Monthly Archives: June, 2012

Senate considers funding cuts to Kenyan security forces over human rights abuses (Part II)

In my last post, I wrote about how the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations had asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to submit a report to the Committee to verify that the U.S. government is not providing security assistance to Kenyan military or police personnel who may have been involved in human rights abuses in Mt. Elgon in March 2008 and in North Eastern Province between November 2011 and January 2012. In her report, Secretary Clinton is to document the steps the Government of Kenya has taken to conduct thorough, credible investigations of such violations.

In order to get a sense of the scale of the funding that may be at stake, let’s take a short crash course on security assistance funding. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Without getting too down in the weeds on U.S. security assistance, the Secretary of State maintains oversight for some security assistance under Title 22 (Foreign Assistance) of the U.S. Code. However, under Title 10 (Armed Services) of the U.S. Code, the Secretary of Defense has oversight of Section 1206 funds. This gives the Secretary of Defense the authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes — to enable foreign military forces to perform counterterrorism operations, and to enable foreign military forces to participate in or to support military and stability operations in which U.S. armed forces are participating. (For background on the origins and future of Section 1206 funding, see the Congressional Research Service report Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206” Background and Issues for Congress or the Government Accountability Office report Section 1206 Security Assistance Program—Findings on Criteria, Coordination, and Implementation.) There are other Title 10 authorities, but to be quite honest, some of this security assistance data is so opaque that efforts to dig up what other Title 10 funding Kenya might receive may be futile.

No matter who maintains the authorities for security assistance, funding is supposed to comply with the Leahy Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which stipulates that all units scheduled to receive training or equipment should be vetted so as to ensure that the U.S. government is not funding security forces that have been involved in gross human rights violations.

According to the FY13 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, Kenya receives the following Title 22 funds:

Type of Funding

FY11 Actual

FY12 Estimate

FY13 Request

Foreign Military Financing (FMF)





International Military Education and Training (IMET)




International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE)




Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR)




As a caveat, this may not be an all-inclusive list of Title 22 funds, as Kenya may receive additional assistance on a regional basis as a part of the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT) – a multi-disciplinary, interagency counterterrorism initiative formerly known as the East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative (EARSI). Regardless, we can still see that in accordance with the request of the Senate Committee on Appropriations report, and based on the FY13 Request in the Congressional Budget Justification, Secretary Clinton will have to verify that at least $9.8M of Title 22 security assistance funding would not be going towards Kenyan military or police personnel who may have been involved in human rights abuses.

Kenya also receives Section 1206 funds, which do not fall under State Department oversight, since they are Title 10 funds. I do not have visibility over what Kenya may have received in FY12 or what may be planned for FY13. But as a reference, Kenya received $46.5M in Section 1206 funds between FY06 and FY11. To break that down, that’s $25.9M between FY06 and FY09, $8.5M in FY10, and $12.1M in FY11. 

The question I’m left with is, if the Secretary of State must verify that Title 22 funds are not allocated to Kenyan security forces involved in human rights abuses, is the secretary of Defense being asked to carry out a similar investigation for Title 10 funds? Or is there a reason the Title 22 funds for Kenya are being placed under special scrutiny?

Senate considers funding cuts to Kenyan security forces over human rights abuses (Part I)

Last month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations released a report of the Department of State Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2013. In the section of the report that discusses Foreign Military Financing (FMF), there is a paragraph about Kenya that reads as follows:

“The Committee directs the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that no United States training, equipment, or other assistance is provided to any Kenyan military or police personnel who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights at: Mount Elgon in March 2008; Garissa, Wajir and Mandera in North Eastern Kenya between November 2011 and January 2012; and in the Dadaab refugee camps in North Eastern Kenya in December 2011. The Secretary shall submit a report to the Committee on steps taken by the Government of Kenya to conduct thorough, credible investigations of such violations and the identification of military units responsible.”

Spokesman for the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Colonel Cyrus Oguna declined to comment on the appropriations bill, but characterized the relationship between Kenya and the United States as “cordial, historical and important.” And he’s correct. Relations between the United States and Kenya have generally been amicable, with occasional instances of discord – as one might expect from any bilateral relationship. Kenya has historically been a key partner for the U.S. military, considering the country’s geostrategic location for counterterrorism and counterpiracy operations as well as for its utility as a staging ground for crisis response operations in other countries in the region. Of note, the KDF is considered a relatively professional military, and receives considerable security assistance from the United States. The KDF is also part of a vital effort to stabilize Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which also receives U.S. funding.

