Education Seminars and other multifarious bilateral/ multilateral ties and relations.

•             CTTFC would intrinsically be responsible for policy formulation on clearly delineated mechanisms exemplifying ‘Collective Defence Security’ with regards to Counter Terrorism, based on the global and regional geographical segmentation, as also the mechanisms for the member states in CT operations.

•  Nations designated to be head of ‘Coalition Forces’ (on rotational basis) should undertake synergized integrated tasks, conforming to UN mandate. Varied specialized equipment/dedicated stores with efficient and high responsive logistic support system and sustainable multi-dimensional mobility to be maintained continually, e.g. AU operations in Nigeria conducted against Boko Haram rebels, under the aegis of Nigerian Defence Coalition Forces. 

•             Designated USG from India to conceive the basic ‘Policy Document on CT’ with suitable representatives duly selected from India (MEA and MoD) and from other Member States towards successful approval of the document by UN Secy General and General Assembly for its time bound implementation (post resolution) in 2018.

•             The selected Indian team to effectively conceptualize and ensure instrumentation of our CT policy document (with global perspective), accentuating on issues pertinent to collaborative defence ties/partnerships/ assignments towards a more harmonized regional understanding. Promotion and fostering greater commonality in training of human and other essential resources to attain greater degree of cooperation, jointness and interoperability.

•             The team would develop a cohesive multipronged strategy, with CTTFC as the ‘Umbrella’ (apex body) to formalize various operations viz, Perception Management, Cyber social media implications (Ideological, Cultural & Religious) and Global Drug Traffic Control, Explosives/Weapons Regulations, Police keeping and Economic Regulations, etc. The creation of structures, composition, all-inclusive command and control instructions, myriad tasks, scope of functions and responsibilities to be unambiguously enunciated in a document.