March 3, 2021
A Potential EU Peacekeeping Mission
Robust military mobility is the sine qua non of peacekeeping during complex contingencies in countries such as Libya. A potential EU peacekeeping mission to Libya and its associated military mobility planning should be approached as though they are a just-short-of-war scenario. Any such operation that is first and foremost an EU-led operation will demand tight political, diplomatic, military, and civilian coordination between European states and the EU with NATO acting as the worst-case backstop. Recourse to U.S. assets would also be needed in an emergency. A clear distinction also needs to be established between national responsibilities and those of the EU and NATO. For such a scenario, where possible, design equipment to meet civilian infrastructure standards. Establish the means of transportation based on the quantity of materiel needed to meet the likely threat. Rail lift would likely be the primary mode of transportation in Europe. However, sea lift from a port in Northern Europe, including on the Baltic Sea and directly to Libya, might prove faster than either rail (loading and transit) and/or trans-loading to ships in Italy for onward dispatch to Libya.
Dealing with Legal/Diplomatic Standards
The plan must fit the challenge: Any deployment plan for a major EU peacekeeping mission in such a scenario as Libya must be worked up based on the size of the EU Battlegroup (EUBG) to be deployed, the civilian resource base that will be needed to support it, and the possible threats it might encounter. Planning must also take account of the time needed to generate both force and resource with a clear distinction established between national responsibilities and those of the European Union (EU) and NATO. Contracts with commercial entities either assigned by troop contributing nations (TCNs) to the battlegroup, or engaged directly by the European External Action Service (EEAS) to undertake strategic lift, will need an activation/notice period of at least 30 days (sometimes 45 days). The same activation period will probably also be required for the military assets of many contributing nations.
Harmonize legal and diplomatic standards: Differing country-specific legal and diplomatic standards may affect movement to Libya. Libya is not a benign environment so measures have to be taken to guarantee an unhindered reception, staging, and onward movement (RSOM) of troops, inside or outside Libya. Switzerland’s neutrality does not seem to pose problems for the movement of troops, although there are limitations on the use of tunnels for military equipment and ammunition. Austria’s neutral stance may pose problems for the movement of troops, but only in the case of a NATO Article 5 contingency.
Managing Infrastructure Requirements and Standards
Infrastructure and planning: Critically, the EU does not have an inventory of the infrastructure that exists in member states. However, it does have a firm grasp of infrastructure standards because of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport’s (DG MOVE’s) gap analysis of civilian movements and military requirements. Where infrastructure is not up to standard, alternative routes will need to be explored. There are plans for major improvements to European infrastructure over the next 7-10 years, which would also benefit from input from military planning authorities. A detailed infrastructure picture would also be central to building options into the deployment plan. Infrastructure is designed and funded to meet civil demands in Europe and for a deployment to Libya is probably adequate. Such flexibility is particularly important for embarkation and disembarkation because the choice of port will make a difference to the speed of deployment. Given the new high-speed rail link, Genoa may be faster, although Naples could be more robust and secure. Marseille, Izmir, and Catania should also be studied. When ports are identified investment should be made to upgrade their respective reception and berthing capabilities. This approach would promote an overall profile of movement model from garrison to port to final destination over time and thus help identify which investments would net the highest returns.
Renew CJTF arrangements: The Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTF) concept should be renewed and used with the particular goal of enabling an EU Battlegroup (EUBG) to use strategic lift assets from NATO/EU members to rapidly deploy to Libya. The EU should consider creating a system similar to the U.S. Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) or the U.K.’s Ships Taken Up from Trade (STUFT) to requisition the appropriate assets to address the shortage of air and sea movement assets. Aggregating the available large, medium, and smaller amphibious landing assets could enable a peacetime deployment if commercial or large amphibious ships are not available. If the deployment is a NATO-supported Berlin-Plus operation, the United States might also be in a position to provide amphibious support, although Europeans should plan on the assumption that is not the case.
Force generation and rail mobility: If rail is the preferred mode of transit, any EUBG would need to be generated in Central Europe and then cross through Switzerland. This is because no European country has significant rail capacity, with the possible exception of the Netherlands. Such a lacuna cannot be fixed by early planning. Libya has nearly no railways, making that option irrelevant for the movement of heavy equipment. Road travel in northern Libya is also extremely difficult due to the high level of threat, and any deployment will need to be heavily protected. Planners will also need to assess the limited capacity, length, and security of telecom cable infrastructure both into Libya (there are just two undersea telecom cables into Libya) and in country. Over time Telecom Italia should be encouraged to invest in a new undersea cable.