The report on the appropriations bill alludes to two operations during which there were allegations of human rights violations – Operation Okoa Maisha (Save Lives) and Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Nation). For additional details on former – the police and military’s heavy-handed response to the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) insurgency in March 2008 and the victims’ inability to receive justice for human rights abuses four years later, read the Human Rights Watch report “Hold Your Heart” Waiting for Justice in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon Region. For additional details on latter – the police and military’s violence against Kenyan Somalis and Somali refugees in the fall of 2011, read the Human Rights Watch report Criminal Reprisals: Kenyan Police and Military Abuses against Ethnic Somalis.

Unfortunately, I am at a loss for interpreting what Kenya’s inclusion in the report on the appropriations bill means. Given the existence of far less reputable militaries on the continent, I was surprised that the KDF was called out for further scrutiny in the report. (The police, however, were less of a surprise.) The timing is odd, considering the United States presumably desires that the KDF be successful in stabilizing southern Somalia. One could see how, in this situation, the investigation of such allegations could get pushed to the back burner – but it was not. Furthermore, although both the military and the police stand accused of some rather egregious human rights abuses detailed in HRW’s reports, if you look at the State Department’s 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, you will notice that the police are far more frequent human rights violators. In addition, it appears that the KDF tends to get into trouble when deployed domestically, but has not had a reputation for human rights violations when deployed abroad as members of African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, for example.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that yes, bad things have happened and the United States is prepared to call Kenya out on these incidents. But based on what I have learned about the  U.S.-Kenya relationship, I have observed that sometimes things are not as they seem. So my underlying assumption is that Kenya’s security forces being placed under additional scrutiny may not be about Operation Okoa Maisha or Operation Linda Nchi. It may be about pressuring Kenya to cooperate with the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of six high-profile individuals suspected of being responsible for the 2007-2008 post-election violence. It could also be a way to exert pressure on Kenya to have credible polls free of electoral violence next spring. Or perhaps there are tensions in the mil-to-mil relationship and the United States is using security assistance as leverage when Kenyan security forces need it most in Somalia and for homeland defense. (Or perhaps it is actually about human rights and I need to stop being such a conspiracy theorist.)

But it is just pure torture that I don’t know for sure what this might really be about. Any thoughts?

History may judge the MNLA as lost opportunity

MNLA flag

Times are tough for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Only two months ago, the Tuareg rebel group was at its peak. Having possessed the strategic initiative in the aftermath of the Malian military’s March 22 coup against Amadou Toumani Touré, the MNLA had also been well armed with machine guns, mortars, antitank and antiaircraft weapons looted from the late Muamar Qadhafi’s arsenal in Libya. In a matter of days, the group swept across northern Mali, conquering its three regional capitals, and declaring northern Mali the independent state of “Azawad.” Having faced decades of marginalization, this secular movement had lofty principles for their new state, and in the hopes of gaining international support (or avoiding international condemnation), the MNLA had pledged to counter the influence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the region.

Flag Ansar Dine has been flying?

But as the dust settled from the late March-early April military offensive, the MNLA found it had to negotiate accommodation with Ansar Dine, an Islamist group that sought to spread sharia across Mali and was suspected to have links to AQIM. As what little Malian government authority there was in the north eroded, there was evidence of a turf war between the groups, with each group vying for strategic territory and attempting to exert its authority. At the same time, there were stories of the MNLA and Arab militias looting areas now devoid of Malian government control and committing acts of sexual violence against women and young girls. Meanwhile, Ansar Dine sought to establish an element of legitimacy in conquered territories, but used violence and intimidation in order to do so. (See an earlier Alex Thurston post for an analysis of law-and-order Islamism in northern Mali.) The group began to impose a harsh version of sharia on the areas they controlled, to the chagrin of many of the residents who had previously practiced a moderate form of Islam.

