Africom describes conditions for US involvement

US Africa Command will intervene in conflicts on the continent only after warring countries have shown a political will to reconcile.
Two main functions of US Africom are aiding in stabilisation operations and helping build indigenous security forces. But before America’s newest combatant command steps in, national governments must take steps toward ending their conflicts, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward said.
“The actions that we take come on the heels of a policy decision having been taken by the nations themselves,” Ward told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.  

Ward cited three areas of current conflict on the continent, including border disputes between Eritrea and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and in North Africa at the Western Sahara, and clashing in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In determining the Africom focus in what Ward characterized as “enduring conflicts,” he said political agreement is a prerequisite for U.S. involvement. If American policy makers then determine Africom can play a role, it will proceed in its mission.

Using the example of Central Africa, where a lack of interoperability and information sharing was exacerbating conflicts, the United States was able to lend assistance to Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and to a lesser degree, and the Central African Republic.

“We had the ability to … help in information sharing, to help with equipment interoperability, providing sometimes needed logistics support and enhancements, to cause those governments to be able to have a better sense of what goes on inside their borders against insurgencies or the rebel factions, and then be able to work in some degree of commonality to address them,” he said.

Ward said many African nations are able to provide their own security, citing Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Burundi. Though some require logistical or other support, many indigenous forces are self-reliant.
“Many of the African nations, in fact, do what many of them say they want to do — that is, provide for their own security,” said Ward, adding that there’s a very broad range of capabilities among African nations.

The general estimated the United States has partnerships with 35 of Africa’s 53 nations, representing US relationships that span the continent.
“We work with them [on] counter-terror programs, programs to help in their transformation of their militaries and also in just basic logistic support as they participate in UN- or [African Union]-sponsored peacekeeping operations,” he told the congressional members.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has meanwhile also held hearings on the US Department of Defense`s expanding role in foreign assistance with committee chairman Representative Howard L. Berman of California asking: “Shouldn’t our ‘peacetime engagement` efforts be carried out by USAID, our nation’s premier development agency? And should our military be responsible for performing the mission of civilian agencies? Do we really want to ask the men and women who go to war to do the mission of both Defense and State?”
He says Congressmen have “heard the same explanation for this over and over again: DoD is filling a vacuum left by the State Department and USAID, which lack the capacity to carry out their diplomatic and development functions.”

Berman notes there “is no doubt that these agencies have been weakened by a severe shortage of resources. For example, USAID has only about 2500 permanent staff today, compared to 4300 in 1975. The agency is responsible for overseeing hundreds of infrastructure projects around the world, yet employs only five engineers. They have only 29 education specialists to monitor programs in 87 countries.
“Likewise, the State Department lacks resources to fill critical diplomatic posts. Today, the agency has a 12% vacancy rate in overseas Foreign Service positions, and an even higher vacancy rate here in the United States. This hollowing out of the State Department cripples its ability to aggressively pursue and protect American interests abroad providing military assistance to a foreign country a foreign policy decision that should be the primary responsibility of civilian agencies, with appropriate Defense Department involvement in implementation? Or is it a national security mission that should be planned and carried out by the Pentagon?
“Does DoD have such a comparative advantage in performing certain non-traditional defense missions that it should be carrying out activities previously reserved for civilian agencies?
“And what are the implications of putting a military face on development and humanitarian activities? How does this affect the way we are viewed in the world, and what is the practical impact on USAID’s ability to carry out development projects?
“The Department of Defense has always played an important role in carrying out certain security assistance activities, particularly implementing military training and military sales directed by the Department of State.
“However, DoD’s role significantly expanded in the context of Iraq and Afghanistan, where they took on a direct role in planning, funding and implementing military and police training and other non-military activities.
“And beyond those two conflicts, the Pentagon began requesting – and receiving — authority to conduct similar activities in other parts of the world. DoD’s goal was to address irregular security threats on a global scale — threats they argued did not fit neatly into traditional State or Defense Department missions, and thus required new tools of engagement.
“These include global train and equip authority, also known as the Section 1206 program; a world-wide stabilization and reconstruction fund, also know as the Section 1207 program; and numerous new training programs directly managed by the Defense Department.
“In addition, some existing authorities were expanded, including the Combatant Commander’s Initiative Fund and Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Assistance,” Berman adds.

“DoD’s argument that these programs are justified by “military necessity” should be given significant deference. Indeed, I can think of many situations in which it might make sense for military commanders to get involved in activities that – in peacetime – would be considered foreign assistance.
“However, many questions remain regarding the utility and implications of such programs. For example, on several occasions this Committee has raised concerns about the use of Section 1206 funds. In some cases, it appears they`ve been used for programs with only a tenuous link to counterterrorism. In others, it looks more like a traditional diplomatic tool designed to curry influence with potential friends.
“In the development context, critics have argued that DoD’s role erases the distinction between military personnel and civilians carrying out similar development activities, ignores development best practices such as sustainability and effectiveness, and puts a military face on inherently civilian programs.
“It can also result in waste, fraud, and abuse, which has been well documented by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.”