The troubled nation of Zefra needs your help!
The island of Capricornia lies in the South Pacific in the Coral Sea. In topography and climate it seems like an idyllic South Seas paradise, but dig deeper and discover its challenges.
There are two independent nations that share this island: Daloon in the south and Zefra in the north. The two are of about the same size and share a common border that runs roughly east to west through the middle of Capricornia.
The two nations also share a dependence upon Capricornia’s scarce fresh water resources; these are located in the border region between the two nations. Both Daloon and Zefra historically were relatively impoverished nations with very little in terms of natural resources or major economic activity. However there have been recent finds of substantial natural energy resources, with both nations seeking to exploit them. Otherwise, the two nations have very different histories and circumstances.
Daloon was formerly a Spanish colony which gained its independence in 1947. In the early years of independence it enjoyed relative political stability, although the apparent lack of natural resources meant that it faced significant economic challenges. However, Daloon benefits from a relatively homogeneous and stable population. Following independence, Daloon maintained defence treaties with Spain and good relationships with other major powers. Daloon’s major security concern developed from sharing the island of Capricornia with Zefra.
Zefra’s history unfolded quite differently to that of Daloon. In the early years of Zefran independence, insurgency and internal strife were all too common. During this period, Daloon maintained a policy of trying not to antagonize Zefra; however, in the early years of the 21st century Daloon was faced with circumstances that forced a reconsideration of this policy of avoidance.
Zefra historically was a French Colony that gained its independence in 1951. One legacy of the French colonial administration was that it produced a well-educated middle class from the Bongo minority population. Bongo tribes had arrived in Zefra long before the French in the 17th century. They were primarily merchants and initially established a good relationship with the Truscans, an indigenous people who were already well established in the area that became Zefra.
In 1822 the French arrived to colonize Zefra. Under French colonial administration, many Bongos were absorbed into the government's administrative machine and thus gained stature as functionaries of the colonial power. Partly thanks to their cultural emphasis on mercantile activity, they easily transformed into an entrepreneurial middle class. As for the Truscans, the French largely marginalized them; they were viewed as uneducated with little or no motivation to better themselves. Apart from the majority who continued with their hunter-gather traditions, a few Truscans were able to get menial jobs, such as caring for French families and property, or labouring on French plantations. But the French rarely offered positions of responsibility to Truscans. This disenfranchisement led to a number of Truscan uprisings through the colonial period.
Since independence in 1951, the Bongo population has dominated the national government and led economic development, albeit often with whiffs of cronyism and corruption. With the French model as its ideal, Zefra was initially formed as a republic. Over a series of elections where Truscans participated only in small numbers, Bongos eventually occupied more of the positions of political power and used this to appoint more of their fellow tribesmen to positions in the government, in the military, in the judiciary. From the early days of independence they had taken a strong lead in the business community as well, with Truscans showing little ambition to engage in such activity.
Over time, a few strong men of like minds assumed the positions of political and economic power in Zefra, and they were all ethnic Bongos. Gradually Zefra was transforming into an autocracy under Bongo control. The Bongo dominance in government, business, the civil and military services, and the judiciary further alienated the Truscan population.
For many years the Truscans feigned to ignore these developments. But they led eventually to a series of local uprisings across the country.
Following a Bongo attempt to crush the Truscan resistance in the late 1990s, the result was the unifying many of the rebels into an opposition movement called the Peoples' Liberation Movement (PLM). Associated with the development of the PLM, was a parallel armed component called the Peoples' Liberation Armed Militia (PLAM).
Eventually Zefra erupted in a civil war between 2002 and 2009. In Truscan-dominated areas of Zefra, the PLAM enjoyed considerable popular support. With this, the PLAM was able to establish its control over significant areas of Zefra. However, the development of factions within the PLAM limited its overall effectiveness.
Internally the PLAM was dominated by three major sub-groups, each forming around its own charismatic leader. Initially these three sub-groups could generally agree over actions to be taken against the central governments. But the leaders of the three factions espoused different visions for the ultimate aim, namely some form of autonomous Truscan homeland. The internal divisiveness over ultimate aims sometimes led to uncoordinated and ineffective operations against government forces.
In the early days of the Zefran Civil War the United States made a generous and well-intentioned attempt to settle issues in the country. A small force of Marines landed in eastern Zefra to help sort out the belligerents. However, the American initiative was starved of resources, unsurprising given that the US was heavily engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. The US initiative ended in abysmal failure, and soon after the Americans withdrew, there were atrocities where the native supporters of the Americans killed a number of their fellow countrymen, claiming they were being maligned for having collaborated with the Americans (who were seen in some quarters of Zefra as an occupying force). Animosity towards the US continued after the end of the Civil War when promises from the US to help the Zefran economy proved illusions -- during this time the US had its own economic problems to deal with. Nevertheless, the ill feeling in Zefra towards the US continues to complicate matters to this day.
Meanwhile, the civil war in Zefra caused a substantial flow of refugees across the border into Daloon. Within their numbers, the refugees harboured Truscan insurgents who had come from Zefra and found safe havens for future action on the Daloon side of the border. Daloon, at this point, had a very immature security establishment with nascent armed forces and a very lightly armed border patrol. Resources like these were insufficient for Daloon to maintain effective control of its border with Zefra, nor were they able to stop insurgents, lodged within the safe havens of the refugee camps, from conducting operations from Daloon into Zefra.
In response to incursions by the insurgents, Zefra initiated a series of cross-border counter-insurgency penetrations into Daloon to deal with the insurgents’ safe havens where the Daloon forces were seemingly impotent. Claiming the right of hot pursuit, the Zefran government of the day ignored diplomatic protests from Daloon and the international community, most notably from the European Union.
While ostensibly having the apprehending of the Zefran insurgents as their only objective, Zefra operations caused significant damage to local Daloon infrastructure and property. The levels of violence and its apparently indiscriminate application generated a substantial migration of internally displaced persons away from the border area. Many ethnic Truscans, when apprehended by Zefran forces in or near the refugee camps in the proximity of the border, were treated brutally, and there were allegations of rape, torture, and amputations by Bongo militia men who seemed barely under control of any leaders, let alone of their national government.
