Monday, August 25, 2008

Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nr. 5-5

U.S. Foreign Assistance and AFRICOM: The militarization of U.S. foreign aid?

AFRICOM, the new U.S. military command for Africa; this is one of my specialty topics in the blogosphere. “Semper Fi, Marine!” (
Semper fidelis, Latin) is the USMC motto, “always faithful to the end”. The fine young men and women who serve in the U.S. military today work damn hard to live up to their proud service traditions. Yet service in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines is not just about fighting and combat readiness; it is also about providing assistance to people and helping them to rebuild their towns and villages and restore dignity to their lives. Being part of an overseas mission to support people working hard to help themselves is the most rewarding job a professional soldier can ever do.

I think the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) could be one of the great success stories in U.S.-Africa relations history if given a chance. Intensive training of Africa’s professional armies and national police can improve security for millions of Africans who live in or near weak and failing states. This type of assistance by the U.S. military is already making a difference for people in African countries recovering from years of conflict and war; Liberia is one example that comes to mind and there are several more countries involved in U.S. military training assistance programs. See the
Fact Sheet: Africa Contingency Operations and Training Assistance (ACOTA).

2008 Failed States Index from Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace reports that some sub-Saharan African nations are on the brink of collapse while in other countries the peace is fragile. Some countries do not have adequate funds to regularly pay the salaries of their national police and military let alone having money for security training and much needed equipment. It is a fact that there can be no lasting peace and economic and social development without a firm guarantee of security for your people. If done right the new U.S. Africa Command could be an important step forward in U.S. foreign policy toward Africa as the organization gets to work in assisting our African allies and partners to improve national and regional security and economic opportunity.

It is not without controversy and sometimes vehement disapproval from several corners that this new U.S. military command came into existence. One of the first feature stories that I read about
AFRICOM was written by Thomas P.M. Barnett for Esquire magazine in June 2007. The Esquire story was featured in a post by my friend Ethan Zuckerman: An Update on the Third Front. Those two articles caught my interest and I began to follow the AFRICOM news story online more closely. In November 2007 I participated in a heated online debate about AFRICOM at another friend’s place, the African Loft: Open Debate - Does Africa Need AFRICOM? The African Loft debate showed that I and a handful of other participants were clearly outnumbered by the AFRICOM-contras. Feedback about AFRICOM from bloggers who write about Africa and from the African press and media was being closely monitored by the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of State during this period.

It appeared as if the new U.S. Africa Command was getting off to a rough start with public opinion and press on the African continent which forced the Pentagon and the White House to change a few plans. The desire to setup a brand new U.S. Africa Command headquarters somewhere on the continent of Africa had to be scrapped until a later date. This delighted the German government which earns a bundle ($$$) for hosting the
U.S. military headquarters for Europe (USEUCOM) where AFRICOM HQ is also presently located (Stuttgart).

However, since the beginning of this year the men and women of AFRICOM have made steady progress in winning the confidence of participating African governments and the African people. So I am hopeful that a suitable location in Africa for a new AFRICOM headquarters will be agreed upon soon so that construction can begin which in turn will generate jobs in the host country. AFRICOM HQ's day-to-day operations and leases for land and facilities will generate much needed revenue for the host African country and new jobs for qualified Africans who may be employed by AFRICOM and other U.S. government departments and agencies___ just as people in Germany have benefited from hosting the US EUCOM headquarters since 1967 to the tune of several million US$ dollars (and Euros €) each year.

General William E. “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, in December 2007 published an open appeal online for dialogue with people about the command’s objectives and goals in Africa. General Ward has made it very clear in numerous testimonies before congressional committees, private meetings with African political and civic leaders, and the African press and media that AFRICOM is not an invading force like so many people have tried to characterize it but a force for good and an outstanding opportunity for both Africans and Americans. Senior U.S. Department of Defense officials put it clearly in statements made recently as reported by the AFRICOM Public Affairs Office in a post to the AFRICOM Dialogue (the official AFRICOM blog):

U.S. Africa Command is a "Model We Should Embrace," says Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Coulter

A senior Defense Department policy official has sought to put to rest concerns that U.S. Africa Command is an example of militarization of U.S. foreign policy. Instead, the new headquarters is "a model we should embrace," said Michael W. Coulter, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

In a speech July 15, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that "America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and under-funded for far too long." Coulter agreed with this statement but denied accusations, voiced by some critics, that the Department of Defense, specifically U.S. Africa Command, is usurping State Department funds.

Coulter stressed that there are clear laws regulating where the Department of Defense and other agencies may allocate funds. "No funds have been taken from State and provided to DoD," Coulter explained in a written statement provided to U.S. Africa Command.

Additionally, he said that statements describing the Africa Command as "militarizing foreign policy" are misleading. General William E. "Kip" Ward has reiterated in several speeches that the command will not set foreign policy, but will provide support to the State Department in reaching U.S. foreign policy objectives.