Meanwhile, in Bamako, there was an unending political impasse between the military junta and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). During this time, there was a faux-transition to constitutional rule, the junta’s arrests of prominent politicians amid accusations of a counter-coup, an actual attempted counter-coup, and most famously, the beating of interim President Dioncounda Traoré in response to an agreement ECOWAS had brokered to would allow him to remain in power for a year and manage the transition to democracy. This political turmoil in the capital made it less likely that the Malian military would be able to regroup to establish the government’s authority in the north. In fact, one could argue that the junta (forgive me for not typing out their ridiculous name and lengthy acronym) was more concerned with undermining the transition than with restoring Mali’s territorial integrity. This potentially distracted them from understanding the rapidly changing dynamics on the north.

To the surprise of many analysts watching the situation unfold, the MNLA and Ansar Dine announced the creation of a Transitional Council for the Islamic State of Azawad on May 26. There have since been a plethora of reports that the agreement between the MNLA and Ansar Dine has fallen apart, stating that it would have been challenging for the secular nationalist MNLA and the Salafist Ansar Dine to overcome their politico-religious differences. But by this point, the MNLA was negotiating from a point of extreme weakness.

Somewhere between April 6 (the day the MNLA declared Azawad independent) and May 26, the MNLA’s fortunes changed. And when all is said and done – be it next year or in ten years – people should look back at this time period with an eye for indications of the MNLA’s waning power and the group’s shifting equities. Initially, the MNLA had three options to achieve independence for Azawad and a monopoly of violence in the state: A) Fight on its own against government; B) Ally with other armed group to fight government; and C) Negotiate with government. As its strength waned, and as the political melodrama on Bamako persisted, it became clear that the MNLA would have to align with a stronger armed group to achieve its objectives.

Ansar Dine is a less-than-ideal partner for the MNLA due to the groups’ differing strategic objectives. However, Ansar Dine is an opportune partner for tactical reasons, because according to Gregory Mann, the MNLA is apparently having trouble paying its fighters. Moreover, it had been unclear whether or not the MNLA would be able to maintain the supply of weapons that had given it the early strategic initiative. Ansar Dine, on the other hand, has been able to secure cash and weapons, and consequently  became the better armed of these two groups. Thus it would have been practical for the MNLA to seek an alliance with a stronger group – in this case Ansar Dine. However, in so doing, it would significantly diminish its secular credentials, including the idea that the MNLA could be counted upon to fight the expansion of AQIM in regions under their control.

Whether or not the MNLA and Ansar Dine are able to forge an alliance, I believe that if there had ever been an opportune moment to date to negotiate accommodation between Bamako and the “lesser evil” MNLA, it would have been the point at which the MNLA realized they were not powerful enough to secure independence, but before they got so weak they had to destroy their credentials and compromise their movement by seeking accommodation with Ansar Dine. We may never know if elements of the MNLA would have accepted regional autonomy in April/May in exchange for integration into the national military to fight Ansar Dine and AQIM, for example.

Considering statements that characterize the situation in northern Mali as “an early stage of Afghanistan and Somalia,” I think that the perpetuation of the political turmoil in Bamako over the past two months may have been a missed opportunity to dissociate the MNLA from Ansar Dine.

New AFRICOM Brigade a Test Case for a Leaner Pentagon

(Originally published in World Politics Review on June 5, 2012)

With budgetary constraints looming and global priorities shifting, the U.S. military is in the process of pursuing leaner and more adaptive ways to achieve U.S. national security objectives around the globe. This effort is in accordance with the Department of Defense’s (DOD) 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance (.pdf), which recognizes the need for the military to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region and sustain its focus on the Middle East, while maintaining current defense commitments in other parts of the world. One of the new approaches being developed is the Regionally Aligned Brigade concept, through which each regional combatant command (COCOM) would be assigned an Army brigade to advise, train and mentor partner nation security forces throughout their respective areas of responsibility (AORs).

In fiscal year 2013, the pilot rotation for the Regionally Aligned Brigade concept will be conducted by U.S. Army Africa, the Army component of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). This means that for the first time since it was established as a unified combatant command in October 2008, Africom will have assigned forces that will deploy from bases in the continental United States to select locations in Africa on a rotational basis. More complex than simply “sending U.S. troops to Africa,” the Regionally Aligned Brigade concept indicates that the military recognizes the need to develop a more efficient force management system and explore a smaller, lighter concept of operations. In so doing, it will seek to maintain a global presence to address transnational threats while preserving lessons learned from working with local security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. …

(Read the rest of the article on the World Politics Review website)

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