Posts tagged ‘Africa’
A Great Man’s Passing
Nelson Mandela, a boxer turned lawyer who fought for freedom and justice in his homeland and became the first black president of South Africa, has died.
Mandela, 95, passed away Thursday (December 5) at home in Johannesburg after years of declining health.
After 27 years in prison for battling the racist apartheid government in South Africa, Mandela was released in 1990, at age 72, following worldwide pressure on the white government in Pretoria. Mandela went on to become South Africa’s first president of color in the country’s first free, multi-racial elections in 1994.
He led the racially-polarized nation to reconciliation after years of brutality and injustice during apartheid. Mandela stepped aside after serving one five-year term, saying it was time for others to lead. It was a seldom-followed example for other African leaders.
Called “the father of his nation” by his many admirers, Mandela was praised by President Barack Obama. Mandela was mourned across Africa and praised by world leaders and ordinary people.
Central African Republic
The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved on Thursday (December 5) the deployment of French and African troops in the Central African Republic, where a coup in March has dissolved into chaos and violence, CNN reports.
The Security Council also voted to impose an arms embargo on the CAR, which lies east of Cameroon and north of the Democratic Republic of Congo (see map).
France’s president, Francois Hollande, says a French-led operation to protect civilians in the CAR will be launched immediately following the latest outbreak of sectarian fighting, according to the BBC. Hollande said a contingent of 650 troops will be “doubled within a few days, if not a few hours.” The French troops, under U.N. auspices, will join up with an existing African peacekeeping force.
Hollande said the the French role will be different from the one mounted in Mali, where French and African troops hunted down Islamist militants in the desert. Instead, they will act more like gendarmes, separating violent factions, the BBC reported. The CAR’s prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye welcomed the move, the BBC said.
Meanwhile, a senior crisis response adviser for the human rights group, Amnesty International, expressed concern about the security situation in the CAR following the clashes between rival armed groups in the capital, Bangui, the Voice of America reported.
An official with the medical relief group, Doctors Without Borders, told the New York Times that at least 50 people have been killed in the fighting, with 100 others wounded. Other reports put the death toll at around 100, the Times reported.
Threat Rises in Afghanistan
A United Nations official says aid workers in Afghanistan are under an increasing threat in the war wracked country as most U.S. troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year.
Nine Afghan aid workers were killed in separate attacks on two days last month. Suspected Taliban gunmen killed six aid workers in northern Faryab province (see map) November 27. An explosive device killed three other aid workers in southern Uruzgan province the previous day, the Voice of America website reported.
An October report from the Aid Workers Security Database identified Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for aid workers, VoA added.
Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a statement Saturday (November 30) that he’s “extremely concerned” about the rise in attacks on civilian aid workers during a time of transition when Afghanistan soldiers and police will be taking over security responsibilities from U.S. and NATO coalition forces.
“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.
“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.
According to Bowen, there were 237 attacks on Afghanistan’s aid workers through November – with 36 people killed, 46 wounded and 96 detained or abducted. Last year, there were 175 attacks, with 11 people killed, 26 wounded and 44 detained or abducted, the New York Times reported.
UN Drones Patrol Congo Skies
U.N. Peacekeepers have deployed two unarmed, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor rebel activity near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, the BBC reports.
It is the first time U.N. peacekeepers have deployed a drone bought and paid for by the United Nations – rather than bringing them from their home countries, which Belgian and Irish troops have done in previous African peacekeeping missions.
The drones, two Falcos manufactured by Selex ES, a unit of Italian aerospace contractor Finmeccanica, were launched in the skies over Goma, a citry in the eastern DRC briefly occupied byM23 rebels. The rebels are mostly ethnic Tutsi fighters who were integrated in the DRC Army in 2009, but mutinied in 2012 over their alleged mistreatment by the DRC Army.
More than 800,000 people fled their homes due to the violent revolt, which M23 leaders ended last month after U.N. Peacekeepers took the gloves off and pursued an offensive against the rebel group.
The drones will be used to see if any neighboring countries are supplying the rebel militia. Both Rwanda and Uganda have denied aiding the M23 rebels. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the BBC that if successful in the DRC, the Falco UAVs could be used in other U.N. Peacekeeping missions.
