David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”–a timely reminder of policy in the Horn of Africa in 2007-08

David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”  this week in The Diplomat:

The complex US-led intervention in Somalia, a decade in the making, represents offshore balancing at its most potent and urgent. The Libyan rebellion was outside the United States’ core interests. For Washington, intervening in Libya was optional. But Somalia, a failed state since 1991 and an al-Qaeda safe haven, represents a direct threat to the United States, and indeed has inspired the first American suicide bombers.

If offshore balancing, with its emphasis on air and sea power and proxy armies, is to define the US strategic approach to Asia and the Pacific, it first must succeed in Somalia.

For advocates of the strategy, there are reasons for hope. US offshore balancing in Somalia came together gradually, almost by accident, as separate interventions chased the converging problems of famine, terrorism and piracy. Today, this increasingly unified US effort seems to finally be bearing fruit, as American-supported foreign armies rapidly gain ground against al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist fighters.

However, sceptics too might find ammunition in the United States’ Somalia strategy. For while current US efforts in Somalia have managed to avoid a major ground-force deployment – and  indeed have been essentially bloodless for Washington – they have at the same time failed to bring a speedy end to the country’s crises. The recent territory gains are encouraging but hardly decisive – and certainly reversible.

.  .  .  .

The ICU didn’t explicitly advocate terrorism, and there were probably only a handful of al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in Somalia at the time. But that nuance was lost on the George W. Bush Administration. Washington pledged support for the Ethiopian attack, including ‘intelligence sharing, arms aid and training,’ according to USA Today.

With this backing, plus air cover provided by US AC-130 gunships and carrier-based fighters and assistance on the ground by US Special Forces, the Ethiopian army launched a Blitzkrieg-style assault on Somalia in December 2006.

Ethiopian tanks quickly routed the ICU’s lightly armed fighters. ‘The Somalia job was fantastic,’ Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told then-US Central Commander boss Gen. John Abizaid in 2007.

The Bush Administration agreed with that assessment, at least initially. And the proxy approach to African security challenges quickly became central to Washington’s policy for the continent. In 2007, the Pentagon formed a new regional command called ‘Africa Command’ to oversee operations in most of Africa.

.  .  .  .

In Somalia, the Ethiopian invasion and subsequent two-year occupation only served to rally the country’s Islamic extremists. Al Shabab coalesced from the remains of the ICU’s armed wing and launched a bloody, and surprisingly popular, insurgency against the Ethiopians.

Also targeted: the UN- and US-sponsored Transition Federal Government, formed under the protection of the Ethiopians, plus the new African Union peacekeeping force composed mostly of Ugandan and Burundian troops and funded by the United Nations and Washington.

Al Shabab also strengthened ties with al-Qaeda, which had sent operatives to advise clan forces during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and, more than a decade later, still maintained a small presence in Somalia. The al-Qaeda-Al Shabab alliance helped Al Shabab pull off a twin suicide bombing in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010 that killed 74 people.

.  .  .  .

US support for the peacekeepers and the TFG represents the proxy portion of Washington’s offshore balancing in Somalia. Naval patrols, Special Forces raids and strikes by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles round out the strategy. At first, however, the main air and sea initiatives weren’t directly tied to the proxy fight on the ground.

In parallel with its support for Ethiopia’s attack on Somalia, the Pentagon in 2006 was in the process of standing up an East African counter-terrorism complex anchored by secret bases reportedly in Ethiopia and Kenya. From there, US Special Forces and armed drones struck at terrorist targets in Somalia, occasionally in cooperation with naval forces.

In 2007, Special Operations Command aircraft launched at least two helicopter raids on al-Qaeda and Al Shabab operatives in Somalia. On no fewer than three occasions in 2007 and 2008, commandos spotted targets for US warships firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at Somali targets. Some of the same warships help make up Combined Task Force 150, a US-led international naval force assigned to intercept arms shipments bound for Al Shabab and al-Qaeda in Somalia.

Djibouti Suspends USAID-funded Election Observation (with update)

UPDATE Mar 16: Following the reports here, the election observation team was ordered out of the country, reports the Financial Times.

With Djibouti’s presidential election scheduled for April 8, and opposition parties announcing plans to boycott and continue protests, the government has come out against an election observation mission that has been working since last fall.  The Financial Times story is here:

Djibouti has told the United States that an independent election observer mission is “illegal” and suspended its partnership with the US-funded mission.

