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Operation EUFOR TCHAD/RCA and the EU's Common Security and Defense Policy

Authored by Mr. Bjoern H. Seibert. | October 2010

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Based on the assessments made herein, this monograph recommends embracing the European Union's (EU) Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). This recommendation is based on the following key findings:

·      The new security environment increasingly requires cooperation between allies to address emerging security threats;

·      A militarily stronger Europe that carries a greater share of global responsibility is an important asset for U.S. foreign policy;

·      The EU's CSDP has the potential to deliver the political will needed for a militarily more proactive Europe;

·      The EU's CSDP may thus be critical to overcoming the recognized stagnation in capability improvements and mobilizing serious European capabilities development.

To be successful, practical steps that entail shifts in U.S. thinking as well as organization are required. First, establish the necessary capacities to strengthen the U.S. understanding of the EU's CSDP in order to overcome existing blind spots and gain a deeper understanding of the CSDP. This may require organizational changes in U.S. embassies in Europe, as well as U.S. Missions to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the EU, in order to better identify, track, and decide whether and how to seek to influence the CSDP.

Second, encourage European members to focus on increasing their defense budgets. Moreover, emphasize the need for more efficient defense spending in Europe through cooperation and pooling of assets. Concretely, this could be undertaken by improving the relationship between NATO and the European Defense Agency (EDA).

Third, emphasize European responsibility for crises occurring on Europe's periphery. This would encourage a sense of ownership of crisis response and help Europeans undertake the critical steps needed to address existing capability shortfalls.

Fourth, seek to improve the relationship between NATO and the EU. At the same time accept that Europe needs to have the necessary structures to act autonomously, including a limited permanent planning capacity outside NATO.

Fifth, support the development of a common U.S.- EU framework for stability operations, including doctrine and training. This would allow for increased, but less ad hoc, coordination between the United States and the EU in the field, and encourage a sharing of lessons learned.


The key feature of the post-September 11, 2001 (9/11) security environment is that challenges from weak rather than strong states will constitute the major security threat to U.S. interests.1 Weak, failing, or failed states, unable to control parts of their territory, provide security, or deliver major services to large segments of their population are the biggest security threat. They are vulnerable to a variety of actors and armed groups—terrorists, criminals, insurgents, and militias—that operate within their territories.2 These events are, unfortunately, no longer the exception; they promise to be a persistent part of the new security environment for years to come.

It is in this environment that stability operations have become of critical importance. This landmark shift was translated at the national level with the 2005 Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 3000.05, which instructed the U.S. military to treat stability and reconstruction operations with equal priority to combat operations. Despite its unrivaled military power and potential, it has already become clear that the U.S. military—and specifically the U.S. Army—cannot carry this burden alone. Increasingly, the United States must rely on its allies and partners to respond to the growing global security demands. In this, Europe is unquestionably the most capable U.S. ally.3 European countries constitute a global force matched only by the United States. Collectively, European states have sustained 50,000-100,000 troops in operations outside of home countries for most of the past 2 decades—often in close cooperation with the United States.4 As a whole, Europe still accounts for about 21 percent of the world's military spending—jointly outspending the combined defense budgets of China, India, Russia, and Brazil by a factor of two.5 Europe is hence the natural U.S. partner in sharing the burden of stability operations.

In the wake of the European failure during the Yugoslav war, Europe has slowly been building its security institutions under the European Union (EU). Since then, the EU has conducted 23 civilian and military missions abroad within the framework of its Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP),6 and shown an increasing readiness and willingness to engage in stability operations in its wider neighborhood.7

Given its importance as the most capable U.S. partner, Europe's common defense aspirations and their future evolution will heavily influence U.S. strategic options. Studying those aspirations and how they translate in reality, as well as the EU's evolving security institutions, is critical for U.S. policymakers and the broader U.S. military establishment. As it moves forward in an era of more limited resources, the United States has much to gain from understanding what its European partners are capable of, and hence how much of the burden they can—and should—be expected to carry.

Today, however, both U.S. policymakers and security experts pay little attention to the EU. A recent study underlined the shocking dearth of capabilities the United States invests in analyzing security and defense related developments within the EU.8 Against the background of the importance of allies in the new security environment, coupled with scarce resources, this approach comes at an increasingly higher cost.


The state of the EU's defense aspirations can be assessed in different ways. One way is to provide a comprehensive overview of the EU's complex and ever changing institutional architecture;9 yet another is to focus on European military capabilities.10 This monograph takes a different, more dynamic, approach. Since an important self-stated goal of the CSDP is to enable Europe to undertake military operations autonomously—that is, without U.S. support—this monograph attempts to assess the EU and its members' progress by focusing precisely on this goal. Military operations in fact offer a dynamic view of how the politics, institutions, and capabilities interact in reality, and thus present an accurate and encompassing image of the EU's military progress. Studying the EU's military operations, I believe, allows for a better understanding of the EU's potential and limitations, what is being done to address the limitations, and the way forward.11 Rather than providing a brief overview of the multiple EU-led military operations undertaken to date, however, this monograph provides an in-depth case study of the EU's largest, longest, and most challenging military operation in Africa—Operation EUROPEAN UNION FORCE CHAD/CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (EUFOR TCHAD/RCA)—as a window into European defense policy and capability.12

Though EUFOR TCHAD/RCA was, in absolute terms, a small operation, it can nonetheless provide insights into the state of affairs of the CSDP. On the one hand, stability operations are demanding and complex. This is especially true in current multinational stability operations, where military forces are increasingly tasked to cooperate at a much lower level.13 Conducting them successfully thus requires a greater level of cooperation and coordination between multiple actors, often facilitated by a range of institutional arrangements. Given that the EU is a relatively new security actor, its ability to master such challenges allows for drawing conclusions about its current state of affairs.