AROUND AFRICA: Joseph Kony Surrender Talk; Nigeria vs. Boko Haram, Swedish Drone on East African Anti-pirate Patrol
End of the Road for LRA Leader?
Is he really sick? Does he seriously want to surrender? Those were the questions swirling around Joseph Kony, leader of the infamous, brutal rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. An African Union official told reporters at United Nations headquarters Wednesday (November 20) that many reports say Kony – who has been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court – is seriously ill and on the run along the borders of Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), according to the Associated Press.
Ambassador Francisco Madeira told reporters the nature of Kony’s illness isn’t known, but he said Michael Djotodia, president of the Central African Republic (CAR) told him that his people had been in contact with Kony.
A spokesman for Djotodia went even farther, telling the Voice of America that Djotodia has talked with Kony by phone and that Kony said he is ready to put down his arms and come in from the bush.
The spokesman said Kony is in the southern part of the CAR near the Democratic Republic of the Congo with some 7,000 fighters. Past estimates have placed Kony’s troop strength as less than a thousand.
But U.S. Officials are skeptical that Kony means to surrender, the BBC reported. A State Department official told the British broadcaster that while some rebels have been in contact with authorities but Kony is not among them. Kony created the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the 1980s as a popular uprising against the Ugandan government. But the LRA was driven out of Uganda in 2005 and has been wandering between the CAR, the DRC and South Sudan, wreaking havoc, killing villagers and soldiers and abducting children to serve as child soldiers and sex slaves.
A contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces have been advising African troops in the hunt for Kony and the LRA. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for him.
Battling Boko Haram
Lawmakers in Nigeria have approved a six-month extension of a state of emergency declaration in areas of the West African nation where troops are fighting Islamist militants, the Voice of America reports.
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in May, as part of an effort to defeat the violent militant group Boko Haram.
Last week (November 13) the U.S. State Department declared Boko Haram and a splinter group, Ansaru, as foreign terrorist organizations. The U.S. government finding labeled Boko Haram a “militant group with links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)” – al Qaeda’s North African affiliate.
The State Department designation held Boko Haram responsible “for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years – including targeted killings of civilians.” It accused the group of a “brutal campaign” against Nigerian military, government and civilian targets including a September attack that killed more than 160 civilians in Benisheikh and a 2011 suicide bombing at United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, that left 21 dead and dozens injured.
U.S. officials accused Ansaru, a smaller group which split with Boko Haram in January 2012, of attacking the Nigerian military and Western targets like the kidnapping and execution of seven international construction workers earlier this year.
Despite the inroads Nigerian security forces have made against the jihadist group in urban areas, Boko Haram killings and kidnappings have increased in rural areas, says John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations. On the CFR Blog, Africa in Transition, Campbell says there are reports Boko Haram is now targeting – and beheading – truck drivers on the road between Kano and Maiduguri (see map, click to enlarge image) in northeast Nigeria, where the group is trying to impose strict Islamic sharia law.
Horn of Africa
Saab’s Skeldar Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) has been operationally deployed aboard a Spanish naval vessel on anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden off the Horn of Africa, the African defense and security website Defence Web reports.
Skeldar is an unmanned rotary wing short-to-medium range aircraft. Mikael Franzen, director of tactical UAS for the Swedish defense contractor, said the Skeldar V-200 is being operated together with a manned helicopter to extend the ship’s surveillance reach in counter piracy activities by the European Union’s Operation Atalanta anti-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean .
The unmanned helo is based on the Spanish Navy offshore patrol vessel BAM Meteoro. Prior to being deployed in the Atalanta mission, Skeldar unerwent successful sea trials aboard the BAM Relampago in the waters off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Defence Web said.
Money’s Tight but Threats Are Growing
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) may be best known for rescuing pirate captives in and around the Horn of Africa and taking out al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan …
… but that’s only a small part of what the SOF community does, says Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command – which oversees the organization, training and equipping of SOF in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
“Our core competency is understanding this human domain,” McRaven, a Navy SEAL, said during a panel discussion at last month’s Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference in Washington. He was referring to understanding the language, culture, history and human networks of any given battle space before operations begin – whether counter insurgency or hostage rescue.
