The Folly of America Training the Palestinian Army
Fairly authoritative sources have noted that Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. Army general responsible for training Abu Mazen’s Palestinian security force/army, has become increasingly marginalized by the Fatah government. Last summer his staff was reportedly no longer directly involved in training or planning and had been “expelled” from the Palestinian Authority (PA) “Strategic Planning Department.” Then came news that American DynCorp International’s contract for training and mentoring Palestinian forces had not been renewed. Now, another shoe has dropped.
According to Janes’ Defence Weekly as reported by wire services, the PA has drafted a plan to end American training and supervision of the force entirely. “Dayton’s role would be limited to bringing money and equipment for the security forces. He would not deal with PA operations or deployment,” a Palestinian official was reported to have said. “Officials said the PA leadership…determined that U.S. intervention was hampering security force development and undermining the legitimacy of the regime.”
We suspect that Lt. Gen. Dayton would retire rather than be in that position, but that would suit the PA as well. He has already done the job they wanted done. He’s built their army and now they want to use it as they see fit.
We don’t blame the Palestinians.
For years JINSA has pointed out the folly of U.S. military funding and training for the nucleus of a Palestinian army. American military sources with whom we discuss the issue generally give us two oddly linked responses:
* A well-trained army would be loyal to the “State,” and; in the meantime,
* It would protect the current Fatah regime from the Hamas regime that wants to unseat it in the West Bank as it did in Gaza.
Israelis, too, have told us that since Hamas is essentially at war with Fatah as well as Israel, training Fatah soldiers to fight Hamas means that the IDF doesn’t have to do it. “The more they kill, the fewer we have to kill,” said an IDF officer.
This is a temporary answer at best and a foolish one as well. There is no Palestinian state and if, despite the best efforts of rational actors, one emerges on two sides of Israel, Hamas will be as much a part of it as Fatah, and entitled to some say in the disposition of the army.
The United States arms and trains the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in the belief that the Lebanese state will use the LAF to control Hezbollah and maintain a peaceful border with Israel. A JINSA delegation in Israel recently heard a presentation on Israel’s belief that with Hezbollah officials in the Lebanese government cabinet, the Lebanese government is, in fact, a “state sponsor” of terrorism against Israel. “The state apparatus is the face to the world and brings in aid, including American military aid. Hezbollah is the actual security force of the country and will determine whether there will be peace or war.”
What the Israelis clearly understand about Lebanon should be understood about the Palestinians as well-and understood by the United States in both cases. Giving military skills to young men with no understanding of or control over where they will use those skills is not in the U.S. national security interest-particularly when they fire our general.