Gloomy news for the prospects of both peace and peacekeepers in Darfur, reports the UN News Center:

Recent fierce fighting in Sudan’s devastated Darfur region makes it clear that the international effort to protect the population is at dire risk unless the parties are pressured to negotiate a peace, a top United Nations peacekeeping official said today.

“With the Government intent on military action and the rebels either fighting or fragmenting, it is difficult to see an opening for political negotiations,” Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said as he briefed the Security Council on UNAMID, the hybrid African Union-UN force in Darfur.

The opening of an avenue for peace negotiations is, of course, crucial for long-term stability in Darfur. And as long as a peace accord is pursued honestly by all sides — and not through rushed expediency, as was the failed Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006 — it will also improve the odds of deploying a fully effective peacekeeping force in the short-term.In addition to not yet having a peace to keep, though, the contingent of blue helmets in Darfur is grossly understaffed — with only 9,126 of its allotted 26,000 uniformed personnel currently deployed — and remains underfunded, undersupplied, and undertrained. The force’s inadequate preparation is as dangerous as its lack of numbers or the absence of an enduring political solution. Simply bringing in the required number of troops — even were the Sudanese government to drop its objections to the non-African countries that have pledged troops — would not suffice toward improving the force’s capabilities, unfortunately. Assistant Secretary-General Mulet’s briefing made this clear:

The timely deployment of the various battalions, including Egyptian, Ethiopian, Thai and Nepalese, would be linked to donor countries’ efforts to support troop contributors with equipment, training and self-sustaining capability…It was “absolutely critical” that the incoming troops have self-sustaining capability and equipment to enable them to patrol and effectively carry out their operations. Without self-sustaining capability, incoming troops were a burden on the Mission and became part of the problem, not the solution.

Sending peacekeepers into Darfur with insufficient equipment or training amounts to a reprehensible abdication of moral and strategic responsibilities. The United States and other countries need to step forward to provide the requisite support for UNAMID; without this commitment, the goals of achieving both peace and protection will become even more unattainable.

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