UNITED NATIONS -- The United States is prepared to provide more military observers, police, and civilian staff to beef up the U.N.'s far-flung peacekeeping operations, the U.S. ambassador said Monday.
The United Nations has nearly 115,000 troops, police and civilians deployed in 16 peacekeeping missions from Africa and the Mideast to Cyprus, Kosovo, Western Sahara and Haiti, but it has had trouble finding soldiers, helicopters and other key assets for several important operations.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said President Barack Obama's administration will explore ways to assist peacekeeping operations including by training peacekeepers and providing equipment and transportation.
Through the U.S. Global Peace Operations Initiative, she said, the United States has already trained 75,000 peacekeepers and helped some 49,000 peacekeepers deploy to 20 peacekeeping missions around the world, mostly in Africa.
In addition to training, the United States has provided trucks, water purification plants, fuel trailers, helmets, flak jackets and other essential equipment to thousands of U.N. peacekeepers, U.S. officials said.
"Over the next five years, the Global Peace Operations Initiative will continue direct training but will make it its top priority to help partner countries become self-sufficient in peacekeeping training," Rice told the U.N. Security Council.
The United States does not provide troops for U.N. peacekeeping forces, which would mean putting American soldiers under U.N. command.
But Rice said the United States "is willing to consider directly contributing more military observers, military staff officers, civilian police, and other civilian personnel — including more women — to U.N. peacekeeping operations."
The U.S. has already increased its military observers in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia and is providing two additional military staff officers to the mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, U.S. officials said.
Rice said an immediate U.S. priority will be to help find the extra forces and specialized units required for the joint U.N.-African Union force in Darfur as well as for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the neighboring Central African Republic and Chad "to better protect civilians under imminent threat of physical, including sexual, violence."
Another immediate priority will be beefing up the 22,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, she said. The Security Council in November approved 3,000 more troops for Congo but the U.N. has had trouble getting countries to contribute the soldiers.
Rice said the United States will seek mandates for U.N. peacekeeping operations that are "credible and achievable" and will also seek to expand the pool of countries contributing troops and police.
The U.S. will also intensify diplomatic efforts "to give new momentum to some of the stalled or faltering peace processes," particularly in Sudan and neighboring countries.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told the council a clearer consensus is needed on the role of peacekeepers in protecting civilians. There is also a need to ensure "sustained political support for the missions," to improve the U.N. training system, and to attract specialist military units — "not just numbers," he said.