Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

15 November 2017

Why Niger Proves America's Counterterrorism Tactics Are Failing

by Amitai Etzioni 

The tragic loss of four American fighters in Niger reminds one that the United States has learned little from the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. It still believes that it can send its troops into a faraway country, in this case a particularly underdeveloped one, and that they will be able to stop ISIS from spreading. This is to be achieved not by the United States doing the fighting, but—the magic formula goes—by advising and training. The main problem with this idea is that all too often the locals would much rather have the Americans do the fighting. Thus, in Niger we learned from a Nigerien involved in the ambush that “the Americans had more sophisticated weapons and so we let them confront the enemy while we took cover.” The Guardian noted that “US special forces 'fought Niger ambush alone after local troops fled.’”

29 October 2017

Challenges in Libya Complicate EU Measures to Stem Migration

By Lisa Watanabe

In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that Italy has been paying armed groups in Libya to cease smuggling migrants into the country. Some estimate that the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Italy has reduced by half compared to the same time period last year. At the heart of the issue is a governance vacuum that allows armed groups to control the flow of migrants in and out of Libya, presenting a unique challenge for governments in North and West Africa and EU policymakers.

5 October 2017



It is called a ‘logistics base’ but the 200-acre facility built by China can accommodate a brigade and has unprecedented security arrangements

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has opened its first overseas base at Djibouti in the strategically located Horn of Africa. China began negotiations with Djibouti in early 2015 that culminated into a 50-year lease for what is being termed as a logistical support base.

1 October 2017

China's Presence in Djibouti is Not a National Security Threat—Yet

Erica S. Downs Jeff Becker

On September 22, Chinese troops staged their first live-fire exercises at China’s first overseas military base, which opened in Djibouti on August 1. Ever since Beijing publicly acknowledged in November 2015 that China was building a logistical support facility in Djibouti, the home of the only permanent U.S. military installation in Africa, much ink has been spilt detailing China’s growing involvement in the Horn of Africa nation. The conventional wisdom holds that China has spent billions of dollars building infrastructure in Djibouti, which might prompt the government to prioritize China’s interests over those of the United States and other countries with a military presence in Djibouti. Moreover, it is suspected that China will use its military facility in Djibouti for more than just logistics, and that this facility will be the first of many overseas outposts for China’s military.

31 August 2017



The early morning hours of July 11, 2017, marked a watershed moment for the People’s Republic of China. In an official ceremony at the port of Zhanjiang, the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Shen Jinlong, “read an order for the construction of China’s first replenishment base in Djibouti, and conferred military flag on the fleets.” With a salute and a wave of his hand, Shen then ordered the ships carrying Chinese military personnel to set sail on their mission.

Since early 2016, there has been speculation and much concern about a potential Chinese military base in Djibouti. At first, Chinese commentators denied the development, but later admitted that Beijing was indeed considering setting up a logistical facility in the Western Indian Ocean. As the first contingent of Chinese military personnel sailed out of Zhanjiang last month, China insisted the facility was merely for logistical and support purposes. An official release from Beijing said the facility was meant to assist the PLAN in the discharge of its “international obligations” by facilitating Chinese escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and humanitarian rescue missions in Africa and West Asia.

18 August 2017

Is Trump Militarizing U.S.-Africa Policy?

‘The US is waging a massive shadow war in Africa … The war you’ve never heard of,’ the online journal VICE News recently announced. ‘Today, according to U.S. military documents obtained by VICE News, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time – in Africa alone.’

It was the latest sign of the military’s ‘quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent’, one that represented the ‘most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe’, it said. Donald Bolduc, the US Army general who runs Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), says Africa’s challenges ‘could create a threat that surpasses the threat that the United States currently faces from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria’, according to VICE News.

‘He went on to cite a laundry list of challenges with which he and his personnel must contend: ever-expanding illicit networks, terrorist safe havens, attempts to subvert government authority, a steady stream of new recruits and resources,’ says VICE News. ‘At the same time, Bolduc says the U.S. is not at war in Africa. But this assertion is challenged by the ongoing operations aimed at the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia.’

