The United States last week allocated US$145 million worth of military equipment to North and East African nations in order to help combat terrorist threats in the region.
The biggest recipients were Burundi and Uganda, which were allocated around US$45 million worth of equipment, including four unmanned aerial vehicles. The Associated press reports that the equipment includes four AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven miniature unmanned aerial vehicles, body armour, night-vision equipment, communications and heavy construction equipment, generators and surveillance systems. Training is also provided with the equipment.
The Associated Press adds that the Pentagon is also sending US$4.4 million worth of communications and engineering equipment to Uganda.
Burundi and Uganda are heavily involved in Somalia, with around 9000 peacekeepers in the troubled nation. The two countries in March pledged to send an additional 4000 troops to Somalia.
The US$145.4 million aid package for counterterrorism equipment includes funding for a number of North African countries. US$22.6 million has been allocated to Mauritania for a turboprop aircraft for troop transport and surveillance and US$8.1 million for airfield systems and construction and communications equipment to develop a forward operating base in the country; US$17.7 million will go towards an aircraft for Djibouti; US$12.1 million towards helicopter upgrades and training for Kenya; and US$1 million for Mali for mine detector kits.
The US is attempting to bolster countries working against al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Somali-based al-Shabaab group. Last month Leon Panetta, CIA Director and the Pentagon’s incoming chief, warned that the threat from al-Shabaab is growing, and that it is developing stronger ties with the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Panetta said that after Osama bin Laden was killed, the US needs to make sure that the group does not relocate to Somalia.
“Al-Shabaab leaders, who have claimed affiliation with al-Qaida since 2007, are developing ties with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,” Panetta stated. Al-Shabaab is “showing an increasing desire to stage international terrorist attacks in addition to their act of violence inside Somalia.”