Options for a United States Counterterrorism Strategy in Africa

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  United States counterterrorism operations in Africa.

Date Originally Written:  April 10, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States National Security Adviser.

Background:  In a speech before the Heritage Foundation[1], former National Security Adviser, Ambassador John Bolton, outlined a new Africa policy. This policy focused on countering the rising influence of China and by extension, other strategic competitors[2]. As great power competition returns to the fore, Africa is another battlefront between East and West. With vast mineral resources and a growing market, a new scramble for Africa has emerged between dominant and emerging powers. However, as military might has decimated violent Islamist groups in the Middle East, their subsidiaries in Africa have flourished. Groups like Islamic State for West Africa, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Ansar al-Sunna have capitalized on local government failings to entrench themselves. In recent days, they have carried out spectacular attacks on local government forces in Nigeria, Chad, Mali and Mozambique[3]. Although the involved governments and their allies have responded forcefully, it is clear that stability won’t be established in the near-term.

Significance:  The United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Russia and China have deployed military assets in various parts of the African continent. The majority of these forces are focused on countering violent Islamist groups. While U.S. foreign policy concerning Africa focuses on achieving American strategic goals on the continent[4], it also takes into consideration the need to address the various local conflicts that threaten the security of investments and viability of governments. For the foreseeable future, any foreign policy towards Africa will need a robust counter terrorism component.

Option #1:  The U.S. military increases its footprint in Africa with conventional forces.

Risk:  This will widen America’s forever wars without guaranteeing success, stretching the already limited resources of the armed forces. While there is currently bipartisan support for continued engagement with Africa[5], it is doubtful that such backing will survive a prolonged intervention with significant losses. This option will also require the expansion of the United States Africa Command Staff at the operational level. Finally, moving the headquarters of the command onto the African continent despite the public opposition of prominent countries will be reexamined[6].

Gain:  The presence of significant U.S. forces embedded with combat troops has proven to improve the combat performance of local forces[7]. By providing advisers, reconnaissance assets, and heavy firepower, the U.S. will boost the morale of the fighting forces and provide them with freedom of action. The counter Islamic State campaign in Iraq and Syria can serve as a template for such operations. Such deployment will also allow U.S. assets to monitor the activities of competitors in the deployed region.

Option #2:  The U.S. expands the scale and scope of special operations units on the African continent.

Risk:  The absence of U.S. or similarly capable conventional forces on the ground to provide combined arms support limits and their effectiveness. While special operations units bring unique abilities and options, they cannot always substitute for the punching power of appropriately equipped conventional troops. The United States, sadly, has a history of insufficiently resourced missions in Africa suffering major losses from Somalia[8][9] to Niger[10].

Gain:  Special operations units are uniquely positioned to work with local forces. Historically, unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense has been the responsibility of units like the U.S. Army Special Forces[11]. Combined with units like the Army Rangers dedicated to conduct raids and enhancing operational security, it will allow the United States to put pressure on violent groups while mentoring and leading local forces to fulfill their security needs. It will also increase the number of assets available to meet emergencies.

Option #3:  The United States limits its role to advising and equipping local forces.

Risk:  Despite American support for African states, the security situation in Africa has continued to deteriorate. Decades of political instability and maladministration has created disgruntled populations will little loyalty to their countries of birth. Their militaries, regarded as blunt instruments of repression by civilians, lack the credibility needed to win hearts and mind campaigns critical to counter-insurgences. The supply of U.S. weapons to such forces may send the wrong signal about our support for prodemocracy movements on the continent.

Gain:  This option will fit with the current posture of the United Africa Command of enabling local actors mainly through indirect support[12]. The is a low cost, low risk approach for the U.S. military to build relationships in a part of the world where the armed forces continues to be major power brokers in society. This option keeps our forces away from danger for direct action.