On the other hand, Operation EUFOR TCHAD/ RCA is specifically destined to provide broader insights into the CSDP, as it set new benchmarks for EUled military operations in a number of ways:

·         First, the operation was the most complex operation the EU has yet undertaken. Unlike previous operations that either reinforced or replaced existing operations, EUFOR TCHAD/ RCA was the entry force. The EU thus had to build an operation from scratch, far from Europe, in an area characterized by isolation and the absence of basic infrastructure.

·         Second, though relatively small, the operation was still far less limited in terms of size, duration, and geographic reach than previous EU military operations. For 16 months, EUFOR operated in an area half the size of France.

·         Third, despite strong French participation, the Operation was the most multinational military operation the EU has undertaken in Africa.14

The combination of these factors makes Operation EUFOR TCHAD/RCA a good test case for the EU CSDP.


The first section of this monograph will consist of a comprehensive overview and assessment of Operation EUFOR TCHAD/RCA. It will provide insights into the different phases of the operation — preparation, deployment, execution, and redeployment.

The second section will outline the lessons of Operations EUFOR TCHAD/ RCA and the way forward. It thereby places the operation in the larger context of the rising CSDP. This part is also meant to give policymakers an understanding about the possible trajectory of CSDP.

The third and last section of the monograph will address what the findings of the previous two parts mean for the United States and provide recommendations for U.S. policymakers, and particularly the DoD leadership, in its dealings with the CSDP.


It is important to point out that the following is not without limitations. Information on EU operations is notoriously scarce—which explains the dearth of in-depth studies on previous EU operations.15 There is also a tendency in the existing literature to focus on the planning process of an operation, rather than the field perspective.16 However, as the implementation perspective is of key importance, the author of this monograph has conducted a large number of interviews over a period of 15 months with numerous European officials and military officers involved in the operation.17 Aside from numerous European officials, officials from Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), and the United States, as well as the United Nations (UN), were also interviewed for the monograph. Given the sensitivity of the information provided, most interviews were only possible on a “not-for-attribution” basis, which is a clear limitation of the monograph. Moreover, despite the lengthy research on the topic, given that the study will seek to provide an overview over a period of about 2 years, it will remain incomplete and its conclusions will be tentative. Having underlined these limitations, the author hopes to provide an in-depth case study of Operation EUFOR TCHAD/RCA, which offers valuable insights into the EU's CSDP.


1.     For a recent and detailed discussion of this new security environment and its requirements, see Roy Godson and Richard Shultz, Adapting America's Security Paradigm and Security Agenda, Washington, DC: National Strategy Information Center, 2010.

2.   Ibid.

3.     Europe's true military prowess is, however, disguised by its reluctance to fund or deploy military force on the scale the United States does, which has given European militaries a bad reputation. See Andrew Moravcsik, “Europe: Quietly Rising Superpower in a Bipolar World,” in Alan S. Alexandroff and Andrew Fenton Cooper, eds., Rising States, Rising Institutions: The Challenge of Global Governance, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2010.

4.   Ibid. See also Bastian Giegerich and William Wallace, “Not Such a Soft Power: the External Deployment of European Forces,” Survival, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2004.

5.     Based on figures provided by the Military Balance in the year 2008. Europe (EU member states only) spent in 2008 according to the Military Balance an estimated total of $300,554M. In comparison, the Military Balance estimates that China spent $60,187M; Russia spent $40,484M; India spent $31,540M; Brazil spent $26,254M — or combined a total of $158,465M. See The Military Balance 2010, London, UK: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2010.

6.     With the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) became known as the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). To avoid confusion, the following monograph will use new Lisbon terminology and refer to the CSDP.

7. Thus far, the EU has undertaken six military operations: Operation CONCORDIA (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 2003); Operation ARTEMIS (Congo, 2003); Operation EUFOR ATHENA (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2004-ongoing); Operation EUFOR RD CONGO (Congo, 2006); Operation EUFOR TCHAD/ RCA (Chad and Central African Republic 2008–09), and Operation ATALANTA (East Africa, 2009-ongoing).

8.   According to the report, there is currently only one person at the U.S. Mission to the EU assigned to work with Europeans on defense cooperation via the EU. See Daniel S. Hamiltion, ed., Shoulder to Shoulder: Forging a Strategic U. S.-E U Partnership, Washington, DC: Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 2010, p. 63.