Over time, migrations of ethnic Truscans were generally pushing deeper into Daloon. In some respects this just spread the violence and bloodshed, as Bongo-led Zefran irregular forces probed deeper and deeper into Daloon in pursuit of Truscan refugees, although the target was claimed to be only the insurgents who were hiding among the apparently innocent refugees.
Meanwhile, within Zefra factions of PLAM were inflicting tremendous violence on seemingly peaceable Bongo neighbours in the border regions and elsewhere. PLAM spokesmen claimed that these Bongos were not what they seemed, and indeed alleged that many provided bases from which Bongo irregulars were crossing the border to attack the refugee camps in Daloon.
In the years after the Zefran Civil War evidence frequently emerged of mass graves on both sides of the border. Initially these were found in proximity to the refugee camps in Daloon and were associated with the Zefra operations against the mainly Truscan insurgents within the camps. However, evidence also emerged that Truscans, probably associated with the insurgency, had committed heinous crimes in areas of Zefra that they controlled. Clearly all sides of the matter had committed atrocities that showed this uncivilized and reprehensible behaviour was widespread.
By 2009 civilian casualties were rising quickly, with both Bongos and Truscans sharing responsibility for the butchery. At this point the UN High Commissioner for Refugees sought international condemnation for the atrocities on both sides, as well as commitments to separate the belligerents. Unfortunately in the early 21st century Western nations had become embroiled in military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Economically they were still feeling the impact of the recession of 2008-9. So, they were reluctant to commit precious resources to sort out yet another bloody mess.
But by mid-2009 all parties to the violence in and near Zefra had exhausted
themselves. Every party seemed to see some advantage in an end to hostilities.
Some of the parties saw it as a chance to re-established norms of civil behaviour
and to seek a more peaceful environment for their children. But others saw it
simply as a chance to rearm for the next time, and to inculcate into a new
generation fiery memories of the grievous harm that others had inflicted on
their clans and tribes, and a burning desire for revenge on the alleged
The civil war finally ended when the UN brokered a peace agreement that created an autonomous region under PLM/PLAM control within Zefra but adjacent to its border with Daloon. This agreement is credited with creating a period of relative calm that lasted for some years.
In its own response, the government of Daloon sought to secure its borders. Several European nations provided some limited assistance to Daloon in the form of military training assistance teams and a small amount of surplus military equipment.
Within the international community, there were ongoing recriminations that too little had been done to help the people of Zefra. Thousands had died, while the Western nations had seemingly been busy with their own problems. The nations of the world pledged that the next time Zefra was in crisis, they would not again stand idly by. The next time they would do something.
Since nation-wide elections two months ago (following a failed attempt in late 2019 to invade Daloon), there is a new administration in Zefra, under a new president. The new president (inaugurated in April 2020) was formerly a rear-admiral and Chairman of the Military Council (the highest rank in the Zefran armed forces). He resigned his commission when there was an apparent overwhelming demand from his countrymen that he should enter politics and lead his nation out of its abysmal situation.
The armed forces of Zefra treat the new president as their Commander-in-Chief, and with his military credentials, he is highly respected throughout the military services and very active in this role.
Despite his claims to be running a new cleaner administration, many of the same old figures have resurfaced in positions of considerable authority. In response to criticism in this respect, the President claims that he has a only small pool of qualified experts to draw from, and the nation needs leaders who have leadership experience and can get the job done. The fact is that many in leadership positions are members of the President's family, and many of these had leadership positions in the days of the Civil War and the violence and atrocities that followed -- if they were not complicit in these incidents, there is little evidence they tried to improve the situation.
The President has also promoted into positions of power a cadre of military friends who had been close to him throughout his career in the armed forces. Already, this new President seems to have put a finger on every possible lever of power in Zefra. While he claims his new administration will follow democratic norms, there seem to be few opportunities for dissenting voices to be heard. That said, there is no convincing evidence yet that the new president's administration has a hand in any of the recent violence.
The Zefran Army was designed largely as a home-defence force. It also provides sinecures for many leaders in the Bongo community, and is also rife with cronyism and black-marketeering. The bulk of the Army is organized as one division of six brigades and some divisional troops.
A separate brigade, the Zefran Republican Guard, stands apart from the division and has favoured status within the Army. The level of training throughout the Army is low, with the exception of the Guard brigade. The Zefran Republican Guard is mechanized and capable of field operations, unlike the remainder of the Army.
Army units are generally equipped with late 20th century equipment acquired second-hand from France, Britain, and Russia. The Republican Guard has acquired some modern sensor capabilities, e.g., night-vision devices, small unmanned air vehicles, and ground-surveillance radars.
Zefra's navy has three coastal patrol squadrons which have at their disposal a few corvettes and fast patrol boats. Most are used in support of border protection, customs enforcement, and counter-smuggling operations.
The navy does have two relatively modern diesel-electric coastal submarines acquired from China. However their state of repair is in doubt given the cash-strapped state of the Navy.
The Navy does have a small cadre of dedicated officers and sailors and they may have developed some sort of suicidal pact to use the coastal submarines and fast patrol boats to fend off a threat of foreign troops landing on Zefran shores. Such a landing would be treated as a disgrace to the good name of the Zefran Navy, and many in the Navy will do all it may take to prevent such a landing.
The Air Force comprises three wings, each with a number of squadrons. No. 1 Wing has one squadron for gound attack equipped with 12 Northrop F-5E/F aircraft. There is also a utility transport squadron equipped with 12 Bell 212 (civilian Twin Huey variant) helicopters. No. 1 Wing also includes the Presidential Flight with two Learjet and two Beech Queen Air aircraft. No. 2 Wing is primarily for transport with one squadron equipped with four Transall C.160 aircraft and four de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo aircraft. A second squadron is equipped with six Bell 206 JetRanger helicopters. No. 3 Wing is assigned to the coastal patrol mission and equipped with six Beech Queen Air aircraft; these have been modified from the civilian model with the addition of maritime surveillance radars and infrared sensors.
