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Somalia Operations:   Lessons Learned


None of the political leadership can tell me what they want me to accomplish. That fact, however, does not stop them from continually asking me when I will be done.

An Anonymous U.N. Commander en route
to a Peace Operation

Each of the three distinctly different phases of our operations in Somalia—Provide Relief, Restore Hope, and UNOSOM II—can teach future U.S. peacekeepers some important lessons about four areas covered in this chaper: the planning, deploy-ment, conduct and support of peacekeeping operations.


The job of the mission planner is always thankless: anticipating requirements even before a mission statement has been formalized, orchestrating literally thousands of details that cause an operation to be successful or to go at all, adjusting those details when the concept of the operation changes, and doing all of these things under time pressures that would cause breakdowns in lesser mortals. The CENTCOM planners involved in all phases of the Somalia operations lived up to this job description, in addition to adapting formerly standard procedures to new and uncertain tasks. Perhaps they recalled the words attributed to General Eisenhower, himself a former war planner: "Plans are useless, but planning is essential."

Mandates and Missions



Prior to establishing the airlift for Provide Relief, CENTCOM dispatched a Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team to Somalia. No sooner had they arrived than the team found they had been reconstituted as the nucleus for the operation's JTF. Despite the fact that both the mandate and the mission seemed clear, the JTF soon found itself coordinating a 6-month operation that eventually delivered 28,000 metric tons of supplies. Their mission also came to include airlifting Pakistani peacekeepers into the country as well as conducting delicate negotiations with clan warlords to assure the security of relief supplies.

The much larger scope of Restore Hope was reflected in the designation of a Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters as the nucleus for the JTF. Although this choice inescapably lent a "Marine Corps flavor" to the operation, it also lent a continuity of relationships and procedures that was critical in view of the larger problems faced by the JTF. Its particular challenge was to head a multinational coalition of 20 different countries—many of them chosen more to demonstrate broad international support for the U.N. mandate than to provide complementary military capabilities. Even more daunting was the need to align these operations with the activities of as many as 49 different U.N. and humanitarian relief agencies—none of which was obligated to follow military directives.

Not only was unity of command a challenge in these circumstances but there was a span of control problem that offers an object lesson for future planners, because the size of the military units forming the multinational contingent varied from platoon to brigade. A reasonable span of control was worked out, with the major participants contributing brigade-size units that could be given mission-type orders (figure 3). Several smaller contingents were placed under the Army and Air Force components, while nine countries were placed under Marine control, as they had responsibility for securing the Mogadishu area. (However, national sensitivities do not always allow such integration into a standard military hierarchy because subordination could imply a slight to national sovereignty—and certain national governments have expressly prohibited this type of relationship.)

Two other important span of control innovations under UNITAF included a Civil-Military Operations Center and the division of the country into nine Humanitarian Relief Sectors that allowed both the distribution of food and the assignment of military areas of responsibility. The relatively crisp mandate was also important in avoiding subsequent urgings by U.N. officials for UNITAF to become more deeply engaged in disarming the clans; instead, the commander limited the confiscations to those individual weapons, "technicals," and arms caches that were a clear threat to his force.

The U.S. mission to support UNOSOM II, by contrast, was considerably more open-ended, although this fact may not have been well appreciated when the operation began. The basic command arrangements reflected the fact that the operation was to take place under U.N. control, with U.S. Major General Thomas M. Montgomery acting both as Commander, U.S. Forces Somalia (USFORSOM), and as deputy to the U.N. Force Commander in Somalia, Lieutenant General Cevik Bir. The potential for conflict in this dual-hatting of command relationships was clear: as a U.S. Commander, MG Montgomery served under the command and control of CENTCOM, while as deputy to General Bir, he served under the operational control of the United Nations. Even more significant, however, was the fact that General Montgomery carried out his responsibilities through an unusual arrangement of operational and tactical control over assigned U.S. forces. These key distinctions in levels of authority are shown in figure 4; their implications are discussed in pages 53-74.

Although General Montgomery was given only 4,500 troops—many of them logistical personnel— his combat missions included force protection, manning an organic quick reaction force, providing for use of off-shore augmentation to the quick reaction force, and armed aerial reconnaisance. Complicating these responsibilities was the fact that MG Montgomery met the UNOSOM II staff for the first time when he arrived in Somalia—and only 30 percent of them had arrived by the time the mission was launched. Unlike the UNITAF staff, the USFORSOM headquarters was not built around a well-formed central nucleus but was brought together in some haste—composed primarily of Army officers individually recruited from the Army Staff and units worldwide.

While there may have been some expectations that such staff arrangements were all that was needed in a situation in which the United States no longer had the lead, foot-dragging by U.N. officials further complicated the transition between UNITAF and UNOSOM II. The initial slowness in setting up the UNOSOM II staff was aggravated by its composition; it was formed incrementally from the voluntary contributions of the multinational contingents who detailed personnel as they arrived. There certainly was an urgent need under these circumstances to insure a proper handoff between the key staffs of the incoming and outgoing U.S. components. General Johnston has pointed out that there was approximately a 6-week overlap between the UNITAF and UNOSOM II staffs, that the incoming and outgoing staff counterparts were co-located, and that detailed SOPs were jointly prepared to aid in the transition. These were clearly important steps, but it also can be argued that the real issues were the lack of agreement between the United States and the United Nations about the conditions at the time of the transition and the military capabilities required to carry out the expanded mandate of UNOSOM II. Those issues go well beyond the scope of operational command, but it is clear from subsequent events that the underlying causes of conflict in Somalia had only been postponed. Those conflicts exploded into the open and largely defined the development of the UNOSOM II mission—a fact that can only suggest for the future that, if such transitions cannot be avoided altogether, they should at least be jointly developed by the incoming and the outgoing force.

Mission Analysis: Entry and Exit Strategies



FIGURE 4: Levels of authority



Combatant Command (COCOM)
  • Nontransferable command authority established by law.
  • Provides full authority to organize and employ commands and forces as the combatant commander considers necessary to accomplish assigned missions.
Operational Control (OPCON)
  • Transferable command authority that may be exercised by commanders at any echelon at or below the level of combatant command.
  • Includes authoritative direction over all aspects of military operations and joint training necessary to accomplish missions assigned to the command.
  • Does not include authoritative direction for logistics or matters of administration, discipline, internal organization, or unit training.
Tactical Control
  • Command authority over assigned or attached forces or commands or military capability made available for tasking.
  • Limited to the detailed and usually local direction and control of movements or maneuvers necessary to accomplish assigned missions or tasks.

                 Source: Joint Pub. 1-02

Because it was relatively brief, the Provide Relief airlift provided few tough entry or exit questions, beyond the obvious ones of security for the in-country ground crews. The criterion for success was similarly clear: provide food supplies to get people past the immediate threat of starvation. The entry of UNITAF was semipermissive, the only real "opposition" for a time coming from television camera crews on the landing beaches. The well-understood U.N. mandate helped keep the focus on the most important criteria for success: better security and more food distribution. The exit strategy was implicit in the handoff to UNOSOM II, an event that identified both a specific time frame and milestones such as the building of a staff. When these milestones were not reached, it clearly flagged a problem: how that problem was handled, however, is another matter. Although the handoff was not complete, U.S. forces were withdrawn on schedule. While their departure certainly represented a successful conclusion of the UNITAF mission (as well as a useful signal to U.N. officials), the lack of an effective transition clearly complicated conditions for both the entry and the exit for U.S. forces supporting UNOSOM II.