Other Comments:  It is critical to acknowledge that any military campaign will not address the underlying problems of many African states. The biggest threats to African countries are maladministration and political instability. The United States has traditionally been a model and pillar of support for human rights activists, democratic crusaders and governance reformers. A United States push to ensure that bad actors cannot take advantage of security vacuums caused by a failure of governance while providing support for those looking to deliver society’s benefits to majority of their fellow citizens, would likely contribute to U.S. foreign policy goals.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bolton, J. (2018, December 13). Remarks by National Security Advisor John Bolton on the Trump Administration’s New Africa Strategy. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-national-security-advisor-ambassador-john-r-bolton-trump-administrations-new-africa-strategy

[2] Landler, M. and Wong, E. (2018, December 13). Bolton Outlines a Strategy for Africa That’s Really About Countering China. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/us/politics/john-bolton-africa-china.html

[3] Jalloh, A. (2020, April 9). Increased terror attacks in Africa amid coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved April 10 from
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/increased-terror-attacks-in-africa-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/ar-BB12mZWm

[4] Wilkins, S. (2020, April 2). Does America need an African Strategy? Retrieved April 10 from
https://warontherocks.com/2020/04/does-america-need-an-africa-strategy

[5] Gramer, R. (2020, March 4). U.S. Congress Moves to Restrain Pentagon over Africa Drawdown Plans. Retrieved April 11 from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/04/africa-military-trump-esper-pentagon-congress-africom-counterterrorism-sahel-great-power-competition

[6] (2008, February 18). U.S. Shifts on African base plans. Retrieved April 12 from
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7251648.stm

[7] Tilghman, A. (2016, October 24). U.S. troops, embedded with Iraqi brigades and battalions, push towards Mosul’s city center. Retrieved April 10 from
https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2016/10/24/u-s-troops-embedded-with-iraqi-brigades-and-battalions-push-toward-mosuls-city-center

[8] Lee, M. (2017, September 16). 8 Things We Learnt from Colonel Khairul Anuar, A Malaysian Black Hawk Down Hero. Retrieved April 11 from
https://rojakdaily.com/lifestyle/article/3374/8-things-we-learned-from-colonel-khairul-anuar-a-malaysian-black-hawk-down-hero

[9] Fox, C. (2018, September 24). ‘Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story’ recalls the soldiers the movie overlooked. Retrieved April 11 from
https://taskandpurpose.com/entertainment/black-hawk-down-untold-story-documentary

[10] Norman, G. (2018, March 15). U.S. forces ambushed in Niger again, military says. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.foxnews.com/us/us-forces-ambushed-in-niger-again-military-says

[11] Balestrieri, S. (2017, August 17). Differences between Foreign Internal Defense (FID) and Counter Intelligence (COIN). Retrieved April 11 from
https://sofrep.com/news/differences-foreign-internal-defense-fid-counter-insurgency-coin

[12] Townsend, S. (2020, January 30). 2020 Posture Statement to Congress. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.africom.mil/about-the-command/2020-posture-statement-to-congress

Africa Damimola Olawuyi Option Papers Violent Extremism

Assessing the Effect of Military Aid on Both Donor and Receiver

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Effect of Military Aid on Both Donor and Receiver

Date Originally Written:  April 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  April 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author maintains a keen interest in the geopolitical implications of conflicts and alliances. The author believes that any assistance towards parties in conflict must be bound in an overarching strategic framework that allows both donor and receiver achieve their aims.

Summary:  Military aid is a significant part of any foreign diplomatic effort. While aid, properly constructed, can provide significant advantages for all parties involved, the failure of such a policy will result in serious political repercussions for both sides beyond the ceasing of such transfers.

Text:  Ever since nations have been established, they have supported allies in prosecuting armed conflict, including fighting interstate conflict, terrorism, and counter-insurgencies[1]. The Egyptian-Hittite treaty is the first treaty of which both sides’ independent copies have survived. The treaty spoke to providing aid in case of attacks on either party[2]. While the treaty was between adversaries, it aligned the interests of both parties in putting down external military threats and stabilizing their internal jurisdictions.

Military aid takes various forms, often tailored to meet the perceived needs of the receiver as well as strategic considerations guiding the relationships. One form of military aid is the provision of men and firepower for direct combat like the Russian intervention in Syria[3]. Donor countries may provide instructors and advisers like the Military Assistance Advisory Groups that operated around the world during the Cold War[4]. Donors will also sell weapons and the instruct allies in their employment, managed in the United States by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency under its Foreign Military Sales program[5].

The deployment of military aid allows donors to show support to allies and deter aggressive behavior from adversaries. As part of its diplomatic strategy, aid will allow the sponsor to deepen personal and institutional bonds with the recipient. Industries can develop overseas markets via follow-on contracts and opening of the recipient’s markets to trade. The donor can fine tune doctrines, test equipment, and prepare personnel for future military campaigns[6][7]. By exhibiting the lethality and reliability of its weapons, the donor can attract sales from other countries looking to expand their military capacities and capabilities. The threat of withholding aid may be used to shape the behavior of receiver countries[8]. Finally, the donor may leverage the platform of the recipient to project power and influence in the recipient’s region.

The recipient gains access to military capabilities often beyond the ability of local industries to manufacture. By leveraging relationships with allies, those capabilities can be obtained at favorable conditions not available to others. This access to top level technology may also enable the recipient jumpstart local industries to meet civil and military needs. Exposure to military training and expertise from first rate armies will allow the beneficiary military to professionalize faster than organic capacity will permit. The presence of a patron will result in more freedom of action for operations while curtailing the ability of their adversaries to act without risking escalation.

However, the provision of military aid may result in adverse consequences. The Athenian support for the Ionian Revolt precipitated the 50-year Greco-Persian War[9]. Aid may encourage unproductive behavior in the recipient, especially by prolonging the conflict. Once aid is passed to the beneficiary, there is limited donor control over its use, resulting in potential exposure of the benefactor to accusations of enabling war crimes[10]. There is no certainty that the aid will result in a favorable outcome for the recipient[11] and the fall of the ally may result in sensitive technology passing into hands of adversaries[12].

Ultimately, foreign military aid type, size, and duration, requires constant critiquing. Military aid, for both the donor and receiver, is a crucial extension of defense and diplomatic policies. The consequences of a failed aid policy will exert political costs far beyond currency figures. It is crucial that political leaders are made aware of the multiple options available to them in deciding what is sent, who it is sent to and how it is sent.


Endnotes:

[1] Shah, A. (2010, May 3). Military Aid. Retrieved April 2, 2020 from
https://www.globalissues.org/article/785/military-aid

[2] Bryce, T. (2006). The Eternal Treaty from the Hittite perspective. Retrieved April 2, 2020 from https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_263207/UQ263207_OA.pdf

[3] O’Connor, T. (2018, August 23). How many Russian Troops in Syria? Military reveals full count as U.S. told to leave. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.newsweek.com/how-many-russia-troops-syria-military-reveals-full-count-us-told-leave-1088409

[4] Liebman, O., Midkiff, J. and Minor, M. (1963). Preliminary Inventory of the Records of Interservice Agencies. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/334.html

[5] Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Foreign Military Sales. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.dsca.mil/programs/foreign-military-sales-fms

[6] Musciano, W. (2004, September). Spanish Civil War: German Condor Legion’s Tactical Air Power. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.historynet.com/spanish-civil-war-german-condor-legions-tactical-air-power.htm

[7] Oppenheimer, P. (1986). From the Spanish Civil War to the Fall of France: Luftwaffe Lessons Learned and Applied. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v07/v07p133_Oppenheimer.html

[8] Shah, S., Entous, A., Lubold, G. (2015, August 21). U.S. Threatens to Withhold Pakistan Aid. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from
https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-threatens-to-withhold-pakistan-aid-1440163925

[9] White, M. (2011, November). The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definite Chronicles of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities.

[10] Hathaway, O., Haviland, A. Kethireddy, S., Francis, A., Yamamoto, A. (2018, March 7). The Legality of U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia for Use in Yemen. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from https://www.justsecurity.org/53449/u-s-arms-sales-saudi-arabia-yemen

[11] Cohen, R. (1988, April 22). The Soviet’s Vietnam. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1988/04/22/the-soviets-vietnam/5e7fde43-6a0c-46fb-b678-dbb89bcb720b

[12] Demerly, T. (2019, May 31). The Secret is Out: How Russia Somehow Captured U.S. Fighters (And Tested Them Out. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/secret-out-how-russia-somehow-captured-us-fighters-and-tested-them-out-60487

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Damimola Olawuyi