Category Archives: U.S. Africa Strategy

U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa (& musings on PPD-23)

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.

Lesley on Africa attends DAWN Weekend

DAWN-6th-ALAC-Flyer-660x360

Dear Readers,

This weekend, I attended the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN) 6th Annual Leadership Awards and had a blast meeting fellow DAWNers and supporters of DAWN. DAWN’s mission is to develop and support the next generation of African diaspora women leaders focused on African affairs by promoting the role of the diaspora in Africa’s development, diversifying the African affairs workforce, and advancing women’s leadership in the workplace. At the reception, DAWN handed out three awards:

The reception provided some very interesting food for thought, as I became involved in a sidebar on how the United States underutilizes its African-born, U.S.-educated population – many of whom maintain familial and commercial links with the continent - in its efforts to engage politically and economically on the continent. But I’ve digressed and shall leave it to a diaspora expert to expand upon how the U.S. could better leverage this talent pool.

The next day, DAWN held a conference whose theme was “Looking Ahead: Investing in Diaspora Leadership Today.” DAWN’s Founder and Executive Director Semhar Araia reminded participants that the African Union has recognized the African Diaspora as the “Sixth Region” of Africa. (The other five regions being North, South, East, West, and Central Africa).  With this recognition comes the acceptance that the diaspora is more than remittances; it can also wield political and professional capital.

So in sum: I had a fantastic DAWN Weekend and really enjoyed meeting the truly talented women that contribute to this organization. As a relatively new DAWNer, I look forward to being a part of DAWN and DAWNers’ contributions to the field of African Affairs. (DAWN is a global organization and it’s continuing to grow, so if you’re not already a member, join today!)

Lesley on Africa LOVES Fieldwork (or In Praise of Fieldwork)

As the title of this post so emphatically declares, I love when my projects require fieldwork. I’m working on a project in FY13 that has had me traveling to African Country A (Niger), African Country B (Chad), African Country C (Mali), African Country D (Senegal), African Country E (Morocco), African Country F (Algeria) and African Country G (Nigeria). (I’m currently in African Country H and am traveling to African Country I in early September.) And because of my fieldwork, I’m being forced to learn more about these countries and the United States’ relationship with them.

I love doing fieldwork not because I enjoy the unending abuse from Delta/Air France, but rather because I’m a hands-on learner. On this project and the others that preceded it, I’ve found that the assumptions I had before conducting fieldwork were contradicted, or my understanding of how a process did or did not work became more nuanced. I’ve learned, as government-types like to put it, how the sausage is made, and why said sausage sometimes comes out as a cob of corn to the dismay of the people responsible for designing and implementing programs. There is very little that can substitute for this type of learning experience.

Here’s an example of the types of things I’ve learned during my fieldwork in various African countries. Out of necessity, this description is in the abstract and combines the characteristics of multiple countries:

The United States sees the extremist Prophet’s Revolutionary Militia (PRM) as a threat and makes countering the PRM a focus of its programs in the neighboring African countries of Azania and Matobo. However various U.S. government agencies perceive the PRM threat differently and can’t agree on a comprehensive approach. State is concerned about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, while DoD believes the U.S. isn’t doing enough to counter the threat. Dissenters from both agencies believe the PRM isn’t even the right threat to be countering, and that U.S. programs should have a more comprehensive approach to support state stability. However, Azania and Matobo are marginal to global U.S. strategic interests, and a more comprehensive approach reeks of nation-building à la Iraq & Afghanistan. No thank you.

All U.S. government agencies are on the same page about working with the government of Azania because it has a history of democratic transitions, there’s freedom of the press, and the military has a close, longstanding relationship with the U.S. In Matobo, it’s a different story. The State Department is reluctant to work with the government of Matobo, which is a corrupt, nepotist dictatorship. The Defense Department, however, sees Matobo as a key counterterrorism ally and would like to increase military assistance, but State is concerned about governance, human rights, and upsetting the local balance of power within the country. The difference of U.S. government views on Matobo creates discord between State and DoD, whereas interagency relations with regard to Azania are much smoother.

The U.S. government wants Azania and Matobo to increase regional security cooperation to go after the PRM. Yet, Azania and Matobo are reluctant to work together to counter the PRM because the former believes the latter’s military intelligence leaks like a sieve and there are whispers that people in the Matobolese government have a tacit agreement not to go after the extremist group. In addition, Azania and Matobo have historical animosities due to Azania’s support for the independence movement in the Zangaro region of Matobo. This is why when the U.S. tries to hold multilateral exercises or regional conferences geared towards facilitating regional security cooperation that are held in either country, Azania will invite everyone but Matobo, and vice versa. This refusal to work together persists even though the PRM is increasingly gaining revenue from smuggling along the Azania-Matobo border.

