Category Archives: Security Cooperation

Highlights from SFRC Hearing on Security Assistance in Africa

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health held a hearing on U.S. Security Assistance in Africa. The hearing was webcast, and you can also find the testimonies of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory, and Lauren Ploch Blanchard of the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Testimonies focused on security assistance programs that have been in place for several years as well as the new security assistance initiatives proposed within the last year (Security Governance InitiativeAfrican Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, and Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund).

 Highlights, taken directly from the testimonies, are as follows:

  • U.S. security policy addresses three broad priorities: peacekeeping and the prevention of additional conflicts, strengthening the security sector in partner states, and countering terrorism and other transnational threats.
  • U.S. security assistance still comprises a small percentage of overall U.S. foreign aid to Africa, but both have grown considerably. 
For historical context – in FY1985, security assistance for Africa was $168M, or about 17% of all U.S. aid for Africa at that time. 
By CRS calculations, security assistance for Africa in FY14 was approximately $800M (~$500M provided through State Department funds and ~$300M under DOD authorities), representing approximately 10% of the aid total for Africa.
  • Between FY10 and FY14, Department of Defense-appropriated security assistance represented 29% of U.S. security assistance to Africa. These Title 10 security cooperation funds totaled $53.7M in FY10 and $379.6M in FY14.
  • The increase in DoD (Title 10) funds in Africa has been tied to increased efforts to build African counterterrorism capacity through East Africa and Yemen Counterterrorism (1203), Global Train and Equip (1206 and 2282), and Global Security Contingency Fund (1207) authorities.
  • Relative to FY14, the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF), announced by President Obama at West Point last May, could represent a doubling of U.S. security assistance spending in Africa, and DoD’s FY16 budget request for CTPF would dwarf State Department-administered funds for the region – if funds requested in FY16 are appropriated and obligated as the Administration has proposed.
  • DoD’s FY16 budget request for CTPF includes approximately $1.27B (out of a global request of more than $2.1B) for East Africa, the Lake Chad Basin, and the Sahel/Maghreb, building on planned DoD CTPF funding of more than $460M for these areas in FY15.

For many years, there’s been chatter about the U.S. military “ramping up” in Africa or some sort of “Africa Pivot” (a play on the “Asia Pivot” that was discussed earlier in the Obama Administration). In my opinion, the notion of an “Africa Pivot” ignores the reality that the continent still ranks relatively low in the global context of U.S. national security priorities. Regardless, the initiatives being developed and implemented are the biggest expansion of U.S. security assistance in Africa since the standup of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007/2008. The budget numbers show that while U.S. security assistance to Africa is increasing, it’s still a relatively small percentage of total U.S. assistance to Africa (10% in FY14, compared with 17% in FY1985). The increase in spending is tied to DoD (Title 10) programs that are focused on countering terrorism, which far outpaces State Department funding for non-military security assistance to law enforcement, border security, and criminal justice – as mentioned in the testimonies. I’d be interested to see how these percentages shake out once FY16 funds are appropriated and obligated, and whether this increase in security assistance to Africa – particularly for DoD – will continue into the next Administration. More importantly, I’d be interested to see how this expanded DoD security assistance will be monitored and evaluated, and how those results will contribute to the debate on whether the type of security assistance the U.S. offers “works.” (My thoughts on that here; the gist is that counterterrorism assistance is necessary, but insufficient to contribute to stability.)

In closing, I’d like to recommend Lauren Ploch Blanchard’s testimony as a valuable source on U.S. security assistance in Africa. Her testimony gives the historical context of such assistance, links it to evolving strategic guidance, fleshes out the various security assistance accounts, authorities, and programs, and previews the Administration’s FY16 budget request as it relates to security assistance in Africa. This is the (insert culturally appropriate religious text) of security assistance in Africa.

PRISM Africa Issue Released

My former boss, who was cool enough to give me the long leash required to do the TSCTP Study when I was at the Center for Complex Operations, just released PRISM Volume 5, Number 2. This issue is the journal’s first African security-focused one, and includes the following articles:

Fostering Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa Through Security Sector Assistance

Yesterday, I presented on a National Endowment for Democracy panel on “Fostering Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa Through Security Sector Assistance.” Video of the event can be found here and links to the papers we presented are below:

During the panel, we touched on the Presidential Policy Directive 23 on Security Sector Assistance, released by the Obama Administration last spring. Although the ends of PPD-23 are stated in the factsheet, little is known about its ways and means. Perhaps the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (August 4-6, 2014) might offer additional details on the implementation of PPD-23 as it relates to Africa.