Design military equipment to meet civilian standards: The developing high-speed rail network across Europe is of sufficient strength and gauge to carry most military equipment. Where possible, such equipment should be designed to meet such civilian weight and gauging standards. This would also include the purchase by the state, and subsequent leasing out to commercial entities, of dual-use rail platforms such as flat cars.
Develop comparative simulation technology: Comparative simulations, if not already accomplished by operational planners, would prove worthwhile, especially if rolling stock is in short supply or other factors delay rail coordination. The option of primarily deploying by sea would tend to reduce the exposure to sabotage, cyber, and information disruption once port operations are secured. Such simulations would also help to address inadequate tunnel sizes and capacities en route to the port of embarkation (POE).
Stocks and storage in transit: Battlegroup members are individually responsible for arranging storage with host nations. However, there would be value in coordinating the national movement of stocks within a battlegroup, especially for those nations contributing relatively small force elements. For example, one of the 2020 EUBGs, which was led by Germany, was some 2,500 strong and comprised of forces from eight nations, from Sweden in the north to Austria in the south. NATO has stocks in Poland to enable rapid response, but other states are not as well prepared for such a response (i.e., building such stocks). There is also a particular problem if the movement is planned from the north to the south of Europe. Southern European countries, and/or partner countries in Africa, should be encouraged and supported to build up stocks and the appropriate storage facilities. A mechanism also needs to be stood up by the EU Military Staff to better enable all EU member states to contribute resources for operations on behalf of the EU, even if they are not sending troops. Other states can provide equivalent field office (EFO) or combat health support (CHS) in support of troop-contributing states.
Essential regional partnerships: Partnerships in the region will be vital for such a deployment. Tunisia could act as an intermediary to help the deployment of an EUBG. The Tunisian government has been a supportive and willing partner for both the EU and NATO. Tunisia is a longtime (since 1994) NATO partner and since 2015 has regularly exercised and trained with NATO maritime forces. The use of intermediate staging bases (ISB) would allow the battlegroup commanders to shorten lines of communication and supply. Moreover, Tunis has deepwater ports and warehousing that could also be used to sustain the battlegroup. Tunisian Armed Forces could also be invited to help safeguard the port and onward transit to Libya, and could assist with reception, staging, and onward movement (RSOM), probably with the assistance of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) with pre-preparation, particularly getting into theater and offloading in a secure environment.
Photo: HURST POINT “RORO” London, UK ship arrival at Alexandroupolis Sea- Port-Greece. Greek Armed forces contributed along with the local police and sea-port authorities ensuring the safety and smooth disembarkation of the UK military vehicles and trucks, on May 30, 2017. Credit: NATO
Determining Chains of Command, Control, and Communication
Maintaining the common operational picture: It is vital that responsibility for maintaining the common operational picture is established early. This is because any operational picture has two vital roles to perform. First, to establish a higher-level plan that enables a comprehensive understanding of capacities, time requirements, and movement windows. Second, to establish a lower-level detailed plan that acts as a live feed from convoy movements and tracks critical cargoes. Any such “picture” must be linked with civil and commercial movement databases, particularly for rail. The Joint Support and Enabling Command (JSEC) could fulfill such a role if the operations are EU-led.
Promote broad command and control interoperability: Military air, rail, road, and sea infrastructure must be integrated into civil systems and given the appropriate authorities to enable the prioritization of military requirements over civil and commercial movements. The need to promote effective interoperability with the commercial sector is vital but traditional military command and control structures may not provide an optimum locus. This is because unless enforced by law the commercial sector might not be able or willing to respond to such a hierarchical system. Such interoperability might be strengthened by developing further the concept of mission networks as outlined in NATO STANAG ASP 6 on CIS Doctrine (2017). The use of highly encrypted secure civilian communications systems may also enable deeper cooperation with the commercial sector.