The news came amid reports that the north-east African coastal state had arrested two opposition leaders on Friday.

Democracy International (DI), which has a $2.2m, eight-man team in the tiny strategic state, provides the only international technical assistance and observation group in the country, which has been ruled by the same dynasty since independence.

The increasing visibility of the Djibouti’s anti-democratic leanings is awkward for the US, which relies on the country for its only military base on the continent and last year doubled aid to the country, funding DI’s Djibouti operation. Many of its 3,000 troops are dedicated to fighting piracy and terrorism in neighbouring Somalia.

.  .  .  .

Sources say efforts to resolve the dispute with DI continue. “We have not closed up our operations, (but) we are not undertaking any active programming,” DI co-founder Glenn Cowan told the Financial Times, adding that the group still plans to observe the elections.

Today’s Bloomberg report is here The Washington Post reported on the mission in February, noting that no foreign journalists were working in the country. The story includes relatively positive comments by the mission head on the government’s approach to allowing protests and the political climate.

Provocative Question: To Eliminate Redundancy, Should We Move USAID from DOS to DOD?

In this era of perceived relative austerity in U.S. public budgeting, there is much discussion about (1) cutting “foreign aid” and (2) addressing redundancy in federal spending. One obvious area of redundancy in terms, at least, of conceptual capacity and planning, is in the foreign assistance area where the lead agency is said to be the State Department in some cases, and in others USAID as a partially independent but intertwined organization funded through the State Department. At the same time, the Department of Defense, as part of military doctrine, aspires to maintain a parallel capacity to conduct reconstruction and development functions–and is often the “go to” agency for aspects of humanitarian/disaster relief in places like Indonesia, Haiti and New Orleans.

The basic doctrine is that the military services need to be ready to step in where civilian capacity is insufficient or simply fails (as in dealing with the situation when the Coalition Provisional Authority closed up shop in Iraq in 2004).

Redundancy has costs and benefits–there is a positive value to having “excess” capacity in terms of risk mitigation. On the other hand, there may be some downside from difficulties in coordination, moral hazard associated with having someone else available to “bail out” failure, etc. On balance, I think it is a net positive to have redundant development/assistance capacity. This is a bit like the much discussed and debated “extra engine” for the military Joint Strike Fighter program–there is some reduction in risk to have two engines in development at the same time to do the same thing. The question is one of efficiency and affordability.

In an era of cuts to assistance, it probably is not efficient enough to warrant duplicate capacity with the U.S. government.  Thus we should chose which basket to put our eggs into.

Personally, I am well persuaded that the national security triad (or “three-legged stool”) of Defense, Development and Diplomacy would be most efficiently and effectively handled through having USAID or a similiar agency operate as an independent “step sister” agency, rather than as a branch off one of the other legs of the stool. If that is not politically feasible, or there is not political will or courage to try it, and we are tasked with eliminating redundancy to maximize effectiveness with more limited dollars, we need to ask whether to continue with the current structure and try to eliminate funding for development within DOD and perhaps shift some of the savings to the DOS complex, or to simply consolidate the work in DOD.

At present we are more than two years into the Obama Administration and there is still no nominee for USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa.  In the meantime, AFRICOM has extensive support from USAID as described by testimony to Congress last summer by a USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator about national security and interagency collaboration:

The Africa Command, or AFRICOM, provides another example of where strong interagency partnership from its inception has advanced U.S. national security interests. Beginning in 2007, USAID staff in Africa was engaged in helping DOD plan U.S. Africa Command. As AFRICOM developed from a concept similar to the SOUTHCOM model to an independent command, USAID was engaged with counterparts in the Defense Department at every step in the process. AFRICOM was intended to bring together U.S. military assets devoted to Africa’s security in one unified command, but the mandate and operation of the command were the subject of lively interagency debate prior to its establishment. Our first senior development advisor, assigned to the European Command, or EUCOM, in 2007, was actively involved in the process. Other USAID officers, including senior career and political leadership, helped General Ward and his staff to define AFRICOM’s mandate, coordination mechanisms, and civilian roles in the Command, as well as shaping the Command to focus on its central priority of building the capacity of African military institutions. This resulted in the establishment of a USAID senior development advisor position at the command as well as detailing two USAID representatives to the command, one to direct the Programs Division and the other to manage their Humanitarian and Civic Assistance programs and funds. Subsequently, a representative of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance was assigned to the command.

