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Armed Forces of Angola (FAA)

Angola has a large, healthy, and relatively capable military, one that could play a much larger role in fostering peace on this troubled continent. The Armed Forces of Angola (FAA) is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular immigrants, and small-scale actions against the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) separatists in Cabinda. The National Police, controlled by the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The Internal Intelligence Service reports to the presidency and investigates sensitive state security matters.

The army is by far the largest of the services, with about 110,000 personnel. As of 2013 the organization consisted of

  • 12 task forces
  • 1 battalion of assault tanks
  • 2 mechanized battalions
  • 1 field artillery battery
  • 25 mechanized infantry brigades
  • 46 light infantry brigades

As of 1989 the regular army's 91,500 troops were organized into more than seventy brigades ranging from 750 to 1,200 men each and deployed throughout the ten military regions. Most regions were commanded by lieutenant colonels, with majors as deputy commanders, but some regions were commanded by majors. Each region consisted of one to four provinces, with one or more infantry brigades assigned to it. The brigades were generally dispersed in battalion or smaller unit formations to protect strategic terrain, urban centers, settlements, and critical infrastructure such as bridges and factories. Counterintelligence agents were assigned to all field units to thwart UNITA infiltration. The army's diverse combat capabilities were indicated by its many regular and motorized infantry brigades with organic or attached armor, artillery, and air defense units; two militia infantry brigades; four antiaircraft artillery brigades; ten tank battalions; and six artillery battalions. These forces were concentrated most heavily in places of strategic importance and recurring conflict: the oil-producing Cabinda Province, the area around the capital, and the southern provinces where UNITA and South African forces operated.

Special commands, military formations, and security arrangements were also created in extraordinary circumstances. Thus, for example, in June 1985 the provincial military authorities in the Tenth Military Region established a unified command to include both FAPLA and the People's Vigilance Brigades (Brigadas Populares de Vigil?ncia--BPV) to confront UNITA's expanding operations in the region . Similarly, special railroad defense committees were formed in the Ninth Military Region to protect the Luanda Railway between Malanje and Luanda (see fig. 10). These municipal committees were composed of party, government, FAPLA, JMPLA, and BPV units. In 1987 FAPLA was reported to be recruiting regional defense forces to assist the regular army against UNITA insurgency, but in late 1988 no additional details were available.

FAPLA was equipped almost exclusively by the Soviet Union. In early 1988, it was reported to have at least 550 tanks and 520 armored vehicles, more than 500 artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers, 500 mortars, at least 900 antitank weapons, and more than 300 air defense guns and surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries. However, in view of continuous losses and the influx of new and replacement mat?riel, these figures were only approximate. For example, the South African minister of defense reported in late 1988 that Angola's inventory of T-54 and T-55 tanks had increased from 531 to 1,590 between September 1987 and September 1988. Moreover, FAPLA and UNITA exaggerated successes and underestimated losses in military actions. In the major battle of Mavinga in 1986, UNITA claimed to have killed 5,000 FAPLA troops and to have destroyed 41 combat aircraft, 202 tanks and armored vehicles, 351 military transport vehicles, 200 trucks, and 40 SAMs, figures that represented 15 percent to 25 percent of FAPLA's inventory.

In addition to combat troops and equipment, logistical support units, and extensive headquarters organizations, the armed forces established a growing infrastructure to service, repair, and manufacture defense equipment. In 1983 the government created a new company under the Ministry of Defense to rehabilitate and repair armored military vehicles, infantry weapons, and artillery. A maintenance and repair center for Soviet-made light and heavy vehicles, located at Viana near Luanda, was turned over to Angolan authorities by the Soviet Union in 1984 to strengthen Angolan self sufficiency. This center, reportedly capable of servicing 600 military and commercial vehicles a day, was one of the largest of its kind in Africa. Viana was also the site of an assembly plant for commercial vehicles as well as military trucks and jeeps. In June 1986, the government signed a contract with the Brazilian company Engesa for the purchase of military trucks and construction of a facility with the capacity to repair about 30 percent of the country's heavy trucks, military vehicles foremost.

The regular army was also supported by a 50,000-member [as of 1989] citizens' militia, the Directorate of People's Defense and Territorial Troops, an organization under the minister of defense that had both counterinsurgency and police functions. The directorate was established in September 1985 as a successor to the People's Defense Organization (Organiza??o de Defesa Popular--ODP). The ODP had been formed in September 1975 as an adjunct to FAPLA to defend against Portuguese settler resistance and attacks by antiMPLA insurgents. After the civil war, it retained its territorial defense and counterguerrilla supporting roles but served more as a reserve than as an active paramilitary force. Indeed, some 20,000 ODP militia were inducted into the regular army in the early 1980s, apparently to satisfy an urgent requirement to expand FAPLA.

In 1988 the Directorate of People's Defense and Territorial Troops was organized into eleven "Guerrilla Force" brigades, two of which (about 10,000 members) were to be on active duty with FAPLA at any given time. They were deployed in battalion and smaller formations, and they often operated in proximity to or jointly with FAPLA units, defending factories, farms, and villages and maintaining vigilance against insurgents. Although some estimates put the troop strength of the Guerrilla Force as high as 500,000, such figures were probably based on data from the late 1970s or reflected the inclusion of reserve components. Lieutenant Colonel Domingos Paiva da Silva was commander of the Guerrilla Force from 1978 until his death from natural causes in July 1987.

Since April 2002, more than 84,000 UNITA soldiers reported with their families to 35 quartering areas. That was probably double what was expected. Nearly 5,000 of these soldiers were selected for integration into the Angolan Armed Forces, the FAA, or National Police. The remainder were decommissioned. The demobilization process went relatively smoothly, and effective reintegration over the long term now must include the assistance of local Angolan NGOs and the international community.

Angola trained three Congo brigades at a base in Kitona in western DRC and worked with a fourth. The FAA had also trained a commando battalion in Angola in 2004, the last time any Congolese soldiers were trained in Angola. All told, Angola had instructed some 14,000 FARDC soldiers. However, much of this effort seemed for naught as poor Congolese leadership and endemic FARDC logistical, pay, and morale issues sapped the strength of Angolan-trained units almost immediately. Furtado complained that that FARDC units essentially disintegrated within months of training, and some FARDC soldiers returned to factional forces as soon as the training was completed.

In September 2009 members of the Armed Forces of Angola (FAA) buried alive 45 persons in a tunnel in Lunda Norte after determining they were illegal diamond miners. No investigation had taken place at year's end. In September 2012 a respected human rights activist reported that police arrested at least nine soldiers in September for demanding higher salaries and better living and working conditions. Police accused them of breaking military law that prohibit soldiers from making demands in a group in an unruly or mutinous manner. Authorities detailed these soldiers in a bank vault overnight before transferring them to prison for a week while they awaited trial.

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