A field training exercise (FTX) set for Lesotho this October marks another step towards realisation of the African Union’s (AU) African Standby Force (ASF).
The exercise marks the finale of an ongoing training cycle known as Amani Africa II (“peace in Africa” in Kiswahili) that started in October 2010 with Amani Africa I, a command post exercise (CPX), in Addis Ababa.
That CPX marked the end of a two year training and capacity building cycle designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the AU Commission, through its Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD), to employ the ASF for an AU mandated peace support operation.
Amani Africa I focused on validating policies and processes in employing the ASF in the broader African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA).
When the ASF is finally operational in 2015, it will consist of standby arrangements in Africa five sub-regions with various capabilities including military, police and civilian. Each will be on standby in their country of origin and ready for rapid deployment.
The Lesotho field training exercise will, according to the AU Peace and Security website, “play a significant role in evaluating the readiness of the ASF to respond swiftly to ensuring conflicts unhampered by any heavy political and instrumental burdens”.
The Lesotho exercise has seven objectives, including testing the rapid deployment capability (RDC), work with other organisations involved in peace support, including civilian and police capacities, and build capacity and improve interoperability.
The envisaged force level for the RDC is two battalions and for the multi-dimensional peace support operation a bridge size mission including civilian and police components is deemed necessary.
Plans to establish the ASF have been on the AU Peace and Security Council agenda for more than a decade. AU member countries were slow in committing troops to the ASF, which officially came into being in 2007 when regional countries resolved to contribute troops to the ASF to defend member states from revolts and aggression. It was originally planned to be operational by 2010.
The exact dates of the exercise have not yet been released.