As AFRICOM has stood up and developed its relationships with interagency partners, and senior Command officials have sought to forge strong ties with USAID. Developing capable and rightly-structured militaries in Africa is absolutely essential for Africa’s development and stability and AFRICOM plays an important role in enhancing the capacity of Africa’s military. We support and emphasize this crucial core function of AFRICOM in the interagency and in discussions in Stuttgart. At the same time, there are other areas where USAID and AFRICOM work closely and effectively together.

AFRICOM leadership has pressed for significant participation and officer exchanges with USAID, in general, for more positions than our small agency can provide. USAID officers in AFRICOM — at the level of the Commander, the Plans and Program Directorate, and Disaster Response unit — have both helped “shape” this new Command and improved the Command’s civil affairs and humanitarian programs and their intended audience, and interagency collaboration in strategic, conflict-prone areas, and in disaster response.

Perhaps the best example of USAID’s effect upon the Command has been where AFRICOM’s office overseeing funding for development projects or what the military refers to as “humanitarian assistance,” our representative has repeatedly proven the value of having a development advisor in this position. That officer has reshaped the provision of AFRICOM humanitarian assistance to be more effective and sustainable based on AFRICOM’s expertise in this area. Most recently, her efforts were recognized when she won a “dissent” award from the American Foreign Service Association for her contribution to the dialogue about the Defense Department’s proposed programs in the area of women’s health. USAID also actively participates in logistics cooperation training which illustrates a cohesive approach to coordination at all levels.

Realistically, isn’t it more feasible politically to consolidate the functions in DOD rather than DOS to maintain bi-partisan support for funding?  Isn’t the reality that the DOD function is the stronger bureaucratic player and will find ways to continue its own programs and capacity regardless? For instance, would a key appointment in a military combatant command such as AFRICOM remain unfilled for over two years?

Is it the case, cosmetics of “hard power” and “soft power” aside, that Development has more overlap with Defense than with Diplomacy anyway if it can’t stand on its own?

AFRICOM and the “Whale of Government” Approach

Watching Alliances Experience “Blow Out” from a Build Up of Democratic Pressure

Its a beautiful spring day here in coastal Mississippi.  A nice day for a Mardi Gras parade and to rake leaves, which we do here in the spring instead of the fall, and to watch events unfold in Africa.  As election results are coming in from Uganda, the Libyan army is attempting to repress a budding revolution against Museveni’s recent friend from the north, Col. Gaddafi.  Of course, Museveni is not the only one who has been cozy with the theatrical Libyan dictator, oil baron and would-be “Pan African” leader.

From today’s Guardian, “Britain’s alliance with Libya turns sour as Gaddafi cracks down”:

Now Britain’s risky and controversial relationship with Libya is beginning rapidly to unravel.

BP, which is also heavily involved in the country, is weeks away from beginning a major drilling operation in a vast area around the desert town of Ghadames. Indeed, a group of US senators last year suggested that the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could have been influenced by lobbying over BP’s commercial interests in Libya — an allegation fiercely denied by the Scottish government.

And it is not only Britain’s foreign policy on Libya that has sent diplomats scurrying into disarray as they have tried to keep up with the wave of popular uprisings against regimes that Britain supported, but the policy for the entire region.

According to Claire Spencer, head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, the rapprochement with Libya in 2004 was founded on assumptions that dominated for a decade post-9/11, obsessed as the west was with the fight against al-Qaida, the wider “global war on terror” and fear of mass migration and the rising influence of Iran.

“Against that we backed the other half, the so-called moderates standing up for our values – regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.” The domination of that foreign policy agenda, she believes, meant that not only in the Foreign Office but in the Quai d’Orsay and the US State Department, those warning of the growing potential for unrest across the region were ignored.

Though Libya had faced accusations of refusing to recognise the rights of refugees, indefinite detentions, torture and arbitrary expulsions, Spencer believes that British diplomats felt they had only the most limited leverage on their new partner.

By yesterday the queasiness had turned to outright horror, as Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague, a day after his department revoked all British arms licences to Libya and Bahrain, condemned the “unacceptable and horrifying” use of violence by Gaddafi’s security forces against his own people, “including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators”.