22 July 2017

U.S. Special Operations Forces – Searching for Lasting Peace in Somalia

Somalia remains one of the most politically destabilized countries in the world. It has been ranked the most fragile state seven times over the last ten years by the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index. The fledgling government’s inadequate ability to provide security and functioning institutions for the country’s 11 million citizens threatens its legitimacy and provides ample opportunities for insurgencies such as al-Shabaab (“The Youth”) to proliferate and fill the void in governance. Widespread violence and sporadic famine since 1988 have resulted in over a million internally displaced persons and refugees. What’s more, the country’s distinct and decentralized clan culture exacerbates nation-building efforts and calls into question the utility and practicality of a centralized national government.

Needless to say, the United States has significant strategic interests in Somalia, aptly named “the world’s longest running collapsed state” by Davidson College’s Ken Menkhaus. The country’s status as a hotbed of instability and Islamic extremism poses clear and convincing security threats to the United States and its allies within and around the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Given the complex operational environment in Somalia and the U.S. public’s aversion to the prospect of conventional “boots on the ground,” the choice to deploy Special Operations Forces (SOF) in pursuit of established political objectives has proven wise.

17 July 2017

China ships troops to Djibouti to set up first overseas base

China has dispatched personnel from the People's Liberation Army to Djibouti to staff its first military base abroad. Several countries have established a martial presence in the small Horn of Africa country.

Personnel have departed to begin setting up China's first overseas military base, in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. China has officially designated the Red Sea base as a logistics facility.

"The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks - including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways," the state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, but did not announce when operations would formally begin or how many troops the country had sent.

Several countries have set up shop in Djibouti - which borders Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia - a vital port and a model of stability in an otherwise volatile region. The United States, France, Japan, Italy and Spain already have bases in the country, and Saudi Arabia has begun construction on one.

Continuity and Change in War and Conflict in Africa

By Paul Williams 

Since the end of the Cold War, Africa has experienced a disproportionately large number of armed conflicts. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), there have been an estimated 630 state-based and nonstate armed conflicts on the continent between 1990 and 2015.1Explanations for this glut of armed conflicts in Africa remain the subject of debates.2 Nevertheless, between the early 1990s and the late 2000s, Africa underwent a period of significant progress in reducing the number and intensity of armed conflicts.3

Since 2010, however, the continent has witnessed some disturbing upward conflict trends. Specifically, there have been significant reversals in the decline of state-based armed conflicts and deliberate campaigns of violence against civilians; religious and environmental factors have played increasingly significant roles in a wide range of armed conflicts; there has been a dramatic increase in the levels of popular protests across the continent; as well as an exponential rise in the use of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and suicide bombings. International efforts to respond to some of these developments by deploying more robust and militarized forms of peace operations and interventions have met with at best only limited success.

3 July 2017

*** The closest look yet at Chinese economic engagement in Africa

By Kartik Jayaram, Omid Kassiri,

Field interviews with more than 1,000 Chinese companies provide new insights into Africa–China business relationships. 

In two decades, China has become Africa’s most important economic partner. Across trade, investment, infrastructure financing, and aid, no other country has such depth and breadth of engagement in Africa. Chinese “dragons”—firms of all sizes and sectors—are bringing capital investment, management know-how, and entrepreneurial energy to every corner of the continent. In doing so they are helping to accelerate the progress of Africa’s economies

Yet to date it has been challenging to understand the true extent of the Africa–China economic relationship due to a paucity of data. Our new report, Dance of the lions and dragons: How are Africa and China engaging, and how will the partnership evolve?, provides a comprehensive, fact-based picture of the Africa–China economic relationship based on a new large-scale data set. This includes on-site interviews with more than 100 senior African business and government leaders, as well as the owners or managers of more than 1,000 Chinese firms spread across eight African countries1that together make up approximately two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP. 

23 June 2017


by RC Porter

DOD Releases Report on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan

Today the Department of Defense provided to Congress a report on “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” covering events during the period from December 1, 2016, through May 31, 2017. The report was submitted in accordance with requirements in Section 1225 of the Fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as amended by Sections 1231 and 1531 of the Fiscal 2016 NDAA and Sections 1215 and 1521 of the Fiscal 17 NDAA.

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) effectively conducted training and reequipped units during the winter. In March, the Afghan forces began implementing a yearlong campaign against the insurgency and simultaneously restructuring the force to build offensive capabilities over time according to a plan called the “ANDSF Road Map.” Major initiatives within the Road Map include transitioning the Afghan Air Force from Russian Mi-17 helicopters to U.S. UH-60 helicopters over the next several years, expanding the Afghan Special Forces, and gaining efficiencies through realigning paramilitary organizations from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Defense.

The ANDSF continue to make progress in their efforts to counter terrorist networks and provide the United States with a valuable counterterrorism partner. Despite the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s regional affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan, conducting high profile attacks in Kabul, the organization’s influence has diminished. Both Afghan and U.S. forces have committed to defeating the organization, and continued operations and airstrikes against ISIS-K have largely confined the group to a few districts in Nangarhar province.

21 June 2017

*** For Djibouti, It's All About Location

Djibouti's strategic position on the Bab el-Mandeb strait allows the country to rent some of its territory to foreign military bases. 
Given its relative lack of natural resources and human capital, Djibouti's leaders will be pressed to open the country to international powers if they want it to develop. 
China remains the sole long-term strategic partner for Djibouti as trade competition intensifies across the region. 

The tiny East African country of Djibouti has learned how to make money off its location. On June 27, Djibouti will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its independence, and it has experienced profound change since it was called first French Somalia, then the French Territory of Afars and the Issas. After its independence from France, Djibouti grappled with internal ethnic cleavages and a volatile region. But the secret to Djibouti's continued global importance and its success in recent decades lies in its strategic position on the Bab el-Mandeb strait and its status as the lone maritime entry and exit point for its dynamic neighbor, Ethiopia.

Not-So-Humble Beginnings

The rise of maritime trade and, most critically, the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869 drove European powers to seek strategic bases along the banks of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The British, already implanted in the port of Aden by 1839, began to expand the scope of their possessions in the area. France, on the other hand, was slower to join the scramble for territory, despite previously gaining some limited concessions in the Gulf of Tadjoura, bordered mostly by present-day Djibouti. Instead, it was the French Empire's strategic imperatives in the Far East and Southeast Asia — namely, Indochina — that propelled an intensified French push in the Horn of Africa. The start of the Tonkin War in 1884 and the United Kingdom's refusal to allow the French navy to refuel in its ports, including Aden, compelled France to re-examine its positioning in the broader Indian Ocean. Soon France attached a much greater importance to its small possession in the Gulf of Tadjoura, both for its strategic location and the access it gave France to the natural resources of Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia).

3 June 2017

Colin Powell: American Leadership — We Can’t Do It for Free

Source Link

At our best, being a great nation has always meant a commitment to building a better, safer world — not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. This has meant leading the world in advancing the cause of peace, responding when disease and disaster strike, lifting millions out of poverty and inspiring those yearning for freedom.

This calling is under threat.

The administration’s proposal, announced Tuesday, to slash approximately 30 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budget signals an American retreat, leaving a vacuum that would make us far less safe and prosperous. While it may sound penny-wise, it is pound-foolish.

This proposal would bring resources for our civilian forces to a third of what we spent at the height of Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” years, as a percentage of the gross domestic product. It would be internationally irresponsible, distressing our friends, encouraging our enemies and undermining our own economic and national security interests.