And that competency will be crucial in future conflicts where landpower intersects with the human and cyber domains, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, another member of the panel discussing the human nature of war and its implications for strategic landpower at AUSA. “Human interaction in a complex environment is going to be key to our success in the future,” Odierno said, noting: “I see SOF as the connective tissue between the [local] population and the conventional forces.”
McRaven has been telling audiences that as threats rise globally – but defense funding dwindles in coming years – SOF is going to have to partner with foreign allies, NATO forces and other agencies within the U.S. government like the State Department to accomplish its missions.
“We have limited resources, we have to figure out where we’re going to apply those resources,” McRaven told the Aspen Institute Security Forum in July. But he noted that working with partners is nothing new to SOF. “The larger part of what we do is help build partner capacity,” McRaven told the Aspen, Colorado conference.
To read more of this article, go to the Institute of Defense and Government Advancement‘s website.
MALI: Journalists Found Slain
Two French radio reporters were found slain in Mali Saturday just hours after they were kidnapped and a website in neighboring Mauritania says an al Qaeda affiliate is claiming responsibility for the murders, Reuters reported.
The dead were identified as Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont. Their bodies were found Saturday (November 2) by a French patrol eight miles (12 kilometers) outside the town of Kidal (see map), where a Tuareg uprising last year plunged Mali into chaos, leading to a coup in the capital Bamako and the occupation of the northern half of the country by militants linked to al-Qaeda.
The news website Sahara Medias said on Wednesday (November 6) it had received a claim of responsibility from al Qaeda’s regional wing for the killing of two journalists.
According to Reuters, a Sahara Medias reporter said a spokesman for a senior regional commander for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had called by satellite phone to read a communique in Arabic. The caller had started by speaking in Tamashek, the language spoken by Tuaregs in northern Mali.
The communique said the killing was just a part of the price France will pay for this year’s military intervention by France, which drove out Islamist militants who had seized half the country.
Meanwhile, Paris says its timetable for withdrawing troops from Mali remains firm despite an upsurge in violence, according to the Voice of America. France has about 3,000 troops in Mali and intends to withdraw about 2,000 of them by year’s end.
The abduction of the two journalists came just days after the liberation of four French hostages in neighboring Niger. The men had been held by AQIM for three years.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists a total of 42 journalists have been killed around the world so far this year, the New York Times reported.
M23 Rebels Give Up
The M23 rebel group in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is ending its insurgency, hours after the government claimed military victory, the BBC reports.
The M23 movement said it would adopt “purely political means” to achieve its goals and urged its fighters to disarm and demobilise. Meanwhile the government says the last remaining rebels had either surrendered or fled the country.
More than 800,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the turbulent region of the DRC since M23 — mostly ethnic Tutsis fighters who were integrated into the DRC Army in 2009 but then mutinied and revolted in 2012 over their alleged mistreatment by the Army.
The rebels announced they would disarm and pursue political talks just hours after government forces drove the rebels out of their last two hilltop bases of Tshanzu and Runyoni, Aljazeera reported. A two-week UN-backed offensive had cornered the rebels in the hills along the border with Uganda and Rwanda.
AROUND AFRICA: Hostages Released, Somali Drone Strike; Kenya Mall Attack Arrests, Another Pirate Attack
(Click on images to enlarge)
Hostages in Niger Freed
French hostages abducted from a uranium mine in Niger in 2010 have been released, French President Francois Hollande announced today (October 29). He said France’s foreign and defence ministers have left for Niger’s capital, Niamey, and the hostages would return home as soon as possible, according to the BBC.
The four men were seized in September 2010 in raids targeting two French firms operating a uranium mine near Arlit, northern Niger. The al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group said it was responsible for the kidnappings.
Drone Targets al Shabab?
A U.S. missile strike destroyed a car in Somalia Monday (October 28) believed to be carrying a top leader of the al Shabab Islamist militant group, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported.