Which leaves the crucial question of whether Gaddafi can survive. In the past, as Spencer points out, the self-styled Supreme Guide has been adept at ditching prime ministers and others to protect his position and place himself on the side of the people, a tactic he tried to use even in the current protests. Now he has abandoned that in favour of the use of outright violent suppression.

If he believes that he can confine the problems to the country’s east, he may be mistaken. Many from that region have families in Tripoli. He may find it impossible to stop rebellion spreading.

And Britain’s manoeuvring to distance itself from the man it has supported for the last seven years may have come too late.

Needless to say, here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast BP has not been especially popular since last April. I don’t think many people here have paid especially great attention to Gaddafi, but neither I suspect, have they been particularly confused about him.

I pulled out a copy the other day of a J. Peter Pham column from World Defense Review from March 2010 entitled “Libya as an African Power” which I would encourage you to read and reflect on:

The breakout came in 1997 when the annual summit of Organization of African Unity foreign ministers was held in Qadhafi’s hometown of Sirte (some of the diplomats attending were only able to do so because Libya paid their country’s arrears to the pan-African organization, thus restoring their voting rights). The foreign ministers also set up a five-member committee to mediate between Libya and the West over the Lockerbie dispute. On the heels of the summit, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela both visited Tripoli. African backing proved critical to the breakdown of the sanctions regime and the subsequent agreement to hand over two Libyan suspects for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law for the Pan Am bombing.

Meanwhile, Libya’s strategic engagements across Africa multiplied—a state of affairs symbolically demonstrated by the change in name of the country’s state broadcaster from the “Voice of the Greater Arab Homeland” to the “Voice of Africa.” .  .  .  .

Even the creation of the African Union in place of the tired Organization of African Unity has a Libyan connection that is usually glossed over. In response to an initiative promoted by Tripoli, the OAU Assembly of African Heads of State and Government met in extraordinary session for only the fourth time in its nearly forty-year history at Sirte in September 1999. In the resulting “Sirte Declaration,” the African leaders professed to have been “inspired by the important proposals submitted by Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, Leader of the Great Al-Fatah Libyan Revolution, and particularly, by his vision for a strong and united Africa, capable of meeting global challenges and shouldering its responsibility to harness the human and natural resources of the continent in order to improve the living conditions of its peoples” and resolved to “establish an African Union” better able to “cope with the challenges and to effectively address the new social, political, and economic realities in Africa and in the world.”

.  .  .  .

Considerably more important than its role as a donor of development assistance has been Libya’s role as an investor in Africa. A government entity, the Libya African Portfolio for Investments (LAP), overseen by the country’s main sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), numbers among its companies the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (LAAICO), which has a mandate to promote business growth in Africa by investing in sectors as diverse as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, real estate development, telecommunications, and tourism. Currently, LAAIC has holdings in some more than two dozen African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Another LAP company, the Oil Libya Holding Company (formerly Tamoil Africa), is engaged in refining, marketing and distribution of petroleum products in a similar number of African countries. In Morocco, for example, the Libyans have invested more than $5 billion to acquire about 200 gas stations, approximately 10 percent of the local market. Yet another LAP asset, LAP Green, has had telecommunications operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Rwanda, and Uganda. Last month LAP Green acquired 80 percent of Gemtel in South Sudan and the company has been shortlisted among the suitors seeking to acquire a 75-percent stake in the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) being offered by the Zambia Development Agency.

.  .  .  .

Uganda is a good example of a case where Libya’s investments have served its strategic objectives while simultaneously helping the target country’s economic and social development. There are few African countries where Tripoli’s past interventions were so much on the wrong side of history.  .  .  .

.  .  .  . Currently at least $500 million in Libyan capital is participating in Uganda’s growing economy. Libya owns a 49-percent stake in the National Housing and Construction Company (NHCC), a public enterprise with a mandate to increase the housing stock in the country, rehabilitate the housing industry, and encourage Ugandans to own homes in an organized environment. Libya also owns 69 percent of Uganda Telecom Limited (the Ugandan government owns the other 31 percent), where its capital has been used to aggressively expand the company’s market share. In a joint venture with the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Libya has invested in a soluble coffee plant that adds value to Ugandan production by making it compliant with European standards. Libya also has the contract to build an extension of the Mombasa-Eldoret oil pipeline in Kenya to the Ugandan capital of Kampala. The extension will be designed to permit reverse flow once Uganda begins its own petroleum production. Earlier this year, a team from Oil Libya visited Uganda to explore the possibility of building an oil refinery.