Although both UNITAF and UNOSOM were authorized as peace-enforcement missions under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, the UNOSOM II mandate reflected a considerably deeper commitment of both security and humanitarian assistance. This mandate, however, was not by itself an invitation to the increasing use of U.S. forces in combat situations, In fact, those who originally committed the United States to a role in UNOSOM II believed that American forces would primarily play a role in logistical support to the operation. The 1,150 American troops constituting the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) were to provide a rapid response only when specific threats, attacks, or other emergencies exceeded the capabilities of other UNOSOM II forces. They were expressly barred from spearheading routine operations, escorting convoys, or providing other longer term security actions. However, there was an inadequate appreciation by planners for a potential adversary who turned out to be highly resourceful and capable of adapting to the forces brought against him. In the aftermath of the 5 June ambush that killed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers, the United States played a prominent role in drafting U.N. Security Concil Resolution 837, which called for the apprehension of those parties responsible. That resolution constituted another de facto change in the mission, because its terms were rapidly translated into a manhunt for Mohammed Aideed. Because those operations clearly outran the capabilities of other UNOSOM II forces, there was an immediate expansion in the use of the Quick Reation Force—now backed up by armed helicopters from the 10th Mountain Division as well as Air Force AC-130 gunships. Ultimately, the manhunt for Aideed led to the commitment of Task Force Ranger and to the climactic battle in Mogadishu on the night of 3-4 October 1993.

This deepening involvement of U.S. forces in combat operations during UNOSOM II has been criticized as "mission creep," despite the fact that these changes in both mission and direction clearly resulted from specific decisions reached by the national command authorities. However, the important lesson for future planners that can be derived from this experience is that the best way to avoid mission creep is to analyze what the mission really calls for; this means constantly measuring the mission against milestones that best indicate its success or failure. The choice of milestones is especially important. In peace operations, these measures should not normally be expressed in terms of enemy killed and wounded or kilometers of ground taken; if they are, this is itself an indicator that the peace operation has changed in ways that should call into question both the mission and the mandate. In fact, the best measures of success may well be those that signal reductions in the level of violence. Other important indicators may be expressed in terms of the numbers of children being fed, gallons of potable water being pumped, or weapons being turned in. While specific criteria will depend upon the mission, all must be capable of answering one basic question: "How will we know when we have won?"


Multinational Contingents



Even though it was not part of a formal coalition, the emergency airlift of Provide Relief brought its participants into immediate contact with other nations providing relief aid, as well as the added responsibility of transporting Pakistani peacekeepers into Somalia. This lesson illustrates that, like most neighborhood and community associations, all coalitions are voluntary, bringing with them a mixture of strengths and limitations, friendships and rivalries. As Joint Pub 3-07.3 notes, terms of reference must pin down the most critical elements relating to a country's participation in a peace operation: command relationships, organization, logistical responsi-bilities, and even accounting procedures. The difference was that in Restore Hope these terms of reference were primarily negotiated through the United States as the leader of the coalition, while with UNOSOM II, these terms were negotiated with the United Nations.

No serious problems appear to have arisen among the multinational contingents supporting Restore Hope, possibly as the result of a sensible decision to have the major contributing countries send liaison officers to CENTCOM for coordination prior to dispatching their forces to Somalia. General Johnston has also noted that the command arrangements outlined above achieved both unity of command and unity of purpose, despite the challenges of leading a large and diverse coalition:

Our coalition partners had signed up to the rules of engagement and the basic humanitarian mission and in every instance sought to have a close bilateral arrangement with the U.S. Commander. They . . . reported to me daily on activities with periodic formal and comprehensive briefings on progress. Unity of command can be achieved when everyone signs up to the mission and to the command relationship. (emphasis added)

However, with the increasing intensity of combat during UNOSOM II, adherence to the U.N. terms of reference became more problematical. Because most multinational contingents—including ours—make it a point to stay in close touch with their national capitals, concerns over the policy of hunting for Aideed grew along with the increased potential for combat. The challenge of commanding a coalition force under these circumstances can be seen in the subsequent statement of UNOSOM II Commander Lieutenant General Bir, who cited his lack of command authority over the assigned forces as the most significant limitation of this operation or any other one organized under Chapter VII. Certainly the authority of future U.N. force commanders is a topic that will be hotly debated for some time to come.

Another critical element for the planner is the difference between what is planned for and what shows up. It is a basic fact of international life that many of the poorer countries that have regularly participated in peace operations have done so because duty with the United Nations pays a portion of their military budgets. Equipment considered standard—even basic—in most western armies is simply not present in the inventories of many military contingents from developing countries. This fact was evident during UNOSOM II when some of the contingents that had volunteered for a Chapter VI (peacekeeping) mission arrived lacking the minimal gear required for Chapter VII (peace enforcement) operations. The U.N. commander thus had the dual challenges of providing these contingents with the equipment they needed (often from U.S. stocks) as well as the logistical support needed to keep that equipment operating. The equipment multinationals do bring with them is not likely to be interoperable, so that identifying the most critical items that must be made to work together is especially important— communications and ammunition calibers being two of the more obvious examples.

Rules of Engagement (ROE)



ROE, common in any military operation, are especially important in a peace operation because they provide the means for applying (or not applying) deadly force in a situation in which the objective is normally to avoid or to minimize violence. ROE embody two of the most important principles from operations other than war— restraint and legitimacy—because the use of force must be seen as supporting the ends for which the operation was begun in the first place. The ROE in effect for Restore Hope and UNOSOM II involved three issues: the proper use of force, the confiscation and disposition of weapons, and the handling of civilians detained by military forces. The most critical issue involved the use of force and the circumstances in which it was authorized.

Because crew-served weapons—such as the technicals—were seen as particular threats regardless of whether the crew demonstrated hostile intent, UNITAF commanders were authorized to use "all necessary force" to confiscate and demilitarize them. But what did "all necessary force" really mean? Did it amount to "shoot on sight?" UNITAF commander Marine Lieutenant General Robert Johnston decided it did not and directed commanders to challenge and approach the technicals, using all necessary force if the weapons were not voluntarily surrendered. Similar approaches were used in confiscating arms caches. These rules, combined with the demonstration of overwhelming force by UNITAF, resulted in few challenges to forcible confiscation efforts—and surprisingly few acts of violence directed against U.S. forces.

When the 20,000 U.S. soldiers of UNITAF were replaced by the 4,500 supporting UNOSOM II, these ROE were initially left unchanged. With the changes in mission and forces, however, violence escalated and resulted in Fragmentary Order 39, issued by the U.N. force commander, which stated: "Organized, armed militias, technicals, and other crew served weapons are considered a threat to UNOSOM Forces and may be engaged without provocation" (emphasis added). There is a direct line of continuity between that rule and the increasing involvement of U.S. forces in combat operations. There was a noticeable difference as well in the way U.S. forces interpreted the ROE, stressing aggressive enforcement, while other national contingents emphasized more graduated responses before using deadly force. Frag. Order 39 continued in effect until after U.S. forces were in a force protection posture pending their withdrawal. In January 1994, after a Marine sniper team engaged a machine gunner atop a bus, the ROE were again amended to exclude targets where collateral damage could not be controlled.