"When properly resourced and coordinated, the U.S. is a grand tool for good in the world, Coulter commented. Unfortunately, the inverse can also be true: when uncoordinated or inappropriately resourced, we can- and have- stumbled. It is DoDs desire, through innovative mechanisms like AFRICOM, to ensure our tools are well integrated with other elements of national power in support of our foreign policy and national security objectives. And on the continent of Africa, where the most important tasks are not 'destructive' tasks but rather the 'constructive' tasks of building legitimacy, good governance, rule of law, and hope, such cooperation is all the more critical. This is the 'jointness' of the new century and the goal we strive to achieve with AFRICOM."

For another blog entry on the militarization of foreign policy, visit

You can read more about the new military command’s background, goals, and operations in Africa at the
AFRICOM website and AFRICOM Dialogue blog.

According to a recent post by
veteran VOA Africa correspondent and senior advisor for news Alex Belida the U.S. House Appropriations Committee - Subcommittee on Defense may be trying to pull the finance plug on the fledgling command. Writing at his personal blog AFRICOM Watch Alex quotes from an article that appeared on that the powerful U.S. congressional subcommittee is looking to make deep cuts to the Pentagon FY 2009 budget request for AFRICOM.

“The powerful House Appropriations defense subcommittee wants to pull the plug on U.S. Africa Command by deeply slashing the Pentagon's spending request for the fledgling organization, arguing that the military should not be leading U.S. government efforts to ensure stability and security on the continent.”

Source: (subscription required)

Alex goes on to point out that the House Appropriations Committee - Subcommittee on Defense has recommended a USD $308 million reduction to the Pentagon’s FY 2009 budget request for AFRICOM because of the failure of the command’s leading officials to setup a new headquarters on the African continent “due to the lack of a suitable location”. The Fiscal Year 2008 budget for AFRICOM was USD $75 million which in terms of U.S. defense spending is literally a drop in the bucket.

Source: House Appropriations Committee – summary of the FY 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill (budget appropriated = USD $487.7 billion)
Alex Belida:
VOA News Blog and Regrets Only – An Africa Journal


Now what does the Pentagon and AFRICOM have to do with Africa’s development and with the implementation of U.S. foreign aid? Well checkout this opinion from development experts at the
Center for Global Development (Washington, DC):

The Pentagon and Global Development: Making Sense of the DoD’s Expanding Role
Stewart Patrick and Kaysie Brown - November 12, 2007
Excerpt from the introduction:

One of the most significant trends in U.S. development policy since September 11, 2001 is the growing involvement of the Department of Defense (DoD) in providing U.S. foreign aid. The Pentagon now handles more than 20 percent of U.S. official development assistance (ODA), up from 6 percent only five years ago. DoD has also increased non-ODA activities, such as the training of foreign military forces, previously conducted under the authority of the Department of State or USAID. The Pentagon's expanding foreign assistance role raises concerns that U.S. foreign and development policies are being subsumed by a short-term security agenda.

In this new working paper, CGD research fellow Stewart Patrick and program associate Kaysie Brown look at the budget numbers to see what foreign policy and development activities DoD is engaged in, and where. They find the overwhelming bulk of ODA provided directly by DoD goes to Iraq and Afghanistan, which are violent environments that require the military to take a lead role through instruments like Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and the use of Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds. The authors argue that this funding surge is likely to disappear when the U.S. involvement in both wars ends. However, they also find that beyond these two conflicts, DoD is expanding its operations in the developing world to include activities that may be more appropriately undertaken by U.S. civilian actors, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Department of State. These initiatives include the use of Section 1206 authorities to train and equip foreign security forces, the establishment of the new Combatant Command for Africa (AFRICOM), and the administration’s Building Global Partnerships Act. The authors caution against a growing DoD aid role outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, for fear that a short-term security agenda will exacerbate the longstanding and glaring imbalance between the military and civilian components of the U.S. approach to state-building in the developing world, and may undermine long-term U.S. foreign policy and development objectives to advance security, good governance and growth.

End excerpt____

Of course the ongoing U.S. military operations in the Horn of Africa and military assistance to countries in the Mahgreb (North Africa) and the Sahel to help counteract terrorist activities is proof enough for some critics who claim AFRICOM is nothing but “a sheep in wolf’s clothing.” I beg to disagree with these critics and would like to direct your attention to Thomas Barnett’s remarks about Refugees International’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the challenges facing AFRICOM. I would also point to a glaring example in Africa today where lack of public security and safety is a major hindrance to delivering aid and humanitarian assistance and life itself is made almost impossible: Darfur.

The joint UN/AU “hybrid mission” to Darfur (
UNAMID) is a perfect example of the international community not living up to its promises and commitments. UNAMID doesn’t even have the necessary funds to purchase enough UN blue helmets for its peacekeepers let alone acquire the helicopters and military transport vehicles it so desperately needs. The UNAMID commander, General Martin Luther Agwai, has been reduced to writing pleas for help for the mission online (see “Darfur Needs Us” at the Guardian newspaper). This article was published on May 28, 2008 one day before General Agwai was to honor 62 African soldiers who have died trying to carry out their duty; men who were ruthlessly killed either by the Sudanese military and the Arab Janjaweed militias or by JEM rebels. Officials at the African Union and the United Nations claim that no one knows who killed these African peacekeepers. To date there has no criminal investigation into these soldiers’ deaths. There have only been pleas from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Government of Sudan to please hunt down and arrest the perpetrators of these crimes and the promise to setup yet another UN special investigation commission.