The idea that putting Americans “first” requires a withdrawal from the world is simply wrongheaded, because a retreat would achieve exactly the opposite for our citizens. I learned that lesson the hard way when I became secretary of state after a decade of budget cuts that hollowed out our civilian foreign policy tools.

Djibouti Wins Jackpot – Renting Out Desert for Military Bases

Edward Paice

China is constructing its first overseas military base just a few miles from one of the United States’ largest and most important foreign bases — Camp Lemonnier in the small East African nation of Djibouti. Five other nations have put up bases there, and Saudi Arabia will soon join them. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked Edward Paice, director of the Africa Research Institute in London, why China chose Djibouti, what the U.S. thinks about it, and why several other nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, focusing military attention on the coast of the Horn of Africa.

The Cipher Brief: Why is China building its first overseas military base in Djibouti?

Edward Paice: Djibouti has great strategic importance. It is located on the Babel el Mandeb. It’s only 20 or 30 miles from the Arabian Peninsula, opposite Yemen. Estimates vary but about 30 percent of the world’s shipping goes through there and onto Suez. From a trade point of view, Djibouti is a kind of chokepoint. China’s trade to Europe goes mostly through that route, and that’s a substantial proportion of a billion dollars a day. Part of the rationale is that in the development of China’s One Belt One Road initiative, this is a key point and will enable it to better protect trade flows. That’s the trade argument.

Militarily, it’s pretty well placed for access to both Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Djibouti is almost one leg in each – and that’s been attractive to a number of other powers. China has, over the years, gotten increasingly involved in peacekeeping, it has cited its desire to play a greater role in peacekeeping, and it has combat troops in both South Sudan and Mali. It’s logical that it needs an actual base somewhere in Africa, which is really no different from the Americans saying that they need Camp Lemonnier as a headquarters for operations in Africa, whether in peacekeeping or counterterror or whatever. That is the military rationale.

U.S., China, Others Build Bases In Djibouti – What Could Go Wrong?

Kaitlin Lavinder

The small East African country of Djibouti – which sits on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to the Suez Canal and a shipping chokepoint in the sea lanes connecting Africa with the Middle East and India – hosts seven foreign militaries. The U.S. and China are now neighbors, and Saudi Arabia is coming soon.

The U.S. owns the biggest base there. Since 2002, Camp Lemonnier has occupied more than 600 acres of Djibouti’s land and hosted around 4,000 American military and civilian personnel. It is the U.S. Africa Command’s main base in the Horn of Africa, a strategically vital location for fighting terrorists on the continent and monitoring piracy in the waters off Djibouti’s coast.

The French, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and Japanese have joined the U.S. as fellow land leasers, with similar strategic and economic interests. Saudi Arabia, another U.S. ally, has a strong interest in Yemen, because Djibouti sits just across the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait from Yemen. The Saudis support Yemen’s government in its ongoing war against the Iranian-backed Houthi militia. Washington has committed support to the Saudis for this fight.

But Beijing’s interests in Djibouti remain murky – and potentially at odds with U.S. interests in the region. “They view that [the base in Djibouti] as part of their long-term strategy to become a global power, not just a regional power, and they are spending an extraordinary amount of effort and investment,” Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats earlier this month.

21 May 2017

Return of Somali Pirates Alerts Pentagon and Ships

Pirate attacks have returned to the Gulf of Aden, disturbing Somali waters once a hotbed for piracy but which in recent years achieved a remarkable reversal. At least six commercial vessels have been hijacked or attacked in northern Somali waters since March. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned of the new threat during a press conference last week in neighboring Djibouti, where the United States maintains its only semi-permanent military base on the continent.

With relatively minor exceptions, the attacks are the region’s first in five years, a lull reached by a combination of international and private security efforts. But that lull eventually became a victim of its own success, with prevention fatiguing after attacks abated. Governments rolled back robust defense operations, eventually relegating them to monitoring and surveillance. Shipping companies followed suit, cutting costs on expensive security guards once hired to arm and defend their vessels.

Secretary Mattis’s warning, however, wasn’t aimed at the navies or military policy which once protected Gulf of Aden shipping lanes. Instead, his remarks were in reference to private shipping companies who should pick up the tab, strengthen security, and reconsider arming their vessels. “We want to make sure the industry continues not to be lax,” said General Thomas Waldhauser (head of U.S. Africa Command), as he re-enforced Secretary Mattis’s position.

3 May 2017

Africa Growing? Past, Present and Future

By Morten Jerven 

Until the 2000s, economists deplored the stagnant incomes, slow growth and uncertain development that marred Africa. As a result, they spent much of their time elaborating on the historical roots of these problems. So, with African economies growing for more than a decade now, and fuelling a counter-narrative of ‘Africa rising’, what do the analysts do now? Morten Jerven thinks they need to explain the development that has taken place and explore its future prospects.

Until the late 2000s, the economic development performance of postcolonial Africa was summarised as a failure of economic growth. Accordingly, since the 1990s academic literature sought to determine which factors could explain slow growth. In addition, alleged failure and permanent stagnation cohered well with GDP per capita distribution of income in Africa, providing the impetus for an economic and political science literature that investigated the historical causes of low income persistence in African economies. However, African economies have been growing for more than a decade, fuelling the counter-narrative of ‘Africa rising’. This information changes the questions that should be asked when looking at African economies. There is now a need to focus on explaining the growth that has taken place in Africa and explore its future prospects.

27 April 2017

Somalia’s Pirates Are Back in Business


NAIROBI — After being all but stamped out by international naval forces following its late-2000s heyday, piracy has made a sudden return to the Horn of Africa. In the past month, there have been six suspected piracy incidents near Somalia, five of them successful, including three in the last week. That’s compared with zero successful attacks in 2016.

Three more murky maritime incidents off the coast of Somalia’s Galmudug state, where suspected illegal fishing vessels paid “fines” that may in fact have been ransoms, suggest that piracy has rebounded on a scale even larger than previously reported.

Unmasking the Unmaskers

What Susan Rice did used to be unusual, but it was encouraged by years of expanding access to signals intelligence.

“Now it’s in the original home of piracy, in an area they thought they cleaned up,” said John Steed, a senior maritime expert at the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime. “It’s very disappointing.”

The spike in banditry on the high seas off the Horn is a blow to the decades-long battle to stem piracy there, and bad news for the international shipping industry, which transports $700 billion worth of cargo through the dangerous corridor each year. It’s also a stark reminder that one of the main drivers of piracy, rampant illegal fishing that depletes local fish stocks and drives some fishermen to take up arms, remains as big a problem as ever.

19 April 2017

India in Africa: Need to build on its own base rather than countering China

By Namrata Hasija

President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the 12th CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India Africa Project Partnership on March 9, 2017. His address on the occasion sets the tone of India-Africa ties during the past and present times. 

He said: "Mindful of our common history and shared future, we have decided to elevate our relationship. For the first time ever, we welcomed representatives of all 54 countries of Africa at the third India-Africa Forum Summit in October 2015. We have since then broadened our diplomatic footprint. Our leadership has visited almost every African country in the last 18 months." 

He further stated that he personally went to Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Namibia last year. 

His special emphasis on the recent spurt of interest in Africa by India's leadership showcases a new Indian approach towards the African continent. This interest has generated another debate as to whether India is competing with China in Africa and trying to counter the Chinese footprint in Africa.

The Chinese presence in Africa is huge and its trade with Africa was at $300 billion in 2015 while India-Africa trade stood at only $75 billion. To counter this kind of clout demands huge investments and other measures. 

The question, however, remains: Why should India counter China in Africa? Do their interests clash in Africa or both have their divergent interests in Africa?

Both countries look at securing their energy interests in the continent along with the huge African markets for their products. India has already ignored this continent for a long time while China consolidated its position by giving huge credit lines and loans for infrastructure development to African leaders.