These experiences suggest that ROE should be applied as the direct result of carefully considered command decisions, decisions that calibrate the nature of the threat with the balance that must be struck between the often competing requirements of restraint and the security of the force. It should be clear that the Rules of Engagement must be written not only with the "KISS" principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) in mind but also with an appreciation for how they might be applied in tense situations by warfighters rather than lawyers. Classified ROE not only detract from those objectives but also make little sense in a multinational coalition with the native population closely observing and taking advantage of every move. In fact, there is an advantage to ensuring that ROE are provided to the belligerents, who need to know and firmly understand the rules of the game. Finally, while on-scene commanders must generally be free to modify ROE to reflect conditions on the ground, frequent changes in the ROE should be avoided. The old military maxim, "Order—Counter-order—Disorder" applies to these vital rules as well. Keep the ROE simple and try to keep them consistent.

Personnel Selection and Training


The selection and training of personnel are just as important for peace operations as for more conventional military operations—and maybe even more so.


All three phases of the Somalia operation underline the importance of this lesson as well as the more fundamental point that the quality of the soldier is basic to everything we do as a military force. Just as in other operations, success depends directly on the patient investments in training time and effort made during the months and years before the actual deployment order is received. Anticipation of such missions helps as well, with unit commanders who are able to build on those capabilities and hone the individual skills of their troops to a fine edge. Success in peacekeeping operations depends directly upon small-unit tactical competence and the bedrock mastery of basic military skills.

Some understanding of the differences between Chapter VI peacekeeping requirements and Chapter VII enforcement action is needed as well. In peacekeeping, Joint Pub 3-07.3 effectively sums up the required mindset:

Peacekeeping requires an adjustment of attitude and approach by the individual to a set of circumstances different from those normally found on the field of battle—an adjustment to suit the needs of peaceable intervention rather than of an enforcement action.

In addition to the individual character traits discussed by that publication, the most important ones are probably good judgment and independent action.

Enforcement actions require all these things in addition to the ability to transition rapidly to full-scale combat operations when required. MG Montgomery has noted the need for more effective predeployment training standards, including the in-theater ROEs, local culture, and weapons familiarization. One reason for suggesting these improvements was provided by the Army's 43rd Engineer Battalion, a heavy construction unit that participated in UNOSOM II. The unit was given very short notice prior to its deployment, but to make matters worse it was one of the many Army units beginning the process of de-activation. Not only were its complements of personnel and equipment less than expected for deployment, but herculean efforts were required by the soldiers of this battalion (as well as other units) to accomplish the mission.

One final point: peace operations put a premium on certain specialists who should be identified early and placed near the front of any deployment—possibly on the first plane. They include: trained Joint Operations Planning and Execution System (JOPES) operators, contract specialists (especially those with experience in local procurement), logisticians, lawyers, medical specialists, WWMCCS operators, port transportation organizers, public affairs officers, military police, combat engineers, psychological operations specialists (PSYOPS), and civil affairs experts, as well as special forces teams. Equally important are people with specific knowledge of the language and the country. Because there was a shortage of people with a working knowledge of the Somali language, linguists were recruited by contract both in the United States and Somalia. Although this recruitment raised some obvious questions of operations security, the program proved very effective for most situations. The use of Reserve Component personnel with special qualifications for service in Somalia also worked well—suggesting the importance of Reserve Component integration in the planning of future peace operations.

Joint Planning



The 28,000 troops deployed during Restore Hope clearly presented the most challenging planning problems, beginning with the longer lead times now needed to establish "strategic air bridges" with U.S. bases and other facilities being reduced worldwide. Given the air distances between the United States and Somalia, overflight rights, refuelling and en-route support arrangements required additional time and effort to arrange. Current information on the capacities and conditions of both air and marine terminals in Somalia was also lacking. Under those conditions, it seemed particularly unfortunate that CENTCOM delayed until late in the deployment the arrival of so-called "transportation through-putters." Because these soldiers are trained to unscramble delays at such terminals, it would make better sense in future deployments to have them in country sooner rather than later.

One of the most perceptive reports to emerge from Restore Hope noted that the initial stages of a deployment always place great demands upon a very limited infrastructure, but especially in a case like Somalia. That situation was compounded because, in the words of the report,

In contingencies, the tendency is for everyone to consider themselves to be of such great importance that their presence is required in-country first. Not everyone can or should be first. . . . Higher rank should not translate into higher precedence for arriving in-country.

A better approach for the future, it suggested, may be to organize JTF headquarters in modules, each with its associated logistics and communications, and to deploy them in successive stages as capabilities are added to the force. This seems to be a reasonable approach when dealing with a particularly austere operational environment while allowing JTF commanders a better opportunity to tailor forces and their support to the specific situation at hand.

Some of the more consistent criticisms concern the way that joint planning influenced the way UNOSOM II was "stood up." Much of this process appears to have been surprisingly random, perhaps because this was the first time that American forces had been committed to a U.N.-led peace enforcement operation. However, the ultimate result was that in Somalia MG Montgomery confronted a situation in which his command was constructed not as a result of a joint blueprint carefully modified to reflect his circumstances, but rather as the result of a considerably more convoluted planning process. One example: the J6 (communications) staff was not assigned to the JTF early enough to influence communications plannning, and the J6 director himself did not arrive in country until 2 weeks after the activation of UNOSOM II.

Consistently strong opinions were expressed about the JOPES during all phases of the Somalia operation. Complaints included the system's lack of user-friendliness, the inflexibility of its procedures, and the difficulty of importing data from other sources. Most observers, however, correctly note that the system is a powerful planning tool that is also the backbone of the joint operations system. The system's advocates echo the point that JOPES takes discipline and practice, ideally with specifically trained personnel. Clearly, you don't want to go to either war or peace operations without JOPES-smart operators. Even when they are present, however, it is best to remember that there is a built-in conflict between the discipline needed to run that system and the flexibility demanded by those that JOPES and similar planning systems are supposed to support.

A good example of what can go wrong with the best of intentions was provided by ARCENT (Army Forces, Central Command) planners just prior to Restore Hope. Those planners put great time and thought into the construction of the Time-Phased Force Deployment Document (TPFDD) and loaded it into the JOPES data base for implementation by subordinate commands. Unfortunately, these subordinate commands had been given "write permission" on the TPFDD and began to make changes with a vengeance. Within hours, wholesale changes to unit types, personnel, equipment, and deployment dates had been entered—largely making a hash of ARCENT's careful arrangements. JOPES operators at ARCENT—now presumably armed— labored for weeks to make the hundreds of corrections required to ensure that people, equipment, and lift were in proper alignment. Thereafter, the authority to make changes was retained by the higher command.


Possibly because they have a job almost as thankless as the joint planner, those who actually conduct deployments of operational forces like to remind us that amateurs talk about strategy, while professionals talk about logistics. Both topics come together in the execution of the basic elements of power projection:   airlift, sealift, and pre-positioned equipment. The major share of the responsibility for deployment rests with TRANSCOM, but, as they are also quick to point out, much of their success depends upon other people. There should be no doubt, however, about the success of this deployment to Somalia. During Restore Hope, for example, 986 airlift missions (including both military and commercial aircraft) moved over 33,000 passengers and more than 32,000 short tons of cargo to Somalia. Eleven ships—including five fast-sealift vessels—moved 365,000 "measurement" tons of cargo to the theater as well as 1,192 containers of sustainment supplies. And over 14 million gallons of fuel were delivered from Ready Reserve Force tankers to the forces ashore.




Airlift is critical to a peace operation for two reasons: in most cases it is the fastest way to respond to a crisis and, until the arrival of sealift, it is the only way to sustain the initial deployments of peacekeepers. These were especially important considerations throughout the Somalia operations because the Mogadishu airport was capable of handling no more than two aircraft at a time. These space limitations were a special problem during Provide Relief, when there was no centralized airlift control, either for those aircraft chartered by international relief organizations or operated by the U.S. Government. One important innovation during this phase of the operation was the use of the Airborne Command, Control, and Communications System (ABCCC). The use of ABCCC aircraft in a primitive operating environment provided a range of critical capabilities—especially communications relay and airlift coordination—that may well suggest a model for future operations in similar areas.

Despite the remarkable success of the airlift, forecasting was a problem in two areas: the shipment of hazardous cargo (usually weapons and ammunition) and the movement of sustainment supplies (food, water and other consumables). Hazardous cargo always requires diplomatic clearances and becomes an especially sensitive issue when commercial carriers are being chartered. The movement of sustainment supplies became a problem early in Provide Hope because of the lack of an interface between JOPES and the Military Standard Transportation & Movement Procedures (MILSTAMP) documentation— difficulties surmounted only through extensive work-arounds.

Data differences also caused problems with the Time-Phased Force Deployment Document supporting both Restore Hope and UNOSOM II. Because the TPFDD expresses the CINC's decision concerning the kinds of units sent on an operation as well as the time they will enter the deployment, it is built around Unit Line Numbers (ULN) that reflect a unit's position in the deployment operations order. Army units, however, organize most of their deployment data by Unit Identity Codes (UIC) and Unit Type Codes (UTC). Because these codes do not match, there was great difficulty in manipulating the data and insuring that scarce airlift assets were not wasted.

The inevitable inaccuracies in TPFDD information also caused a recurrence of the persistent problem of in-transit visibility—the "where-is-it-now?" transportation predicament that afflicts the movement of household goods as well as the deployment of armies. In some instances, for example, telephone calls, faxes, and repeated visual checks were needed to verify that the airfield "ramp reality" matched the airlift requirements listed in the automated data base. Finally, the requests for airlift support from coalition forces during UNOSOM II routinely set unrealistic delivery dates that were themselves based more on administrative guesswork than well-constructed requirements.




The data management problem experienced with airlift was also encountered in sealift. Hazardous cargo was not always forecasted, for example, and inaccurate entry information as well as differences between UICs and ULN's led to problems of in-transit visibility. A new data system called EASI-LINK was instituted to help correct the visibility problem; while it showed promise, it was not completely successful in overcoming the different data formats. The net effect of the continuing difficulty in managing TPFDD information— including late changes, inaccurate entries, and unreliable information—made sealift planning as consistent a problem as it had been for airlift.

Several coordination issues underlined the fact that in logistics the integration of joint and service perspectives is not always clear. One of the most basic problems was over command and control of the seaport of Mogadishu—a critical concern because the port facilities were in such disrepair that only one ship could be handled at a time. There was some confusion over whether the Navy, Marine Corps, or Army was to be in charge of this "common user seaport" because the Army transportation unit doctrinally charged with the mission did not arrive until well after the first pre-positioned ships were waiting outside the port (a point discussed in the next section). The Marines on at least one occasion held back some shipping in order to supply their own requirements, despite the fact that all sealift resources were supposed to be centrally managed. And while components from within a service routinely transferred equipment from rotating to arriving units, the same arrangement did not always hold true among the services. For example, the Army at one point in the operation requested lift to ship Humvees back to its home stations—just as the Marines were requesting equally daunting lift requirements to ship their Humvees from the United States to Somalia.

Pre-positioned Shipping



There is no question that pre-positioned shipping was a valuable asset in Somalia. In particular, Marine Corps Maritime Prepositioned Ships (MPS) were able to offload essential equipment and supplies early in the deployment, despite the austerity of the port facilities. The ready availability of this logistical support not only reduced airlift burdens but also allowed UNITAF to adapt the MPS equipment packages to the unique requirements of a peacekeeping operation. However, a useful lesson was also demonstrated by the problems experienced with three pre-positioned ships that carried equipment for all the services. During the initial phases of Restore Hope, these ships were unable to offload their cargo because of a combination of rough seas and inadequate port facilities. Although intelligence information on Mogadishu was somewhat lacking, it was known that the drafts of all three vessels made it impossible for them actually to enter the harbor at Mogadishu; fortunately, however, all three had the capacity to offload "in the stream." But rough seas and the delay in deploying the Army transportation specialists required to unload the vessels forced a change in plans. One of the ships moved to Kismayo, but found conditions there little better. Another went on to Mombasa, but since sealift officials had not contacted Kenyan authorities to clear unloading of the hazardous cargo (ammunition) carried by the ship, it was denied entry to the port and returned to Mogadishu. Eventually two of the ships spent a total of 14 days in two separate port areas before finally returning to their base at Diego Garcia. They had been gone a month but never unloaded their cargo.

What is most troubling for the future is that these problems took place in an environment that was austere but not the scene of active combat operations. This example emphasizes as few other aspects of the deployment the importance of integrating those things that must work together effectively:

Administrative Requirements



One of the most persistent administrative problems throughout operations in Somalia was the lack of an efficient means to track funding and other costs of the operation, especially the supplies and services provided to coalition partners. Some of these requests for support involved strategic lift into the country while others concerned consumables such as water and rations. The absence of prior guidance and incomplete authority created an administrative burden that was only overcome with the usual work-arounds by dedicated people. Lessening those burdens in the future as we operate with reduced funding will require tighter financial controls (including those involving reimbursement) before a peace operation begins.

Procurement was also an issue. As had been the case with Desert Storm, there was an urgent need to have contracting officers on site early—and with authority sufficient to the monumental tasks of arranging for supplies and services that often had to be contracted in neighboring countries. During Provide Relief a request forwarded for the use of simplified contracting procedures during an operational contingency was turned down on the odd grounds that bullets were not being fired at U.S. forces by a declared enemy of the United States—this despite the fact that "imminent danger" pay had been approved for all U.S. forces operating in Somalia. During UNOSOM II, the U.N. logistical system came in for particular criticism. As one JULLS report stated:

The U.N. procurement system is cumbersome, inefficient, and not suited to effectively support operations in an austere environment. The United Nations acquires all of its goods and services on a reimbursable basis. Unfortunately, the reimbursement is often delayed or debated, with a final solution that may not . . . benefit the provider.

