Armed Forces of Liberia [AFL] / Liberian Army
The Republic of Liberia is a small West African nation with a young and ambitious armed force of 2,000 soldiers. At the end of a 14-year civil war in 2003, Liberia’s military was deactivated and demobilized and 100,000 combatants (including the old AFL and rebel forces) disarmed. The Liberian army of about 2,000 was built from scratch after the Second Liberian Civil War ended in 2003. The U.N. peacekeeping mission that helped develop Liberia's military formally withdrew in 2018, potentially leaving the nation vulnerable to threats.
The Armed Forces of Liberia [AFL] is an evolving and developing organization formed in 2006. "Building a Force For Good"--the unofficial motto of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), as dubbed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf--describes the change of direction being taken by this newly re-formed military, as it rebuilds its forces with an emphasis on human rights and professionalization. The United Nations Security Council in September 2012 passed Resolution 2066 which calls for a reduction of UN troops in Liberia by half by 2015, bringing the troop total down to fewer than 4000, and challenging Liberia's security sector to fill the gaps.
The United States has undertaken the burden of training a new 2,000-strong national Liberian army, the responsibility being subcontracted in 2005, to DynCorp and Pacific Architects and Engineers [PA&E], two private firms that worked in coordination with US military personnel. According to the State Department, the training package is estimated to cost around $95 million, which was drawn from a combination of International Disaster and Famine Assistance, Regional Peacekeeping, and Foreign Military Assistance funds. DynCorp was responsible for individual training and PA&E was responsible for unit training. Liberian candidates had to pass a psychological examination, literacy test, and aptitude test. They were also given background checks, and tested for HIV.
In 2008 Liberia's Ministry of National Defense set a goal of having 2,000 trained soldiers by 2010. The AFL exceeded that goal in June 2009 by nearly 200 soldiers, The total strength of the Armed Forces was 2,133 service members. The activation of the Armed Forces is under the guidance and regulation of Liberia's 2008 National Defense Act. Service in Liberia's Armed Forces is open to all qualified personnel ages 18-35 years old. Recruits must be clear of human rights abuses or violations. The minimum service length to serve is five years.
During programs marking the 56thArmed Forces Day at the Barclay Training Center 11 February 2013, Ambassador George W. Wallace, Jr., a career diplomat, lawyer and administrator who is Advisor to the President on Foreign Affairs, recommended that the troops’ strength be increased from the current 2,000 to a minimum of 7,500 personnel. “An increased strength will face the increasing new wave of threat engendered by terrorism, trade in drugs and illicit substances, human and trade in small arms and light weapons and the activities of non-state actors,” he noted.
A former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Wallace recommended that the Engineering Company be upgraded to participate and undertake civil works in support of the Agenda for Transformation; that the Agriculture Battalion be reactivated to engage in agricultural activities in order to guarantee food security for the nation; and that legislation for compulsory military training for able-bodied citizens, ages 16 to 45 years, for a one-year period in designated military camps, be enacted, among other recommendations.
The Armed Forces of Liberia were rebuilt with US assistance, while the police forces are being rebuilt with UN assistance. The government of Liberia's security reconstruction activities are part of a program known as Security Sector Reform (SSR). The first graduating class of the new Armed Forces of Liberia came on 04 November 2006, at the Barclay Training Center in Monvovia. Once a sufficient number of soldiers had graduated from training to form battalions and the 23rd Infantry Brigade Headquarters, EUCOM deployed military mentors who, among other things, advised and mentored Liberian battalion and brigade commanders on leading large groups of soldiers in military exercises.
The Activation Ceremony for the first three companies; Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, constituting the First Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Brigade of the Restructured Armed Forces of Liberia was held on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia.
Liberia's new democratic government took an historic step toward establishing its own security August 29, 2008, with the activation of a new infantry battalion trained with the assistance of the United States and the international community. "This historical day marks a new beginning for our Armed Forces. Once again it can perform the primary duty of defending the Sovereign territory of Liberia against external aggression, insurgency, and terrorism." said President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who presided over the activation ceremony. Also in attendance was General William E. Ward, commander of United States Africa Command. The 1st Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Brigade is expected to provide security and promote peace within Liberia. The remobilization of the Armed Forces brings control of security forces back to the government of Liberia.
Liberia is home to more than 3.5 million people. Over 75 Percent of the population remains unemployed. The goal of the SSR is to create jobs, attract investment opportunities, provide education, and improve medical treatment for the Liberian population. The United States had contributed over $750 million in bilateral assistance and more than $750 million dollars in assessed contributions to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). In 2008, the United States contributed $162 million bilaterally and $179 million through UNMIL, according to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs.
