Category Archives: AFRICOM

Guest Post – AFRICOM’s Impact on International and Human Security: A Case Study of Tanzania

This is a guest post by Mikenna Maroney, a MA Candidate in International Security at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She is currently a David L. Boren Fellow in Tanzania studying Swahili language and conducting research for her MA thesis on AFRICOM. Ms. Maroney seeks additional contacts with expertise on Tanzanian security policy, and can be reached for comment at

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2008 due to growing awareness of Africa’s strategic significance to U.S. interests and international security. AFRICOM was presented as a new type of combatant command that would address traditional and human security threats through a pioneering interagency approach and structure, in addition to partner capacity building. AFRICOM would integrate significant numbers of personnel from the State Department, USAID, and other interagency organizations. U.S. officials asserted this would allow the command to address the root causes and, ultimately, prevent conflict and instability.

The creation of AFRICOM, the complexity of its mission, and the threats present in the region give rise to questions regarding AFRICOM’s impact in executing U.S. national security policy in Africa, addressing human security issues, and its ability to foster a positive image of itself and U.S. national security policy. To explore these issues, my Master’s thesis research is a case study of Tanzania. I chose Tanzania as a case study on AFRICOM because I felt that it is an often overlooked actor in the East African security environment. I was also interested in examining how AFRICOM currently engages with African states not engaged in an ongoing conflict and its ability to foster bi-lateral relations with a state that has, at times, had a strained relationship with the U.S.

While often overshadowed by neighboring states Tanzania’s long-standing stability, history of mediating regional conflicts (most notably the Burundian civil war), contributions to peacekeeping missions, and hosting of regional and international organization such as the East African Community (EAC) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), make it an important actor in the often volatile East Africa region. Yet Tanzania faces similar threats as its neighbors including illicit narcotic trafficking, piracy, and terrorism. Tanzania also faces pervasive threats to human security. As one of the world’s poorest countries, economic development fails to reach the majority of the population, resulting in poor health and education systems, as well as the world’s 12th highest HIV/AIDS infection rate.

A strategic U.S.-Tanzanian relationship is critical for countering the threats Tanzania faces and bolstering the country’s capacity to address ongoing regional conflicts and humanitarian crises. This research seeks to answer three questions: What is the impact of AFRICOM in executing U.S. national security policy in Tanzania? How and to what extent has AFRICOM addressed the conditions of human insecurity? Does AFRICOM foster a positive public perception within Tanzania?

The initial findings have shown that Tanzania extensively engages with AFRICOM through its security cooperation programs and exercises. Former AFRICOM Commander Gen. Carter Ham singled out this partnership in his recent remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee stating, “We are deepening our relationship with the Tanzanian military, a professional force whose capabilities and influence increasingly bear on regional security issues in eastern and southern Africa and the Great Lakes region.” Indeed, Tanzania’s contribution of troops to the recently authorized UN offensive combat force in Eastern Congo illustrates the important peace and security role the country plays in the region and the necessity of its military having the capacity to fulfill this role.

In terms of how and to what extent AFRICOM addresses Tanzania’s human security issues, this research has found the command’s activities fit those of a more traditional combatant command; emphasizing military-to-military partner capacity building and engagement. While many of AFRICOM’s programs (MEDCAP, Partner Military HIV/AIDS, Pandemic Response, and VETCAP) focus on human security related issues, they are directed at the Tanzanian military. Regarding public perceptions, Tanzanians have more knowledge and interest than I was led to believe would be the case with public opinion of AFRICOM oscillating between negative and neutral.

Tanzania faces significant security threats both internally and regionally. Although these initial findings have not found that AFRICOM is addressing human security issues in the broader population, AFRICOM is building the Tanzanian military’s capacity to address and prevent instability and conflict, serving Tanzanian, regional, and U.S. security interests.

AFRICOM Testimony to SASC: Part II (Projected Impact of Sequestration)

During General Ham’s appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) earlier this week, he delivered prepared testimony and responded to questions posed to him by members of the committee. (You can find the archived webcast of hearing here.) Most of the questions concerned AFRICOM’s posture for crisis response operations, which I covered in an earlier blog post, and the projected impact of sequestration on AFRICOM’s missions. Here’s a few points I found interesting:

On Sequestration:

At several points of the hearing, there were discussions centered around the need for the Department of Defense (DoD) to determine how, in an era of budget cuts, the military should be postured to respond to crises on the continent.

