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AFL prepares for UNMIL’s drawdown

AFL Gen. Ziankhan Jr. with Min SamukaiThe Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Brigadier General Daniel Dee Ziankahn, says the military is involved in vigorous preparation to take full charge of security following departure of UN Peacekeeping troops here.

General Ziankahn stressed that proper measures need to be in place to ensure security of the State as UNMIL draws down for final exit probably in 2016. Briefing reporters Tuesday, 23 June at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill, the first Liberian Chief of Staff for the restructured Armed Forces of Liberia said troops are being prepared for the task, saying, “in the military, you cannot say things are okay until they are properly done with.”

He said there is no complacency in the AFL about strength of the forces. “No one can be sure that the [army] is not able to take up the mantle of the country; I have been asked a million time about the preparedness of the AFL in the absence of UNMIL, but the answer still remains the same – all we are doing currently is preparing new soldiers with training”.

Gen. Ziankahn said though some soldiers have deserted the AFL and gone into private life, the army is in constant training with new recruits and officers, who will meet the standards.

The Chief of Staff also spoke of his recent visit to Mali where a platoon from Liberia is on peacekeeping mission, adding that the visit was intended to boost performance of the troops, who are serving along with a multinational peacekeeping force.

According to him, Liberian troops in Mali have received more praises about their performance on the mission. However, he disclosed that those troops currently on peacekeeping duty in Mali are expected to return home this Thursday, June 26 as a normal routine to be replaced by another batch of soldiers.

General Ziankanh noted there is a tendency within the UN that once a platoon serves for more than 11 months, the soldiers are entitled to medal.  The symbolic presence of a Liberian army platoon in Mali indicates the country’s re-emergence on the world stage following a devastating 15 years civil war.

Liberia’s first involvement in UN peace mission involved a reinforced company, which was sent to ONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1960s. The Armed Forces of Liberia was founded as the Liberian Frontier Force in 1908, but retitled in 1956.

The AFL has received considerable materiel and training assistance from the United States.  As a result of the First Liberian Civil War in 1989, the AFL became entangled in the conflict, compromising state loyalty and fighting on tribal and factional lines.

The AFL is in the process of being reformed and retrained after being completely demobilized following the second civil war. By Lewis S. Teh – Editing by Jonathan Browne

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