Last week, Nigeria announced the creation of an Army Special Operations Command (NASOC) at a Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency Lessons Learned Exchange between the United States and Nigeria. I’d been tracking developments with regard to bilateral security cooperation and had heard about the creation of NASOC when I was in Nigeria last summer, which is why this announcement piqued my interest. According to the Nigerian Army’s Chief of Transformation and Innovation, NASOC would be a “low density high level strategic utility force capable of conducting direct action at low visibility operations. NASOC operation will be governed by precision of conduct, accuracy timely, speed and execution, surprise to keep any adversary off balance while in special operations.” (I’m not gonna lie – I have no clue what this quote actually means, but I digress.)
The announcement of the NASOC preceded President Goodluck Jonathan’s sacking of some of his Chiefs of Defence (the equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States) a few days later. As part of this reshuffle, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, took over from Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim as Chief of Defence Staff (position equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the U.S.), Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu took over for Badeh as Chief of Air Staff (position equivalent to the Air Force Chief of Staff in the U.S.), Major General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah took over for Lieutenant General Azubike O. Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff (position equivalent to the Army Chief of Staff in the U.S.), and Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin took over from Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba as Chief of Naval Staff (position equivalent to the Chief of Naval Operations in the U.S.). Air Marshal Badeh, the new Chief of Defence Staff, hails from Adamawa state, which is one of three Nigerian states (the others being Borno and Yobe states) in which President Jonathan had declared a Boko Haram-related state of emergency that is set to expire in April 2014, unless it is renewed for a second time. At the moment, I do not know what, if any correlation there is between the Chiefs of Defence reshuffle and the establishment of NASOC to counter the Boko Haram insurgency.
Through U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM), U.S. Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA), and the Office of Security Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, the United States will be helping stand up the NASOC by providing training and a limited amount of equipment. From the information I have, it sounds like NASOC will have a force up North to deal with Boko Haram, a force in the South to deal with security in the Niger Delta, a Headquarters force to focus on hostage rescue, and an expeditionary force for external use – perhaps to contribute specialized capabilities for peacekeeping operations. Unfortunately, I don’t know the precise size of NASOC or of its component forces.
One reason U.S. support to establish NASOC is significant is that I have not gotten the sense that the U.S. military had as strong service-to-service relations with the Nigerian military as it would like, and working with them to establish NASOC provides opportunities to strengthen the army-to-army relationship. In addition, as a new command, NASOC will need to create military units from scratch, which avoids some of the tensions surrounding Leahy vetting that have impeded bilateral security cooperation as a result of the Nigerian government’s heavy-handed approach to Boko Haram in the North. (The Leahy Amendment requires that partner nation military units that receive U.S. security assistance are vetted to ensure that they have not been implicated in gross human rights violations.) Just to give you an example of the extent to which allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian military had recently affected Leahy vetting:
One of the ways the United States provides security assistance to Nigeria and other countries on the African continent is through Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA), which trains partner nation militaries to participate in peacekeeping operations. You may recall that during the first six months of 2013, Nigeria contributed approximately 1/6 of the troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) before they had to withdraw most of their troops in July. These troops likely received ACOTA training prior to their deployment. In April, Human Rights Watch published satellite imagery from the town of Baga in Borno State, showing 2,275 destroyed and 125 severely damaged buildings, and asking the Nigerian government to investigate allegations that soldiers carried out widespread destruction and killing in the town. Although the Baga incident was just one of many allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram, my understanding is that most military units rotate personnel through northern Nigeria, and as a result, Nigerian military units were becoming tainted by association as far as Leahy vetting goes. As a result, Nigeria’s domestic handling of Boko Haram was raising questions over whether the United States would be able to support Nigerian troop contributions to Mali and other peacekeeping missions.
Thus to bring us back to the establishment of NASOC and the U.S. military’s support for this effort – will the newly-created “clean” NASOC units be able to avoid the human rights violations that have restricted the space for U.S. military engagement with their non-special forces counterparts?
This is a month overdue, but in case you missed it, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) General David Rodriguez held an online press conference on U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa. You can find a video with closed captioning on YouTube and remarks on the State Department’s website. U.S. Embassies in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia held watch parties and sent in questions for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and General Rodriguez to answer. I also tuned in and submitted a question on how the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 23 on Security Sector Assistance, announced in April 2013, would affect security assistance in the AFRICOM Area of Responsibility (AoR). In my opinion, PPD-23 had gone under the radar for several months, and I was genuinely interested in how the policy directive may or may not be influencing the evolution of U.S. security assistance in Africa. Oddly enough, it was the only question from the chat room that wasn’t answered during the session.