The Qadhafi regime’s decision in 2003 to abandon its WMD program, settle the Lockerbie claims, and give up its hitherto support of international terrorism (the United States removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2007) led to the lifting of numerous economic and trade restrictions as well as the ban on American citizens doing business there. The potential economic and political rewards of deciding to work with instead of against Washington may actually strengthen Tripoli’s capacity in dealings with the rest of the African continent, especially the poorer states of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Given some of the anti-Western, post-colonial rhetoric that has emanated from Tripoli over the years, it may be surprising for some to learn that since the thaw in bilateral relations with Washington, Libya has even demonstrated greater openness to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) than some other states on the continent. AFRICOM Commander General William E. “Kip” Ward actually traveled to Libya twice in 2009 and met with Colonel Qadhafi .  .  .

Thus last May, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell arrived in Tubruq for a three-day port visit that was the first of any U.S. military vessel to Libya in more than four decades.  .  .  .  The visits were returned in September when a delegation of three senior Libyan officers visited AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, as well as U.S. Air Force Africa headquarters at Ramstein Air Base.During the officers’ visit, General Ward gave an unprecedented interview to Al-Musallh, the official journal of the Libyan armed forces, in which he described his discussions of African security matters with Qadhafi and “we look forward to working together in ways that help us achieve those common objectives for peace and stability.”

In the interest of renewing links to professionals in the Libyan military and security services after a nearly four-decade hiatus, the Bush administration requested $350,000 in State Department-administered International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding for Libya in fiscal year 2009. The Obama administration requested the same amount for the current fiscal year, specifying that the funding would be used for English language education as well as courses on civil-military relations, border security, and counterterrorism (Libya has been invited to join the U.S.-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership). In addition, the Obama administration budget also allocated, for the first time ever, a token $250,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to provide assistance to the Libyan air force in developing its air transport capabilities and to the Libyan coast guard in improving its coastal patrol and search-and-rescue operations. As significant as these steps may be, there is no reason why bilateral cooperation should not extend to other spheres. As Saif Aleslam al-Qadhafi, noted at the start of the U.S. rapprochement with his father: “Libya does not envisage limiting relations to fighting terrorism. It proposes joint efforts, for example, to meet the needs of Africa by eradicating disease and promoting investment.” .  .  .  .


“Stars and Stripes” on QDDR and “Civilan Power”

“US Considering Combining Military and International Affairs Budgets” at Stars and Stripes.

Citing the joint planning required between U.S. military and civilian agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposal is one of several that would put the U.S. diplomatic corps and its lead global humanitarian agency on a stronger national security footing, according to a draft of the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered the review last year to be modeled after the Pentagon’s four-year review, intended as a strategic guide for appropriators. It is part of an ongoing White House-led effort to link development and national security.

“To advance American interests and values and to lead other nations in solving shared problems in the 21st century, we must rely on our diplomats and development experts as the first face of American power,” Clinton said in the introduction of a “consultation draft” version leaked to The Washington Post this week. “We must lead through civilian power.”

AFRICOM and the “Whale of Government” Approach? [Updated]

Ok, maybe it’s tilapia instead of whale, but I thought this blog post from AFRICOM public affairs was worth a look:

By Dace Mahanay, Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University graduate student

Note: Dace Mahanay is currently interning with the Borlaug Institute on an AFRICOM agriculture project in Kisangani, DRC. He is sending periodic blogs detailing the project’s progress.

At Camp Base, just outside of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture continues to work with Agriculture Company (AgCo), a company of Congolese soldiers (Forces Armes de la Republique Democratique du Congo, widely known as FARDC), in an effort to provide sustainable methods of food production for the training center and U.S.-trained light infantry battalion. From fish farming to the cultivation of cassava, the needs of soldiers are being met in a sustainable way that is positive for the future of Camp Base and the community of Kisangani as a whole.

The last few weeks have been an exciting time for the agricultural project. A fish farming expert from the U.S. visited the project and provided valuable recommendations for increased production of tilapia and African catfish. The first batch of harvestable tilapia will be ready in the next couple of months and will be an excellent source of protein for FARDC soldiers.

The President’s new development policy invokes a “whole of government” approach, and I did learn last week about some encouraging specifics in coordination, such as the fact that the MCC has, for the first time, executed an actual Memorandum of Understanding with USAID. Nonetheless, if AFRICOM as a military combatant command, is going to be leading agricultural projects in places where we are not openly militarily engaged except in “permanent” and ongoing training and related activities, what are the lines between civilian and military? Between defense/security/diplomacy and development/agriculture assistance?

It sounds like a great program from an agricultural standpoint. Also sounds like it gets into areas that could involve unintended consequences if all the local circumstances are not well understood.

Update: Here is a story raising the issue of reports of rape and murder by the Congolese army:

Government troops are raping, killing and robbing civilians in the same area of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where militias carried out mass rapes more than two months ago, a top United Nations envoy said.

Margot Wallstrom, who is responsible for UN efforts to combat sexual violence in conflict, told the Security Council that UN peacekeepers have received reports of rapes, killings and looting by government soldiers.

“The possibility that the same communities who were brutalised in July and August by FDLR and Mai Mai elements are now also suffering [at the hands of the army] is unimaginable and unacceptable,” she said, referring to the Rwandan-led rebels from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda.

Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

Secretary of State Clinton noted this week to the African Chiefs of Mission the Africa Bureau’s efforts on wrangling votes for Iran sanctions:

The bureau was enormously helpful in rounding up votes for the sanctions resolution on Iran – Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, thank you, because it wasn’t easy. I think I talked to President Museveni three times and Johnnie visited him several times. But – end result was we got strong African support for the international sanctions regime. We are building, and in some – many cases, rebuilding collaboration not only along bilateral lines, but multilateral alliances, most especially in our collaboration and engagement with the African Union, because it’s very important that we do more to build up the African Union and other regional entities like the East African Community, which has a real potential for being an engine of economic prosperity. [emphasis added]

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at African Chiefs of Mission Conference

Tensions continue building over Uganda’s February 2011 elections–see yesterday’s news about opposition plans for a parallel electronic vote count and the Ugandan government’s strident reaction.

Carl LeVan has an excellent discussion of "Democratization and Securitization in Uganda" that I would highly recommend.

The ruling NRM has cleverly adopted the Global War on Terrorism as a political resource. Even before the terrorist bombing in the capital in July 2010, the government began closing political space in the name of national security while it successfully obtained aid commitments from the United States to fight counter-insurgency wars, one of which is against the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the north.

. . . .

Looking beyond the Pentagon, Washington is clearly aware of Uganda’s governance drift. For example the US announced that will not renew 10 million dollars committed through Millennium Challenge Corporation to help Uganda move from “threshold” status to a full compact (ie, an agreement) for aid. USAID’s plans call for strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing political competition, and improving parliamentary capacity for oversight through partnerships with civil society. Unfortunately USAID faces an uphill battle, with no increases in the lines funding for either for civil society programs or for its good governance in Uganda, and cuts are planned for programs relating to “political competition and consensus building.” Even aid to fight transnational crime is slated for cuts.

In addition to all the regional security issues involving Somalia, Sudan, Congo and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Iran sanctions issue adds another interesting twist. I noted back in May that Assistant Secretary Carson and AFRICOM Commander General Ward were seeking Museveni’s support on Iran sanctions during a visit to Kampala, as well as pushing for Museveni to relinquish unilateral control of the Electoral Commission. The U.S. succeeded in persuading Uganda to support sanctions, but did not secure action on the Electoral Commission. Both worthy goals, but is there a trade off?

It is also interesting to note a report that Uganda has now been working with Iran to create a joint bank as a mechanism to allow Uganda to obtain access to $46M in pledged Iranian credits that have impeded by the sanctions:

[A] memo prepared by the ministry for Parliament’s public accounts committee, in response to an audit query, said that sanctions had complicated the money transfer. "The ministry has followed up the implementation of this line of credit. However, it has faced challenges, especially following the imposition of sanctions on Iran," said the memo.

"In a bid to overcome the difficulty in transferring funds to and from Iran because of sanctions and to promote investment and trade, the two countries agreed on the establishment of a bank as a joint venture as the best way forward," it said.

U.S. AFRICOM Troops to Congo? To attack the LRA?

