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.

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