Anyway, if you look at the wording of PPD-23, it seems rather straightforward and, to be quite honest, mundane. According to PPD-23, the principal goals of U.S. security sector assistance are to:
- Help partner nations build sustainable capacity to address common security challenges.
- Promote partner support for U.S. interests, through cooperation on national, regional, and global priorities.
- Promote universal values, such as good governance, transparent and accountable oversight of security forces, rule of law, transparency, accountability, delivery of fair and effective justice, and respect for human rights.
- Strengthen collective security and multinational defense arrangements and organizations.
The policy guidelines for Security Sector Assistance are to:
- Ensure consistency with broader national security goals.
- Foster United States Government policy coherence and interagency collaboration.
- Build sustainable capacity through comprehensive sector strategies.
- Be more selective and use resources for the greatest impact.
- Be responsive to urgent crises, emergent opportunities, and changes in partner security environments.
- Ensure that short-term interventions are consistent with long term goals.
- Inform policy with rigorous analysis, assessments, and evaluations.
- Analyze, plan, and act regionally.
- Coordinate with other donors.
But going back to my earlier comment about the PPD being mundane, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what the PPD says isn’t as significant as what the PPD represents – a high-level forcing mechanism to 1) improve the way in which U.S. government agencies provide foreign (security) assistance and 2) clarify and expand upon what the government understands to be “security sector assistance.”
For example, on the first point, interagency and international donor coordination have always been implied when it comes to security assistance. Yet, the fact that there’s a high-level policy directive spelling out why this is important and in what sectors coordination should take place serves to force (or more realistically, will) this cooperation to improve.
On the second point, PPD-23 emphasizes that building partner nation capacity in the public safety, security, and justice sectors remains an area of focus to the Administration. You can see previous references to building partner capacity in the 2010 National Security Strategy under “Invest in the Capacity of Strong and Capable Partners.” However, note the expanded reference to the sectors the U.S. seeks to develop according to PPD-23: ” Security sector actors include state security and law enforcement providers, governmental security and justice management and oversight bodies, civil society, institutions responsible for border management, customs and civil emergencies, and non-state justice and security providers.” I have always believed that the 2010 NSS expands the concept of “security” when compared with previous National Security Strategies. Now, when compared with the 2010 NSS, it appears that PPD-23 has expanded the concept of Security Sector Assistance.
In any event, I look forward to seeing what any of this means for U.S. security assistance in Africa – if anything at all.
This is a guest post by Mikenna Maroney, a MA Candidate in International Security at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She is currently a David L. Boren Fellow in Tanzania studying Swahili language and conducting research for her MA thesis on AFRICOM. Ms. Maroney seeks additional contacts with expertise on Tanzanian security policy, and can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2008 due to growing awareness of Africa’s strategic significance to U.S. interests and international security. AFRICOM was presented as a new type of combatant command that would address traditional and human security threats through a pioneering interagency approach and structure, in addition to partner capacity building. AFRICOM would integrate significant numbers of personnel from the State Department, USAID, and other interagency organizations. U.S. officials asserted this would allow the command to address the root causes and, ultimately, prevent conflict and instability.
The creation of AFRICOM, the complexity of its mission, and the threats present in the region give rise to questions regarding AFRICOM’s impact in executing U.S. national security policy in Africa, addressing human security issues, and its ability to foster a positive image of itself and U.S. national security policy. To explore these issues, my Master’s thesis research is a case study of Tanzania. I chose Tanzania as a case study on AFRICOM because I felt that it is an often overlooked actor in the East African security environment. I was also interested in examining how AFRICOM currently engages with African states not engaged in an ongoing conflict and its ability to foster bi-lateral relations with a state that has, at times, had a strained relationship with the U.S.
While often overshadowed by neighboring states Tanzania’s long-standing stability, history of mediating regional conflicts (most notably the Burundian civil war), contributions to peacekeeping missions, and hosting of regional and international organization such as the East African Community (EAC) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), make it an important actor in the often volatile East Africa region. Yet Tanzania faces similar threats as its neighbors including illicit narcotic trafficking, piracy, and terrorism. Tanzania also faces pervasive threats to human security. As one of the world’s poorest countries, economic development fails to reach the majority of the population, resulting in poor health and education systems, as well as the world’s 12th highest HIV/AIDS infection rate.
