Defense

October 12, 2012

Partnership, engagement highlight Africa policy

Say “Africa” to most Americans and they think of “the Dark Continent” – a land beset by problems and disasters, far enough away that anything that happens there cannot possibly affect America.

And they would be wrong, said Amanda J. Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs.

“What happens in Africa definitely affects the United States,” she said during an interview. “This is why military engagement [between the United States and African nations] is so important.”

Africa is the second-largest continent in both area and population, and it is “stunningly diverse,” Dory said. Africa comprises 54 nations in an area that includes triple-canopy jungle, the largest desert in the world, range lands, rift valleys and mountain ranges.

The people are even more diverse, with more than 2,000 different languages from five major groups spoken on the continent. From Arab and Muslim North Africa to Christian and Animist sub-Saharan Africa, it is a continent of contrasts.

Given this diversity, it is tough to develop a defense strategy to cover the whole continent, Dory said. The hallmarks for U.S. military strategy for the continent are based upon partnership and engagement. Military-to-military contacts on the continent are tailored to each country and proceed at the pace that each is comfortable with, she said.

The bottom line of the strategy is that while overall the U.S. military will shift focus to emphasize Asia, Dory said, Africa will not be ignored.

“When you start to focus on specific concerns, they are typically at the country level or regional level,” she said. “To develop opportunities for engagement with partners, you have to really drill down into the regional or country-specific base to do that.”

The underlying premise of U.S. strategy in Africa “is the idea that African security impacts on U.S. security, and African prosperity has benefits for American prosperity,” Dory said. “We do have shared interests in security and prosperity that allow us to engage with Africa at a time when people are talking about rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific and the importance of the Middle East.

“That doesn’t mean that we fail to have important interests with Africa,” she continued, “particularly in the security domain, and with economic possibilities as well.”

Africa seems to get into the news in the United States only when there is a natural disaster, famine or war, or when Americans are killed there. Parts of Africa – Mali, Somalia, Sudan and Libya – have serious problems. Other parts – generally those with stable governments with secure populations – have economies growing at six, seven or eight percent a year.

“When you look at the population in Africa, it is very youthful,” Dory said, and the nations of the continent need to develop opportunities for these young men and women.

“If these countries are able to translate the dynamism of these growing populations into productive output – agricultural or growing urbanization – they will do well,” she explained. “They need stability and security to succeed.”

DOD officials, obviously, follow security concerns. “Our worries are of growing extremism in parts of Africa,” Dory said.

This is a good-news, bad-news sort of situation. The bad news is that al Qaiea in the Maghreb is growing in Mali and other ungoverned or under-governed areas of North Africa, she said. “These are places with vast geography and insufficient governance and economic underdevelopment,” Dory said. “It’s a recipe for violent extremist organizations to begin to penetrate and take root.”

The good news is in Somalia, where the opposite is happening. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group based there, has taken a severe beating. “In a geography that most Americans have long forgotten – they remember Blackhawk Down – there are really some very encouraging signs,” Dory said.

Regional forces, with international aid, have squeezed al-Shabaab out ofits Somali haven. Earlier this year, international forces kicked the group out of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. Earlier this month, Kenyan forces flushed al-Shabaab out of Kismayu, the country’s second-largest city.

“The key factor is the neighbors and region stepping up,” Dory said. “For the past five years, the neighbors were unwilling to allow Somalia to continue to fester.”

A second factor has been the support of the international community, “because the neighbors alone would not have been able to resource the effort,” she said.

A third factor is the role of the United States, which is to train, advise and assist the troop-contributing countries from a security perspective, she said.

“The final factor was the sense of strategic patience – that this was going to take a period of time, that you have an African-led effort being supported by the international community, and that it will unfold on its own timeline and [therefore] requires a certain amount of patience,” Dory said.

Those same ingredients helped in the antipiracy task force off Somalia’s coast, she noted. A “coalition of the willing” from the international community – including the United States, China, Japan, Pakistan, India, Turkey and European nations – has worked with regional nations to counter pirates operating from Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. There have been no successful attacks for the past six months, Dory said.

“The threats, though, don’t go away completely; they are displaced somewhat,” she added. “In piracy, some have moved to look for more hospitable shores – to Yemen or the nations nearer the Mozambican Channel.”

On land, she said, the terrorists moved to Mali or Sudan.

The same patient, careful, thoughtful approach that worked in Somalia can work in other areas, Dory maintained. Partnership programs and engagement with individual countries and regional coalitions can make Africa a more stable and secure continent, she said, and this will make America more secure as well, Dory said.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 31, 2015

News: Carter: Military leaders could arm more troops at home – Following the recent fatal shooting of four Marines and a sailor in Tennessee, Defense Secretary Ash Carter is ordering the military services to consider new policies that would enhance security for troops at home, including potentially arming more personnel.   Business: DOD weighs supplier base,...
 
 

News Briefs July 31, 2015

U.S. delivering eight newer F-16 warplanes to Egypt The United States Embassy in Cairo says the U.S. is delivering eight newer F-16 warplanes to Egypt as part of an ongoing military support package. It says in a July 30 statement that the aircraft, of the current Block 52 production variant, will be flown in from...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Lockheed Martin successfully tests design changes for Orion spacecraft’s fairing separation system

Lockheed Martin photograph A protective panel for Orion’s service module is jettisoned during testing at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California facility. This test series evaluated design changes to the spacecraft’s fair...
 

 

Australian company to provide parts for initial production of Triton UAS

Northrop Grumman has awarded the first Australian supplier contract for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system initial production lot to Ferra Engineering. Brisbane-based Ferra Engineering will manufacture mechanical sub-assemblies for the first four Triton air vehicles including structural components. “At Northrop Grumman it’s very important to not only develop...
 
 
Boeing photograph

CH-46 ‘Phrog’ makes its last hop

Boeing photograph The CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter commonly known as the “Phrog,” is set to retire and to be flown one last time by Reserve Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 774 on Aug. 1. The CH-46 Sea Knight is a med...
 
 

Insitu awarded LRIP Lot IV RQ-21A Blackjack Systems contract

Under the terms of its latest contract, Insitu will build six RQ-21A Blackjack systems for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The $78-million Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Lot IV Low Rate Initial Production contract is the latest event in the program’s progression toward the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation phase.   “This award will...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>