By: John Boonstra on March 18, 2008 According to Reuters, the EU peacekeeping force in Chad has deployed sufficiently to be termed “operational.” A European Union military force deploying in Chad’s eastern borderlands became operational on Monday, starting a one-year mission to protect refugees, civilians and humanitarian operations. The force, called EUFOR, is expected eventually to have 3,700 troops from more than a dozen European countries. France, the former colonial power in Chad, is providing half the troops. “The equipment and units currently available allow us to declare that EUFOR has achieved its initial operational capacity,” the EU force said in a statement sent to Reuters. Even beyond the daunting task of protecting a half million refugees and displaced persons in a still-bubbling war zone, EUFOR faces significant operational challenges. It has already lost one French soldier, killed by the Sudanese military last month. Its neutrality is questioned by both the Sudanese government and Chadian rebels, and Chadian president Idriss Deby welcomes the force, but probably only inasmuch as it seems to provide support for his beleaguered regime. Despite these dangers, the relative speed of EUFOR’s deployment — at least compared to that of the UN force scheduled to deploy in neighboring Darfur over two months ago — is welcome, and it should bring much-needed relief to those displaced in eastern Chad.