A strategic U.S.-Tanzanian relationship is critical for countering the threats Tanzania faces and bolstering the country’s capacity to address ongoing regional conflicts and humanitarian crises. This research seeks to answer three questions: What is the impact of AFRICOM in executing U.S. national security policy in Tanzania? How and to what extent has AFRICOM addressed the conditions of human insecurity? Does AFRICOM foster a positive public perception within Tanzania?
The initial findings have shown that Tanzania extensively engages with AFRICOM through its security cooperation programs and exercises. Former AFRICOM Commander Gen. Carter Ham singled out this partnership in his recent remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee stating, “We are deepening our relationship with the Tanzanian military, a professional force whose capabilities and influence increasingly bear on regional security issues in eastern and southern Africa and the Great Lakes region.” Indeed, Tanzania’s contribution of troops to the recently authorized UN offensive combat force in Eastern Congo illustrates the important peace and security role the country plays in the region and the necessity of its military having the capacity to fulfill this role.
In terms of how and to what extent AFRICOM addresses Tanzania’s human security issues, this research has found the command’s activities fit those of a more traditional combatant command; emphasizing military-to-military partner capacity building and engagement. While many of AFRICOM’s programs (MEDCAP, Partner Military HIV/AIDS, Pandemic Response, and VETCAP) focus on human security related issues, they are directed at the Tanzanian military. Regarding public perceptions, Tanzanians have more knowledge and interest than I was led to believe would be the case with public opinion of AFRICOM oscillating between negative and neutral.
Tanzania faces significant security threats both internally and regionally. Although these initial findings have not found that AFRICOM is addressing human security issues in the broader population, AFRICOM is building the Tanzanian military’s capacity to address and prevent instability and conflict, serving Tanzanian, regional, and U.S. security interests.
During General Ham’s appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) earlier this week, he delivered prepared testimony and responded to questions posed to him by members of the committee. (You can find the archived webcast of hearing here.) Most of the questions concerned AFRICOM’s posture for crisis response operations, which I covered in an earlier blog post, and the projected impact of sequestration on AFRICOM’s missions. Here’s a few points I found interesting:
At several points of the hearing, there were discussions centered around the need for the Department of Defense (DoD) to determine how, in an era of budget cuts, the military should be postured to respond to crises on the continent.
- When asked how AFRICOM could increase response time while maintaining a relatively small footprint, General Ham responded that we (I’m unclear if he was referring to the United States in general or AFRICOM in particular) are much better at prevention than response. He further stated that prevention is much cheaper, but necessitates a better understanding of the operating environment - hence the preoccupation with increasing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
- Earlier in the hearing, General Ham had been asked about reductions in flight hours that have already resulted from sequestration, and have impacted the Command’s ISR capabilities. In his response, he mentioned that most operations are funded by the services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations) through their components of AFRICOM. Two of these components, U.S. Air Forces, Africa (USAFAF) and U.S. Naval Forces, Africa (USNAVAF), have had to constrain their flight operations due to service component funding challenges. General Ham further explained that he’d asked the USAFAF commander to maintain the component’s transport aircraft in a heightened alert posture so that they could move crisis response forces more readily. This, however, requires that the component sustain flight crews on a heightened alert posture, which cuts into normal training and sustainment flights. As a result, the component was having trouble funding both requirements. Similarly, the Navy has had to decrease the frequency of some of its operational reconnaissance flights – again because of the inability to fund its normal flight operations.
General Ham was asked if he was seeing the financial impact of budget cuts on AFRICOM’s U.S. government partners, given that some of AFRICOM’s roles are shared by the State Department, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), etc. He replied that he has seen an impact on the non-Department of Defense (DoD) assets upon which they depend, and implied that if sequestration continued for the balance of the year, that there would be very real consequences on what the State Department would be able to deliver.
When asked about the impact of sequestration on AFRICOM’s ability to train African militaries, General Ham replied that budget cuts may cause some exercises and training to fall by the wayside. A potential upside, however, was that this may lead AFRICOM to seek out opportunities for multinational building partner capacity engagements, since most training has been bilateral. (Here, I’m assuming he was talking about greater collaboration with European allies in Africa.) He also said that with sequestration, DoD may need to revisit last January’s Defense Strategic Guidance.
