The African continent presents significant opportunities and challenges, according to US Army General David M Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. Africa Command.
The general and Amanda J. Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defence for African affairs, made the comments during a Pentagon news conference today.
“Much of the continent is doing well, with six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies and many countries strengthening their democratic institutions [and] a growing and youthful population which can be an engine for positive change or a negative force if not effectively governed,” the general said.
But sometimes right next to these successful nations are those with perennial and lasting problems. Weak governance, corruption, uneven development, disease, food insecurity, crime and violent extremism have contributed to instability and conflict, he said.
“The network of al Qaeda and its affiliates’ participation in illicit trafficking networks that link Africa with North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia have taken advantage of regional instability to continue to expand their activities,” Rodriguez said.
Africa Command is working with international and interagency partners to mitigate those immediate threats. The command also is working to develop African security institutions and forces to serve their nations and their people, the US military said.
The command’s efforts are always conducted in support of efforts led by the U.S. ambassadors and the country teams, the general said. “Our programmes, exercises and operations strengthen military-to-military relationships in a region where the United States has little forward presence,” Rodriguez said. “They make U.S. and partner forces more effective as we learn from each other and operate together. They also promote adherence to the rule of law and respect for civilian authority and human rights.”
Somalia is a good example of how the command works with African and international partners, Rodriguez said. “In Somalia, six African countries participate in the African Union mission in Somalia,” he added, conducting offensive operations with the Somali national army against Al-Shabaab.
The African Union and European Union are training Somali national army forces, the general said. Multinational counterpiracy operations, combined with industry best practices, have greatly reduced piracy off the Somali coast, he noted. Africom is supporting State Department-led peacekeeping training for African Union forces, and the command is helping with planning and coordination for the Somalia mission.
The command is operating throughout the continent, the general said. In the Sahel region of the continent, Africa Command is building partner capacity and supporting regional, United Nations and French operations. “Across Africa, we continue to work with the State Department to protect U.S. personnel and facilities,” he added.
The command also working with regional partners to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, and U.S. and African forces are looking to reduce the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa.
“Africa’s expanding security challenges make it vitally important that we align all our resources with our priorities, leveraging partnerships and increasing our operational flexibility,” Rodriguez said. “We will continue to deepen our collaboration with international and interagency partners to advance our mutual interests.”