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:
- Rebalance U.S. engagement with African countries so that it is more proactive than reactive.
- Establish multi-year funding authorities for building partner capacity programs.
- Address the deficient capabilities of African law enforcement personnel.
- Continue to support regional and sub-regional mechanisms for conflict resolution.
- 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!
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)
(Originally published in World Politics Review on February 5, 2013)
Across the globe, partner capacity-building through steady-state theater security cooperation plays an increasingly important role in the forward defense posture of the United States. The Defense Department’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review identifies building the security capacity of partner states as a key mission, while the 2010 National Security Strategy argues that the United States can advance its national security by enabling partner states to prevent, deter and respond to transnational security challenges before they pose a threat to U.S. citizens, interests or the homeland. Moreover, at a time of budgetary constraints, partner capacity-building through theater security cooperation can be a means for sharing the cost and responsibility of responding to global security challenges, thus reducing the burden on U.S. resources and military personnel.
Throughout an area of responsibility that includes 53 countries, theater security cooperation is a core function for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). With an emphasis on promoting military professionalism, improving operational capabilities and facilitating regional cooperation, AFRICOM seeks to build the capacity of African militaries to prevent conflict as well as lead military responses to emerging crises if necessary, thus preventing transnational threats from transcending the African continent. Theater security cooperation also increases the likelihood that partner nations will allow U.S. forces peacetime and contingency access, which can be a critical enabler for missions such as the recent noncombatant evacuation operation from the U.S. Embassy in Bangui, Central African Republic, or countering piracy off the coast of Somalia.
(Read the rest of the article on the World Politics Review website)
I almost hesitate to add another voice to the “U.S. Africa policy in a (insert presidential candidate here) Administration” debate, but here goes:
Since the release in June of this year of the U.S. Strategy Towards Sub-Saharan Africa, there have been many critiques of the Obama Administration’s Africa policy. Indeed, at first glance, my assessment was that the policy that was released in June 2012 was a longer, better-formatted version of the talking points the President and his Africa team rolled out in 2009. A less skeptical Lesley on Africa now wonders if the document was released not to check a box (like, hey Africa, we’re still thinking about you), but rather to set the groundwork for a (slightly) increased focus on Africa in a possible second administration.
If we go back to 2009, the President had been lauded both for going to Africa early in his term and for not making it a multi-country Africa tour, but integrating a stop in Ghana as part of a larger international trip. The phrase the Administration used at the time was that Africa was not a world apart, but part of the world. Those aspects of that trip set him apart from his two immediate predecessors, although you could hardly argue that President Obama did nearly as much for the continent as Presidents Clinton and Bush 43. (By the way, for really excellent critiques of the Obama Administration’s Africa policy and recommendations on the direction U.S. Africa policy should take, read Laura Seay and Todd Moss. Stellar pieces, really.)
That said, it’s quite simple to understand why President Obama focused on Africa much less than his predecessors. When he took office, the global economy was in meltdown, the U.S. was trying to extract itself from Iraq, develop an interagency Af-Pak strategy, and deal with your run-of-the-mill national security threats – nuclear North Korea and Iran, AQAP in Yemen, and hey, what happens if the state of Pakistan collapses and non-state actors get their hands on loose nukes? And keep in mind this was all before the Arab Spring and its fallout across the Middle East and the Sahel. So from a purely global security perspective, I understand why Africa was relatively neglected.
Another factor, which I haven’t seen discussed as much was the domestic constraint on President Obama due to rumors from the “Birther” movement that he was born in Kenya and was actually a Muslim (gasp!). One could argue that an American President who needed to get re-elected would only be adding fuel to the fire of these rumors if he focused on Africa too much or visited the continent more than he did. That said, as a President who will not be eligible for re-election in 2016, he may not be constrained by those same inhibitors. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, if the President has the bandwidth to increase the United States’ focus on Africa in the next four years and actually wishes to do so, I think he has more latitude than he did in his first administration.