U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa (& musings on PPD-23)

This is a month overdue, but in case you missed it, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) General David Rodriguez held an online press conference on U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa. You can find a video with closed captioning on YouTube and remarks on the State Department’s website. U.S. Embassies in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia held watch parties and sent in questions for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and General Rodriguez to answer. I also tuned in and submitted a question on how the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 23 on Security Sector Assistance, announced in April 2013, would affect security assistance in the AFRICOM Area of Responsibility (AoR). In my opinion, PPD-23 had gone under the radar for several months, and I was genuinely interested in how the policy directive may or may not be influencing the evolution of U.S. security assistance in Africa. Oddly enough, it was the only question from the chat room that wasn’t answered during the session.

Anyway, if you look at the wording of PPD-23, it seems rather straightforward and, to be quite honest, mundane. According to PPD-23, the principal goals of U.S. security sector assistance are to:

  • Help partner nations build sustainable capacity to address common security challenges.
  • Promote partner support for U.S. interests, through cooperation on national, regional, and global priorities.
  • Promote universal values, such as good governance, transparent and accountable oversight of security forces, rule of law, transparency, accountability, delivery of fair and effective justice, and respect for human rights.
  • Strengthen collective security and multinational defense arrangements and organizations.

The policy guidelines for Security Sector Assistance are to:

  • Ensure consistency with broader national security goals.
  • Foster United States Government policy coherence and interagency collaboration.
  • Build sustainable capacity through comprehensive sector strategies.
  • Be more selective and use resources for the greatest impact.
  • Be responsive to urgent crises, emergent opportunities, and changes in partner security environments.
  • Ensure that short-term interventions are consistent with long term goals.
  • Inform policy with rigorous analysis, assessments, and evaluations.
  • Analyze, plan, and act regionally.
  • Coordinate with other donors.

But going back to my earlier comment about the PPD being mundane, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what the PPD says isn’t as significant as what the PPD represents – a high-level forcing mechanism to 1) improve the way in which U.S. government agencies provide foreign (security) assistance and 2) clarify and expand upon what the government understands to be “security sector assistance.”

For example, on the first point, interagency and international donor coordination have always been implied when it comes to security assistance. Yet, the fact that there’s a high-level policy directive spelling out why this is important and in what sectors coordination should take place serves to force (or more realistically, will) this cooperation to improve.

On the second point, PPD-23 emphasizes that building partner nation capacity in the public safety, security, and justice sectors remains an area of focus to the Administration. You can see previous references to building partner capacity in the 2010 National Security Strategy under “Invest in the Capacity of Strong and Capable Partners.”  However, note the expanded reference to the sectors the U.S. seeks to develop according to PPD-23: ” Security sector actors include state security and law enforcement providers, governmental security and justice management and oversight bodies, civil society, institutions responsible for border management, customs and civil emergencies, and non-state justice and security providers.” I have always believed that the 2010 NSS expands the concept of “security” when compared with previous National Security Strategies. Now, when compared with the 2010 NSS, it appears that PPD-23 has expanded the concept of Security Sector Assistance.

In any event, I look forward to seeing what any of this means for U.S. security assistance in Africa – if anything at all.

Lesley on Africa LOVES Fieldwork (or In Praise of Fieldwork)

As the title of this post so emphatically declares, I love when my projects require fieldwork. I’m working on a project in FY13 that has had me traveling to African Country A (Niger), African Country B (Chad), African Country C (Mali), African Country D (Senegal), African Country E (Morocco), African Country F (Algeria) and African Country G (Nigeria). (I’m currently in African Country H and am traveling to African Country I in early September.) And because of my fieldwork, I’m being forced to learn more about these countries and the United States’ relationship with them.

I love doing fieldwork not because I enjoy the unending abuse from Delta/Air France, but rather because I’m a hands-on learner. On this project and the others that preceded it, I’ve found that the assumptions I had before conducting fieldwork were contradicted, or my understanding of how a process did or did not work became more nuanced. I’ve learned, as government-types like to put it, how the sausage is made, and why said sausage sometimes comes out as a cob of corn to the dismay of the people responsible for designing and implementing programs. There is very little that can substitute for this type of learning experience.

