Building Better Armies: An Insider’s Account of Liberia

  • November 01, 2013
  • Dr Sean McFate



Recent events in Mali, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere demonstrate that building professional indigenous forces is imperative to regional stability, yet few success stories exist. Liberia is a qualified “success,” and this study explores how it was achieved by the program’s chief architect. Liberia suffered a 14-year civil war replete with human rights atrocities that killed 250,000 people and displaced a third of its population. Following President Charles Taylor’s exile in 2003, the U.S. contracted DynCorp International to demobilize and rebuild the Armed Forces of Liberia and Ministry of Defense; the first time in 150 years that one sovereign nation hired a private company to raise another sovereign nation’s military. This monograph explores the theory and practice behind the successful disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of the legacy military and security sector reform (SSR) that built the new one. It also considers some of the benefits and difficulties of contracting out the making of militaries. This is significant since the private sector will probably participate increasingly in security sector reform. The monograph concludes with 28 concrete recommendations for practitioners and 6 recommendations for the U.S. Army on how to expand this capability. Finally, this monograph is written by a practitioner for practitioners.