Two joint issues that arose during Restore Hope were finance support and personnel rotation policies. Although pay operations are centralized in the Defense Finance & Accounting Service, the Navy and Marine Corps communicate this information through a single system used both on shore and during operational deployments. The Army and Air Force lacked a comparable communications channel, a situation that caused some difficulties during the early stages of the Restore Hope and also demonstrated the need for such essential combat support systems to be deployable worldwide. Naturally, financial specialists trained to function in a joint environment are the basic underpinnings of any such system. Most of the personnel deployed during this operation were serving in a temporary duty status, a fact that led to confusion because of the wide differences in their tour lengths. Because a uniform policy was never established by either CENTCOM or the JTF, replacing personnel became a much more difficult task. Even more important was the potential morale problem inherent in having people serving side-by-side who had different tour lengths.

During Restore Hope, much of the Marine amphibious unit as well as most of the multinational contingent were quartered in and around the boundaries of the Mogadishu International Airport. Despite the fact that a comprehensive site plan had been prepared in advance of this occupation, it quickly broke down when different national contingents were added to the coalition. Because many of these countries provided only small units, there was no alternative except to house them at the airfield, so that encampments were soon claimed on a first-come, first-served basis. Apart from the inherent organizational problems stemming from such an approach, safety suffered as well when the encampments soon consumed all available space and spread toward taxiways, ramps, and active runways. Air controllers lived in tents sandwiched between the edge of the runway and high-powered area surveillance radars. When all other real estate had been claimed, an Army evacuation hospital more than lived up to its name when it was forced to set up just next to the end of the departure runway. The result was that, in an already threatening environment, there was needless exposure of the troops to a number of additional hazards.

Conduct of Operations

The operations conducted in Somalia during all three phases of the operation showed once again the true professionalism of the American soldier, sailor, airman, and marine. In all too many instances, Somalia showed as well the heroism and dedication of a force that found itself in harm's way while serving in the cause of peace. The full story of those operations and their significance at unit level is best left to the individual service components. The joint world as it affected the operations in Somalia dealt much more with the five areas presented here: command and control, mission execution, civil-military operations, negotiations, and intelligence.

Command and Control



The major lessons on command and control that emerged from our operations in Somalia are instructive for what they reveal of problems both in coalition operations as well as in the U.S. chain of command put in place during UNOSOM II. That mission had barely begun before full-scale fighting flared up in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the countryside, leading to increased tactical challenges that in turn caused two major problems. Because the UNOSOM II headquarters was neither organized nor equipped to function as a battle staff, it had to undergo wrenching adjustments under great pressure. Even more seriously, however, the greater potential for combat increased the concern in those countries that had contributed forces to what they had originally seen as a humanitarian effort.

This concern manifested itself in a pronounced tendency for some of these national contingents to seek guidance from their respective capitals before carrying out even routine tactical orders. According to published reports, the commander of the Italian contingent went so far as to open separate negotiations with the fugitive warlord Mohammed Aideed—apparently with the full approval of his home government. With American backing, the United Nations requested this officer's relief from command for insubordination. The Italian Government refused and life went on—a useful demonstration of both the fundamental existence of parallel lines of authority and the fundamental difficulties of commanding a coalition force under combat conditions.

The escalating level of violence also caused additional command and control problems for the United States. As shown in figure 3, these arrangements were highly unusual. The logistical components of U.S. Forces in Somalia (USFORSOM) were OPCON (i.e., under operational control as "leased" forces) to the United Nations (in the person of MG Montgomery) while the QRF was still commanded and controlled (i.e., as COCOM or "owned" forces) by CENTCOM. MG Montgomery exercised his authority through an equally unusual combination of direct support, operational control, and tactical control. These command relationships were unusual but reflected three fundamental American objectives for UNOSOM II: to keep U.S. forces firmly under U.S. operational control, to reduce the visibility of U.S. combat forces in the operation, and to eliminate any misperception that those forces were under the command of the United Nations.

With the ever-deepening hunt for Aideed and the increasing involvement of the QRF in combat operations, the decision to deploy Task Force Ranger added an additional complicating factor. Because it was a strategic asset, Task Force Ranger had its own chain of command that was headed in country by Army Major General William F. Garrison and extended directly back to CENTCOM without going through either U.S. or U.N. channels. Although MG Montgomery did not have OPCON of this force, he maintained a close working relationship that allowed tight coordination between Task Force Ranger operations and the QRF. Because the QRF was under the direct tactical control of MG Montgomery and—because of its capabilities and the need to follow strict operational security procedures—it was normally designated as the back-up contingency force whenever Task Force Ranger went into action.

These same operational security concerns were apparently at the heart of MG Montgomery's request to add armor capabilities to the QRF from U.S. sources rather than relying on those already available from the coalition partners in Somalia. Although this request represented a clear signal that the level of violence was escalating yet again, there was no comprehensive reassessment of the mission at the national level. Instead, MG Montgomery's request for armor support was refused in a decision that has received wide public attention in light of the fateful Ranger operation that took place on the night of 3-4 October 1993. When the Rangers came under intense hostile fire, it rapidly became clear that the QRF lacked the capability to rescue them.

MG Montgomery and his staff reacted to that situation by quickly organizing an extraction force using Malaysian and Pakistani units equipped with tanks and armored personnel carriers—much as any U.S. commander in more conventional circumstances might have done in committing his reserves. However, the most important lesson to be drawn from these events may be the useful reminder that command and control ultimately rests upon the judgment of the on-scene commander and his ability to react to the unexpected.

In the aftermath of this battle, the United States decided to send additional troops to Somalia for additional protection of American forces. While this force was placed under U.S. command as a JTF, figure 5 shows how an already complicated command structure became still more complex. To illustrate (using only the basic acronyms)—the new JTF-Somalia fell under OPCON of CENTCOM but was TACON to USFORSOM. The purpose of this arrangement, in theory, was toallow the JTF Commander to concentrate on tactical missions while MG Montgomery was left free to concentrate on his responsibilities as the Deputy U.N. commander. Although the JTF thus controlled all U.S. tactical forces in Somalia neither the JTF nor USFORSOM controlled the Navy and Marine Corps forces, since those offshore assets were still under the operational control of CENTCOM. The JTF could not routinely task the offshore forces for such things as drone aircraft, although they did obtain Marine and SEAL sniper teams through an informal "handshake arrangement."

MG Montgomery has pointed out that many of these odd procedures were offset by the close working relationships he enjoyed with all U.S. commanders tasked to support UNOSOM II, and that "Ultimately the U.S. arrangements did work." That undeniable fact is yet another tribute to the dedication and professionalism of those charged with commanding and carrying out a difficult mission. However, there should be no mistaking the fact that the greatest obstacles to unity of command during UNOSOM II were imposed by the United States on itself. Especially at the end of the operation, these command arrangements had effectively created a condition that allowed no one to set clear, unambiguous priorities in designing and executing a comprehensive force package. Instead, CENTCOM exercised long-distance control over a number of organizationally co-equal entities in a remote theater of operations. As a UNOSOM II after-action report summed matters up:

Unity of command and simplicity remain the key principles to be considered when designing a JTF command architecture. The warfighting JTF commander must retain operational control of all forces available to him in theater and be allowed to posture those forces as allowed under UNAAF doctrine.

