Armed Forces of Liberia

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The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are the armed forces of the Republic of Liberia. Founded as the Liberian Frontier Force in 1908, the military was retitled in 1956. For virtually all of its history, the AFL has received considerable materiel and training assistance from the United States. For most of the 1941–89 period, training was largely provided by U.S. advisers, though this assistance has not prevented the same generally low levels of effectiveness common to most of the armed forces in the developing world.

For most of the Cold War, the AFL saw little action, apart from a reinforced company group which was sent to ONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1960s. This changed with the advent of the First Liberian Civil War in 1989. The AFL became entangled in the conflict, which lasted from 1989 to 1996–97, and then the Second Liberian Civil War, which lasted from 1999 to 2003.

The AFL is in the process of being reformed and retrained after being completely demobilized following the second civil war. The AFL currently consists of two infantry battalions, and a small Liberian National Coast Guard, which is being reformed. The Liberian Government has requested that a Nigerian Army officer serve as head of the military during the transitional period.


Legal standing

The New National Defense Act of 2008 was approved on August 21, 2008. It repeals the National Defense Act of 1956, the Coast Guard Act of 1959, and the Liberian Navy Act of 1986. The duties and functions of the AFL are officially stated as follows:[1]

  • Section 2.3(a): The primary mission of the AFL shall be to defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Liberia, including land, air and maritime territory, against external aggressions, insurgency, terrorism and encroachment. In addition thereto the AFL shall respond to natural disasters and engage in other civic works as may be required or directed.
  • Section 2.3(b): The AFL shall also participate in international peacekeeping peace enforcement and other by the UN, the AU, ECOWAS, MRU, and/or all international institutions of which Liberia may be a member. All such activities shall be undertaken only upon authorization of the President of Liberia with the consent of the Legislature.
  • Section 2.3(c): The AFL shall provide command, communications, logistical, medical, transportation, and humanitarian support to the civil authority in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, outbreak of disease, or epidemic. Such assistance shall be authorized by the President of Liberia.
  • Section 2.3(d): The AFL shall assist civil authorities in search, rescue, and saving of life on land, sea, or air; such assistance shall be authorized by the President for immediate response by specialized search and rescue units in conjunction with other Government Ministries and Agencies.
  • Section 2.3(e): The duties of the AFL in peacetime shall include support to the national law enforcement agencies when such support is requested and approved by the President. Such support shall include exchange of information, personnel training, and mobilization and deployment of security contingents. At no time during peacetime however, shall the AFL engage in law enforcement within Liberia, such function being the prerogative of the Liberia National Police and other law enforcement agencies. Notwithstanding, the Military Police of the AFL may, on request of the Ministry of Justice made to the Ministry of National Defense, and approved by the President of Liberia, provide assistance to these law enforcement agencies as determined by prevailing situations. The AFL shall intervene only as a last resort, when the threat exceeds the capability of the law enforcement agencies to respond.

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