Ramping up air strikes after 12 years, does the Trump Administration have a new strategy for the war in Somalia or is this escalation “mission creep”?

Ramping up air strikes after 12 years, does the Trump Administration have a new strategy for the war in Somalia or is this escalation “mission creep”?
Kenyans going for water

The Trump Administration's escalation of the air power part of the war in Somalia in recent months has caught the attention of American journalists. See recent reporting in The New York Times and Amanda Sperber's investigative reporting in The Nation.…

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GAO says U.S. Dept. of Defense needs to determine future of Horn of Africa Task Force; report highlights challenges regarding coordination and effectiveness of civil affairs/development work

Government Accountability Office release.

The full 45 page report is here.

When we met with CJTF-HOA officials in October 2009, they estimated that, in addition to other tasks, about 60 percent of the task force’s activities focus on civil affairs projects. To conduct these quick, short-term projects, CJTF-HOA has established small civil affairs teams (for example, five or six personnel) who deploy to remote areas to engage the local communities and perform activities such as medical and veterinary care for local communities. While deployed, the teams generally nominate project proposals based on assessments they conduct as to what the communities need. The proposals are reviewed for approval by USAID, the embassy, CJTF-HOA, and AFRICOM prior to execution. During our October 2009 visit to the U.S. embassy in Ethiopia, we learned of several project proposals from civil affairs teams deployed in the country, ranging from under $10,000 to about $200,000—including the construction of a teaching farm, school renovations, training for local mechanics,

construction of an orphanage, and renovation of a bridge. None of the project proposals in Ethiopia had been approved at the time of our visit. CJTF-HOA officials told us that the project approval process can be lengthy, potentially lasting an entire year. This is generally longer than the tour rotations of some CJTF-HOA civil affairs team personnel.

. . . .

Furthermore, CJTF-HOA is coordinating with the Navy and coalition partners in CENTCOM’s Coalition Task Force 151, which conducts maritime security operations to protect shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean. AFRICOM has also established a socio-cultural research and advisory team on a semipermanent basis at Camp Lemonnier. The team consists of one to five social scientists who conduct research and provide cultural advice to the command.

. . . .

Other CJTF-HOA proposed activities may not consider the full range of possible effects or may not be clearly aligned with AFRICOM’s mission. For example, Department of State and USAID officials we contacted at one U.S. embassy expressed concern that some of the activities that CJTF-HOA had previously proposed, such as building schools for the partner nation, did not appear to fit into a larger strategic framework, and said that they did not believe CJTF-HOA was monitoring its activities as needed to enable it to demonstrate a link between activities and mission. These officials told us that instead of leveraging long-term data to guide future activity planning, CJTF-HOA may be proposing activities without considering the full range of potential consequences. The embassy officials cited a past example where CJTF-HOA had proposed drilling a well without considering how its placement could cause conflict in clan relationships or affect pastoral routes. Officials at other embassies described similar problems with CJTF-HOA proposals. To mitigate such issues, U.S. embassies have steered CJTF-HOA toward contributing to projects identified by USAID, which are better aligned with embassy and U.S. foreign policy goals. Moreover, some CJTF-HOA activities appear to be sporadic, short-term events that may not promote sustained or long-term security engagement. (more…)

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