Finally, a member of the SASC asked if sequestration would precipitate a shift in AFRICOM’s strategy, General Ham replied that he didn’t believe such a shift would give primacy to the use of U.S. forces in military interventions. He explained that although it may be faster to use U.S. military forces, the use of such forces would be counterintuitive because it would ultimately increase the long-term the demands on the U.S. military. The current building partner capacity approach, on the other hand, allows the United States to rely on other nations, thus reducing the demand for U.S. forces.
There were some other interesting parts of the hearing that did not directly relate to crisis response operations or sequestration, but I’ll sum those up in another post later this week.
Yesterday, General Carter Ham, outgoing Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) regarding the programs and budget needed to meet current and future requirements within the AFRICOM area of responsibility (AoR). This was General Ham’s last testimony to the SASC in this position, as General David Rodriguez has been confirmed as General Ham’s replacement. (You can find General Rodriguez’s responses to advance policy questions from his confirmation hearing last month here.)
Since AFRICOM’s last posture statement in early March 2012, much has transpired in the AoR – from the coup in Mali and the subsequent de facto partition of the country to the defection of M23 from the FARDC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi to the relative improvement in the security situation in Somalia. In light of these developments, I’d been looking forward to reading General Ham’s prepared testimony - yet what I found even more interesting were the questions that various Senators on the SASC asked during Q & A. (See archived webcast of hearing here.)
The majority of the questions were centered on the themes of AFRICOM’s posture for crisis response operations and the impact of sequestration on AFRICOM’s missions. Here’s a few points I found interesting:
On Crisis Response operations:
At times, the testimony was another round of inquiry about what happened in Benghazi, what AFRICOM’s responsibility actually was within the chain of command to prevent and respond to threats against American interests in Libya, what the Commander’s reaction was as the attack unfolded, and what assets were, or could have been, nearby to help save the lives of the four Americans that were killed. But I think the takeaway – not just from this hearing, but from the political fallout from the Benghazi attack – is that there is a clear demand signal for AFRICOM to have a more robust crisis response posture so that it is better able to protect U.S. citizens and U.S. interests on the continent. Accordingly, General Ham spoke of AFRICOM’s efforts to build a theater response capability that would improve the Command’s ability to respond to crises in North, East, and West Africa.
- He spoke of the Commander’s in-extremis force (CIF), which AFRICOM received in October 2012, although it had been in the planning pipeline prior to the attack in Benghazi. This is a rapid reaction force based in Fort Carson, CO that has a rotational element that is forward deployed in Europe. Although General Ham said that having a designated CIF was a significant improvement over sharing one with EUCOM, it still does not have all of its crisis response enablers, such as intelligence and aviation support.
- He spoke of a new Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) that has not been formally approved, but would be specifically tailored for crisis response operations. This was a bit confusing to me because there’s been a SPMAGTF designated for Africa working out of Sigonella, Italy. My understanding is that among its tasks were to conduct theater security cooperation activities and maintain readiness for crisis response operations. But if there is indeed a new SPMAGTF, I wonder it it is replacing the existing MAGTF or if it is an additional MAGTF whose sole duty is to be ready to respond to crises on the continent. Additional details from AFRICOM, MARFORAF (Marine Corps component of AFRICOM), or Marine Corps HQ could help clarify this issue.
- Finally, he spoke of the Army’s Regionally-Aligned Brigade that is supposed to carry out security cooperation activities across the continent on a rotational basis from Fort Riley, KS, but can be operationalized for crisis response if the Commander receives approval from the Secretary of Defense.
In terms of posture for crisis response operations, General Ham spoke of having a response capability with elements based in Djibouti (presumably at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa) that could respond to crises in East Africa, one in southern Europe that could respond to crises in across northern Africa, and another in a site to be determined that would be principally focused on crisis response in West Africa. (Note: I would flag the precise wording in the webcast on this point. While the wording is vague about the location of the West Africa response element, it does not explicitly say it would be based in West Africa. If it were up to me, I’d have them establish a rotational presence out of Naval Station Rota in Spain. And if they did need to be on the continent, I’d have them rotate in and out of Burkina Faso, Ghana, or Senegal.)
The discussion of a more robust posture for crisis response operations in the AFRICOM AoR begged the question of how the U.S. military will be able to resource these requirements, which leads me to the next theme – sequestration’s projected impact on AFRICOM missions.
(TO BE CONTINUED)