UN Peacekeeping Operations in Somalia 1992-1995: The Pakistani Perspective

The international academic debates on the US-led global war on terror and politics of the international non-proliferation regime encircled South Asian regional politics due to post-1998 and post-9/11 scenarios. Both developments changed the conventional patterns of South Asian regional security and attracted the leading academic circles of the international community towards nuclearized subcontinent, where Pakistan became a gravitational point of such debates. In the ongoing wave of international criticism on Pakistan’s standing in regional and international politics, a thin layer of literature discussing Pakistan’s appreciable role in regional and international politics appeared from different directions of global intellectual communities.

The book under review is one of the few books that try to admire Pakistan’s role in the international community through actively participating in UN peacekeeping operations. The author of the book attempted to provide a comprehensive survey of Pakistan’s cooperative international behaviour, generally, and its significant role in the UN peacekeeping efforts in Somalia specifically. Tughral Yamin, the author of the book, is a retired army officer who has earned a doctorate based on his rich intellectual capabilities and became an eminent figure in the mainstream academic gatherings of Pakistan. His exceptional personality skills made him an honorary Colonel in three army units where he served as an infantry officer. The basic motivation behind this book is that his battalion 7 Frontier Force Regiment was the first military unit in the world to land in Mogadishu. Akin to his military career, his academic life has made him the first Dean of the Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS) located in a prestigious university of Pakistan. Therefore, a unique combination of his background of serving in the arms forces and his inspirational academic capabilities convinced him to write a book on the important role of Pakistan armed forces in the world.

The book is divided into eight short chapters, and every chapter covers a different episode of Pakistan’s peacekeeping efforts in Somalia under the UN umbrella. In addition to eight chapters, a brief bibliography provides a comprehensive account of the different sources and data used for this study. The book starts the debate from the background of the Somali problem in the second chapter. After a brief review of literature in the first chapter, the second chapter of Yamin’s study emphasized the Somali nation’s geographical, economic, and ethnic designs. An exclusive focus of chapter two is on the colonial past and civil war situation of Somalia, which is considered the key driver behind the escalation of an intrastate conflict in Somalia. The starting arguments in the book treated Somalia as a typical failed state (p. 44). Moreover, the first chapter of the book encompasses the detail of various political, diplomatic, and arms forces officers involved in the UN-sponsored peacekeeping operation in Mogadishu (p.13-25).

The subsequent chapters of Yamin’s book emphasized various levels of UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia generally and Pakistan’s role in it particularly. The initial debate tries to cover different segments of essential information to understand the nature and reasons for civil war in Somalia. It also talks about the logic of external intervention in the domestic affairs of Somalia. The international intervention consisting of various humanitarian initiatives was inherited in the international community’s varying interests, which is the main point of discussion in chapter three. It shed some light on the important developments of Pakistan-Somalia and US-Somalia bilateral interactions. The fourth and fifth chapters talk about both episodes of UN operations under the peacekeeping umbrella in Somalia. The last three chapters of the book, including the concluding chapter, summarises the details of withdrawal from Mogadishu. The author ends the debate by generalizing “Somalia remains a failed state” (p. 183).  He also maintains his position in the end by saying, “Somalia remains a battlefield and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel” (p. 187).

The whole story in the book attempts to communicate an interesting story of Pakistan’s role in the UN peacekeeping operation in Mogadishu, which was mainly designed to serve the greater cause of humanity in Somalia. Initially, Pakistan was asked to participate in the peacekeeping efforts as an effective guardian of food supplies in Mogadishu. The protection of seaports, airports, and the provision of security to the UN personals were Pakistan’s designated role in Somalia. In short, the book is an endeavour to highlight Pakistan’s global accomplishments through offering its armed forces to serve the greater cause of humanity in Somalia. Parallel to describing Pakistan’s motivations and determinations for participating in a multinational peacekeeping operation, the book mentions Pakistan’s sacrifices in Mogadishu when “the unfortunate massacre of 24 Pakistani peacekeepers on June 1993 at the hands of Somali National Alliance (SNA)” became an unforgettable loss for Pakistan (p. 13).

Various other interesting facts about the civil war in Somalia made the book more informative and less analytical due to its descriptive nature. It generally maintains a comprehensive account of various details, such as Somalia becoming one of the largest countries producing refugees in the world (p. 40).  In 2018, “UNSC Resolution 1816 formally condemned all acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels off the coast of Somalia” (p. 43), the uranium compounds were found in Somalia in 1968, which was mentioned in a report of International Atomic Energy Agency in 1984 (p. 45). The UNSCR 751 passed on October 24, 1992, called the creation of UN Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM) (P. 51).

Apart from educating the readers about the varying levels of international cooperation from the UN platform, Yamin’s study’s impartial and balanced arguments conclude the reasons for unsuccessful international efforts for generating peace through fighting violent militant actors in Mogadishu. It is mentioned in the study that the lack of proper coordination and appropriate understanding of the operation was the main hurdle in achieving the desired results of the operation in Somalia. In addition to academically highlighting various responsible factors hindering the performance of the UN peacekeeping forces in Somalia, the author attempted to provide a comprehensive account of various rational arguments supported by his personal experiences and interactions with the military officials involved in the peacekeeping efforts in Somalia.

In other words, the greater reliance on the primary sources increases the legitimacy of Yamin’s arguments in the book. In addition to accessing a variety of primary sources, the author’s decision for generating an academic debate on the role of Pakistani soldiers in a foreign land for the greater cause of peace makes this study unique. Thus, it has become an exceptional study even in the contemporary academic community of Pakistan because the author endeavoured to talk on a topic of less scholarly attention in Pakistan.

Despite some formatting and editing errors, the book is unique due to its topic, which lacks appropriate attention from the local and global academic communities. Thus, the book is an appropriate study to understand Pakistan’s achievements at the international level, which could provide Islamabad with an opportunity to improve its role in the international community. The young scholars and students of conflict resolution and peace studies, politics and international relations, and defence and strategic studies can find it an interesting book.

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About Dr. Attiq ur Rehman 1 Article
The author is an Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad.