Correction to This Article
This article on Darfur incorrectly said that a Sudanese-government-backed counterinsurgency campaign contributed to the deaths of hundreds of millions of civilians. Hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the conflict.

U.N. Official Chafes at Governments' Inaction, Sudanese Obstruction on Darfur

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 14 -- The United Nations' top peacekeeping official said Wednesday that a plan to send thousands of peacekeepers to Darfur to protect civilians may end in "failure" unless Sudan allows all non-African troops to participate and other governments provide the U.N. mission with more than 20 transport and attack helicopters.

The warning by U.N. Undersecretary General Jean-Marie Guéhenno comes less than six weeks before a long-awaited U.N.-backed peacekeeping force of 26,000 is scheduled to replace a smaller, struggling African Union mission. It reflected mounting alarm within the United Nations that new force will lack the basic resources to succeed.

The United Nations has already recruited more than 20,000 peacekeepers for the mission in the Darfur region, where a government-backed counterinsurgency campaign has driven more than 2 million civilians from their homes over the past four years and contributed to the deaths of hundreds of millions more. But U.N. military planners have been unable to secure commitments for the more costly and advanced aviation and transportation equipment.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other senior U.N. officials have been pressing governments in Africa, Europe and Asia to supply more than 18 transport helicopters and six attack helicopters needed to transport troops, and to provide air support for ground forces.

U.N. officials said the helicopters would provide the multinational force with a vital military advantage over other armed groups and enable it to respond decisively to any attacks. "If that force was to know humiliation in the early stage of its deployment, then it'd be very hard to recover," Guéhenno said.

Guéhenno said the failure to supply the helicopters amounted to a "sad story" on the commitment of the international community to protect the people of Darfur. He also told the U.N. Security Council that if his concerns "were not addressed the mission would be in a very dangerous situation in early 2008 and that the mandate as defined by the Council would be very difficult to implement."

Guéhenno faulted Khartoum for failing to approve the participation of a battalion of Thai combat troops, a Nepalese special forces unit and a Nordic engineering company. His remarks follow recent complaints by Ban that Sudan has moved too slowly to ensure the new force has sufficient land and water to set up its camps.

Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, said his government is fully cooperating with the United Nations. The Thai peacekeepers, he said, were not needed because there were already enough commitments for infantry troops from African nations. He said there were also sufficient offers for engineering units from China, Pakistan and Egypt. He said the government is still weighing the request to send Nepalese troops.

"We don't share any pessimism about the ability to deploy the force," he said. "It's a huge operation, and it can't be deployed overnight. Let's start deploying what we have, and we can adjust as time goes."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company