Friday, August 14, 2009

US Military Holds War Games Aimed at Nigeria and Somalia

Africa: U.S. Military Holds War Games on Nigeria, Somalia

Daniel Volman
14 August 2009
guest column

In May 2008, the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, hosted "Unified Quest 2008," the army's annual war games to test the American military's ability to deal with the kind of crises that it might face in the near future. "Unified Quest 2008" was especially noteworthy because it was the first time the war games included African scenarios as part of the Pentagon's plan to create a new military command for the continent: the Africa Command or Africom. No representatives of Africom were at the war games, but Africom officers were in close communication throughout the event.

The five-day war games were designed to look at what crises might erupt in different parts of the world in five to 25 years and how the United States might handle them. In addition to U.S. military officers and intelligence officers, "Unified Quest 2008" brought together participants from the State Department and other U.S. government agencies, academics, journalists, and foreign military officers (including military representatives from several NATO countries, Australia, and Israel), along with the private military contractors who helped run the war games: the Rand Corporation and Booz-Allen.

One of the four scenarios that were war-gamed was a test of how Africom could respond to a crisis in Somalia — set in 2025 — caused by escalating insurgency and piracy. Unfortunately, no information on the details of the scenario is available.

Far more information is available on the other scenario — set in 2013 — which was a test of how Africom could respond to a crisis in Nigeria in which the Nigerian government is near collapse, and rival factions and rebels are fighting for control of the oil fields of the Niger Delta and vying for power in the country which is the sixth largest supplier of America's oil imports.

The list of options for the Nigeria scenario ranged from diplomatic pressure to military action, with or without the aid of European and African nations. One participant, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stanovich, drew up a plan that called for the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops within 60 days, which even he thought was undesirable. "American intervention could send the wrong message: that we are backing a government that we don't intend to," Stanovich said. Other participants suggested that it would be better if the U.S. government sent a request to South Africa or Ghana to send troops into Nigeria instead.

As the game progressed, according to former U.S. ambassador David Lyon, it became clear that the government of Nigeria was a large part of the problem. As he put it, "we have a circle of elites [the government of Nigeria] who have seized resources and are trying to perpetuate themselves. Their interests are not exactly those of the people."

Furthermore, according to U.S. Army Major Robert Thornton, an officer with the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, "it became apparent that it was actually green (the host nation government) which had the initiative, and that any blue [the U.S. government and its allies] actions within the frame were contingent upon what green was willing to tolerate and accommodate."

Among scenarios examined during the game were the possibility of direct American military intervention involving some 20,000 U.S. troops in order to "secure the oil," and the question of how to handle possible splits between factions within the Nigerian government. The game ended without military intervention because one of the rival factions executed a successful coup and formed a new government that sought stability.

The recommendations which the participants drew up for the Army's Chief of Staff, General George Casey, do not appear to be publicly available, so we don't know exactly what the participants finally concluded. But we do know that since the war games took place in the midst of the presidential election campaign, General Casey decided to brief both John McCain and Barack Obama on its results.

The African Security Research Project has prepared reports providing detailed information on the creation, missions, and activities of Africom. In particular, they reveal that neither the commander of Africom, General William Ward, nor his deputy, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, are under any illusions about the purpose of the new command.

Thus, when General Ward appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2008, he cited America's growing dependence on African oil as a priority issue for Africom and went on to proclaim that combating terrorism would be "Africom's number one theater-wide goal." He barely mentioned development, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping or conflict resolution.

And in a presentation by Vice Admiral Moeller at an Africom conference held at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008 and subsequently posted on the web by the Pentagon, he declared that protecting "the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market" was one of Africom's "guiding principles" and specifically cited "oil disruption," "terrorism," and the "growing influence" of China as major "challenges" to U.S. interests in Africa.

Since then, as General Ward has demonstrated in an interview with AllAfrica, he has become more adept at sticking to the U.S. government's official public position on Africom's aims and on its escalating military operations on the African continent.

These activities currently include supervising U.S. arms sales, military training programs and military exercises; overseeing the growing presence of U.S. naval forces in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea and off the coast of Somalia; running the new U.S. base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti; and managing the array of African military bases to which the United States has acquired access under agreements with the host governments of African countries all over the continent. These countries include Algeria, Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, São Tomé, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.

We can only wonder what Barack Obama thought of the war game and what lessons he learned from General Casey's briefing. One might hope that he came away with a new appreciation for the danger, if not the outright absurdity, of pursuing the strategy of unilateral American military intervention in Africa pioneered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was retained as Defense Secretary by President Obama when he took office, and General Casey, who has also kept his job under the new administration.

