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Peacekeeping Operations

Peacekeeping is not a soldier's job, but only a soldier can do it.

Anonymous United Nations Peacekeeping Soldier

This chapter discusses peacekeeping operations. These are military operations conducted with the consent of the belligerent parties to a conflict to maintain a negotiated truce and to facilitate a diplomatic resolution. The United States may participate in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of an international organization, in cooperation with other countries, or unilaterally. Peacekeeping operations may take many forms:

  • Withdrawal and disengagement.

  • Cease-fire.

  • Prisoner-of-war exchanges.

  • Arms control.

  • Demilitarization and demobilization.

Peacekeeping operations support diplomatic efforts to achieve, restore, or maintain the peace in areas of potential or actual conflict.


Peacekeeping operations may occur in ambiguous situations requiring the peacekeeping force to deal with extreme tension and violence without becoming a participant. These operations usually occur after diplomatic negotiations (which include the belligerents) establish the mandate for the peacekeeping force. The mandate is the peacekeeping force's authority to act. It describes the force's scope of operations including constraints and restrictions. It typically identifies the participating nations and determines the size and type of force each contributes. As a result, each peacekeeping operation is unique. US participation may involve military units or individuals acting as observers.


Eight general principles are fundamental to and form the doctrinal basis for peacekeeping operations. The following paragraphs discuss these principles.


The presence and degree of consent determine the success of a peacekeeping operation. The disputing parties demonstrate their desire for, or acquiescence in, these operations by the degree to which they consent to them. Nations participating in the peacekeeping force also consent to these operations for their own interests. They may limit the employment of their forces through rules of engagement or terms of reference. Consent also applies to other interested states. They may support peacekeeping operations or at least agree to refrain from actions harmful to their success. The principle of consent interacts with other principles, as discussed below.


Neutrality is closely linked with consent. Ideally, states contributing peacekeeping forces should be neutral in the crisis for which the force is created. However, any interested state may participate, if the belligerents consent. To preserve neutrality, the peacekeeping force must maintain an atmosphere and an attitude of impartiality.


Balance refers to the geographic, political, and functional make-up or composition of the peacekeeping force. Balance is a function of consent. The belligerents may insist that the force include elements from mutually acceptable, geopolitically balanced countries.

Single-Manager Control

The appointment of an individual or agency to execute the policies of the parties to the agreement results in single-manager control of the operations. Single-manager control is exercised at the interface point between the peacekeeping structure and the body which authorizes the operations and appoints the manager. For example, if the United Nations authorizes peacekeeping operations, the Secretary General is the single manager.

Concurrent Action

Concurrent action refers to all other actions taken to achieve a permanent peace while the peacekeeping force stabilizes the situation. Any activity by the peacekeeping force which facilitates agreement between the contending parties aids in this long-term objective.

Unqualified Sponsor Support

Organizations or countries contributing to a peacekeeping operation should give the peacekeeping force their full and unqualified support in accordance with the terms of the mandate which established the force. This support may be financial, logistical, or political; it relies heavily on consent and neutrality. The contributing groups should permit the peacekeeping force to operate freely, within policy guidance, but without unnecessary interference.

Freedom of Movement

The entire peacekeeping force and all its components should have guaranteed freedom of movement. The force should be able to move unhindered in and around buffer zones, along demarcation lines, or throughout a host nation. The principle of consent affects this freedom.


The use of force in self-defense is essential to the peacekeeping operations concept. The principle of self-defense is an inherent right; it is the one principle that cannot be affected by consent. The ROE describe the circumstances and the manner in which peacekeepers may use force to resist attempts to prevent them from performing their duties. The ROE normally allow peacekeepers to use force only in self-defense. The ROE should be clearly and unambiguously stated in the mandate.


Peacekeeping operations generally have three levels, or tiers, of organization: the political council, the military peacekeeping command, and the military area command (see Figure 4-1). The peacekeeping force includes all three of these tiers.

Political Council

The political council is the highest level of the peacekeeping organization. It provides a mechanism for negotiating and coordinating with the leaders of the disputing parties. Through negotiation, the council encourages self-sustaining solutions which are acceptable to the disputing factions. The chief of the peacekeeping force may be a member of the political council.

Figure 4-1. Schematic of Peacekeeping Organization.

The political council receives the mandate for the peacekeeping operation and coordinates status of forces agreements (SOFAs) with the belligerents.

Military Peacekeeping Command

Overall control of the peacekeeping forces exists at the military peacekeeping command level. Control and staffing at this level is normally multinational. The force commander exercises operational control of the combined forces, with command functions remaining within national channels. The military peacekeeping command may collocate with the political body established by the political council.