UNAAF doctrine is, of course, contained in Joint Pub. 0-2, which succinctly addresses the need for unity of command and simple, unambiguous command arrangements as a prerequisite for any military operation—but particularly for those involving joint and combined forces. The record of UNOSOM II suggests that peace operations should not be exempted from those standards. As a practical matter, it may also be useful to begin the planning for such operations with four basic questions:

To the extent that we are unable in future operations to answer those questions in simple terms, difficulties similar to UNOSOM II may once again await us.

Mission Execution



The "standing-up" of JTF-Somalia in October 1993 provides a useful example of the continuing pitfalls of units entering a joint world for which they are not adequately prepared. Once again, this JTF was formed around a nucleus—this time the Army's 10th Mountain Division. Because of its tactical orientation, no division—and especially not a light infantry unit—has either the staff structure or the cadre of experienced personnel needed to conduct joint operations. Necessarily, staff procedures are "Army" rather than "joint". The kinds of communications and ADP equipment required to conduct joint operations are also missing in these divisions. What made matters worse was that, in spite of these anomalies, the division was given the JTF mission and accepted the handoff for that responsibility in Somalia less than 2 weeks after receipt of the warning order.

Other misconceptions included the assumption that the JTF staff could be "small," or that one of the division's brigades could function effectively as a de facto Army component command. And although the officer placed in command of the JTF was an Army officer, Major General Carl F. Ernst, he had not previously been assigned to the division—a fact that made the establishment of new working relationships another burden among many. The fact that the division acquitted itself well under these demanding circumstances owed much not only to its superb personnel but also to the fact that the mission was largely confined to force protection for the balance of its in-country tour.

If there was a critical difference between the specific tasks during the final two phases of the operation, it was that the security and peacekeeping functions typical of Restore Hope (patrolling, mine clearance, heavy weapons confiscation) became indistinguishable from normal combat operations during UNOSOM II. MG Montgomery may have said it best: "If this isn't combat, then I'm sure having a helluva nightmare." Unlike the well-organized nucleus of the Marine headquarters in charge of UNITAF, the execution of more demanding missions during UNOSOM II became even more difficult because the Force Command headquarters was not equipped to act like a battle staff. The initial difficulties in manning this headquarters were never entirely overcome, with the result that key functions—long-range supporting fires, combat engineers, and air operations—were either missing or not available 24 hours a day. The JTF had to improvise a Joint Operations Center using existing equipment and personnel, many of whom had no real expertise in some of the areas for which they were now responsible: joint and combined ground operations, fire support, air operations, training, and intelligence. Equally important was the need to institute effective means for liaison with adjacent multinational commands. While hard work and rapid adaptation clearly helped, it is difficult in these stressful situations to link current operations with future operations—and both of these with overall mission requirements.

That need is nowhere greater than in peace operations, and here, too, there was a contrast between Restore Hope and UNOSOM II on the all-important issue of disarmament. While their different approaches to some extent reflected different missions, the UNITAF leadership was reluctant to do more than to confiscate those weapons that threatened his force and its mission, for example, "technicals" and weapons caches. The more ambitious UNOSOM II disarmament mission—although it never became more than an incidental byproduct of the Aideed manhunt—was a direct threat to the position of the clans within the local power structure and was resisted accordingly. The respective difficulties of executing these two missions should consequently serve as a "bright line on the ground" in planning future peace operations. There is a basic conceptual difference between arms control and disarmament. Removing or limiting the major weapons of an inferior or defeated military force can be thought of as a form of arms control, but to commit military forces to the mission of forcibly disarming a populace is to commit those forces to a combat situation that may thereafter involve them as an active belligerent.

Ambassador Robert B. Oakley, President Bush's Special Envoy to Somalia, pointed out that the application of force imposes special challenges for peacekeepers who wish to avoid becoming active belligerents. This challenge involves a mindset that looks at the local populace as potential allies rather than likely enemies, that gives repeated warningsbefore the application of force against any hostile act; that limits the application of force to the minimum level required, and that constantly seeks to engage in a dialogue rather than being tricked into overreaction. U.S. forces throughout the operations in Somalia clearly did their best to follow that advice before the UNOSOM II mandate made many of those points moot. Even then, American forces were under standing orders to limit civilian casualties and collateral damage. According to General Montgomery, for example, 15-minute, 10-minute, and 5-minute warnings were normally given before attacking any target. Although the use of AC-130 gunships, helicopter rockets, and Ranger raids over the streets of Mogadishu clearly conveyed other messages to the media, some of the precise targetting procedures used as well as the constant search for more accurate, less deadly munitions represent significant steps to adapt military power to those situations where the line between combat and noncombat is difficult to draw.

Civil-Military Operations



Although the civil affairs officer is a familiar participant in many military operations, there was no doctrine in the collective experiences of either the services or the Joint Staff to cover a situation in which a country had descended into a state of anarchy. Along the way, however, there was a rediscovery of the need to consider military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts as parts of a common whole. Although there was no longer a single government in Somalia, there were at least 49 different international agencies, including U.N. bodies, nongovernmental organizations, and HRO's. Dealing effectively with those agencies became the primary challenge for civil-military operations in Somalia. This was an important function because the HRO's not only provided many of the relief supplies that helped fight starvation, but agencies such as the Red Cross and Feed the Children were on the scene prior to the arrival of our forces and long after their departure. To this basic difference in perspective should be added another: for a variety of reasons, relief agencies tend to be suspicious of military and security personnel, even when they come as peacekeepers.

One thing that affected relations in Somalia was the pattern of accommodation that the relief agencies had followed to ensure they could work there effectively. This usually meant hiring local security forces—often in concert with the area's dominant clan. When peacekeeping forces arrived to set up their own security arrangements, there were the inevitable questions as to their authority. Once these issues were settled, it was also necessary to make exceptions to policy when weapons were confiscated from those people employed by the relief organizations as their security forces.

During the UNITAF phase of the operation there was an undeniable increase in both security and the amount of relief supplies being distributed. This period of relative peace allowed more relief agencies to enter the country, but it also underlined the need to insure closer civil-military cooperation. Sometimes these cooperative efforts involved small but important things—such as allowing HRO representatives to fly "space available" on military aircraft. More substantial efforts took place when military forces during both Restore Hope and UNOSOM II worked side by side with relief agencies to dig wells, rebuild roads, repair schools, and the like. With the need to control access to key port areas and food distribution points, it also became essential to provide photo ID cards to the relief workers. This requirement in turn meant setting up procedures for verifying organizational and personal bona fides because, as one observer said, "People came to view the ID card as both official UNITAF certification of a person's role as a humanitarian worker and also as a gun permit." Finally, some agency had to issue the cards and to regulate what privileges, if any, these ID cards would convey.