The attack was believed to be launched from an unmanned aircraft, or drone, but that has not been officialy confirmed. If a drone strike in southern Somalia is confirmed, it will further illustrate the increasing importance placed by estern powers on counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, the AP noted. Among the dead in the attack was al Shabab’s top bombmaker, Ibrahim Ali, one of the group’s members told the AP.
Three weeks ago, U.S. Navy SEALS launched an unsuccessful raid at Baraawe on the Somali coast that targeted a Kenyan of Somali origin, known as Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, who went by the name “Ikrimah.” He was identified as the main planner of al-Shabab attack on Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations’
The New York Times noted that the Obama administration has been reluctant to launch drone strikes in Somalia with the regularity it has in Pakistan and Yemen. The Times said that may be in part over whether the U.S. could legally target al Shabaab, which has not tried to attack on American soil. There are also concerns that drone strikes might only incite al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab, transforming the group from a regional organization aimed at driving Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union troops out of Somalia into one with an agenda as violent and international as Al Qaeda’s.
Arrests in Nairobi Mall Looting
Two Kenyan soldiers have been fired – and arrested – for stealing cell phones and other items during last month’s deadly siege at an upscale mall in Nairobi, the Voice of America reported today (Oct. 29).
More than 60 people were killed during the four-day siege at the Westgate shopping center.
Security camera footage showed several soldiers taking things from various shop counters and walking away from stores carrying plastic bags during four-day ordeal.
At first the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the mall’s shops while battling Islamist militants. But after the carnage was over, shopkeepers claimed stores had been looted, including break-ins at automatic teller machines and banks themselves in the mall. Earlier, the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the Westgate shopping center as they battled Islamist militants.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the raid, saying it was retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention into Somalia two years ago. Kenya sent troops to Somalia to help battle al-Shabab, which has been fighting to turn Somalia into a strict Islamist state.
West African Pirates
The new Tom Hanks film, “Captain Phillips” illustrates how dangerous the waters off the coast of East Africa were just a few years ago.
But now the seafarers’ danger zone is on the other side of the continent, in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Christian Science Monitor relates.
While Somalia’s pirates tend to engage in protracted hostage-takings that could stretch for months or even years, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea prefer smash-and-grab operations to steal cargo, according to the Monitor, adding “They especially favor refined oil products like gasoline and diesel that can be sold elsewhere.”
In the latest incident, two American merchant seamen – the captain and chief engineer of the C-Retriever – a 222-foot oil platform supply vessel, were seized by pirates in the waters off Nigeria, where pirate incidents have boomed lately.
The merchant sailors’ whereabouts are currently unknown.
The C-Retriever is owned by the company Edison Chouest Offshore in Louisiana. The ship and 11 other members of the crew were released, the Associated Press reported.
Special Ops in Africa
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) launched two separate raids on terrorists in Africa over the weekend – with mixed results.
In Libya, Delta Force operators and FBI and CIA agents captured a long sought al Qaeda operative and spirited him without incident onto an amphibious Navy transport ship in the Mediterranean for interrogation and eventual trial in federal court in New York.
The objective of the Saturday (Oct. 5) raid was capture of Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai – known as Anas al Libi – who was wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people.
“As a result of the Libya operation, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists was captured and is now in U.S. Custody,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement Sunday (Oct. 6). “Abu Anas al Libi was designated as a global terrorist by Executive Order, was a subject of the U.S. Rewards for Justice Program, and is on the UN Al Qaeda sanctions list. He was also indicted for his alleged role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, and other plots to conduct attacks against U.S. interests,” Hagel added.
The Associated Press reported that members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force l- which has responsibility for counter terrorism operations in North Africa – led the operation against al Libyi. He was taken without incident on the street in front of his house in Tripoli.
In another commando mission on Saturday Navy Seals stormed a beachside compound in Somalia, reportedly to capture another alleged terrorist leader. This time the target was a Kenyan national of Somalia descent, known as Ikrema, a planner for al Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliate based in Somalia, the Voice of America reported.
After a brief firefight outside the compound where Ikrema was thought to be, the SEALs withdrew without casualties. One or two al Shabab fighters are believed to have been killed, according to the AP, which reported the raiders were from SEAL Team 6 which attacked and killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a helicopter raid into Pakistan in 2011.