This command rarely has the authority to negotiate political matters. It may have authority to maintain liaison with military or paramilitary headquarters and to mediate regional disputes and misunderstandings. Language-qualified personnel and communications equipment must be available as appropriate and when required. The missions of the command include--

  • Deterring violent acts by the disputants.
  • Protecting vital installations and critical facilities.
  • Informing the political council of peacekeeping force requirements (for example, operational requirements not covered in the agreements).
  • Collecting and providing information to the political council.
  • Ensuring the impartiality of peacekeeping forces.

The command issues directives and instructions concerning operations and procedures to follow.

Military Area Command

The third, or operating, level of peacekeeping is the military area command. The area command usually consists of forces from a single nation. It operates in a specific area of responsibility. It reports to the military peacekeeping command. It receives logistic support from the command or through its own national channels.

The area command is normally composed of highly visible units with distinctive markings on all uniforms and equipment. These identifying marks increase the impact of their presence, increase the effects of reassurance, and imply confidence. Area command forces should have extensive, redundant communications to support their missions.

The area command deters violent acts by its physical presence at violence-prone locations. It collects information through normal overt means, for example, observation posts, patrols, visual sightings, aerial reconnaissance, conversations with local inhabitants, and routine reports. It collects, analyzes, and reports intelligence information to the military peacekeeping command.


The structure of a peacekeeping force can range from military police and light infantry formations to armored cavalry, mechanized, or armor formations. If the use of airspace by the disputing parties in an area or corridor threatens to renew violence, extensive airspace surveillance and air defense units may be required. The basic force structure and appropriate augmentation are situation-dependent. Planners must also consider using language-proficient units and liaison parties when structuring forces. The conditions likely to produce a renewal of violence and the potential level of violence influence the composition of the peacekeeping forces. When clashes in urban areas can give rise to insurrection, the peacekeeping force must have the appropriate structure and police powers. If border clashes between regular forces of disputing parties are the primary threat, the force must have an appropriate composition and a clearly designated area of operations.


Peacekeeping operations require commanders to position their units in potentially hostile environments. Commanders are responsible for the security of their forces and must not knowingly expose their units to unreasonable danger or to situations which violate sound military judgment. To be effective, and maintain their security, the peacekeeping force and its support units must remain impartial entities. The commander should withdraw his force if the situation deteriorates and jeopardizes the force's impartiality. He should keep current on changing events and make plans to reduce the vulnerability of peacekeeping forces to hostile elements.

Figure 4-2. Peacekeeping Troops.

The transition from combat to diplomacy is a tense and sensitive maneuver. The peacekeeping force must monitor the belligerents' situation carefully. The initial phases of peacekeeping operations involve a finely timed series of phased withdrawals and redeployments. The peacekeeping force makes complementary deployments and redeployments, synchronized with the withdrawals of the belligerent. The force also ensures that the belligerents fulfill the conditions of the disengagement agreement.

During all phases, the peacekeeper continuously demonstrates to the concerned parties that he is following the terms of the agreement. Reasonable complaints by any belligerent party against any member of the peacekeeping force will undermine the credibility of the mission and weaken the force's position.

The control of violence in peacekeeping operations requires a combination of techniques. These include--

  • Observation.
  • Negotiation and mediation.
  • Surveillance and supervision.
  • Information gathering.
  • Patrolling.
  • Implied tasks.
  • Investigation of complaints.

The next several paragraphs of this chapter discuss these techniques in detail.


Observation is a technique common to all peacekeeping operations. It is the peacekeeper's primary responsibility and basic requirement. The observer monitors everything that happens within his area of observation. He provides timely and accurate reports on any suspicious situation, incident, or occurrence.

Observation requires comprehension of both the facts and their implications. The observer should pass information to the next higher echelon without delay. Successful peacekeeping depends on impartial, factual reporting accompanied by as much pertinent data as possible; for example, maps, field sketches, diagrams, photographs (if permitted), and references to specific agreements or instructions. The observer can gather such information by--

  • Deploying observation posts in the confrontation areas.

  • Deploying subunits in sensitive areas and potential trouble spots.

  • Manning checkpoints on both major and minor access roads and in towns and villages.

  • Patrolling, including aerial reconnaissance.

  • Conducting fact-finding exercises, inspections, and investigations.

  • Using video cameras and cassette recorders.

  • Using aerial photography (if permitted).

  • Monitoring radio transmissions of belligerent forces (if permitted). The establishment of a good working relationship with the contending parties is vital to a successful observation mission. Careful management of such a relationship enhances the peacekeeping force's image of impartiality.

Surveillance and Supervision

Surveillance and supervision are operation-specific techniques. They help ensure implementation of the agreements. Frequently encountered tasks include the surveillance or supervision of--

  • Cease-fire and armistice lines.

  • Armament control agreements.

  • Military deployment limitations.

  • Military withdrawals or disengagements.

  • Prisoner-of-war exchanges.

  • Civilian movement in and out of disputed areas and along demarcation lines.

  • The use of natural resources shared by the belligerents.

  • Refugee camps.

  • Plebiscites and elections.

Surveillance and supervision require restraint, tact, and patience.


Patrolling is a key factor in most peacekeeping operations. If it is well planned and executed, patrolling can achieve important tactical advantages for the peacekeeper. Restrictions on patrolling, if any, need clarification at the time peacekeeping force agreements are drafted. Patrols need freedom of movement and observation to be fully effective.

Foot, ground vehicle, or air patrols usually have a combination of four tasks: information gathering, investigation, supervision, and publicizing a presence. Of these, publicizing a presence requires some explanation. In this context, it means making the military or civilians in the area aware that a peacekeeping force exists and will monitor and report any sign of deterioration or potential threat to the peace. The visible presence of the peacekeeping force is intended to generate confidence among the local populace and to deter those who seek to promote violence.

Patrolling may be confined to daylight hours in areas in which armed confrontations continue to occur. When limited visibility makes identification difficult, the front line troops of the opposing sides may be nervous and apt to fire without hesitation. Even so, the peacekeeping force's mandate may require the commander to send out patrols in these conditions. The procedures and ground rules under which patrols operate must be clearly defined and known by all, including the opposing armed forces.

Investigation of Complaints

A primary peacekeeping task is investigation of complaints or allegations. The peacekeeper's ability to make a thorough and objective investigation and a fair assessment may determine whether fighting resumes and tensions increase. It will enhance the impartial image of the peacekeeper in the minds of the antagonists. Inevitably, a decision which favors one side does not please the other. However, if the peacekeeper is fair, objective, and consistent, the antagonists may grumble, but they will respect and accept the peacekeeper's judgments. The peacekeeper should always remember that there are two or more sides involved, and that it is his duty to listen to all sides before making a decision.

Negotiation and Mediation

Negotiation and mediation are diplomatic activities. They are the concern of governments and experienced diplomats. They demand a political rather then a military approach. In peacekeeping, however, situations arise which require military personnel to negotiate, mediate, and perhaps arbitrate disputes. These may involve minor points of contention between the belligerents or disagreements concerning the daily routines of the peacekeeping force.

The success of the effort depends on the peacekeeper's personality, power of reasoning, persuasiveness, common sense, tact, and patience. Of these, tact and patience are the most important. The unaccustomed role of peacekeeper can be exhausting and frustrating. Once the peacekeeper gains the confidence of the parties involved, he may act as a mediator; his good offices can then effect solutions. To the extent that the peacekeeper can resolve minor problems at the lowest level, he can prevent major issues from arising and the purposes of the peacekeeping mission are served. Nevertheless, peacekeeping force personnel must remain aware of their limitations. They must not hesitate to refer problems to the peacekeeping command when they are beyond their ability to resolve. The peacekeeper's reputation for objectivity and a good relationship with all parties in the dispute are fundamental to his success as a negotiator.

Information Gathering

Belligerent parties may perceive information gathering as a hostile act. Intelligence operations may therefore destroy the trust which the parties should have in the peacekeeping force. However, it is reasonable to assume that the parties will pursue their divergent aims by exploiting the presence of the peacekeeping force. They may even attempt to deceive it from time to time. Circumstances may place the force under direct attack. Such attacks may come from one of the parties to the agreement, or from extremist elements acting independently. This poses a serious problem; but, whatever the circumstances, the peacekeeper needs information. If the peacekeeper cannot use the full range of his national intelligence resources, he must at a minimum have their products.

Every item of operational information becomes important. The members of a peacekeeping force have to be information-conscious at all times. The peacekeeper must remain constantly alert to what takes place around him and to any change or inconsistency in the behavior, attitude, and activities of the military and civilian populace.

Implied Tasks

The mandate or changing circumstances may require the peacekeeper to undertake additional tasks. These can include clearing mines, marking forward limits of each side's military forces, and seeking and receiving the remains of soldiers killed in action.

Mines or unexploded ordnance may litter the battlefield after opposing forces have withdrawn. Mine clearing may then become a priority for peacekeeping forces. Engineer requirements must be considered in the peacekeeping force structure negotiations. Mine clearing tasks may fall to the ordinary soldier if sufficient engineer assets are not available. Soldiers serving with peacekeeping forces should know the techniques for clearing mines and for handling the necessary equipment.

The recovery of remains is often a part of any disengagement mission. Soldiers should appreciate the delicate nature of the operation and respect relevant religious customs and rites. Searches for remains require careful planning and discussion with all involved parties.


