AFRICA: Three Countries, Three Issues

June 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

Development, Diplomacy, Defense

Even as U.S. defense strategy shifts emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region, there are still a lot of opportunities for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), to tackle development, diplomacy and defense issues on the continent, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on African Affairs says.

Coons has participated in several other conferences about Africa. (Photo, courtesy Coons’ office.)

Sen. Chris Coons, back from a recent trip to East Africa, says AFRICOM fits into the emerging security framework that envisions more multi-lateral action in regions outside the Pacific Rim.

“Unlike other combatant comands [AFRICOM] doesn’t have significant legacy assets that need to be restructured in this Pacific pivot,” Coons told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Tuesday (June 19).

But the Delaware Democrat says AFRICOM’s leadership still has a way to go in convincing African leaders and communities that it will not turn into a warfighting command like U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since it was created by President George Bush in 2007, AFRICOM has been criticized in the blogosphere and some newspaper columns that claim it is only a front to gain control of African natural resources such as oil, cobalt and diamonds … keep U.S.-friendly – but anti-democratic – regimes in power … or to use the African continent as a chess piece to block Chinese economic and military expansion.

But AFRICOM’s mission statement says its job is to protect and defend U.S. national security interests “by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations.” And “when directed,” conduct military operations in order to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.”

To date, AFRICOM remains headquartered in Germany.  Liberia was the only African nation to publicly offer it a home base.

Coons added that in the end, AFRICOM will have to show it is “really designed to facilitate partnership between development, diplomacy and defense” – and to work in partnership with, and in support of, our regional allies as they pursue missions that also support the security of the United States.

East Africa (Map courtesy of WikiSpaces.com)

Coons recently completed a visit to Kenya and Tanzania — and Uganda, where he spent half a day meeting with a U.S. special operations forces unit that is assisting a “multi-lateral effort” to track down renegade rebel leader Joseph Kony and his lieutenants.

For decades, Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have cut a swath of terror and death throughout eastern and central Africa. The LRA has pillaged villages and killed or kidnapped hundreds of people in Kony’s native Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

In March Coons introduced a Senate Resolution (S. Res. 402) condemning Kony and the LRA for crimes against humanity. The resolution also supports international efforts to “remove him from the battlefield,” and calls for the United States to continue mobility, intelligence and logistical support of African forces protecting civilians and pursuing the LRA.

The resolution, led by Coons and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With 45 sponsors, it awaits action by the full Senate.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, International Relief, National Security and Defense, Skills and Training, Special Operations. Tags: , , , , , .

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