By Arnold Hammari
ts great that the Clinton Global Initiative wants to stop poaching in Africa. I want it to stop too but it takes a lot of money, time, and effort especially as the poachers are often more motivated than the government troops sent to stop them. For example, some of the poachers in Southern Chad/Central African Republic have been Sudanese military troops on leave who took their gun trucks with heavy machine guns and RPGs to hunt some elephants. The also had radios and GPS units that allowed them to spread out and avoid the park police and local military units. In some cases they killed the elephants with an RPG or chopped them up with their heavy guns.
So will the Clinton plan train and equip troops and put them into battle with heavily armed poachers? Will it provide air intelligence as in small-UAVs as despite being a dedicated and important asset in the fight against poaching, the Africa Parks Network of aircraft is a small force with limited assets and coverage? Perhaps they have deep pockets like the Clooney network and can provide satellite surveillance but once the poachers are detected can they action troops in a timely manner to catch the poachers in the act? The areas where poachers operate are vast and the road networks are very poor. In many places even on the roads you can only travel 30 miles per hour, cross country is much slower. It will also be hard to distinguish from the air (or space) what is a poacher, rich farmer, local politician, NGO vehicle, or military truck. Also in some areas the forest canopy is nearly impenetrable except by sophisticated sensors.
Many African military troops don’t get a lot of time on the range practicing their marksmanship. Ammunition is expensive and a luxury that most regular army troops can’t afford. Plus in many places ammunition is strictly controlled so the troops don’t run amok and try to seize power in a military coup d’etat. Some militaries have GPS and high-tech radios but most units don’t have these expensive items, and again it is often in the best interest of the ruling powers to keep the military poorly equipped and untrained so they don’t become a threat to the state. The units that get all the toys and funding are usually the ones most loyal to the head of state or assigned to protect the government. More....