9.     There is a rich literature on the institutional evolution of the CSDP. One such excellent overview is provided by Jolyon Ho-worth, Security and Defence Policy in the European Union, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

10.    For example, see Giovanni Grevi and Daniel Keohane, “Military Resources for ESDP,” in Giovanni Grevi et al., eds., European Security and Defence Policy: The First 10 Years (1999-2009), Paris, France: EU Institute for Security Studies 2009, pp. 71-89; European Military Capabilities: Building Armed Forces for Modern Operations, London, UK: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008; Daniel C. Keohane and Tomáš Valášek, Willing and Able? London, UK: Centre for European Reform, 2008; Hans-Christian Hagman, European Crisis Management and Defence: The Search for Capabilities, Adelphi Papers, No. 353, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002.

11.    Over the past years, there has been an increasing interest in providing analysis of EU-led military operations in Africa. Some of the works include: On Operation Artemis: Ståle Ulriksen et al., “Operation ARTEMIS: The Shape of Things to Come?” International Peacekeeping, Vol. 11, No. 3, September 2004, pp. 508-525; Paul Corish, “ARTEMIS and CORAL British Perspectives on European Union Crisis Management Operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Unpublished Paper, July 28, 2003; Niagalé Bagayoko, “L'opération Artémis, un tournant pour la politique européenne de sécurité et de défense?” (“Operation ARTEMIS, A Turning Point for the European Security and Defence?”), Afrique contemporaine, Vol. 2, No. 2004, pp. 101-116; Bruno Neveux, “Vers une Union operationnelle? ARTEMIS” (“Towards an EU Operational? ARTEMIS”), Defense nationale, Vol. 60, No. 2004, pp. 11-24; Sébastien Loisel, “Les leçons d'Artémis: vers une approche européenne de la gestion militaire des crises” (“The lessons of Artemis: Towards a European Military Crisis Management”), Les Champs de Mars, No. 16, 2004, pp. 69-92; Fred Tanner, “Operation Artemis— Richtungsmodell zukünftiger EU-Friedenseinsätze?” (“Operation Artemis—The Direction of Future Model of EU Peacekeeping Missions?”), Allgemeine schweizerische Militärzeitschrift, Vol. 170, No. 2, 2004; Fernanda Faria, Crisis Management in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Role of the European Union, Occasional Papers No. 51, Paris, France: EU Institute for Security Studies, 2004; Kees Homan, “Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo” in Andrea Ricci and Eero Kytömaa, eds., Faster and More United? The Debate about Europe's Crisis Response Capacity, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2006; James Dobbins, Europe's Role in Nation-Building: From the Balkans to the Congo, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2008; François Grignon, “The Artemis Operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Lessons for the Future of EU Peacekeeping in Africa,” presentation at The Challenges of Europe-Africa Relations: An Agenda for Priorities, Lisbon, Portugal, 2003; Marta Martinelli, “Implementing the ESDP in Africa: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” in Michael Merlingen and Rasa Ostrauskaite, ed., European Security and Defence Policy: An Implementation Perspective, London, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2008. On Operation EUFOR RD CONGO: Helmut Fritsch, EUFOR RD Congo: A Misunderstood Operation? Martello Papers No. 33, Kingston, Ontario, Canada: Centre for International Relations, Queen's University, 2008; European Union Operation Headquarters Potsdam, Operation EUFOR RD CONGO, Potsdam, Germany, 2007; Hans-Georg Ehrhart, “EUFOR RD Congo: A Preliminary Assessment,” European Security Review, No. 32, March 2007; Claudia Major, “EUFOR RD Congo” in Grevi et al., pp. 311-323; Denis M. Tull, “EUFOR RD Congo: A Success, But Not a Model,” in Muriel Asseburg and Ronja Kempin, eds., The EU as a Strategic Actor in the Realm of Security and Defence? A Systematic Assessment of ESDP Missions and Operations, Berlin, Germany: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 2009; Alexander Mattelaer, “EUFOR RDC and the Development of the ESDP,” Studia Diplomatica, Vol. 60, No. 3, 2007, pp. 73-89; Marta Martinelli, “Implementing the ESDP in Africa: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” in Michael Merlingen and Rasa Ostrauskaite, ed., European Security and Defence Policy: An Implementation Perspective, London, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2008.

12.For example, see Grevi et al.; Muriel Asseburg and Ronja Kempin, eds., The EU as a Strategic Actor in the Realm of Security and Defence? A Systematic Assessment of ESDP Missions and Operations, Berlin, Germany: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 2009; James Dobbins, Europe's Role in Nation-Building: From the Balkans to the Congo, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2008.

13.Today, it is common for units as small as battalions to operate together under an integrated command structure. For more on this point, see Anthony King, “Towards a Transnational Europe: The Case of the Armed Forces,” European Journal of Social Theory, Vol 8, Issue 3, p. 328.

14.For an overview of the participating states, see Appendix 3.

15.The EU releases only limited information on their operations. In addition to the EU website on the operation, information is available from www.consilium.europa.eu/eufor-tchad-rca. Further, if limited, information can be found in European Union Operation Headquarters Mont-Valérien, Operation EUFOR Tchad/RCA, Mont-Valérien, France, 2009. (Hereafter EU OHQ Mont-Valérien.