It’s a disgrace that this experienced and competent military commander must beg for help to protect the lives of countless refugees and civilians and the lives of his 9,000 peacekeepers. UNAMID, one of the largest and most expensive UN peacekeeping missions in history, is failing at the cost of the very lives of the people it is supposed to protect and the lives of African soldiers. Who is to blame for this debacle? Who is going to protect the 100’s of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP’s), the countless refugees and civilians? Who will provide the necessary support to these African peacekeepers? The United Nations, the African Union___ Ich bitte Dich!

One thing seems certain. The Pentagon will have a significant influence on U.S. foreign policy and U.S. official development assistance for Africa in the near term, like it or not. There is still substantial support in the U.S. Congress for AFRICOM including from the two U.S. presidential candidates: Senator Barack Obama (D) and Senator John McCain (R). We shall see how the story further develops in 2009.

Next question please. I’ll keep it short from here on out, I promise.

Link to Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nr 6 (coming soon)
Link to Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nr. 5-4 (previous)
Link to Seven Questions Interview: Q&A Nrs. 1, 2, 3, 4

Official USG websites with information about AFRICOM

Official website of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)
AFRICOM Dialogue: AFRICOM news and blog
AFRICOM Transcripts and Documents
Bio for General William E. “Kip” Ward
Fact Sheet: Africa Contingency Operations and Training Assistance (ACOTA)
History of U.S. Military Involvement in Africa (1801-2008)

U.S. House of Representatives – Subcommittee on National Security – hearings
AFRICOM: Rationales, Roles, and Progress on the Eve of Operations (07/15/08)

U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Exploring the U.S. Africa Command and a New Strategic Relationship with Africa (08/01/07)

U.S. Army War College: Strategic Studies Institute – Publications online
AFRICOM’s Dilemma: The Global War on Terrorism, Capacity Building, Humanitarianism, and the Future of U.S. Security Policy by Robert G. Berschinski
U.S. Counterterroism in Sub-Saharan Africa: Understanding Costs, Cultures, and Conflicts by Dr. Donovan C. Chau
Regional Issues – Sub-Saharan Africa (U.S. Department of State)
AFRICOM Chief Nominated for Unique New Command, 07/12/07

Analysis of AFRICOM and other foreign military programs in Africa

Council on Foreign Relations
Interview with U.S. AFRICOM Commander General William E. Ward (05/22/08)
The Pentagon’s New Africa Command (podcast) 05/16/07
U.S. Africa Command by Stephanie Hanson (backgrounder) 05/03/07
The French Military in Africa by Andrew Hansen, 02/08/08

World Defense Review – Strategic Interest column
Getting AFRICOM Right by J. Peter Phram, 02/15/07

The Heritage Foundation
U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution by James Jay Carafano and Nile Gardiner, 10/15/03

Thomas P.M. Barnett
Continental Ambitions: What AFRICOM signals… for the future of Africa, the US military and the war on terrorism, (The Guardian’s Comment is Free, 12/20/07)
Don’t waste this opportunity for AFRICOM to do things differently and better, 08/01/07
Esquire Magazine exclusive report on AFRICOM:
The Americans Have Landed, 06/27/07

Africa Command: The Photo Essays

University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy
AFRICOM: America’s Public Diplomacy and Military Strategy in Africa

Center for Strategic and International Studies – Africa Policy Forum
Dangerous Times for Africa by Akwe Amosu (Open Society Institute)
Sarkozy and Africa: Misunderstanding or Change? by Roland Marchal

Center for Global Development – Views from the Center
USAID-DoD Cooperation and Implications for Development, 05/06/08
The Pentagon as a Development Agency? Q&A with Stewart Patrick, 02/11/08
The Pentagon and Global Development: Making Sense of the DoD’s Expanding Role, 11/12/07
Phase Zero: The Pentagon’s latest big idea by Stewart Patrick, 07/20/07

Foreign Policy in Focus
AFRICOM: Wrong for Liberia, Disastrous for Africa by Emira Woods and Ezekial Pajibo, 07/26/07

My Heart’s in Accra (Ethan Zuckerman @ Harvard University - Berkman Center)
An update on “the third front” (AFRICOM and the Horn of Africa) 06/22/07

Mother Jones
AFRICOM Enters the Blogosphere, 01/14/08

IIJD – International Institute for Justice and Development
American and African Security Plans in Conflict, 08/31/07

ISN Publishing (Switzerland)
French Foreign Policy in Africa: Between Pré Carré and Multilateralism (Chatham House, Feb 2007)

Intel Brief: AFRICOM's Smooth Transition by Shannon Ferrucci, 09/10/08

The Independent (UK)
Inside France's secret war by Johan Bari, 10/05/07

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