According to CBS news, Ikrema was planning attacks on Kenya’s parliament building and the U.N. Headquarters in Nairobi. The raid took place just two weeks after a terror attack on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 soldiers and civilians dead. Al Shabab took crfedit for that attack. CBS also said the SEALs called off the mission because there were too many civilians – including children – to call in an airstrike to get Ikrema.
“We will continue to maintain relentless pressure on terrorist groups that threaten our people or our interests, and we will conduct direct action against them, if necessary, that is consistent with our laws and our values,” Hagel said.
At Least 68 Dead
Scores of people were killed and more than a hundred were wounded over the weekend (September 21-22) when armed Islamist militants attacked an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
Police and Kenyan soldiers were still trying to secure the entire four-storey building and locate all hostages early today (Monday) after a night-time assault freed an undetermined number of hostages held by the gunmen, according to the New York Times.
Two groups of gunmen armed with assault weapons and hand grenades attacking the building from two sides Saturday shooting down customers and mall workers. At least 68 people have been reported killed.
Video from Nairobi showed complete chaos as the gunmen shot down men, women and children during the two-day rampage.
The al Qaeda-linked Somali group al Shabaab took credit for the bloody attack saying it was revenge for Kenya’s incursion into Somalia to punish the radical militant group which has launched several attacks on Kenya, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Last year Kenyan authorities said they had disrupted a major plot to attack public areas in Nairobi. Authortities also said they broke up another plot in 2007 to attack Western tourists. Tourism is the second biggest industry in Kenya and a big part of the economy of East Africa.
The scope of the assault on the Westgate Mall — and its “eerie similarities” to the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India by militant gunmen show that al-Shabaab “has taken its ability to strike outside Somalia to a new level,” according to CNN.
AROUND AFRICA: UPDATE — U.N. Drone Deployment Delayed; C.A.R. Militia Disbanded; China’s African Media Buys; Cassava Crop Threatened
U.N. Delays Congo Drone Deployment
U.N. peacekeepers’ plans to deploy an unarmed surveillance drone in the skies over the Democratic Republic of Congo have been delayed until December, Reuters reports.
The United Nations planned to deploy a Falco unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made by Italian defense electronics firm Selex ES (a unit of Finmeccanica) last month in eastern Congo, but unanticipated procurement procedures have caused a delay “until the first days of December,” U.N. Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told a news conference Thursday (Sept. 12).
Congo troops and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling an insurgency by a rebel group known as M23, in the rugged eastern part of the country for more than a year. The rebels defected from the DRC Army in 2012 over alleged mistreatment. Thick forests and few roads have made ground patrolling difficult in the area, which borders Uganda and Rwanda.
The Falco is a medium altitude, medium endurance surveillance platform capable of carrying a range of payloads including several types of high resolution sensors. It will be the first time the U.N. has used a drone for aerial surveillance. If successful, officials and diplomats hope UAVs could be used in peackeeping missions in Ivory Coast and South Sudan. The United States is mounting unarmed drone surveillance of Mali and other strife-torn areas of the Sahel from a base in Niger.
Central African Republic
The president of the Central African Republic says he is disbanding the Seleka rebel group that helped to bring him to power earlier this year, according to the Voice of America. President Michel Djotodia made the announcement Friday (Sept. 13) in the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, saying the rebel coalition “no longer exists.” But he provided no details about steps he would take to dissolve the group.
Recently, fighters from the rebel movement have been blamed for clashes with rival militias as well as a surge in robberies, auto thefts, rapes and murders. The violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
China News in Africa
If there is an “information war” between China and the United States on an African battleground, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested at a congressional committee hearing in 2011, it appears that China is beginning to win the war.
That’s the take away from Canada’s Globe and Mail in a story about Chinese media acquisitions in Africa.
“In South Africa, Chinese investors have teamed up with allies of the ruling African National Congress to purchase Independent News and Media, one of the most powerful media groups in the country, which owns daily newspapers in all of the major cities,” the Toronto-based newspaper reports.