Wired has a piece on their Danger Room blog suggesting “why the US should send troops (and spooks)” to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to pursue the Lords Resistance Army, on the theory that what is missing is military capability and we are the ones that have it:

Africom is not designed to mount Afghanistan-size wars. It’s all about brief, targeted intervention, influence and the Pentagon’s new favorite word, “partnership.” “Admittedly, this is an indirect and long-term approach,” Maj. Gen. William Garrett, then-commander of Africom’s land troops, told me earlier this year. Recently, U.S. Special Forces helped form a new “model” Congolese army battalion. And earlier this month in Kinshasa, Congo’s sprawling capital, a hundred U.S. Army doctors and medics teamed up with 250 Congolese personnel for a couple weeks of training. “The U.S. has determined it wants to be more involved in Africa,” explained Army Lt. Col. Todd Johnston, the exercise commander.

So why not get involved where it can really help? That’s what advocates of U.S. action in Congo are asking. After all, this is a mineral-rich country that takes millions and millions in foreign donations, mostly from America. So find the LRA, and kill or capture the chiefs before they make an already desperate country even worse.

But do it the Africom way. No massive troop deployment. No occupation. No drawn-out conflict. No headline news in the U.S. Just a few spooks, a few commandos, some airplanes and choppers and the permission of Congolese president Joseph Kabila. By American military standards, it wouldn’t take much. But it would make life a lot safer for millions of people in Central Africa — and might help reduce the cost to the world of keeping Congo on life support. Plus, it could show the way forward for a smarter, less expensive American way of war.

There are just two problems. First, the U.S. military has tried taking out the LRA before, albeit indirectly — and failed. Last year, Ugandan and U.N. forces acting on U.S.-provided intelligence launched an offensive aimed at taking out LRA leadership. But the rebels escaped … and killed hundreds of civilians as they hacked their way deeper into the forest.

Second, despite a growing body of legislation meant to define America’s role in Congo’s conflicts, at the moment there’s no clear U.S. policy regarding Congo and no prospect of one emerging anytime soon. The U.S. military might be the best solution to Congo’s LRA problem, but it’s a solution lacking one key component: political will.

It’s a bit hard for me to understand how you can present an argument for sending US troops into the Congo, with the permission of President Joseph Kabila, to hunt down the LRA, without any serious discussion of the ramifications of this in relation to all of the other conflicts and issues in Eastern Congo involving foreign-supported militias, ethnic groups, etc. Or how you address the issues involving the fact that the LRA ranges across four different countries and originates in Uganda rather than the DRC. If you don’t cross borders, you fail and you have to stay indefinitely in the DRC to have any hope of keeping the LRA elsewhere–do you follow them into Sudan, for instance, based on permission from Joseph Kabila? Do we have US troops fighting in Uganda during the February elections?

Conceptually, I fully appreciate the impulse to act directly instead of just through training others to try to put a stop to the LRA–however, I just don’t buy this as a legitimate assessment. Part of the reason is that reading carefully, you see that what Axe is describing is not just  a lack of capability by the DRC, but also a lack of will. This makes the whole thing a bit disingenuous.

Robert Kaplan waxed poetic in the Atlantic back in 2007 at the inception of AFRICOM about the nature of the combatant command as a new “under one roof” State Department, USAID and military entity for “nation building”. Based on the GAO report issued in July on the status of AFRICOM (h/t Dr. Carl LeVan) any such ambitions are at an embryonic stage as AFRICOM has yet to formalize its own basic planning documents and at least at that time still had not really worked out how to handle the role of the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa in Djibouti, which is the actual on-continent U.S. base. Likewise, AFRICOM as of July had only 29 people at headquarters from State and USAID and did not use any methodology to actually measure or evaluate its various programs in civil affairs, rule of law, etc., etc., which might or might not complement other things done by others from the U.S. government.

Does this piece in Wired represent the “tip of the spear” in the search for an alternative role for AFRICOM–more “rapid strike force” and less “nation building”?

When someone floats an idea and says “plus, it could show the way forward for a smarter, less expensive American way of war”, start by being afraid for your children and your wallet. And suggest that they may want to experiment on this in Afghanistan and/or Iraq first.

Democracy and Competing Objectives: “We need you to back us up”

I also had a senior military officer, a general, say to me, “It really doesn’t help us when you all don’t come out and criticize sort of half-hearted democratic elections. You tell us ‘Democracy, Democracy’; then you accept when we don’t have fully up to a minimal level of standard, because you’ve got presumably some other competing objective there that mitigates against that, because otherwise we don’t understand the point of continuing to strive for that standard. We need you to back us up and to back up our societies.”