EU Military Planning and Conduct Capability: Planning is already in place to enable the effective deployment of EUBGs. The Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) is designed to lead planning, primarily focused on supervising and deconflicting the overall deployment effort. Logistics are the responsibility of the contributing member states. The MPCC also enables well-structured requests to be forwarded promptly to the member states deploying permanent assets to any operation in Libya. The possibility of the preplanned involvement of the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) and its partners could also help grant early access to naval and air transport missions or identify spare capacity to share, reinforce, and ease military mobility. The responsibility for moving troops is with the contributing states, but the coordinating role of the JSEC should be further explored and developed for use by EU-led operations.
EU-NATO multimodal database: NATO enjoys a full picture of such capacities, and the EU should be prepared, where possible, to conduct military and civil-military operations from Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) based on a shared database. At the SHAPE level, there are ongoing discussions about the role of the JSEC in relation to the Standing Joint Logistics Support Group (SJLSG). The SJLSG should also be moved to Ulm now and its work fully integrated with that of the JSEC.
JSEC and Defender 21: Tabletop exercises (TTXs) should be used to develop the role of the JSEC with the aim of revitalizing and reinforcing the CJTF protocols. JSEC could, for example, operate industry to better enable and coordinate any services and capabilities they might provide. Such a model could be exercised at Defender 21. The seven-day “notice to move” should be made more realistic. It mandates that units are ready to deploy in their peacetime location within a week. This is not being met by most of NATO’s High Readiness Forces and whether the EUBG can achieve this is debatable.
Create a commander’s infrastructure dossier: In advance of a crisis response operation, all relevant information on infrastructure should be placed in an electronic commander’s planning document. For the EU, this should be the responsibility of the appointed force commander, but an impartial arbiter should also pressure test whether the overall deployment plan is sufficiently flexible and well-established. Most EU member states already have experience of the Cold War culture of contingency planning which should be restored. This is relevant in the NATO context, too, as the JSEC could be given responsibility for such a dossier that would also better afford planners with multiple options in the event a transiting nation refuses to support the action.
MCCE and third nations: The MCCE should facilitate communication with third nations and act as a bridge for communications between the EU and NATO and industry leaders embedded in the region. Host nation single points of contact and the MCCE should become far more aligned. MCCE could also play an important role in better involving the commercial sector as early as possible in exercises, planning, and to better understand military requirements.
Anticipating Risks to Security
Establish political resiliency: Adversaries will seek to undermine political resolve by portraying the EU as militarily impotent. Any such deployment could well be the first time that an EUBG is deployed into a major contested environment. The political pressure on the EU to demonstrate resolve and its ability to maintain it, during a swift and professional deployment would be a major concern and possibly a critical vulnerability.
Mitigate deploying cyber threats: The most likely form of hybrid attack would come in the form of a cyber offensive designed to disrupt a deployment. Anticipating how cyber operations could be used against the deploying and deployed forces will be crucial, particularly attacks on personnel, armored vehicles, and containers, as well as loading software, ship’s manifests, shipping networks, and even ships themselves. A recent U.S. exercise in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, revealed the chaos that could be created by a capable digital red force. Mission critical digital devices should be stowed during the transport stage of any deployment in Faraday cages and social media monitored in advance of an operation to gauge how much information is being leaked. Exercise cyber hygiene and protections regularly, such as during Defender 20.
Leverage advanced national capabilities: The U.K. and Dutch National Cyber Security Centers are advanced cyber defense capabilities, and in the U.K.’s case an offensive capability. Such centers can actively support both commercial and military entities during times of crisis. It is vitally important that networked systems are equipped with the latest defense technologies and operated by trained users. To foster more secure transfer operations at ports of embarkation (POEs) and ports of disembarkation (PODs), including ship networks and port operations networks, and establish and maintain crucial links with stakeholders such as local municipal networks (water, energy, traffic control, and emergency systems), it would be useful to include private sector actors in unclassified and reclassified cyber exercises.
Establish Federated Mission Networks: The NATO concept of Federated Mission Networks could be used to reduce the vulnerability of communicating within a complex multinational movement. Under this concept, the lead nation establishes a common network for all mission members to join via interface protocols. It is only for the mission and is to be disbanded when the mission is complete. Such an approach could also help establish close communication on the ground with the United Nations and its relevant agencies.
Photo: HMCS Charlottetown together with Canada's NATO partners is currently in the Mediterranean Sea enforcing an embargo under authority of the United Nations Security Resolution 1973, a measure taken to protect Libyan civilians. Credit: Corporal (Cpl) Chris Ringius, Formation Imaging Services, Halifax.