WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States backs a proposal to send several hundred NATO advisers to support the African Union peacekeeping mission to halt violence in Darfur, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Citing unidentified Bush administration officials, the newspaper said the move under consideration calls for fewer than 500 NATO advisers, including some U.S. troops, to be assigned to African Union headquarters units.
The AU’s 7,000 poorly equipped troops in Sudan’s western province of Darfur have been unable to stop violence in which tens of thousands of people have died and 2 million have fled in the last three years.
The NATO forces would assist in logistics, communications, intelligence and other areas but would not intervene on the ground in Darfur, the officials told the Post.
The proposed deployment is intended as an interim measure until a larger UN force, with a broader mandate than the African Union force can be sent, the newspaper said.
However, UN officials and diplomats told Reuters that sending in any Western military advisors would be difficult without a major diplomatic offensive.
There has not been approval from NATO yet and the Sudan government has objected to a UN force, particularly one that has U.S. or European military personnel.
The African Union, under pressure from its Arab members, many of whom back Khartoum, has been hesitating in folding in its forces into a UN operation, despite earlier commitments.
And Western advisors on equipment given to the African Union to date have been forced to do training outside of Darfur, Juan Mendez, the UN special envoy for the prevention of genocide, said at a Friday news conference.
Jan Pronk, the UN representative for Darfur, told Netherlands Radio last week that mentioning NATO was like waving a red flag to the Muslims in Sudan and elsewhere.