This was Kate Almquist, now Senior Fellow for Security and Development at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, at a Military Strategy Forum on AFRICOM at CSIS in July. Ms. Almquist was Assistant Director for Africa at USAID from May 2007 to 2009. She is speaking on a panel, relating her recent discussions with senior African military leaders at the Africa Center in response to a question about “competing objectives” regarding U.S. “strategic partners” including Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia, and “how do we know U.S. military support is not increasing autocratic tendencies and not increasing democratic space?”

Since this event we’ve had a substandard election season in Rwanda–as well as the leak of a draft UN report using the term genocide in reference to Rwandan activity in the DRC. In Uganda, Museveni has announced formally that he is running for re-election, while continuing to refuse action to relinquish the unilateral appointment of the Electoral Commission. At the same time, Rwanda is threatening to pull its “peacekeeping” soldiers out of Darfur, and Uganda is offering an additional 10,000 soldiers to be “peacekeepers” in Somalia. The conundrums continue.

Here is a link to the audio and video from CSIS (also available on podcast). This discussion starts at 32:50 in the panel following General Ward’s speech.

Some optimistic observations on development and democracy, and some more aid-trade stories

“A New Dawn for Africa” from Johnathan Dembleby in the Daily Telegraph.

The boss of the call centre was born in Nairobi but left for the States to make his fortune. He became a big player in corporate America but now he is back home, running Kenya’s largest call centre, which has contracts with Britain and the United States as well as domestically. What brought him back? “I saw a chance to make serious money here. If they can do it in India, why not Kenya?” He abhors Africa’s “begging-bowl image” and the cronyism and corruption that bedevil his own country, but he is an optimist. “Of course we need better leadership but Kenya is full of entrepreneurs – that’s the way forward.”
. . . .
There are scores, hundreds, thousands of such examples. It is not yet a flood but it is more than a trickle as a steady stream of African émigrés return to make a better life for themselves and their families in their own countries. This “brain gain” does not yet balance the “brain drain” but it is a symptom that much of Africa is changing for the better. While the fundamental conditions for a thriving economy – the rule of law and transparency – are not yet deeply rooted in any African state, the foundations are at last being nurtured in many of them.
. . . .
Democracy is still a fragile flower but has started to bloom in many parts of the continent including Nigeria. Though instability is a constant predicament, tyrants and military dictators are now the exception not the rule. Freedom of expression, dramatically enhanced by Twitter and Facebook and the ubiquitous mobile phone, is proving exceptionally difficult to suppress except by the kind of brute force that only a tiny minority of African regimes are nowadays willing to exercise. Whether it is for these reasons or because they have been voting with their feet to confirm the latest New Scientist survey – which reports that regardless of their multiple tribulations, Nigeria is home to the happiest people on earth – some 10,000 Nigerians returned home last year. A similar flow is reported in many other countries.

None of this is to magic away the desperate circumstances that millions of Africans endure. Over the past 40 years, I have witnessed far too much hunger and too many deaths from disease, conflict and tyranny to be a Pangloss about this continent. The suffering is heart-breaking, the inequities are offensive, and the corruption is corrosive. My point is that these miseries are very far from being the whole story. The Africans I met on my 7,000-mile journey through nine countries resent the pitying and patronising attitudes that are so often adopted towards them by a Western world which – from their perspective – doles out aid with one hand while nicking the oil and minerals (by which the continent is blessed in super-abundance) with the other.

Again and again, at every level, people told me: “Don’t give us aid – trade with us fairly. Stop ripping us off.” Of course, most of them don’t mean that literally; they simply want a relationship with the rest of the world that is grounded in greater respect and understanding. Well-meaning sound bites like Tony Blair’s “Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world” inadvertently label as “victims” hundreds of millions of energetic and hard-working individuals who are resilient, inventive and enterprising – and who live in vibrant and peaceable communities that have much to teach our own dysfunctional societies.

On the aid front, “Dar rushes to spend $700M as U.S. official jets in”, from The East African. Worth noting that this $700M from the Millennium Challenge Corporation for Tanzania approaches twice the amount of the annual budget for AFRICOM. A BBC report asks five years after the Gleneagles Summit: “Did more African aid deliver fewer coups?”

And back on the entrepreneurial side, see “Trader in grasshopper delicacy hops to fortune” from the Standard.