But President Obama has decided instead to expand the operations of Africom throughout the continent. He has proposed a budget for financial year 2010 that will provide increased security assistance to repressive and undemocratic governments in resource-rich countries like Nigeria, Niger, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to countries that are key military allies of the United States like Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Rwanda and Uganda.

And he has actually chosen to escalate U.S. military intervention in Africa, most conspicuously by providing arms and training to the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, as part of his effort to make Africa a central battlefield in the "global war on terrorism." So it is clearly wishful thinking to believe that his exposure to the real risks of such a strategy revealed by these hypothetical scenarios gave him a better appreciation of the risks that the strategy entails.

Daniel Volman is director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC and a member of the board of directors of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. He has been studying U.S. security policy toward Africa and U.S. military activities in Africa for more than 30 years.

Africa: Africom to Continue Under Obama

Daniel Volman
11 June 2009

With the Obama administration set to oversee significant increases in US security assistance programmes for African countries, Daniel Volman examines the US government's plans for its military operations on the African continent over the coming financial year. Stressing that the US president is essentially continuing the policies outlined under his predecessor George W. Bush, the author considers the proposed funding increases for initiatives like the Foreign Military Financing programme and the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme. Pointing out that the administration is yet to offer any public explanation of its policy, Volman concludes that it would be a mistake to assume that there will be no US military action if the situation in Somalia deteriorates.

At the beginning of May 2009, President Obama submitted his first budget request to Congress. The Obama administration's budget for the 2010 financial year proposes significant increases in US security assistance programmes for African countries and for the operations of the new US Africa Command (AFRICOM). This shows that - at least initially - the administration is following the course laid down for AFRICOM by the Bush administration, rather than putting these programmes on hold until it can conduct a serious review of US security policy towards Africa. This article outlines the administration's plans for Africa in the coming year and the money it intends to spend on military operations on the continent.


The Obama administration proposes maintaining or significantly increasing funding for the Foreign Military Financing programme, which provides loans for the sale of weaponry and other military equipment to a number of African countries. The administration's request raises the total funding for arms sales to Africa from $8.3 million in financial year (FY) 2009 to $25.6 million in FY 2010. The new funding includes funding for arms sales to Chad ($500,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo ($2.5 million), Djibouti ($2.5 million), Ethiopia ($3 million), Kenya ($1 million), Liberia ($9 million), Nigeria ($1.4 million), South Africa ($800,000) and African regional programmes ($2.8 million).


The Obama administration proposes small increases in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programmes for African counties, raising the total funding for this programme from $13.8 million in FY 2009 to $16 million in FY 2010. Significant increases in funding are requested for Chad ($400,000), Djibouti ($350,000), Ethiopia ($775,000), Ghana ($850,000), Kenya ($1,050,000), Liberia ($525,000), Mali ($350,000), Niger ($250,000), Nigeria ($1,100,000), Rwanda ($500,000), Senegal ($1,100,000), South Africa ($900,000) and Uganda ($550,000). The United States will continue its major IMET programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo ($500,000), and the Obama administration is proposing to start new IMET programmes in Equatorial Guinea ($40,000), Somalia ($40,000) and Zimbabwe ($40,000).


The Obama administration proposes major new funding for security assistance provided through the Peacekeeping Operations programme. The FY 2010 budget proposal includes increasing funding for the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership - from $15 million in FY 2009 to $20 million in FY 2010 - and for the East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative - from $5 million in FY 2009 to $10 million in FY 2010. It also includes $42 million to continue operations in support of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accords in southern Sudan, $10 million to continue operations to create a professional 2,000-member armed force in Liberia, $21 million to continue operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reform the military (including the creation of rapid reaction force for the eastern Congo), and $3.6 million for the Africa Conflict Stabilization and Border Security Program, which will be used to support monitoring teams, advisory assistance, training, infrastructure enhancements, and equipment in the Great Lakes region, the Mano River region, the Horn of Africa, Chad, and the Central African Republic.

The budget request also includes $67 million to support the African Union Mission in Somalia. And it contains a request for $96.8 million for the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). The request for GPOI includes funding for the African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance Program (ACOTA) - which provides training and equipment to African military forces to enhance their peacekeeping capabilities - although the specific amount requested for ACOTA is not provided in the budget summary.