China has been making big investments in African media from newspapers and magazines to satellite television and radio stations, and some observers believe that will allow the People’s Republic to promote its own agenda in the press and counter hostile coverage.
According to another South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, two Chinese companies — China International Television Corporation and China-Africa Development Fund — have acquired a 20 percent stake in Independent News and Media. The Mail & Guardian previously reported that the South African state-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was buying 25 percent of the company, using Government Employee Pension Fund money.
Africa produces 60 percent of the world’s cassava crop, but it’s been drastically declining in East and Central Africa due to two plant diseases that have reduced production, according to the Voice of America.
Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). At least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases.
The FAO says a minimum of $100 million is needed to support clean farm production, disease surveillance and research, and market and micro-finance development across the cassava production chain.
Considering COCOM Consolidation
At the Aspen Security Forum in mid-July, Army Gen. Carter Ham, the recently retired head of U.S. Africa Command said he thought most countries in Africa had a more positive view of the regional command now than when it was created in 2007.
Since then, the military and civilian workers of AFRICOM “have done so much to diminish the fears and anxieties of many African countries,” Ham told your 4GWAR editor during a question & answer session at the four-day conference in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. “We don’t go anywhere without the consent of the host nation government” and the consent of the U.S. ambassador to that nation, he added.
When then-President George W. Bush created the U.S. military’s sixth geographic combatant command there was a pretty large outcry in Africa that this was just another imperialistic move by a Western power seeking to grab all the oil, gold or other natural resources it could. Others saw it as an attempt to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
As an example of the hostility to the concept of U.S. troops in Africa, only one country – Liberia – offered to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, which still remains in Stuttgart, Germany. Many other African nations opposed having a U.S. military presence anywhere on the continent.
But Ham, who was AFRICOM’s second commander, said “many nations – not all – have found it to be in their best interests to have a military-to-military relationship with the U.S. through Africa Command.”
So we were a little surprised when reports began surfacing that AFRICOM might be folded into European Command or one of the other six regional combatant commands as a money-saving venture driven by the budget constraints of sequestration.
Defense News, a Gannett publication, reported August 12 that the Pentagon was considering “a major overhaul” of the commands that could include “dissolving Africa Command” and splitting its responsibilities between European Command, which is also headquartered in Stuttgart, and Central Command, based at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. AFRICOM is responsible for U.S. security, humanitarian and diplomatic operations in all of Africa’s 54 countries, except Egypt, which is overseen by Central Command.
As it says on its website, AFRICOM has four main roles in Africa: to deter and defeat transnational threats; prevent future conflicts; support humanitarian and disaster relief and protect U.S. security interests. AFRICOM has a very small permanent presence in Africa – a former Foreign Legion base in Djibouti where about 2,000 personnel are based and an airbase in Niger with a little over 100 personnel to support surveillance drones flying over northwest Africa where an affiliate of the al Qaeda terrorist network has been active. The bulk of AFRICOM’s small personnel force remains in Europe.
All of the services conduct training exercises with African militaries like Africa Lion and Flintlock. Other missions offer naval and police training as well as medical clinics, emergency response training and small construction projects.
“We didn’t really see ourselves as a fighting command,” Ham said at the Aspen event … until Libya happened.
AFRICOM found itself leading air and intelligence operations during the early days of the United Nations-sanctioned intervention in Libya’s revolt-turned civil war. AFRICOM also supplied military transport and air refueling assistance to French and African forces intervening earlier this year in the Islamist revolt in Mali. Later, AFRICOM reached an agreement with Niger to base unarmed surveillance drones there. AFRICOM has also played a role in battling pirates off the east and west coasts of Africa. And U.S. special operations forces conducted a hostage rescue mission in Somalia and provided assistance to African militaries hunting for renegade warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
That increasingly military role may have undercut AFRICOM’s original, largely non-miltary role in the eyes of some Africans, according to the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.
But summing in up his answer in Aspen to 4GWAR’s query about whether Africa was now more accepting of AFRICOM, Ham said: “If the United States were to say ‘We’re interested in relocating the headquarters to the African continent. Would you be interested in hosting [it]?’ I think there are a number of nations that would say ‘Yes.’”