The United States’ top soldier in Africa, General Carter Ham, said he is against a large standing American military presence in Africa and favours the approach of mission specific tailored capabilities to achieve specific outcomes within set time limits.
The commander of US Africa Command (AfriCom) told December’s Achebe Colloquium at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, that this was the best way to execute the “low cost, light footprint, innovative approach” set in terms of the January 2012 State Department Defence Strategic Guidance document and President Obama’s Policy Directive for Sub-Saharan Africa.
“This to us means we do not want and certainly do not require a large standing US military presence in Africa. That would be counter-productive. We are better with specifically tailored capabilities for specific, time-limited missions.”
Elaborating, Ham referred to the US Army’s “regionally aligned brigade” concept. “That brigade is about 4 000 troops but you won’t see 4 000 troops deploying from the US and plunking down someplace in Africa. What you will see over the course of a year that the brigade is available as currently scheduled. This entails 96 different engagements in 35 different countries, specifically tailored to achieve the effect commonly sought in our discussions with host nations, our US ambassadors and chiefs of mission across the continent. We believe this is our best approach.
“Through its security, co-operation activities and exercises this is the best way for AfriCom to strengthen our partners’ defence capabilities,” he told an audience of African scholars, activists and other experts at the colloquium convened by Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, professor of African studies at Brown University.
Ham added the mission of AfriCom was also to advance US security interests in Africa.
“We think we do that best by strengthening the defence capabilities of African countries so they are increasingly capable of providing for their own defence and contributing to regional security and stability.”
The US presence and its work is led by the focus areas of strengthening democratic institutions; promoting economic growth, trade and investment; advancing peace and security and promoting opportunity and development.
“AfriCom’s efforts, unsurprisingly, focus on advancing peace and security. We do so recognising it’s not an end state but that stability and security are necessary preconditions for the other three to take hold,” Ham said.