Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on IEDs and Peacekeeping

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 26, 2021


Thank you, Ambassador. And first, let me begin by saying that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, who has participated in the first part of this and learned a great deal, unfortunately has had to depart for another event. She extends her regrets. I’m honored to offer these remarks on the Ambassador’s behalf. And let me begin by thanking the briefers for their remarks and again thanking you, Ambassador and your delegation, for organizing and hosting this event, which the United States was pleased to cohost in our national capacity.

Let me begin by saying we very much appreciate Kenya’s leadership as a regional promoter of peace and security.

The Kenyan Defense Forces, along with other Kenyan security services, have responded to numerous terrorist incidents, while also disrupting al-Shabaab and ISIS attack planning, recruitment, and travel. These Kenyan security forces have made East Africa and the broader continent a safer place for its citizens.

The United States understands the threat IEDs pose for your civilian and security populations, and we appreciate your proactive leadership to ensure a more effective and coordinated response.

Last month in Mali, a suicide vehicle with improvised explosive devices killed a Togolese peacekeeper and injured 27 others. That devastating attack followed another in January, where one Egyptian and four Ivoirian peacekeepers were killed by IEDs, and five Togolese were seriously injured.

These are just the latest examples of the terror that our heroic peacekeepers face in the field, especially those serving in Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In many cases, those involved in IED attacks against peacekeepers may meet the criteria to be designated for sanctions.

It’s clear the Security Council has a serious responsibility here. And the fact that nearly every member of this Council is co-hosting this meeting shows that, in theory, we all agree. But we owe it to our slain and injured peacekeepers to turn these words into action.

This Council has highlighted several key areas – and concrete actions – to make peacekeepers safer in Resolution 2518. The Secretariat has also outlined specific steps that can be taken in its Action Plan to Improve the Security of UN Peacekeepers.

I want to highlight three of those action areas today: strengthening situational awareness in the field; enhancing training; and ensuring that missions are equipped to protect themselves against this threat.

First, we must increase situational awareness to combat IEDs.

Intelligence and surveillance assets can help address the IED threat by ensuring that missions know where IEDs are located and which are the actors responsible. But we need broader and better understanding and implementation of the UN’s Military Peacekeeping Intelligence Doctrine across missions and across troop-contributing countries. This would help support proactive, information-driven operations that are better protected against threats.

Second, we need to better train peacekeepers to handle IED threats.

Effective training must be consistent, and it must be persistent, based on a common standard and include the mission-specific realities of the operational environment. To take action on this front, I’m very pleased to say that the Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized peacekeeper training through the U.S.’ Global Peace Operations Initiative. Under this initiative, the United States has invested more than $1.6 million in the UN’s development of standardized IED trainings.

In July 2019, the United States officially presented the curricula to the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations. We also introduced the curricula during U.S. Africa Command’s third annual Counter-IED working group at Kenya’s Humanitarian Peace Support School. And we will continue to look for and find ways to partner with interested member states on IED training.

With the standardized curricula now ready, the next step, we believe, is for troop-contributing countries to integrate these trainings into their pre-deployment and then apply that training on the ground.

Member States and UN agencies should work together to ensure all personnel searching for and disposing of IEDs have appropriate skills to do the job. The aim should be to ensure the safe, effective, and efficient disposal of IEDs.

Third and finally, the United States supports these efforts through the provision of much needed equipment in the field – and we call on others to do the same.

For example, we’re providing Counter-IED and Explosive Ordinance Disposal deployment equipment to a number of partner countries, both in support of their battalions and specialized units.

We have also provided armored personnel carriers to a number of partners for missions and pre-deployment training. And we are augmenting training centers to improve soldier skills on vehicle capabilities, operations, and maintenance prior to their deployments.

Our peacekeepers are the extension of the Security Council – and they require our full support.

So, let me end by saying, we look forward to working with everyone here today to do whatever we can to combat the threat of IEDs and protect our peacekeepers.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.