In Quest of Coherence: The Alternative to the Principal-Agent Approach in Understanding the (In)effectiveness of Light-Footprint Military Missions: The Case of the EUTM Mali

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After the failure of two costly interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Western policymakers have increasingly refrained from large ground deployments in fragile states. Hence, they have adopted a “light-footprint approach” which has become more and more popular as it permits Western nations to remain influential in defending their security interests in fragile states without deploying large numbers of ground forces. This light-footprint approach is reflected in training and advice missions through which Western nations train host-country security forces to improve their capabilities when facing security challenges. Yet, in recent years, these missions have been highly criticized by scholars and practitioners for reasons of ineffectiveness. The missions’ ineffectiveness has often been explained by scholars through the Principal-Agent Approach to describe relations between provider and recipient. Yet, this approach is not sufficient to understand the complexities on the level of implementation. My research aims to fill this gap in two ways. First, I offer a new concept, namely “light-footprint military missions” to characterize Western countries’ current intervention approaches in fragile states. Second, using the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali as a case-study, I examine the mission’s internal efficiency using three effectiveness indicators and by drawing upon first-hand experiences of EUTM personnel during their deployment in Mali. The findings of this analysis provide an alternative explanation to the Principal-Agent Approach, revealing that interest misalignments between different training providers, in this case EU Member States, lead to incoherence within the theatre of operation, thereby impacting the efficiency of the training mission. Furthermore, I argue that another reason hindering the EUTM’s efficiency is the mismatch between on the one hand, the political ambition of the Member States and on the other hand, the financial and logistical contributions offered by the Member States to the mission.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen