a Consensus about the Degree and Forms of U.S. Inolvement in Africa
Avoiding an Event-Driven Approach to Intervention
Supporting Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping Activities
Using Military Assistance to Foster Progress in Africa
As noted earlier, traditionally-defined U.S. geostrategic interests in Africa have greatly diminished with the end of the Cold War. At the same time, the sensibilities of the U.S. public have been increasingly rattled by media reports and pictures of catastrophes in less developed--very often African--nations. The climate for the spread of U.S. economic and political values in this region is increasingly poisoned by continuing, mainly man-made, catastrophes. Yet despite Washington's announcement of an abiding interest in fostering democracy and development in Africa, the resources that would be required to have any substantial effect on this dire situation will be difficult to find in the current tight budget environment.
As an important example, there continues to be a vigorous debate in the U.S. about the appropriate extent and modalities of U.S. involvement in peacekeeping and peacemaking operations, even with respect to endorsing and supporting U.N. interventions. The experience of Somalia appears to have raised substantial psychological and political barriers to military involvement--even in a non-combatant capacity--on the ground. Nor is there any present policy consensus on the broader issue of the U.S. responsibility, if any, to make extraordinary efforts to deal with failed states. While media images of death and suffering can create public pressures that ultimately oblige Washington to take drastic action in such places as Somalia or Rwanda, there is as yet no general agreement on the right or obligation to intervene in such situations, nor are there policy mechanisms for dealing with such interventions in a systematic way. The effort to build workable approaches to Africa's problems is more likely to be successful if it rests firmly on a national--and ultimately, international--policy consensus that has yet to emerge.
The resources available for military peacetime engagement activities in Africa have declined in recent years. The traditional programs of military assistance--FMS credits and FMF grants--have been terminated, and in FY 1994 even IMET was cut by more than 50 percent. While funds for some new initiatives have developed, primarily in the realms of democratization and peacekeeping, it is not clear that these programs address the need for African states to build appropriate military capabilities, and to successfully implement projects and interventions that require the skillful use of those capabilities. Another important resource constraint has recently emerged as a result of sharp across-the-board cutbacks in personnel assigned to Africa. Levels of Defense Attache and Security Assistance staffing in Africa are dropping rapidly, as are the levels of analytical staffs devoted to Africa in regional and Washington headquarters. This threatens to create serious gaps in knowledge and expertise on Africa.
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Experience to date suggests a pattern of action that is far from effective: A crisis emerges in Africa that provokes public concern and stimulates debate over the appropriate extent of U.S. involvement. Soon, important reservations against intervention are advanced. It is argued that there are few if any vital national interests at stake. Recent experiences in Liberia, Angola, and Somalia are cited to suggest that U.S. involvement seldom yields positive and lasting results, and therefore similar involvements are to be shunned. The argument is made, based on past experience, that involving forces in preventive actions might begin the journey down the proverbial slippery slope to unwanted entanglements.
The force of these arguments persuades many in the policy community in Washington that the U.S. should not become involved in the crisis--indeed, that it does not need to engage in detailed planning, make preparations, or take major preventive action. Eventually, however, the crisis deepens, public and international pressure to take action mounts, and the order to intervene is finally issued anyway--only now, the forces involved have less time for planning and preparation and are faced with a worse situation than would have been the case had Washington acted sooner.
Recent experience strongly suggests that the actual probability for further involvement is much greater than strategic or national-interests logic would suggest. Instead, we can anticipate continued involvement in largely unanticipated tasks for which the military has not been prepared--sometimes unilaterally, often in coalition with other interested states, or through the U.N. or other international bodies.
However, from the experiences in Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, and Angola, the U.S. and the international community learned several valuable lessons. One is the usefulness of early and vigorous preventive diplomacy to forestall crises. Another is that internal conflicts cannot be stopped without either the consent of the parties involved, or a commitment on the part of the international community to use sufficient force to separate or disarm the parties. Further, in stopping or preventing a conflict, intervening nations must be prepared to commit resources over the long term to assist the affected nation in rebuilding its governing institutions and economic infrastructure. Thus, an emotional belief that "something must be done" is no substitute for a clear mission statement that defines U.S. interests and objectives, and allows prudent and effective military planning and execution.
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The array of conflict resolution and peacekeeping operation (PKO) support activities is wide, and includes U.S. financial and logistical contributions to U.N. peacekeeping operations in Africa, which have multiplied in recent years. In the case of Somalia, the U.S. chose to lead the UNITAF humanitarian intervention, and provided a substantial troop component to the follow-on nation-building efforts of the U.N. (UNOSOM II). The U.S. military spent about $1.5 billion in Somalian FY 1993-94. In Liberia, a lower cost military approach was adopted. The U.S. has extended financial and logistical assistance to the West African force deployed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and especially to the Senegalese contingent, which received $15 million in FMF and 506(a) "drawdown" support. U.S. military personnel were not, however, deployed on the ground in Liberia (except to provide local security to the U.S. Embassy and to evacuate U.S. and foreign nationals). In the case of Rwanda, the U.S. provided modest support to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) observer mission early on, was extensively engaged in the peace negotiations (which ultimately failed), and then intervened substantially in mid-1994, after some delay, with military support units to help deal with the hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons fleeing the ensuing atrocities and disorder, or being used as pawns in political machinations.
Institutionally, the U.S. has tentatively embraced the concept of helping build Africa's own conflict resolution and peacekeeping activities, in part to avoid the necessity of getting involved so often and so deeply in these dangerous and controversial operations. In the final quarter of FY92, President Bush signed a Presidential Determination making the OAU eligible to receive U.S. military goods and services, with the intent of focusing such contributions on peacekeeping support. One million dollars in foreign aid funds were immediately transferred to this project, half reserved for support of the U.N. observation mission to Rwanda and half for helping the OAU build its institutional conflict resolution capabilities.
In a related action, the U.S. allocated, from available FMF resources, modest programs of support to several of the nations that were at that time contributing troops to the ECOMOG peacekeeping force in Liberia. In the following fiscal year, FY 1993, the U.S. expanded its direct support of ECOMOG, allocating $19.83 million in current and prior year Economic Support Facility (ESF) money, mainly to support new "expanded" ECOMOG battalions from Uganda and Tanzania. The next year, FY 1994, this support continued at a level of $11 million (from non-assessed PKO funds); another $2 million in such funds plus $1.5 million in ESF were allocated to the OAU to continue to build its conflict resolution and PKO capabilities. For FY 1995, the Clinton administration has requested $5 million in PKO funds for the OAU, and another $10 million for African regional peacekeeping activities. Additionally, use of drawdown authority was approved to support relief operations associated with the Rwanda crisis.
This pattern of expanding PKO-related activity has been endorsed by the concerned Africa subcommittees in the Congress, and a recently passed Congressional initiative would confirm a five-year program of focused support to build conflict resolution capabilities at both the OAU and sub-regional levels, as well as channel substantial funds into demobilization of selected African armies. Coupled with U.S. support to the U.N., these initiatives portend a deeper, continuing U.S. involvement in this type of activity in Africa well into the future.
To date, African states have generally welcomed this new and expanding U.S. role, which supports an OAU initiative. At the same time, several countries have expressed reservations about the willingness of the U.S. to work with and listen to its African friends--many of whom have had extensive experience in U.N. PKO operations--in the planning and conduct of these operations and programs of assistance.
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Considerable interest and talent at the operational level, ready and in some cases eager to deepen involvement in Africa, exists in the four geographic unified commands with responsibilities for Africa--EUCOM, CENTCOM, LANTCOM, and PACOM--as well as at SOCOM and elsewhere in DOD.
By the early 1990s, smaller, usually non-lethal projects designed to foster nation-building and improved relations between Africa's armed forces and citizens had essentially displaced the earlier approach of larger-scale, often lethal projects. These programs include:
A number of smaller programs that have since FY 1993 dried up from lack of funding, such as African Coastal Security (ACS), which helps security forces protect their marine resources; Military Civic Action (MCA), which assists Africa's armed forces undertake small local development projects; and Military Health Affairs (MHA), which aims to improve medical conditions within Africa's militaries themselves.
Biodiversity projects, funded with $15 million provided at Congressional initiative in FY 1991 and a similar sum in FY 1993, aim to protect marine resources and wildlife in government game preserves--for example, through controlling smuggling and poaching.
International Military Education and Training (IMET). In the 1980s, with annual funding generally in the range of $8 to $10 million per year, several dozen English language labs were established, several "mobile training teams" to conduct instruction on the ground were deployed each year, and up to six hundred African military personnel per year were trained in the U.S. From 1991 on, the IMET program was expanded to include civilian officials: the U.S. Navy Justice School provided instruction in military justice and the obligation to respect human rights, U.S. Coast Guard personnel educated African forces in proper maritime law enforcement, and U.S. Defense Resources Management Institute professors conducted seminars in resources management and the role of the military in a democracy. Competition to participate in the IMET program is keen. By late 1994, forty-seven of sub-Saharan Africa's forty-eight countries had agreed to participate, with only Angola on hold, pending resolution of its civil war.
DOD humanitarian assistance deliveries, with substantial shipments of surplus food, clothing, medical and health items, trucks, engineering equipment, and other items. In some cases, these have been sent in response to emergency situations, such as natural disasters or caring for defeated or demobilizing troops (as in Ethiopia and Angola). In other cases, the deliveries were intended to deal with long-standing needs and requirements, as in the case of the delivery of excess DOD field hospitals. The recipients are private agencies or civil government agencies; Africa's militaries cannot themselves receive items under this program.
Exercise programs. Of the many such programs, perhaps the most popular are the Joint Combined Exercises for Training (JCETs) conducted by special forces personnel. These are generally small in scale, with the U.S. contingent ranging from a few dozen to at most two hundred personnel, and usually focus on light infantry, Ranger, or special-operations type training. Other exercises involve small engineering or medical projects, such as simulated disaster relief or mass casualty operations.
Military Academies Program. Since the mid-1980s, a number of sub-Saharan African countries have been invited to propose candidates for admission to the U.S. Military Academies. Candidates must compete with applicants from other foreign countries for only ten openings per year at each academy. Fourteen African students are enrolled in 1994.
West African Training Cruise. Each year, one or more ships, plus a P-3 aircraft with a flag officer and "show band," are dispatched to the west coast of Africa to conduct port visits in a number of countries, engage in activities to build goodwill, and in a few cases to conduct small naval exercises or activities with host nation naval units.