For these and similar reasons, one of the most important initiatives of the Somalia operation was the establishment of the Civil-Military Operations Center (CMOC). Set up in December 1992 during the early stages of UNITAF, CMOC became the key coordinating point between the task force and the HRO's. Liaison officers from the major multinational contingents, together with the U.S. command, used this center as a means of coordinating their activities—such as providing military support for convoys of relief supplies and assigning pier space and port access to Mogadishu Harbor for the HRO's. These practical duties also lent themselves to the broadening of contacts between the military and civilan components, including the creation of parallel CMOC's in each of the nine Humanitarian Relief Sectors. Eventually, CMOC controlled the issue of ID cards and maintained a data matrix showing the status offood relief supplies throughout the command's area of operations. Equally important, however, was the fact that CMOC was able to work closely with the Humanitarian Operations Center run by the United Nations—thus allowing a single focal point for all relief agencies operating in-country. The staff of CMOC was deliberately kept small in order to keep it focused on its mission of coordination and information exchange. (This innovation is sufficiently important as a precedent for the future; its table of organization and principal functions are summarized in appendix C.)

U.S. trucks filled with medical personnel and medicine line the streets of Mogadishu to perform the first medical civic action program in Somalia.



At all levels during Somalia operations, negotiating skills and techniques were essential to mission accomplishment. As Marine Corps Lieutenant General Anthony Zinni said, "Always consider negotiations as a great alternative to violence."


Joint Pub 3-07.3 notes that, in addition to the qualities of patience and restraint, peacekeepers must combine

an approachable, understanding, and tactful manner with fairness and firmness. A professional demeanor that stresses quiet diplomacy and reasoning will achieve more than arrogance, anger, disdain, coercion, or sarcasm. Personnel must be able to cope positively when each side seeks to press its position and then reacts vocally when stopped.

These qualities are clearly part of an attitude adjustment from the reactions traditionally associated with military operations: but there should be no mistaking how important that adjustment is during peace operations.

One perspective was offered by MG Montgomery, who noted that "consensus building" was a critical part of the process of developing plans and preparing operations orders in any combined operation—not just those involving peace operations. During UNOSOM II, however, the specific terms of reference guiding the participation of each multinational contingent as well as their different views of employment doctrine meant that actions could not be taken without broad agreement. Finding those areas of consensus, building on them, and applying them to specific operations are inevitably complicated processes—and ones that are noticeably different form those that most military personnel are used to. However, MG Montgomery thought negotiating skills important enough to recommend that they be addressed at Army professional schools.

Another perspective comes from Army Staff Sergeant Brian O'Keefe, who served outside Mogadishu during Restore Hope and now trains soldiers in the peacekeeping skills he learned in that environment. An Army publication recently pointed out that he quickly came to realize that a "show the flag and kick ass" approach was not good enough. Instead, tact in applying ROE and weapons-confiscation policies was essential, as was the use of water bottles and smiles as basic negotiating tools. "Most of all, we learned what it takes to conduct peacekeeping operations: negotiating skills, patience, and a whole lot of common sense."

The fundamental importance of maintaining this kind of a dialogue led to a key UNITAF innovation: a "Combined Security Committee" that allowed LTG Johnston and key members of his staff to meet frequently with Mohammed Aideed and other key clan leaders. This forum proved especially useful in gaining and even forcing cooperation with UNITAF mandates, such as weapons cantonment. As LTG Johnston recounts the purpose of that dialogue:

Aideed and Ali Mahdi were often unhappy with the message we would send from time to time, but for the most part (they) complied. You may not like the characters you have to deal with but you are better able to uncover their motives and intentions if you keep a communications link open (emphasis added).




It has taken the United Nations several years of ever more intense involvement in complicated operations before it has quietly admitted something that military people have always known: intelligence is the key to any operation, including those designed to secure the peace. While "information," is the term of choice, operations in Somalia proved that, whatever it is called, intelligence has a crucial role to play at the lower end of the conflict spectrum as well as in other places. A wide range of intelligence systems was employed there, many of them for the first time. Night-vision devices, ground-surveillance radars, tactical air reconnaissance, and unmanned aerial vehicles all played important roles in providing tactical intelligence and early-warning information. The most basic intelligence in a low-intensity conflict scenario is invariably provided by humans, the best and most important HUMINT source always being the soldier or marine in the field. Patrol tactics and intelligence requirements were adjusted to allow his eyes and ears to provide U.S. commanders with better "situation awareness." The major problems encountered came in two categories. There is always an issue of how to pipe intelligence from national sources down to the on-scene commander—but this was so difficult in a country with no functioning telephone system that all the links had to be provided by satellite. To provide a focal point for dissemination, CENTCOM established an Intelligence Support Element (ISE) staffed solely by U.S. personnel. The ISE rapidly became the single most important part of the intelligence support to UNOSOM—which raised the second problem. U.S. law expressly forbids dissemination through any intelligence channel over which there is anything other than exclusive U.S. control. In addition, there was great concern that sensitive U.S. intelligence sources and methods might be compromised in the setting of multinational operations. For both these reasons, guidelines were developed and adhered to which limited the dissemination of information relating to targetting and operational security but generally permitted the flow of timely intelligence to the coalition. U.S. officers serving in the UNOSOM Force Command Staff normally acted as the conduit for information developed by the ISE in support of specific operations—with MG Montgomery often making the final call on its dissemination. In all cases, however, LTG Bir as the Force Commander was kept fully apprised of the complete U.S. intelligence picture as it affected his area of operations.

If there is a precedent for the future it is that peace operations present a new kind of "information war" in which the side with the best situation awareness has a great edge—and in a multinational setting there are, by definition, many sides. While intelligence has traditionally tended to focus on the enemy, the definition of who or what the enemy is in a peace operation is not always clear. Clearly the forces of Mohammed Aideed became the main adversary that the U.S. had to contend with in Somalia. In future operations, however, commanders may want to gear their intelligence and other information collection systems—including the front-line soldier—to collect as well on those indicators signalling the direction in which the operation is heading. The use of CMOC to monitor the status of food distribution in Somalia from all relief agencies is one example of the creative use of information to build better situational awareness through the use of nontraditional mission indicators. Future operations may suggest others.

The unprecedented nature of the operations in Somalia created a new range of problems for the critical support services that must work effectively if the mission is to be successful. There was no telephone service of any kind, and such logistical facilities as there were resembled those of a war zone—yet the troops had to be supported, an infrastructure hastily constructed, and the American people kept informed of what their sons and daughters were doing in this singularly inhospitable climate. Here again, the key factor in adapting to these challenges was the quality of the joint force serving in Somalia.

Communications and Interoperability



Operation Provide Relief entered an environment in which there were few, if any, communications pathways between the strategic and forward- operating base. The baseline communications capabilities they brought with them are summarized in figure 6; such packages may well serve as models for the future.

During both Restore Hope and UNOSOM II, the communications support provided to U.S. forces was generally superb, with "connectivity" helping to overcome some of the inherent difficulties of ensuring that unity of effort, if not command, was being exercised. Part of what made this system work was the presence of a liaison officer from the Defense Information Systems Agency to UNITAF at the very start of the operation, an arrangement that permitted some flexibility in adjusting communications packages and pathways. The operation utilized both military and commercial satellite linkages, although the availability and efficiency of the commercial INMARSAT telephone service were offset somewhat by the fact that it cost $6 a minute. Another problem was that the popularity of this system quickly outran its capacity. Because this and other communication pathways became crowded, even an austere signalling environment rapidly became crowded and required increasing attention to the "de-confliction" of radio frequencies being used by the military units and HRO's.