  • When asked how AFRICOM could increase response time while maintaining a relatively small footprint, General Ham responded that we (I’m unclear if he was referring to the United States in general or AFRICOM in particular) are much better at prevention than response. He further stated that prevention is much cheaper, but necessitates a better understanding of the operating environment – hence the preoccupation with increasing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
  • Earlier in the hearing, General Ham had been asked about reductions in flight hours that have already resulted from sequestration, and have impacted the Command’s ISR capabilities. In his response, he mentioned that most operations are funded by the services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations) through their components of AFRICOM. Two of these components, U.S. Air Forces, Africa (USAFAF) and U.S. Naval Forces, Africa (USNAVAF), have had to constrain their flight operations due to service component funding challenges. General Ham further explained that he’d asked the USAFAF commander to maintain the component’s transport aircraft in a heightened alert posture so that they could move crisis response forces more readily. This, however, requires that the component sustain flight crews on a heightened alert posture, which cuts into normal training and sustainment flights. As a result, the component was having trouble funding both requirements. Similarly, the Navy has had to decrease the frequency of some of its operational reconnaissance flights – again because of the inability to fund its normal flight operations.

General Ham was asked if he was seeing the financial impact of budget cuts on AFRICOM’s U.S. government partners, given that some of AFRICOM’s roles are shared by the State Department, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), etc. He replied that he has seen an impact on the non-Department of Defense (DoD) assets upon which they depend, and implied that if sequestration continued for the balance of the year, that there would be very real consequences on what the State Department would be able to deliver.

When asked about the impact of sequestration on AFRICOM’s ability to train African militaries, General Ham replied that budget cuts may cause some exercises and training to fall by the wayside. A potential upside, however, was that this may lead AFRICOM to seek out opportunities for multinational building partner capacity engagements, since most training has been bilateral. (Here, I’m assuming he was talking about greater collaboration with European allies in Africa.) He also said that with sequestration, DoD may need to revisit last January’s Defense Strategic Guidance.

Finally, a member of the SASC asked if sequestration would precipitate a shift in AFRICOM’s strategy, General Ham replied that he didn’t believe such a shift would give primacy to the use of U.S. forces in military interventions. He explained that although it may be faster to use U.S. military forces, the use of such forces would be counterintuitive because it would ultimately increase the long-term the demands on the U.S. military. The current building partner capacity approach, on the other hand, allows the United States to rely on other nations, thus reducing the demand for U.S. forces.

There were some other interesting parts of the hearing that did not directly relate to crisis response operations or sequestration, but I’ll sum those up in another post later this week.


AFRICOM Testimony to SASC: Part I (Posture for Crisis Response Ops)

Yesterday, General Carter Ham, outgoing Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) regarding the programs and budget needed to meet current and future requirements within the AFRICOM area of responsibility (AoR). This was General Ham’s last testimony to the SASC in this position, as General David Rodriguez has been confirmed as General Ham’s replacement. (You can find General Rodriguez’s responses to advance policy questions from his confirmation hearing last month here.)

Since AFRICOM’s last posture statement in early March 2012, much has transpired in the AoR – from the coup in Mali and the subsequent de facto partition of the country to the defection of M23 from the FARDC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi to the relative improvement in the security situation in Somalia. In light of these developments, I’d been looking forward to reading General Ham’s prepared testimony – yet what I found even more interesting were the questions that various Senators on the SASC asked during Q & A. (See archived webcast of hearing here.)

The majority of the questions were centered on the themes of AFRICOM’s posture for crisis response operations and the impact of sequestration on AFRICOM’s missions. Here’s a few points I found interesting:

On Crisis Response operations:

At times, the testimony was another round of inquiry about what happened in Benghazi, what AFRICOM’s responsibility actually was within the chain of command to prevent and respond to threats against American interests in Libya, what the Commander’s reaction was as the attack unfolded, and what assets were, or could have been, nearby to help save the lives of the four Americans that were killed. But I think the takeaway – not just from this hearing, but from the political fallout from the Benghazi attack – is that there is a clear demand signal for AFRICOM to have a more robust crisis response posture so that it is better able to protect U.S. citizens and U.S. interests on the continent. Accordingly, General Ham spoke of AFRICOM’s efforts to build a theater response capability that would improve the Command’s ability to respond to crises in North, East, and West Africa.

  • He spoke of the Commander’s in-extremis force (CIF), which AFRICOM received in October 2012, although it had been in the planning pipeline prior to the attack in Benghazi. This is a rapid reaction force based in Fort Carson, CO that has a rotational element that is forward deployed in Europe. Although General Ham said that having a designated CIF was a significant improvement over sharing one with EUCOM, it still does not have all of its crisis response enablers, such as intelligence and aviation support.
  • He spoke of a new Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) that has not been formally approved, but would be specifically tailored for crisis response operations. This was a bit confusing to me because there’s been a SPMAGTF designated for Africa working out of Sigonella, Italy. My understanding is that among its tasks were to conduct theater security cooperation activities and maintain readiness for crisis response operations. But if there is indeed a new SPMAGTF, I wonder it it is replacing the existing MAGTF or if it is an additional MAGTF whose sole duty is to be ready to respond to crises on the continent. Additional details from AFRICOM, MARFORAF (Marine Corps component of AFRICOM), or Marine Corps HQ could help clarify this issue.
  • Finally, he spoke of the Army’s Regionally-Aligned Brigade that is supposed to carry out security cooperation activities across the continent on a rotational basis from Fort Riley, KS, but can be operationalized for crisis response if the Commander receives approval from the Secretary of Defense.

In terms of posture for crisis response operations, General Ham spoke of having a response capability with elements based in Djibouti (presumably at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa) that could respond to crises in East Africa, one in southern Europe that could respond to crises in across northern Africa, and another in a site to be determined that would be principally focused on crisis response in West Africa. (Note: I would flag the precise wording in the webcast on this point. While the wording is vague about the location of the West Africa response element, it does not explicitly say it would be based in West Africa. If it were up to me, I’d have them establish a rotational presence out of Naval Station Rota in Spain. And if they did need to be on the continent, I’d have them rotate in and out of Burkina Faso, Ghana, or Senegal.)

The discussion of a more robust posture for crisis response operations in the AFRICOM AoR begged the question of how the U.S. military will be able to resource these requirements, which leads me to the next theme – sequestration’s projected impact on AFRICOM missions.


Capacity-Building Key to AFRICOM’s Mission

(Originally published in World Politics Review on February 5, 2013)

Across the globe, partner capacity-building through steady-state theater security cooperation plays an increasingly important role in the forward defense posture of the United States. The Defense Department’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review identifies building the security capacity of partner states as a key mission, while the 2010 National Security Strategy argues that the United States can advance its national security by enabling partner states to prevent, deter and respond to transnational security challenges before they pose a threat to U.S. citizens, interests or the homeland. Moreover, at a time of budgetary constraints, partner capacity-building through theater security cooperation can be a means for sharing the cost and responsibility of responding to global security challenges, thus reducing the burden on U.S. resources and military personnel.

Throughout an area of responsibility that includes 53 countries, theater security cooperation is a core function for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). With an emphasis on promoting military professionalism, improving operational capabilities and facilitating regional cooperation, AFRICOM seeks to build the capacity of African militaries to prevent conflict as well as lead military responses to emerging crises if necessary, thus preventing transnational threats from transcending the African continent. Theater security cooperation also increases the likelihood that partner nations will allow U.S. forces peacetime and contingency access, which can be a critical enabler for missions such as the recent noncombatant evacuation operation from the U.S. Embassy in Bangui, Central African Republic, or countering piracy off the coast of Somalia.

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

The Future of Security Cooperation in the AFRICOM AoR

Dear Readers,

The past few days have been intellectually bipolar. I spent most of the weekend at the African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Meeting learning from academically-minded colleagues who also specialize in Africa. I also attended some of the panels whose impressive presenters were complemented by their empirically rich research and analysis. The whole exercise was like Africa nerd catnip, and my little gray cells danced for joy.

By Monday, however, I was fully reintegrated into my DC habitat – which I find equally engaging, but in a more policy-focused way. I attended a talk by Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) General Carter Ham on Counterterrorism in Africa. I won’t go over the nuts and bolts of his talk, since you can find coverage of it in the New York Times, Reuters, and a video of the event on CSPAN. Many of his comments also touched on an article published by AFRICOM’s J-5 in Joint Forces Quarterly in October – Going Farther by Going Together: Building Partner Capacity in Africa.

That coverage aside, here’s a few things I found interesting about the event:

  • Gen. Ham stated that two recent documents inform AFRICOM’s current engagements: the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance (also referred to as Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense) and the June 2012 U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. He said that just because Africa is only mentioned once in the former does not imply that the U.S. military would not be relevant there. On the contrary, AFRICOM would continue to work with African militaries on the missions mentioned in the document, which include building partner capacity, countering terrorism and WMD proliferation, and conducting humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) operations – among others. Therefore, Gen. Ham argues, African militaries are still key partners in tackling global challenges, although Africa is hardly mentioned in the DSG. True or not, this is a smart way of arguing AFRICOM’s continued relevance in an era of substantial defense budget cuts.
  • A possible ECOWAS intervention force in Mali was discussed, with Gen. Ham endorsing the U.S. approach to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as a model for the international community’s support for African-led solutions. (For more on the U.S. government’s apparent embrace of this model, see testimony by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.)
  • Finally, I noticed a strong focus on small footprint theater security cooperation (TSC), which aligns with the direction I see U.S. military TSC in Africa heading. During Q&A, I asked what mission sets the Army’s Regionally-Aligned Brigades would be focused on and what opportunities there might be to leverage interagency skills, expertise, and networks. He responded by thanking me for the set-up question and offering more details on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s concept. As  Army forces become more available due to reduced deployments to Afghanistan, Gen. Odierno wants to make forces available to the geographic combatant commanders and has chosen AFRICOM as the pilot. Starting in early in 2013 for one year, AFRICOM will have access to a brigade based in Fort Riley, Kansas for a total of 96 individual engagements in 35 countries. Their primary purpose is to support training and exercises, and if the Combatant Commander wishes to use them for particular operations, they would need permission from the Secretary of Defense. You can find video of my question and Gen. Ham’s response here by forwarding the video to the 1 hour 10 minute mark.
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