Here’s an example of the types of things I’ve learned during my fieldwork in various African countries. Out of necessity, this description is in the abstract and combines the characteristics of multiple countries:

The United States sees the extremist Prophet’s Revolutionary Militia (PRM) as a threat and makes countering the PRM a focus of its programs in the neighboring African countries of Azania and Matobo. However various U.S. government agencies perceive the PRM threat differently and can’t agree on a comprehensive approach. State is concerned about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, while DoD believes the U.S. isn’t doing enough to counter the threat. Dissenters from both agencies believe the PRM isn’t even the right threat to be countering, and that U.S. programs should have a more comprehensive approach to support state stability. However, Azania and Matobo are marginal to global U.S. strategic interests, and a more comprehensive approach reeks of nation-building à la Iraq & Afghanistan. No thank you.

All U.S. government agencies are on the same page about working with the government of Azania because it has a history of democratic transitions, there’s freedom of the press, and the military has a close, longstanding relationship with the U.S. In Matobo, it’s a different story. The State Department is reluctant to work with the government of Matobo, which is a corrupt, nepotist dictatorship. The Defense Department, however, sees Matobo as a key counterterrorism ally and would like to increase military assistance, but State is concerned about governance, human rights, and upsetting the local balance of power within the country. The difference of U.S. government views on Matobo creates discord between State and DoD, whereas interagency relations with regard to Azania are much smoother.

The U.S. government wants Azania and Matobo to increase regional security cooperation to go after the PRM. Yet, Azania and Matobo are reluctant to work together to counter the PRM because the former believes the latter’s military intelligence leaks like a sieve and there are whispers that people in the Matobolese government have a tacit agreement not to go after the extremist group. In addition, Azania and Matobo have historical animosities due to Azania’s support for the independence movement in the Zangaro region of Matobo. This is why when the U.S. tries to hold multilateral exercises or regional conferences geared towards facilitating regional security cooperation that are held in either country, Azania will invite everyone but Matobo, and vice versa. This refusal to work together persists even though the PRM is increasingly gaining revenue from smuggling along the Azania-Matobo border.

Although limited by State’s resistance to military engagement, DoD conducts minimal training in Matobo. However, they routinely have to change their security cooperation plans if an exercise is planned when the dictator is in Europe receiving medical treatment. This is because no military assets are allowed to move if he is out of the country – this is how he prevents a coup. Engagement is also delayed by requirements to do Leahy vetting for each unit. In a country like Azania that has a long history of military professionalism this is not a problem, but the majority of units in the Matobolese military have been accused of involvement in the country’s three most recent coups, as well as of human rights violations within the disputed territory of Zangaro – even though the Zangaro incidents happened 20 years ago and didn’t involve the current soldiers in the tainted units. On top of this, Matobo is not great at keeping records, so it’s difficult for the U.S. to ascertain who was and was not involved in these violations. And on top of that, there’s a dispute within various elements of the U.S. government as to whether these units were involved in these violations. And on top of that, the dictator recently attempted to change the constitution to stay in power another 5 years, so the military just deposed him and intends to support a transition to democracy in 9 months. Since this is technically an unconstitutional change of government, all U.S. military assistance has been cut off.

The money originally designated for Matobo is reprogrammed to help Azania develop more robust border security, but both the Embassy and the Azanian security forces have a problem with absorptive capacity. Since Azania is a permissive environment for government & NGO programs and has few mechanisms to coordinate and deconflict these programs, funds obligated for Azania are not spent until two fiscal years later. In addition, donor nations eventually discover that they have parallel training programs that are training the Azanians on conflicting doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

The current Azanian president is very receptive to receiving more specialized military training from the U.S. However, the U.S. wants to train Azanian forces to go after the extremist PRM, while the Azanian government sees the PRM as more of a U.S. and European problem. Plus, everyone knows the PRM has a safe haven in Matobo from which they launch attacks into Azania, and the Azanians are annoyed that Matobo isn’t pulling its weight in countering the PRM. To complicate matters, the Azanian force designated for U.S. training is not well resourced by the Azanian government because they only have a Captain in charge of their unit. Other Azanian security forces, which may have overlapping missions and compete for influence, have Brigadier Generals in charge and they have the background and political capital to ensure that their forces are well resourced. For these reasons, the force led by the Captain stays in a training cycle and never becomes an operational force that can operate independent of U.S. assistance. Therefore, specialized training never takes root in Azania.

Oh and guess what. There’s been an election and the new Azanian president was indicted by the ICC for his alleged incitement of violence during a previous election cycle, so security cooperation is now experiencing a “strategic pause.” The Azanians have wisely anticipated that U.S. military assistance has strings attached and they’ve recently diversified their security cooperation relationships. They now receive most of their training from European Country X and Asian Country Y.

Hopefully, this little story gives you a sense of the types of factors I’ve come to understand better once I see them in play :)

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