I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 57, 92, 97, 103, 107, 512 and 521 together.
Ireland is currently contributing approximately 764 Defence Forces personnel to 19 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the following tabular statement.
The main commitments are to the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, with 427 personnel, to the NATO-led international security presence, KFOR, in Kosovo, with 211 personnel and to EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 57 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE. Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the UN, the EU and NATO.
Ireland has participated in UNMIL since December 2003. Ireland, together with an infantry company group from Sweden, provides the quick reaction force, QRF, to the UNMIL force commander. The Irish contingent currently comprises 427 personnel. The QRF acts as the rapid response element within UNMIL, responding to any crises that arise within the area of operations and supporting deployed contingents through long range patrols into the countryside. While it has been a difficult mission, particularly in terms of the operating environment, it is working very well for the Defence Forces.
In September 2005 the mandate for UNMIL was expanded to include responsibility for the security of the special court for Sierra Leone in Freetown. Ireland and Sweden agreed to expand the area of operations of QRF from 1 December 2005, thus allowing Irish and Swedish troops to be made available for extraction operations should there be a requirement to evacuate the staff and detainees from the special court.
On 11 November 2005, the UN Security Council further extended UNMIL's mandate to include the apprehension, detention and transfer to the special court for Sierra Leone of the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, in the event of his return to Liberia.
In his recent report on the UNMIL mission to the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General has recommended that, following an initial reduction in force levels by one infantry battalion in mid-2006 and another in early 2007, a downsizing of the mission begin in early 2007, depending on the political and security situation in Liberia at that time. The Irish commitment to UNMIL is until November 2006 when we are due to withdraw from the mission together with our Swedish partners. It is intended to commence downsizing in June 2006. The UN has been advised accordingly.
The Irish infantry group in KFOR operates as part of a multinational grouping, within the Czech-led multi-national task force — centre. It comprises a Mowag APC mounted company together with support and logistic elements. The main tasks of the Irish infantry group include the following; provision of general security to all ethnic groups, institutions and cultural sites; provision of support to UNMIK police and other agencies with security tasks; identification of and reporting on extremist groups and activities; vehicle and foot patrols; vehicle checkpoints and operation of observation posts.
The role of the Defence Forces personnel serving in EUFOR within the task force — north — is to provide personnel for the headquarters, the military police unit, verification teams and a national support element. Ireland currently acts as the framework nation for the military police unit and verification teams.
Seven members of the Permanent Defence Force are serving with the international security assistance force, ISAF, in Afghanistan. Three of these personnel hold appointments at the force headquarters in Kabul. The remaining four personnel are based at the multi-national brigade headquarters in Kabul, where they serve as members of liaison teams with the Afghan national directorate of security.
Ireland's commitment under the United Nations stand-by arrangements system, UNSAS, is 850, which represents 10% of the total Army strength. This is the figure set in the White Paper on Defence and is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas operations. There are no plans at this time to increase the level of our commitment to UNSAS and any contribution to EU or UN missions will be met within the context of the 850 ceiling.
Ireland receives requests from time to time in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. To date in 2006, no such requests have been received from the United Nations. In reply to an earlier question, I informed the House that last week Ireland indicated that it would make available up to ten Defence Forces personnel for the headquarters of a supporting operation, under a EU flag, for MONUC, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the planning for which mission is currently in the initial stages.