Although limited by State’s resistance to military engagement, DoD conducts minimal training in Matobo. However, they routinely have to change their security cooperation plans if an exercise is planned when the dictator is in Europe receiving medical treatment. This is because no military assets are allowed to move if he is out of the country – this is how he prevents a coup. Engagement is also delayed by requirements to do Leahy vetting for each unit. In a country like Azania that has a long history of military professionalism this is not a problem, but the majority of units in the Matobolese military have been accused of involvement in the country’s three most recent coups, as well as of human rights violations within the disputed territory of Zangaro – even though the Zangaro incidents happened 20 years ago and didn’t involve the current soldiers in the tainted units. On top of this, Matobo is not great at keeping records, so it’s difficult for the U.S. to ascertain who was and was not involved in these violations. And on top of that, there’s a dispute within various elements of the U.S. government as to whether these units were involved in these violations. And on top of that, the dictator recently attempted to change the constitution to stay in power another 5 years, so the military just deposed him and intends to support a transition to democracy in 9 months. Since this is technically an unconstitutional change of government, all U.S. military assistance has been cut off.

The money originally designated for Matobo is reprogrammed to help Azania develop more robust border security, but both the Embassy and the Azanian security forces have a problem with absorptive capacity. Since Azania is a permissive environment for government & NGO programs and has few mechanisms to coordinate and deconflict these programs, funds obligated for Azania are not spent until two fiscal years later. In addition, donor nations eventually discover that they have parallel training programs that are training the Azanians on conflicting doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

The current Azanian president is very receptive to receiving more specialized military training from the U.S. However, the U.S. wants to train Azanian forces to go after the extremist PRM, while the Azanian government sees the PRM as more of a U.S. and European problem. Plus, everyone knows the PRM has a safe haven in Matobo from which they launch attacks into Azania, and the Azanians are annoyed that Matobo isn’t pulling its weight in countering the PRM. To complicate matters, the Azanian force designated for U.S. training is not well resourced by the Azanian government because they only have a Captain in charge of their unit. Other Azanian security forces, which may have overlapping missions and compete for influence, have Brigadier Generals in charge and they have the background and political capital to ensure that their forces are well resourced. For these reasons, the force led by the Captain stays in a training cycle and never becomes an operational force that can operate independent of U.S. assistance. Therefore, specialized training never takes root in Azania.

Oh and guess what. There’s been an election and the new Azanian president was indicted by the ICC for his alleged incitement of violence during a previous election cycle, so security cooperation is now experiencing a “strategic pause.” The Azanians have wisely anticipated that U.S. military assistance has strings attached and they’ve recently diversified their security cooperation relationships. They now receive most of their training from European Country X and Asian Country Y.

Hopefully, this little story gives you a sense of the types of factors I’ve come to understand better once I see them in play :)

Comments on President Obama’s Africa trip & US-Africa relations published in Think Africa Press

Today, President Obama kicks off his second visit to Africa as since becoming president, and will be visiting Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania over the course of the next week. Accordingly, Thomas Tieku, Mwangi Kimenyi, Cobus van Staden, Witney Schneidman, and I are featured in Think Africa Press’ Experts Weekly: What Next for US-Africa Relations?

My comments in particular refer to the emphasis the Administration placed before the President’s visit to the continent in 2009 on including Ghana in a multi-region tour that included Russia and the G8 in Italy to demonstrate that Africa was ‘not a world apart, but a part of our interconnected world.’ (See the reference to this concept in the full text of his July 2009 Ghana speech). Four years later, this emphasis has been lost. Check out the rest of what I have to say about the significance of the President’s visit, as well as the contributions of my colleagues!

Advancing Peace and Security in Africa

The Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings has just published a new report – “Top Five Reasons Why Africa Should Be a Priority for the United States.” The format of the report is as follows (and includes a contribution from yours truly):

  • Introduction: Why Africa Matters to the United States by Mwangi Kimenyi
  • Advancing Peace and Security in Africa by Lesley Anne Warner
  • China in Africa: Implications for U.S. Competition and Diplomacy by Yun Sun
  • Key Sub-Saharan Energy Trends and their Importance for the U.S. by John P. Banks
  • Transforming the U.S.-Africa Commercial Relationship by Witney Schneidman
  • U.S. Development Assistance and Sub-Saharan Africa: Opportunities for Engagement by George Ingram and Steven Rocker

In my section on Advancing Peace and Security in Africa, I argue that the United States should:

  1. Rebalance U.S. engagement with African countries so that it is more proactive than reactive.
  2. Establish multi-year funding authorities for building partner capacity programs.
  3. Address the deficient capabilities of African law enforcement personnel.
  4. Continue to support regional and sub-regional mechanisms for conflict resolution.
  5. Use ongoing insecurity in the Sahel as an impetus to re-evaluate the scope of U.S. military engagement on the continent.

Hope you get a chance to take a look at both the remainder of my section and those of my fellow contributors!

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