The Utilities and Challenges of Western Security Force Assistance

As large scale interventions are increasingly avoided by Western states, other methods of intervening have been explored. Training, equipping, advising or indeed otherwise assisting foreign security forces, both governmental as well as non-governmental, has become more popular. Coined by NATO as Security Force Assistance (SFA), it is now a significant part of Western military interventions. SFA, however, is enigmatic. Strategic goals differ, or are even absent. Agency by receiving entities provide for asymmetry in information and interests. Moreover, when descending from the strategic level to the operational/tactical levels, many states lack organisational and doctrinal foundations for this type of operation. Still, SFA has known some astounding successes, and the positive narrative of assisting and building friendly forces appeals to many governments. This seminar aims to provide an insight in the ends, ways, means, and risks of SFA, and the place of SFA in Western strategic culture.

Major Ivor Wiltenburg is an infantry officer in the Dutch army, and since 2018 has been working on his PhD on Western Security Force Assistance at the Royal Dutch Military Academy. He holds a master’s degree in military history (University of Amsterdam) and in military strategic studies (NLDA). Major Wiltenburg is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Changing Character of War Programme at Pembroke College.