Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978, UNIFIL was established to supervise the withdrawal of Israeli forces and restore peace and security to the area. Since then the Defence Forces had an infantry battalion (approx. strength 540 personnel) in Lebanon, which rotated every six months plus almost 100 others in UNIFIL headquarters and the Force Mobile Reserve until November 2001.
The battalion’s headquarters was located in Tibnin and it was responsible for an area of approx. 100 square kilometres. It performed its duties mainly by providing a presence in the area, by operating patrols, checkpoints and manning observation posts. The battalion also rendered humanitarian assistance to the local population including aiding the local orphanage in Tibnin.
Civil war in the West African country of Liberia from 1989 to 1997 claimed the lives of almost 150,000 people, mainly civilians, and led to a complete breakdown of law and order in the country. It also threatened to destabilise neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. Despite efforts by the UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to broker a peace agreement in the country outbreaks of fighting continued sporadically. Following elections in 1997 Charles Taylor of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) was elected president. However, continued human rights abuses, the exclusion and harassment of political opponents, the failure to reform the security services, and ongoing differences between opposing groups contributed to a resumption of conflict in the country. On October 1st 2002 UNMIL took over peacekeeping duties, incorporating 3,500 ECOMIL troops into the new force.. Irish involvement with the 15,000-strong mission commenced in November 2003. In addition to 90 Inf Bn, consisting of a Logs/Admin Company, APC Company, and Support Company, members of the Army Ranger Wing also deployed to the mission area. The ARW was designated the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and came under the direct command of the Force Commander UNMIL. The function of the SOTG was to provide the Force Commander with capabilities for special reconnaissance, human intelligence, liaison, and hostage rescue or extraction.
On 21 February 2008, the Defence Forces troop contribution to the UN mandated, EU-led peacekeeping mission to Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) commenced. Initially the force was EU led (known as EUFOR Chad/CAR) the force has changed over to UN command on 15 March 2009 and is now known as MINURCAT. The Initial Entry EU Force consisted of Special Forces troops from Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland and Sweden. On 24 April 2008, the 147 strong Advance party deployed to Chad to commence building the basic infrastructure for Camp Ciara that the Irish battalion operate from in Goz Beida in south eastern Chad.
The 97th Infantry Battalion deployed to the mission on May/June 2008 and was the first Irish Battalion to become operational in Camp Ciara and commenced patrolling within its large area of operations along the Chad/Sudan border in south eastern Chad. There was a large logistical operation to deploy the 3,700 tonnes of equipment (including over 100 vehicles) in order to allow the unit to establish and be self sufficient in its camp.
The UN mission MINURCAT assumed command on 15 March 2009 with some nations, including Ireland, remaining in Chad and donning the UN beret. The EU mission was always intended to be a bridging mission whilst the force generation took place for the UN. Following a decision by the Chadian President to withdraw support for the MINURCAT military mission, the Irish Battalion withdrew in April 2010. Irish staff officers remained in FHQ until subsequent withdrawal when the military mission was closed on 28 December 2010.
Other Missions – UNFICYP/UNOSOM/KFOR