Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Marine's Death in Haiti Comes As Chile Weighs Continued Role

A Marine sergeant serving in Chile's peacekeeping battalion was killed as protesters fired on a military unit. The marine died of a gunshot wound to the head in the April 13 incident. It wasn't the first Chilean casualty in Haiti. In 2012, another sergeant was gunned down outside a bar, and a soldier committed suicide while on leave. The latest death was the first as a result of political violence, and it comes at a time when Chile and other nations are running out of patience with the 11-year-old Haiti mission. Argentina has already announced a sharp reduction in its Haiti forces. In social media, Chileans are urging to bring the boys back home. Among politicians, there is growing skepticism. In May 2014, Chile authorized a one-year extension of its participation in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH. With that authorization nearing an end, Chile may find itself ready to withdraw. There are political and military reasons for getting involved in peacekeeping missions. Multinational deployments increase cooperation among countries and nations earn a bit of global goodwill for helping out in areas of crisis. For the military, peacekeeping can provide training and a legitimate role for troops. Even if Chile pulls out of Haiti, it seems committed to peacekeeping. It has a training facility for peacekeepers and it formed a joint task force with Argentina. Countries agree to provide troops for "blue helmet" missions with the assumption that risks will be lower than in combat. But casualties do occur. The UN lists 67 deaths of military personnel and 33 police who have served with MINUSTAH.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Chile's Disasters and the Military's Muscle

Trading rifles for shovels
The north of Chile is still digging out from massive floods and mudslides after an unusual rainstorm hit the region March 25. As in other natural disasters, Chile's armed forces have provided essential aid, including airlifting supplies, rescuing victims, clearing roads and setting up field hospitals. Troops also are providing security by patrolling the stricken areas. At times of crisis like this, Chile's military usually shines. With at least one natural disaster each year in Chile, the military gets plenty of opportunity to be rescuers. But each disaster underscores the need for more airlift capability. Finally, some help is on the way. Minister of Defense Jorge Burgos confirmed the Air Force is acquiring helicopters. He declined to say how many and what type. But his remarks followed comments by a top FACh officer who said he expects a few Black Hawk helicopters to be added. Connect the dots, and the acquisition Burgos is talking about could be a batch of Black Hawks. FACh has been looking to replace its Bell UH-1H helicopters. Burgos also mentioned he will seek the acquisition of the sister ship of the Navy's only multirole ship. That vessel, the Sargento Aldea, has provided critical relief support by bringing vehicles, supplies and its own on-board hospital. Still, the minister sounded cautious about securing approval for the purchase.