FIGURE 6. Baseline communications requirements for humanitarian assistance missions

The size of the operating area also stretched in-country communications. Infantry units commonly operated more than 50 miles from their headquarters, while transportation and engineer units were often hundreds of miles from their bases. Either HF or TACSAT were potential answers, but both the equipment and the available net structures were limited. The operations provided a number of opportunities to experiment with tactical satellite antennaes, especially those that could provide continuous communications— and better force protection—for convoys operating in remote, high-threat areas. Soldiers at all levels repeated the experience of Desert Storm and brought their personal computers with them—especially the newer laptop versions. Field expedients flourished to protect them from blowing wind and sand—including the taping of Ziplock baggies across the opening to the disk drive in a way that allowed access to the floppy disk but effectively sealed out dust.

The most significant potential for interoperability problems occurred between U.S. forces and the multinational contingents. During UNITAF, these problems were minimized by two important expedients: imposing communications management discipline over the force as a whole; and assigning full-time liaison officers with tactical satellite radios to each of the multinational contingents—much as had been done during the Gulf War. During UNOSOM II, however, and with the U.S. no longer in charge, those practices were discontinued. Instead, each tactical area of responsibility was commanded by one of the multinational contingents, whose comanders were responsible for ensuring that all forces under their operational control had compatible communi-cations equipment. Because area boundaries roughly corresponded to national forces, this system worked reasonably well—as long as each national force stuck to its own area. Crossing over the "seams" of national control created severe interoperability problems—a situation that occurred whenever one national contingent had to cross over an area boundary to reinforce another.

Some of these problems had been offset earlier by the operational communications structure set up and manned by UNITAF. Following the Marine redeployment, a backbone communications capability from the 11th Signal Brigade was maintained in each of the areas of operation until a U.N. structure was established in December 1993. However, other communications responsibilities were effectively turned over to the signal battalion of the Army's 10th Mountain Division. There is, unfortunately, no way that a division-level signal battalion could be prepared to assume what amounted to a strategic communications mission, especially one in which so many different communications systems were being used.

The internal interoperability problems affecting affected U.S. forces did not involve any Grenada-like operational fiascoes; however, the ones that did occur underline the continuing problem of aligning equipment, procedures, and standards in the joint environment. During Restore Hope, it was discovered that UNITAF, as a Marine-centered headquarters, used an obscure word-processing software called Enable OA, while CENTCOM, like most other military users, preferred Wordperfect. A similar difficulty plagued their exchanges of e-mail.

This situation complicated, although it did not prevent, file transfers between the two headquarters; however, it illustrates the growing importance of "officeware" in military operations and the problems resulting from mismatches. In the tactical arena, it was also discovered that the air-tasking order formats differed between the east and west coast ships of the Marine Amphibious Ready Groups—and that the same Army and Marine single-channel tactical radios had acquired compatibility problems caused by differing upgrades. Most seriously, for the first 3 weeks the Navy was offshore, the Army hospital in Mogadishu could not talk to the ships, nor were Army MEDEVAC helicopter pilots cleared to land on them.

All these and many other difficulties were overcome by capable, problem-solving people. The more difficult and much longer term issue is the "stovepiping" of different data systems. During Restore Hope there were at least 10 different data systems, most built around the requirements of a single service but handling a host of common functions: intelligence, personnel, logistics, finance, etc. Each system brought its own logistical "tail" and required its own lane on the very narrow information highway available to deployed forces. This is not a situation that makes sense from either a logistical or operational perspective. One after action report summarized the problem:

Time spent trying to learn and engineer just the (comparatively) few systems we were associated with during Restore Hope could have been better spent providing higher quality, overall service. Money spent on these circuits could have gone a long way to resolving our interoperability problems.

In-Country Logistics

a. Lesson

We have the finest theater-level combat service support organization in the world: it will be either sought after or modelled in any future peace operation.


The "lessons learned" from the performance of the combat service support structure in Somalia do not so much suggest the need for specific corrections as much as they underline the importance of the U.S. contribution to the success of this or any future peace operation. What is clear especially from the record of our support to UNOSOM II is that the management of theater-level combat service support in an austere environment is something in which we excel. The basic concept for UNOSOM was that support functions would be organized around the U.N. Logistics Support Command (UNLSC)—a structure that closely and deliberately resembled an Army Corps Support Group.

This command was augmented by U.S. logistics personnel as well as task-organized units from the smaller national contingents. Although the terms of reference for each member of the multinational contingent specified the types of support they would give and receive, the general rule was that the UNLSC would provide common user items (such as fuel and water) while the national contingents supplied their own specific needs (ammunition and maintenance). In practice, however, the wide variations in the equipment brought by the national contingents meant that there was a constant competition for resources, with the United States often making up the difference. As the operation progressed into more intense combat, and with correspondingly greater logistical demands, the presumption of self-sufficiency broke down more and more. Although such responsibilities had never been intended, this small logistical force eventually provided both general support and direct support to a large portion of the coalition. The resulting demands on both the U.N. logistics structure and its American underpinnings were intense—and accomplished only by the extraordinary efforts of U.S. logistical personnel. As both history and precedent, there is little question that the logistical ability the U.S. displayed in Somalia will either be requested or copied in all future peace operations.



In peace operations, especially multinational ones, it is essential that medical support personnel come prepared to deal with some of the world's most deadly and exotic diseases.


The United States has had significant experience in coping with the challenges of medical care in austere environments. What made Somalia unique was that there were literally no host country hospital facilities to augment those that the United States was prepared to bring. One lesson from that experience is that it will be useful in the future to track medical facilities theaterwide, as well as countrywide. As an example, it became necessary to arrange for the evacuation of U.S. personnel to neighboring Kenya and their treatment there. Another point is that medical intelligence is crucial in helping prevent exposure to indigenous diseases. In Somalia, earthmoving equipment brought in to repair roads and other facilities released tuberculosis spores long dormant in the soil. An additional problem to be faced was that the full range of expertise in tropical medicine was required, to help treat the medical problems not only of the indigenous population but those of the multinational contingents as well. Although the United States may not be directly responsible for these personnel, it is probably inevitable that we will be expected to give some form of medical support to future coalition partners.



An effective public information program is critical to the success of any operation, especially those involving peacemaking or peacekeeping.


The lessons learned from Somalia about military relations with the media suggest the importance of two things:

U.S. forces in UNOSOM II had no public affairs organization. And one of the major lessons learned is that any U.S. force which is part of a U.N. operation must have a first class public affairs section in the future. After 3 October I was sent a 30-man Joint Information Bureau— and quality of coverage improved enormously thereafter.

The responsibility of sharing situational awareness with the media is a basic and most important function in an age where information especially affects those military activities carried out with the concurrence of the international community. In our system, however, the media spotlight serves the additional purpose of public accountability and highlights our special responsibilities whenever we put the lives of American troops at risk—something that is an inevitable part of any peace operation.

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Last Update:  October 1, 2002