When peacekeeping operations are approved, DOD designates a service to be executive agent for the specific operation. The executive agent provides administrative, personnel, operational, and logistic support. It also provides command, control, and communications (C3) support for committed US military forces. It may also assist forces of other nations when such support is in accord with diplomatic agreement.

Peacekeeping demands a flexible administrative system because of the complex administrative problems the force will face. Much of the basis for this system lies in three key administrative documents: terms of reference, letters of instruction (LOIs), and area handbooks. The next several paragraphs discuss these documents and their importance to peacekeeping operations.

Terms of Reference

The executive agent publishes TOR, which describe how the United States will implement its portion of the peacekeeping operation. These TOR describe--

  • The mission.

  • Command relationships.

  • Organization.

  • Logistics support.

  • Accounting procedures.

  • Responsibilities of the US contingent to the peacekeeping force.

  • Coordination and liaison arrangements.

They may also describe public affairs procedures and any bilateral relationship with other national contingents in addition to those described in the mandate.

Letters of Instruction

Letters of instruction are prepared by the major organization tasked with providing units and elements for the US peacekeeping force contingent. LOIs reflect the information contained in the TOR that governs US military participation in the peacekeeping operation. LOIs furnish information and guidance to units for preparation, deployment, and execution of the mission. Each LOI should contain information on the topics discussed in the following paragraphs.

Organization and Equipment.

Diplomatic negotiations determine the size and composition of the US contingent of the peacekeeping force. The organization of the force reflects any restrictions or special instructions on weapons and equipment.


The LOI must specify the AO of the peacekeeping forces and types of operations that disputing factions are permitted. It designates responsibility for maintaining good order among the populace within the area; this responsibility may lie with peacekeeping forces or with the local police.

The principal responsibilities of the peacekeeping force are to--

  • Maintain area surveillance.
  • Report findings.
  • Observe area activities.
  • Oversee rectification of violations.

The force accomplishes these responsibilities through the use of checkpoints, observation posts (aerial and ground), and sector control centers.


The LOI provides intelligence on the people, armed forces, topography, and climate in the AO. Area studies, area handbooks, and intelligence products from recent operations and incidents in the area are vital sources of information.


The LOI gives information on personnel and administrative procedures to prepare individuals and units for deployment in the AO. For example, it may specify that postal services and legal assistance should continue throughout peacekeeping operation, and that uniforms should carry special identifying insignia.


Logistic support may come from several sources identified in the LOI. Primary logistic support will come from a military logistic support unit under the control of the peacekeeping command. Civilian contractors may also provide support. Major items of equipment may accompany deploying units or the peacekeeping command may provide them in the AO. Units must have medical facilities and supplies in the AO; medical evacuation channels and evacuation procedures should also be established.

Public Affairs.

The LOI establishes procedures for the release of information to the public about the peacekeeping operation. It also gives guidance on public information and command information activities and support.


The LOI details financial support procedures for the peacekeeping operation. It specifies the finance services available to personnel in the AO.

Air Operations.

The LOI provides information and guidance for the conduct of air operations. The peacekeeping command and contingents of other nations providing forces may provide such support.

NBC Defense.

The LOI addresses NBC requirements, including individual protective clothing and equipment; detection, warning, monitoring, sampling and survey equipment; medical treatment materials and facilities; and decontamination materials and equipment available in the AO.

Command Relationships.

The LOI specifies the relationships of US military peacekeeping units, elements, and individuals with each other and with the military peacekeeping command. It also specifies the relationships with the parent organization and the unified command responsible for the area.

Communications and Electronics

The LOI establishes guidelines and responsibilities for installation and operation of the communications network for the US contingent. It outlines the network within the AO and its interface with US elements outside the area.

Area Handbooks

All personnel serving with peacekeeping forces receive an area handbook. This handbook contains information on the peacekeeping organization, the history and culture of the people, the terrain, the weather, and the local armed forces. It may provide graphic information on the insignia, markings, and identifying characteristics of armed forces, military weapons, and equipment. (Appendix F provides an outline that may be followed in the preparation of an area handbook.)


Situations may arise which require deployment of US military forces to impose peace. These operations are often labeled peacekeeping, but are better described as peacemaking. Peacemaking missions differ greatly in execution from peacekeeping missions. While the ultimate objective may be to maintain a peace, the initial phase in peacemaking is to achieve it. The significance of the difference is that peacemaking is often unilateral, possibly with some consent from the beneficiary, and the peacemaking force imposes it. The planning, deployment, and conduct of peacemaking operations are discussed in Chapter 5.

05-24-1996; 10:48:18

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