The budget request for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) programs contains $24 million for Sudan to support implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accords (CPA) in southern Sudan and to assist programmes to stabilise Darfur by providing technical assistance and training for southern Sudan's criminal justice sector and law enforcement institutions as well as to contribute to UN civilian police and formed police units in southern Sudan and Darfur. It also includes funds for police reforms in the DRC; for training, infrastructure, and equipment for police units in Liberia; to operate the American-run International Law Academy in Gaborone, Botswana; and to create a Regional Security Training Center for West, Central, and North Africa. The Obama administration is also asking for funding to be provided through the INCLE programmes for the first time to provide security assistance to countries participating in the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad and Nigeria.


The Obama administration proposes to almost double funding for counter-terrorism programmes. These include the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, which provides training to countries throughout the world; the Terrorist Interdiction Program/Personal Identification, Secure Comparison, and Evaluation System Program, which supports identification and watch listing systems to 18 countries (including Kenya); the Counterterrorism Financing Program, which helps partner countries throughout the world stop the flow of money to terrorists; and the Counterterrorism Engagement Program, which is intended to strengthen ties with key political leaders throughout the world and 'build political will at senior levels in partner nations for shared counterterrorism challenges'.


The Obama administration's proposed FY 2010 budget for the Department of Defense requests some $300 million in operation and maintenance funds to cover the cost of AFRICOM operations and Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership operations at the AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The administration is also requesting $263 million to provide additional personnel, airlift and communications support to AFRICOM. And the budget includes a request for a total of $451 million to replace or upgrade facilities at enduring CENTCOM and AFRICOM locations, but does not provide a separate figure for AFRICOM. According to the budget, the administration intends to carry out significant investment at Camp Lemonier in FY 2010. In addition, the administration is requesting $30 million to pay the annual lease for the 500-acre base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti and $170 million to cover the annual operational budget of the base.

The administration is requesting some $400 million for Global Train and Equip (Section 1206) programmes, some $200 million for Security and Stabilization Assistance (Section 1207) programmes, and some $1 million for the Combatant Commander's Initiative Fund. This money will be used primarily to pay for emergency training and equipment, the services of personnel from the State Department, and humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi and Afghani armed forces, but it will be available for the use of AFRICOM as well. The administration's budget request also contains $1.9 billion to buy three Littoral Combat Ships and another $373 million to buy two Joint High Speed Vessels, ships that will play a crucial role in US Navy operations off the coast of Africa. It also includes $44 billion to fund US Navy operations throughout the world - of which a significant proportion will be needed to cover the costs of US Navy operations in African waters - but the budget does not provide enough information to estimate these costs.


Obama administration officials have not said anything in public to explain why they are proceeding with the Bush administration's plan to increase US security assistance to African countries and to expand US military activities on the continent. General William Ward, commander of AFRICOM, at a news conference that he held during his visit to Kinshasa in April 2009, provided one of the few pieces of evidence we have about the administration's thinking. The United States will continue working in training and advising the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo 'to help the host nation build capacity to more effectively conduct its military operations and provide for its own security.'

The United States currently has a seven-member mobile training team training Congolese military officers. This training, Ward said at the news conference, is intended 'to support the increased professionalization of the Congolese armed forces as best we can as they work to bring security and stability here in Congo.' This suggests that President Obama - despite his rhetorical commitment to multilateralism and 'soft power' and the abysmal record of military incompetence and human rights violations by the Congolese armed forces - is convinced that unilateral US military involvement can still work and that he can succeed where his predecessor failed.

The only other indication we have about the president's true intentions is provided by his decision to authorise the use of force to rescue the kidnapped captain of the Maersk Alabama in May 2009. When he was a candidate, President Obama declared that he believed that 'there will be situations that require the United States to work with its partners in Africa to fight terrorism with lethal force.' But his action during the kidnapping episode show that he is also willing to use military force in situations that have nothing to do with terrorism. According to recent news articles, a debate is currently underway within the administration about the wisdom of direct US military intervention against Somali pirates or against the al-Shabaab insurgents.

Top administration officials and military officers are convinced that, in the words of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, 'there is no purely military solution' to piracy and political conflict in Somalia. And Johnnie Carson, the president's new assistant secretary of state for Africa, told the BBC that 'there would be no case of the US re-engaging on the ground with troops' in Somalia. But some in the military and a number of prominent neo-conservative leaders contend that the United States must strike back at the pirates and the insurgents to prevent future acts of piracy and terrorism against Americans. It would be a mistake to assume that Obama will not take further military action if the situation in Somalia escalates.

* Daniel Volman is the director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, and a member of the board of directors of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars.

* For more information, see the Department of State, Summary and Highlights for International Affairs Function 150: Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request, and the Department of Defense, Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request: Summary Justification.

1 comment:

Daniel Volman said...

For more information, go to the URL of the African Security Research Project at:

Daniel Volman