Only a handful of Liberian women serve in the AFL. Most of the women work in administration, while others are mechanics or musicians. By 2009, only two Liberian women served as NCOs. Male soldiers among Liberia's ranks were slowly adjusting to women in leadership roles. The men in the Army were not accustomed to women being in charge.
USAFRICOM supported the development of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) under a Security Sector Reform (SSR) Program with US Department of State in the lead. US Department of Defense has been supporting–and continues to support–SSR via Defense Sector Reform focused activities in Liberia. In January 2010 Department of Defense, i.e. USAFRICOM via Marine Forces Africa, established Operation Onward Liberty (OOL). OOL consists of 45-52 US military personnel who partner with the AFL in order to build institutional, operational, and human capacity in the AFL.
US service members handing off training to the AFL and assuming a support and advisor role is a key goal of Operation Onward Liberty. Under the mentorship of US military forces, Liberian soldiers took command of daily operations at the Edward Binyah Kesselly rifle range in Momrovia in early 2011. Bravo Company of the AFL’s 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Brigade was first to conduct annual rifle qualifications at EBK Barracks facility without U.S. service members acting as range personnel.
The AFL’s high state of readiness was also important for internal reasons. The Liberian general election was scheduled to be held on October 2011. The presidency, all the seats in the House of Representatives and half of the seats in the Senate, will be up for election. This is a critical time in Liberian history. It was just in 2005 that they held their first elections after years of civil war. Trainers want to ensure the AFL can deploy and are operationally ready as soon as possible, and their autonomy on the range is a sign that they were moving the mission to a higher level.
For the first time, armed forces of Liberia soldiers instructed their fellow soldiers in formal non-commissioned officer-centric training at Edwin Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks March 5-22, 2012. Though previous warrior leadership courses had been conducted within the AFL, they had always been taught by US-based training teams. During this course, however, select AFL non-commissioned officers, after a small amount of refresher training, instructed their fellow service members, with their US advisers standing by to assist them as necessary. The end result: better informed soldiers and greater experts among the AFL NCO Corps.
As the Armed Forces of Liberia's 2013 recruit vetting process neared completion in September 2013, the service prepared its drill sergeants for the first round of recruit training since 2010. More than 770 Liberian civilians applied to enlist into the military; however, less than 150 would be selected. A team of seven Armed Forces of Liberia, or AFL drill sergeants would conduct their training. In the past, contractors trained the Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers. Over the past several years seven AFL soldiers had completed the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, S.C., and now are equipped to train the AFL's recruits.
Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers gearing up to deploy to Mali completed a two-day scenario training exercise provided by Operation ONWARD LIBERTY mentors and AFL trainers at Camp Ware’s Armed Forces Training Command. The exercise was the culmination of a month-long second phase of pre-deployment training, and put soldiers through realistic scenarios using the training they had received to date. The second phase of pre-deployment training 26-27 March 2013 included instruction on combat medical care, sensitive site exploitation, squad tactics and checkpoint operations, among other topics. The platoon’s first phase of training focused on infantry fundamentals over four weeks.
An infantry platoon-size unit of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) departed the country on 20 June 2013, to join the Africa International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). They will be embedded into the Nigerian battalion, with First Lieutenant Nathaniel Waka serving as Commander of the platoon unit. This will be the first time that Liberia is participating in peacekeeping operations in 52 years. In 1961, Liberia provided troops to the United Nations Organization in the Congo, a UN peacekeeping force established under UN Security Council Resolution 143 of July 14, 1960, to respond to the Congo crisis.
The new Armed Forces of Liberia provides professional and specialized training in several career fields including Military Police, Logistics and Supply, Unit Supply Specialist Combat Medics, Human Resource Specialist, Public Affairs Specialist, Combat Engineer Specialist, Drivers Training, Chaplaincy Training, Para-Legal Special in finance Specialist, Core Instructor Course, Military Intelligence, Transportation Specialist, Light & Heavy Duty Mechanics, Radio & Wire Communication, Petroleum Supply, among others.
On February 11, 2014, a Liberian was been made the head of Liberia's army for the first time since civil war ended more than 10 years earlier. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf confirmed Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Dee Ziankan as chief of staff of the new Armed Forces of Liberia. This is quite significant for Liberia because up until now, the chief army staff had not been Liberian, in fact it has been Nigerian.
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