The maintenance level of all aircraft types is in question. As for weapons for the aircraft, details are sketchy. In recent years many shipments from North Korea labelled "Farm Equipment" were delivered to Air Force weapons depots; little is know about the contents, but it seems very unlikely it was to support Zefran farmers.
The Zefra-Daloon land border has traditionally been patrolled on the northern side by the Zefran Border Guards, a force of about 2600 personnel. Border Guards operate from a series of guard towers and camps along the border. They will patrol the border area with forces up to platoon strength. The Border Guards are armed with small calibre infantry weapons, with some limited indirect fire from mortars up to 120mm calibre.
From the time of the Civil War, this force had a reputation for brutality against Zefran citizens who might be suspected of trying to flee south as refugees, of course most of these were Truscans. Several atrocities during the Civil War were attributed to Border Guard patrols that came across groups who were in hiding near the border waiting for a time when they might cross safely into Daloon. Several mass graves of up to a hundred corpses have been found within 5km of the border where the dead appear to have signature wounds and mutilations long associated with Border Guard methods.
This agency is approximately 800 strong. The Customs Agency controls access through maritime and air ports. In the region of the border with Daloon, the Agency's responsibilities have been taken over by the Army and the Border Guards who are much better armed.
The Gendarmerie is approximately 15,000 strong. In demographics, it is 60% Bongo and 40% Truscan. It is largely ineffective outside of the urban areas.
The ISB is 100% Bongo and fiercely loyal to the government. It is the government’s principal instrument to quell dissent and is believed to be behind several of the recent atrocities that have been committed against the Truscan population.
The ISB has been rumoured to attack innocent fellow Bongos and give the incident the trappings of an attack by Truscan insurgents. The motives are two fold: first, to whip up popular feelings of disgust and suspicion among Bongos for their Truscan neighbours; second, to give legitimacy throughout the international community when the Zefran government imposes harsh anti-terrorism measures against Truscans in Zefra.
There are a number of irregular forces operating within the territory of Zefra.
The ZA started as a government-sponsored Bongo nationalist militia. The ZA has been associated with atrocities committed on Truscans, and the Zefran government claims it has no control over the ZA in such matters. However some evidence has been emerging that there are still links to the Zefran government, and that activities for which the government needs "plausible deniability" get assigned to the ZA.
There is recent evidence that the aledged head of the ZA and the head of ISB are actually half-brothers, and that both are cousins of the President of Zefra. The President has been quick to point out that allegations of a family relationship between him and the head of the ZA are absolutely unfounded, that he actually has no at all power over the ZA, and that he has been using whatever influence he may have to clean up the ZA and direct it away from the evil ways of the past.
The ISM claims to be a Bongo right-wing separatist movement, but it has developed into a drug-based criminal cartel. While it did indeed start life as a political movement, its perpetual need for financing of its activities led it into an early alliance with existing criminal cartels in Zefra. Initially the ISM leadership felt they would be able to dominate the criminal element due to the "purity" of their own ideals. But over time the attraction of easy money from drug smuggling came to dominate ISM decisions. The ISM has been implicated in a number of mass killings, but it remains unclear if these are politically motivated, or more like gang violence intended to support their criminal activities.
The PLM is a political movement for a Truscan opposition group seeking autonomy within Zefra. The PLAM is the armed component and the dominant opposition group in Zefra. Much of the leadership of the PLM retains considerable respect in Zefra and internationally for their intent to better the life of average Truscans. The PLAM on the other hand has frequently been linked to brutal attacks on Bongos throughout Zefra.
During the Zefran Civil War the PLM constituted a "government in waiting", hoping to replace the Bongo autocracy, and the PLAM leaders apparently took their orders from the political leadership of the PLM. But following the end of the civil war, the PLAM has become more independent of the PLM. It became a home for Truscans who wanted to take the fight to their Bongo neighbours, by any means available. In the last few years, with a number of bloody stains on its reputation, the PLAM has frequently been described as a rogue element.
The PGZ is a moderate, multi-ethnic party seeking an inclusive democratic Zefra. The PF is the armed wing of the PGZ. The PF is the most sophisticated armed group that exclusively targets government assets.
Within Zefra, an insurgency has been brewing since the days of the Zefran Civil War. During the Civil War, various factions fought the central government in the role of an opposition party, a viable replacement for the Bongo-led autocracy. By the conclusion of the Civil War, with the autocracy left largely intact, the government's opponents became an insurgency the aim of which was to show that the Bongo-led autocracy could not govern Zefra except in a few selected areas, and then only with the most savage of methods. Indeed, a goal of the insurgency was to show that when the autocracy did govern, it was with a heavy hand, well supported by brutal security forces.
Following the discovery of offshore natural gas in Daloon territorial waters in 2011 things began to change once more. Southern European interests were especially quick to support Daloon’s development of this resource as a source for meeting their own rising energy demands. International investment and development activities significantly improved the Daloon economy. Meanwhile many Zefrans grew envious of the apparent developing prosperity of their southern neighbour.
In China's quest for new sources of energy supplies, these natural gas reserves of Daloon have not gone unnoticed. Chinese corporations have been buying shares in companies throughout the Daloon natural gas industry. Also many Chinese workers have moved to Daloon to provide trained personnel for the industry. They generally live in dense specially built housing in enclaves along the east coast, close to the gas fields.
With its new found resources, the Daloon government soon launched a program to develop a modern armed force that would be more effective in the protection of its border region. Although it was offered large quantities of relatively unsophisticated equipment, the Daloon Government deliberately spurned these quick-fix deals from the arms industry. Instead it opted to develop its armed forces with limited quantities of state-of-the-art equipment, particularly in the areas of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR), electronic warfare, communications and non-line of sight precision strike.
The Army’s first integrated unit reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 2013 and full operational operational capability (FOC) in 2014. The second integrated unit reached IOC in 2014. By 2016, there were three integrated units operating under a central command structure.
A small fleet of fast patrol boats was acquired for protecting Daloon territorial waters. These craft employ stealth technology, over-the-horizon radar and long-range missiles.
Daloon’s small Air Force has manned and unmanned components. The manned element is composed of a regiment of armed, rotary-wing utility aircraft. There are sufficient aircraft to move one integrated unit in two lifts. The Air Force’s unmanned aircraft are used primarily for ISTAR tasks in support of both the Army and the Navy. There are a limited number of strike platforms that are capable of supporting both the Army and the Navy with a variety of precision lethal and non-lethal payloads.
The Daloon Armed Forces includes a small special forces unit with integral air and naval resources. This elite force numbers no more than 500 troopers, apart from aircraft and boat crews and support personnel. The level of training is superb, the leadership and morale are excellent, and their equipment is sophisticated and well maintained. These special forces personnel are highly respected by the people of Daloon for their high professional standards and commitment to the nation.
That Daloon was able to develop a sophisticated, modern force in a relatively short period can be attributed to their acquisition and training concepts. Acquisition contracts required the suppliers to provide initial and continued operator training for Daloon military personnel, and an obligation to provide comprehensive maintenance was integrated into the purchase agreements.
Collective training and staff training were also contracted services, most of which has been provided by the TOKEN Counter-Threat Corporation, an international company based in Macau, with branch offices in Switzerland and Hawaii. TOKEN employees provided operational mentoring teams down to sub-unit level until the integrated units became fully operational. TOKEN continues to provide staff training and supports collective training throughout the armed forces.
There have been rumours that TOKEN staff have participated in military operations with the Daloon armed forces (going way beyond simply training the personnel). In particular the TOKEN staff working with the elite special forces seem to have been caught up in the enthusiasm often seen in such forces. In early 2020 the CEO of TOKEN acknowledged that such problems have come to light, but, he says, new control measures by the company have taken the issue in hand. However it appears that some TOKEN employees in Daloon and Zefra have not yet read the company memo on that.
TOKEN is a private military corporation with a murky history, although the current management pledges that all their scandalous past is now behind them. TOKEN started by providing "security training" for its clients. In the early years TOKEN was based in southern Europe and recruited its employees largely from La Légion étrangère (French Foreign Legion). Business was good and, as TOKEN grew, it recruited from other nations, particularly from ex-military personnel with a special-forces background. Many of TOKEN's current clients are in southern Asia and the South Pacific region.
In view of its new focus in the South Pacific, the company headquarters was moved to Macau, and there are rumours that TOKEN may be providing the Chinese Red Army with information on western military tactics. This may be the reason that Macau authorities seem to have looked the other way when TOKEN employees have ended up in strange circumstances.
One of TOKEN's most lucrative contracts presently is with the Government of Daloon. TOKEN employees, many of whom are US ex-service personnel or former US intelligence operatives, are now embedded in most units of Daloon's armed forces, ostensibly as trainers. However, there are rumours that TOKEN employees have taken on operational roles from time to time, especially those working with the elite special forces of Daloon.
In addition to its training role with the Daloon military services, TOKEN employees have been contracted with many non-governmental organizations to provide security in high-threat environments. TOKEN has the contract to provide bodyguards for the Chinese workers in Daloon and perimeter security for the enclaves where they live.
Also there are many TOKEN employees known to be inside Zefra employed as bodyguards for western charities and for other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). The Zefran security services are highly suspicious of the TOKEN employees in their country -- they reason that information collected by TOKEN personnel in Zefra could easily be passed to the Daloon military through the TOKEN company links.
Two small island nations to the north of Capricornia -- Neonaxos and New Anatolia -- have vested interests in a peaceful settling of issues in Zefra. In the late twentieth century both islands became popular tourist destinations. However any local conflict has a direct and severe impact on their economies as the tourists flock to other destinations when there is a threat of violence in vicinity of the Coral Sea. The Zefran Civil War (2002-9) was a period of economic hardship that lasted long afterwards due to the international economy (and tourist trade) being slow to recover from the recession of 2008-9.
Neonaxos was settled in the early eighteenth century by ethnic Greeks (many from the island of Naxos) who wanted to leave behind the increasing violence in their homeland. Before the Greek war of independence (1821–1832) a diaspora to Neonaxos was seen as a peaceful means to establish an independent Greek homeland. Relatively little further Greece-to-Neonaxos immigration followed once the home nation had achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire.
After many generations of intermarriage the population of Neonaxos largely considers itself to be Polynesian, although cultural links with Greece remain strong. The Greek Orthodox Church remains an important part of the culture of Neonaxos.
New Anatolia was settled by Turks and Arabs who originally landed there in the days of expansion of the Arab and Ottoman Empires (thirteenth century). As Islam spread into nearby Indonesia and Malaysia, Turks (and some Arabs) in a quest for new lands began to settle New Anatolia. The predominant religion is Islam.
Coincidentally settlers from Greece and Turkey ended up on two islands in the Coral Sea no more than 100 miles apart. Due to their cultural histories, many of the animosities of their respective homelands have complicated the geopolitical relationships between these two South Pacific island nations.
The governments of both Neonaxos and New Anatolia simply want the problems of Zefra to go away. Their economies have been starved of tourist dollars from the years of festering violence in Zefra. As a stopgap both are hoping that contracts to support the basing of international forces in the area may give a small but vital boost to their economies.
The period of peace following the Zefran Civil War was all too short. By 2015, a more extremist central government was in control in Zefra and was prepared to violate the peace agreement by disbanding the autonomous region (established under UN auspices) and replacing it with three provinces. Almost immediately, the PLAM and other opposition groups began a protracted insurgency campaign against the Zefran central government. However, their overall effectiveness was hampered by in-fighting between the three dominant factions within the PLAM.
The Zefran government reacted with aggressive counter-insurgency action; but it failed to achieve a decisive victory. Meanwhile, the fighting had a tremendous humanitarian impact on the population in the Zefra. Large segments of the population fled to Daloon once again, and to the major urban areas in Zefra, to escape the violence that was rife throughout the countryside.
During this conflict, Daloon was much more capable of securing its border. However, insurgents from Zefra did occasionally manage to penetrate into Zefra while still based in safe havens inside Daloon territory.
Daloon’s forces decisively defeated an attempted cross-border pursuit of Truscan insurgents by Zefran forces into Daloon in the spring of 2016. In the aftermath of this attempted incursion by Zefran forces into Daloon, the Daloon government declared an area up to 10km on the Zefran side of their common border to be an exclusion zone for Zefran armed forces.
Daloon regularly monitors the exclusion zone and has enforced it on several occasions over the past few years. The so-called exclusion zone encompasses some of the major fresh water sources that supply both sides of the island. Daloon control over this essential resource has the potential to be a point of major friction between the two countries, particularly in periods of drought.
International pressure on the Zefran government did not have an appreciable affect on the humanitarian conditions; however, it did change the government’s approach to prosecuting the conflict. In 2018, bowing to international pressure and facing the economic consequences of continuing to prosecute military operations, the Zefra government declared a cease-fire. In reality however, it continued to conduct its campaign, but by other means.
The Zefran government had been encouraging the formation of Bongo militia forces under the umbrella of the Zefra Association (ZA) in areas where opposition to the PLAM was strongest. The government began arming the ZA before the ceasefire and used them to conduct proxy operations against the PLAM. The ZA was soon playing a major role in the fighting and was partly responsible for the ravages that the civilian population were forced to endure.
The arming of the ZA inflamed existing inter-communal conflicts and resulted in the deliberate killing of tens of thousands of non-combatants and a vast displacement of civilians. It also provoked a reaction from the PLAM against the ZA areas of support. Thousands of villagers were forced from their homes as a consequence of the fighting and the depredations of both the ZA and the PLAM. The fighting has continued to generate a flow of refugees from Zefra into Daloon, stressing the latter’s capability to support this displaced population. Daloon remains concerned that Zefra’s internal strife might spill over into Daloon with the refugee flow.
In December 2019 the government of Zefra mounted a significant attack into Daloon. The international community saw this as a crass move by the Zefran president to unite his people, both Bongos and Truscans, in a universal cause against an alleged external threat: Daloon. The lack of evidence that Daloon was an aggressor seemed irrelevant to the Zefran government. The much more sophisticated armed forces of Daloon brought the invasion to a halt, but at considerable price in casualties, which the small army of Daloon could ill afford. The Daloon ground forces were unable to expel the Zefran forces entirely or to re-establish the international border. Small pockets of Zefran forces remain inside Daloon territory, up to 10 km south of the border.
Daloon appealed once more to the international community to assist it against the incursion and to deal with the internal Zefran issues that had led to the attempted invasion. In January 2020, the president of Zefra, having failed in his objective of seizing the resources of its southern neighbour and of unifying his nation to fight for a common purpose, stepped down and called for new presidential elections.
The newly elected president of Zefra (April 2020) has been far subtler than his predecessors in his policies. Currently he seems to welcome a foreign military presence in his country as a means of quelling the insurrection. His cooperation does come at a price. He demands that foreign military action should be seen as closely coordinated with the Zefran Armed Forces. This means, for example, that patrols must be conducted with equal-sized forces from the foreign powers and from Zefra.
An International Conference for Zefra (ICFZ) was convened in Rome in March 2020 under European leadership to address the continuing humanitarian crisis in Zefra. The United Nations provided legal authority with a Security Council resolution invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression). A majority of Security Council permanent members supported the resolution, with China abstaining. The ICFZ sought to work with the government and people of Zefra and with the United Nations in a sustained effort to initiate civil discourse between the belligerents, to provide humanitarian assistance, to promote the rebuilding of democratic institutions, to assist in social and economic development, and to combat poverty.
The Conference agreed that the first step was to deploy a multinational force to establish a safe and secure environment. From this baseline, the components of the United Nations and other institutions would assist Zefrans to move towards a more attractive future. The conference participants pledged to assist in the development of a democratic political process, to support humanitarian and economic assistance, to promote the protection of human rights, and to initiate practices for a recommitment to the rule of law.
The Conference established an overarching objective to end the humanitarian crisis in Zefra, with a view to creating the conditions under which the Zefran people can govern themselves in a free, safe, secure, and inclusive society that values the primacy of human rights and the equality of all individuals under the law. The Conference established further sub-objectives:
ICFZ operations will have met their objectives once a sufficiently secure environment has been established in which:
Britain has agreed to accept responsibility as the Lead Nation of the coalition forces (Combined Joint Task Force Zefra or CJTF Z). Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Britain have agreed to provide military and civilian police forces. France, Spain, and the United States of America have agreed to provide other elements of national power, but because of previous involvements in the area none of them will contribute ground forces. These three countries and Russia, which has also agreed to be a member of ICFZ, will limit provision of support to the strategic level.
Daloon has indicated it may provide limited support if requested. However Daloon is very sensitive over its colonial past and the presence of foreign troops in the country is highly distasteful to most citizens. The Daloon government has, thus, restricted the number of foreign personnel they will allow inside Daloon and has also restricted foreign personnel to remain on their assigned bases except for transiting to Zefra to accomplish their military mission.
The commander of CJTF Z and his staff have developed Campaign Plan; see pp. 47 to 56 in The Army of Tomorrow Seminar War Game Handbook for details. There is an accompanying op order for land operations on pp. 57 to 64.
The coalition, represented by a deployed military force (CJTF Z), is largely under European leadership. The US gave this initiative its blessing, although with some doubts about its credibility in terms of military effectiveness. The military leadership in CJTF Z believes it has a handle on the situation and is sceptical that any US military action would be to the long-term benefit of CJTF Z -- "those Americans just do not understand the nuances of this very complicated situation".
The Australian contribution to the coalition consists of:
Land Contingent: a brigade group based on 1st Brigade, consisting of brigade headquarters, one cavalry regiment with ASLAV, one infantry battalion, and brigade support units
Police Contingent: 50 volunteer police officers from the Australian Federal Police
Air Force Contingent: one squadron headquarters and one flight of 2 X C-130J Hercules
Naval Contingent: HMAS Choules (L100), HMAS Maryborough (ACPB 95), and HMAS Glenelg (ACPB 96)
The New Zealand contribution to the coalition will be under command of a colonel, with appropriate supporting staff. With the exception of the SAS personnel, the operational elements will operate within the respective components of the Australian contingent.
National Command Element (NCE): one colonel (contingent commander) with branch heads and staff for J1, J2, J3, J4, J5, and J6 drawn from Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand (JFNZ), plus special advisors: POLAD (Political Advisor from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade), SCIAD (Scientific Advisor from DTA), LEGAD (Legal Advisor from NZDF Directorate of Legal Services), Contingent Medical Officer (from RNZAMC), Special Advisor on Police Operations (Superintendent seconded from the Auckland City Police District)
Land Contingent: one battle group based on Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles consisting of the regimental headquarters, two squadrons of NZLAV (NZ Scots and Waikato Mounted Rifles), and Support Squadron, with attachments of two companies of infantry and additional sub-units
Police Contribution: 40 volunteer police officers, under an Inspector, attached to the Land Contingent
Air Force Contingent: Headquarters Flight and Operations Flight from No. 3 Squadron RNZAF (2 X Agusta A109 LUH helicopters and 2 X NH-90 MUH helicopters), plus a composite Support Flight drawn from across the RNZAF
Naval Contingent: HMNZS Te Kaha (F77) and HMNZS Canterbury (L421)
Special Forces: 20 troopers from 1st New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment (1 NZSAS) assigned directly the special forces component of the coalition forces
National Support Element (NSE): 150 personnel for logistics, maintenance, medical/dental, communications, cyber warfare, and administrative support, under a naval commander. Most of the personnel will serve on board HMNZS Canterbury
China has considerable interest in the general area of the Coral Sea and specific interests in both Zefra and Daloon. It already has consierable economic interests in Daloon with Chinese heavy investments in the resources sector. Associated with this are the large number of Chinese workers in the natural gas extraction platforms and processing plants. These workers live in enclaves near the eastern coast of Daloon protected by employees of TOKEN Counter-Threat Corp.
Although there are no major Chinese investments in Zefra at this time, the Chinese government is interested in maintaining good relations with whichever faction may control Zefra in the longer term. There is geological evidence that the natural gas fields that were discovered in Daloon waters may extend northwards into Zefran waters as well. The Chinese government wants to ensure that their bids for these resources (and other potential resources in Zefra) will be viewed favourably by any future Zefran government.
At the UN, China abstained from voting on a mandate for CJTF Z and did not contribute troops. Nevertheless it has since been pressing the CJTF Z commander and staff to reveal operational plans, claiming it has a right to advanced warning as it is the only member of the Security Council resident in the area.
Since it has citizens in the area who are under perpetual threat, China's motive in abstaining at the Security Council was partly to see the western forces provide additional protection for the local Chinese workers in Daloon (at no cost to China). But as the deployment of troops and their operations have proceeded, many in the Chinese government and Communist Party (particularly flag officers in the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)) have become more forceful in their reservations about continuing to support CJTF Z (and any US actions at all).
Another reason that China acquiesced in passing a UN mandate for CJTF Z was that the US had given assurances that it would not provide troops to the coalition force. This precondition was critical in gaining Chinese agreement to abstain as the leadership in Beijing is particularly sensitive to any increase in US forces in the region, or any US operations that could raise US standing in the eyes of local governments or populations.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has a contingent of naval vessels in the area. This is the PLAN's Task Force "South Pacific". While not a substantial force in combat strength, it nevertheless has the potential to take on a spoiler role in any at-sea operation involving Western naval forces, either from the CJTF Z (coalition) or from the US (unilaterally).
If the US were to show some ambition for an amphibious landing in Zefra, some plausible actions by the Chinese Task Force "South Pacific" include:
The current estimate is that Task Force "South Pacific" consists of the following:
If any confrontation between US and Chinese forces should occur, it could easily escalate and affect US-Chinese relations far beyond the Coral Sea, with much greater consequences than might be expected from "just a few" US or Chinese casualties. The current global situation is such that a spark in the Coral Sea could plausibly develop into a nuclear standoff, and, if it all goes pear-shaped, to a nuclear exchange. Clearly an undesirable option!
Apart from the humanitarian efforts of the UN agencies and affiliates (UNHCR, UNICEF, , there are a number of non-governmental organizations active in both Zefra and Daloon (particularly in the refugee camps). These cover a wide range. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), an international charity that originated in France, is particularly active in establishing hospitals and medical treatment facilities in the camps in Daloon and also in parts of Zefra where the violence has been particularly evident. Clowns Without Borders is also active in areas that have seen recent violence, but their contribution is "to make people laugh"; these "clowns" take their roles seriously ("it's no laughing matter" they say) and they try to bring a smile to the faces of those in need, particularly the children.
The US Government has announced it will support the international initiative, but will not contribute to the coalition ground forces deploying to the island of Capricornia. The nations in the region are all holding their breath to see what the United States will do next. The Combatant Commander of SAPCOM, headquartered in Guam, is contemplating his options.
The first term of the US President is coming to an end as 2020 is an election year in the United States. Some political pundits are starting to ask: "Will this also be his last term?" In recent months the President has shown little progress on many fronts. Internationally, Israel and the Palestinians are still at an impass, the recent crop failures in Africa mean that the American public sees starving African faces every evening on the news, globalization (and associated US trade policy) is being blamed for recent economic woes, and China seems to dominate in South Asia and the South Pacific. Domestically, the jobless rate remains the highest it has been since late 1982 (10.8%), and the President has been promising new jobs since he before he was elected in November 2016.
As the four-year term of his administration comes to a close, the President is concerned that reviews of his performance have been mixed, at best. The President strongly desires to be re-elected, indeed he is absolutely convinced he is the best leader the nation can have as it faces an uncertain and challenging future. However, many Americans are dubious about his leadership, and the opposition party is developing several powerful and attractive candidates who are showing well during the primaries that are in progress.
On the domestic side the economy is sluggish, especially when compared to continuing strong growth in the Chinese and Indian economies. The strong international performance of these and other nations of Asia have drawn attention to the President's foreign policy. Here he seems especially vulnerable to his political opponents. His trade policy seems to have left the US economy subordinate to strong Asian economies. His foreign and defense policies have rarely impressed the voters. The President's claims of being a strong and decisive leader on the international stage have seen many challeges: pundits say he is really should be seen as "weak and indecisive", and lately American voters seem to be listening.
Thoughout his term, the President and his Secretaries of State and Defense have negotiated foreign interventions to be largely left to non-US coalitions; certainly, the US has managed to avoid leading these coalitions, and indeed it has generally been able to influence them from the side lines. The intervention in Libya in 2011 has been the paradigm to be followed more than Iraq (2003-2011) and Afghanistan (2001-2013). The President's objective has been to limit the risks to US military personnel, confident that voters will gauge his success (or failure) mainly in terms of the price paid in terms of lives of US service men and women. In the early days of his term, this policy of being a cheerleader for non-US coalitions seemed like a winning strategy: the US could claim some moral leadership on these interventions, but at a modest price in both treasure and the blood of its service personnel. But lately such coalitions are looking more like excuses for inaction.
Since the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan and the brief and unsuccessful 2004 intervention in Zefra, there has been little appetite among the American public for new foreign interventions. Indeed the landing of Marines in Zefra in 2004 to deal with the civil war is still frequently used as an example of the failures that can come from an ill-considered intervention that is under-resourced and puts American service personnel in the middle of a complex situation with no obvious winning strategy.
While still a candidate, the current President demanded that the previous administration should oblige other nations do more in the interests of international security (and have the US do less). As President he has been consistent in pressing the other nations to clean up there own messes. But, in the current US political climate, the President's image could really benefit from some international breakthrough that he could claim as a decisive personal victory.
With the troubles in Zefra, the President is weighing his options. There has been a lot of press coverage that he is now looking like a leader who cannot get the job done. He has promised quick action to resolve the problems in Zefra, but then, on the ground, nothing seems to change.
To date, the most frequent White House response has been that "the coalition is in charge on the ground, and we support the coalition". But the Truscan and Daloonian immigrants (especially numerous in California and Florida -- key battleground states in the coming election) are demanding stronger US action; other American voices are starting to demand this too. The President's political advisors are very concerned about this development especially since these immigrant voters are particularly strong in key states for the coming election campaign. In fact, if the President could look particularly decisive over Zefra, and if a breakthrough could be accomplished "on his watch", this could be key to electoral victory in these states, and, as a consequence, nationally.
The new president of Zefra claims a strong mandate to govern -- 87% of the vote in last month's election. But the election went largely unsupervised by the international community (the government of Zefra claimed they could not ensure the personal safety of the international observers). So there are suspicions of massive fraud, but little proof. However the president claims to the "father of the people of Zefra", with his election results as the evidence.
He appears prepared to use every available means to embarrass the US government, US forces in the area, and any other organization affiliated with the US. The president feels a righteous indignation that foreigners have come to Zefra to solve problems that should been left to the people of Zefra, under their chosen leader (of course!). The president will cooperate with CJTF Z in many respects. The president, and his backers, see the international funding coming into Zefra with CJTF Z as a source of cash to their allied tribes and clans. However, the president feels that CJTF Z is a temporary phenomenon and that Zefrans will have to find a suitable long-term resolution of their own.
The Government of Daloon has suffered for years from the instability in Zefra and frequent threats from its government. Its recent prosperity has given Daloon resources to build a small but highly capable military force. In this it has benefited from a commercial alliance with the TOKEN Counter-Threat Corporation. TOKEN employees are embedded in most military units of Daloon. TOKEN employees are also present in Zefra where the company has contracts to provide bodyguards and site security for many of the international agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, and humanitarian efforts.
There is an alphabet soup of Non-Governmental Organizations operating in both Daloon and Zefra: UNHCR, WFP, OXFAM, FAO, UNICEF, MSF. Two of the oddest are Clowns Without Borders and Jesters for Social Responsibility. These two organizations -- bitter rivals for news coverage and the subsequent cash donations that follow -- claim they raise the happiness quotient in the most direct way: they make people laugh!
The international media are watching closely. Some agencies have embedded reporters with military units. The New Straits Times (based in Singapore), who's owners seem to have a commercial connection with TOKEN, have reporters with Daloon military units, including the Special Forces. Their reporters are also active in Zefra, especially with the humanitarian organizations.
Other countries in the region have their own interests in various possible outcomes. These countries include New Anatolia and Neonaxos (as small players) and China (not previously a regional leader, but more interested now in local national resources and in possible military bases). Also interested are Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Philippines; these are closely aligned with the US, but have unique concerns about developments so close to home -- and are troubled that the US and the Europeans do not grasp many of the local issues and their relationship with the troubles in Zefra.
The new Zefran President claims he has the support of his people and that he wishes to bring peace to the nation, soon to be followed by prosperity for all. He has announced that there is a spirit of cooperation with the international forces that are arriving in the region to help. Of course, he emphasizes, this assistance should be consistent with the traditions of Zefra, where the president is the "father of the people". He has also demanded that the foreigners do only what needs to be done to deal with the insurrection, and then leave immediately; anything less would be an affront to the national sovereignty of Zefra.
The President has offered that foreign military forces can patrol in Zefra in strength up to platoon level, as long as they are accompanied by Zefran forces of the same size. He claims this is to ensure that locals are not spooked by having foreign troops operate in their proximity, with the Zefran troops readily available to translate, to negotiate, and to smooth over issues that may seem culturally alien to the foreign troops.
Although the new Zefran President claims to be a "nice guy" -- without the bloody reputation of his ruthless predecessor -- he may have ties to some of the more nefarious Bongo organizations in his nation. The ISB is ostensibly a wing of his government (albeit widely viewed as a rogue element) and rumors persist of its involvement in recent reprisals against Truscans. The ZA continues to take actions that strengthen the President's base of power with his fellow Bongos, e.g., intimidating Truscans with brutal and bloody attacks, providing (fabricated?) evidence to Bongos that they should suspect that their Truscan neighbors are supporters of violence and mayhem. Since a link between the government and the ZA has never been conclusively proven, the president and his government retain "plausible deniability" over the ZA's actions. Even actions that can be traced to the ISB can, if necessary, be attributed to a bunch of "hot heads" who are not under government control.
The new president's apparent accommodating attitude towards foreign troops has struck many Westerners as suspicious. Is this a cunning ploy to get Western forces enmeshed in operations in Zefra where there are often promises that things will get better, but always 'not today, but tomorrow'? Is it a means for the Zefran military to have advanced warning of where coalition forces may be planning some new operation?
Under a United Nations mandate (and Security Council Resolution 9000) a coalition force has deployed to the South Pacific to assist in resolving the many issues between Zefra and Daloon and within Zefra itself. While not part of this force, the US has offered support in more strategic areas.
The British commander of CJTF Z is confident that his force can make a real different and provide succor to people of Zefra. However, he is aware that this could be a time consuming process, and has chafed under US pressure to show results, and soon!
The Commander of the New Zealand Contingent os conflicted about acting too agressively -- Kiwis will have to deal with the consequences of the Zefran operation long after the British Commander of CJTF Z and the US Commander of SAPCOM have left the region. Severe losses of Zefran lives (Bongos or Truscans) at the hands of Kiwis will be long remembered, not only by Zefrans, but also by the peoples of the South Pacific.
The New Zealand commander must also be sensitive to the widely dispersed police volunteers from NZ. They are lightly armed and may be vulnerable to the diversity of agressive and well armed factions operating throughout Zefra, and in pockets south of the international border between Zefra and Daloon.
As election season approaches in the US, the President and his political advisors are planning their re-election campaign. The major foreign policy story is the troubles in Zefra. The President's political advisors are telling him that the best solution would be if the problem could just go away, and quickly. There are substantial voting factions in California and Florida (key battleground states) who immigrated from Zefra and Daloon over the decades; they would look very favourably on a President who solved some of the serious problems in their homelands... but time is short for this.
The President wants the coalition force to be successful, but he is impatient to see results -- he has not seen much so far! Through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he recently tasked the Commander and staff of SAPCOM to develop plans for a US amphibious landing in Zefra to provide support to the coalition. This could be a "game changer" in Zefra (and potentially with American voters come election time). But, if this landing were to be costly in US casualties or were to get the US bogged down in some long-term commitment in Zefra, it could play very badly in the upcoming election.
In 2012 the massive expanse of US Pacific Command (PACOM) was split roughly along the equator and the southern border of China.PACOM has kept its name and, with a reduced geographical area, it can now concentrate on China, North Korea, and eastern Russia -- substantial challenges, without question.
One of President Obama's goals from early 2012 was that DOD "will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region..." Spitting PACOM into two geographic commbatant commands was an obvious way to allocate more defense resources to this region. While the physical resources have not doubled, creating two geographic combatant commands has expanded the staff resources that can tackle more problems developing in the Asia-Pacific region. With SAPCOM headquarters established in Guam, its approaches can be seen as more sensitive to local issues of South Asia and the South Pacific (Honolulu is a long way away!).
SAPCOM still has a huge area of responsibility in its own right. And nations in the area create substantial problems: India and Pakistan, Burma and its neighbors, and, of course Zefra and Daloon. While China is not within the SAPCOM boundaries, China has been a major player in South Pacific issues for well over a decade, often leaving US foreign policy in tatters. Fortunately the US has valuable allies in the region, particularly Australia and New Zealand.
However, with the recent difficulties on the island of Capricornia, the SAPCOM commander has come under considerable pressure from Washington. First, the commander and staff have looked in public like they were surprised by recent events. Widely read US papers have been asking: "Why did SAPCOM not see this coming? Why are they not doing something? How long will it take to sort out what should be a minor problem in a tiny nation?" Some bolder papers have been asking questions like "Should the SAPCOM commander be replaced with someone more assertive, and more sensitive to South Pacific issues? Can't the Pentagon find someone more willing to take a leadership role in this critical part of the globe?"
Second, some political advisors to the President have pointed out that relieving the current SAPCOM commander could play out nicely in the Washington press: the President would look decisive, but not have to commit US troops to the operation. So far, the President has rejected this advice and announced his complete confidence in the US military leadership, both in the Pentagon and at SAPCOM. But the President and his political advisors are certainly growing impatient to see some results in Zefra.
The international community is keenly interested is how the situation in Zefra will unfold. France and Spain are former colonial rulers of Zefra and Daloon respectively and continue to have strong ties, including ongoing commercial interests. China is avoiding a direct role, but has naval and air forces in the South Pacific conducting reciprocal visits and friendly port calls. Chinese business interests have been investing in the new natural gas discoveries in Daloon, and there are several enclaves for Chinese employees of those companies that are active in exploration for more natural resources.
International aid and humanitarian organizations have been active in the area for some time and are operating on both sides of the border. Agencies in Daloon have been assisting Daloon authorities in dealing with the refugee situation. The focus of agencies operating in Zefra has been internally displaced persons. Their operations have been hampered by the continuing violence by the ZA and the PLAM and a general lack of support from Zefra government authorities.
The government and the people of Daloon are growing frustrated with their northern neighbor. The refugee camps are overflowing. Criminal elements from Zefra are affecting the peaceful way of life. The economy is in a nose dive. Unwelcome foreign military forces (from the coalition) are using the nation as a base for operations in Zefra. Something must be done. And soon!