SOLLIMS Sampler Volume 10, Issue 1 - Page 24

Establishing a Safe and Secure Environment [Sierra Leone and Iraq] (Lesson #1152) Observation: Establishing a safe and secure environment involves much more than initial policing actions. The reduction of violence in the given operating environment over time requires a range of other actions and appropriate resourcing. Discussion: Establishing a safe and secure environment: On the surface, most members of the military will likely look at establishing a safe and secure environment as simply providing a policing function with an aim at keeping violence at a minimum. In actuality, it seems that providing a lasting secure environment entails much more. Once basic security is established in a peacekeeping situation, the stabilizing force or team must start building the basic foundations of society based upon a thorough needs assessment of the operating environment. In the Sierra Leone case [1999-2000], 2.6 million homeless individuals was a staggering number that represented a significant source of potential violence and criminality based on individuals simply trying to fulfill their basic needs. With a population this large, one challenge was attempting to keep them at peace with each other while the basic needs of shelter, water and food were addressed by the peacekeeping force. If too many of the limited resources were put into law enforcement and security, then the effort to provide for basic needs would have moved too slowly, causing the security situation to potentially get out of hand due to a restless and suffering population. Yet, if the law enforcement function was under-resourced in order to speed up the humanitarian effort, then the likelihood of opportunistic criminality would have spiked dramatically in a “survival of the fittest” environment. Options for reducing violence: One “ground level” challenge is attempting to reduce violence in an operating environment. As a military police company commander in Iraq in 2003, my company was charged with supply route patrols. One of our tasks was to enforce the weapons ban placed on the Iraqi population. While we confiscated many AK-47s and other weapons, the Iraqi populace that we were now charged with protecting frequently reminded us that we were removing from them their basic ability to protect themselves in their homes. Opportunistic crime was still rampant at this point in the war. While we were carrying out orders to remove weapons from the battlefield, we may have also been creating a situation where many Iraqi civilians could no longer defend themselves against the many criminal elements still roaming the country. This likely created a significant anti-American sentiment that would continue to challenge the coalition in the coming years of the war. The point is that if the peacekeeping forces are not available on the ground to provide the security the population requires, then creative approaches that include utilizing indigenous police and military forces in a partner- ing approach must be considered. This was a big problem in Iraq, however, because the previous indigenous forces were all disbanded, leaving U.S. forces, like my company, Table of Contents | Quick Look | Contact PKSOI Page 23 of 36