U.S. military activities require close cooperation with regional organizations and coalitions. In Africa, while Department of Defense security assistance attempts to address regional and transnational issues, the majority of security assistance programs are executed bilaterally. This approach undermines the synchronization of security assistance activities among African states and other international players. Furthermore, under existing U.S. legal authorities, little focus is given to the African Union’s development of a deployable continental peace and security force. This does not conform to guidance set forth in the National Security Strategy and National Security Presidential Directive for Sub-Saharan Africa, which stress the importance of enhancing regional capabilities such as the African Union. This article suggests ways to broaden the scope of legal authorities and security assistance mechanisms to empower African states to address and prioritize security issues within their own regional frameworks. While the case studies are drawn from Africa, the challenges of developing regionally appropriate strategies, plans, and programs have relevance throughout the U.S. military system, and are critical in enabling the United States to achieve its national security objectives in a world in which transnational issues cannot be addressed unilaterally.
The East African Standby Force (EASF) is East Africa's contribution to the African Union's African Standby Force, which is an international and continental military force with both a civilian and police component to be deployed in Africa during times of crisis. Although the EASF is still under development and in need of capacity-building assistance, the United States does not have the authorities to provide direct assistance to this regional force. Instead, Washington must rely on bilateral assistance mechanisms that are cumbersome and less efficient than dealing directly with the EASF.
Sometimes this causes difficulties in conducting combined activities. In 2009, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States participated in Natural Fire, a U.S.-sponsored exercise designed to improve collective responses to complex humanitarian crises in East Africa. Since the United States could not work directly with the EASF, it concentrated its support bilaterally on the five member countries of the East African Community (EAC), all of which were also members of the EASF. During the planning phase, U.S. timelines for the exercise conflicted with both an EAC and EASF military exercise. However, due to a lack of U.S. authorities to work directly with these regional organizations, Natural Fire could not support either and was conducted as an additional stand-alone exercise. Although all three exercises occurred, it created a duplication of effort and competition for limited EAC and EASF financial, logistical, and personnel resources. More importantly, it caused confusion as to what nations or organizations would take the lead in the event of an actual East Africa crisis.
Recent U.S. national security reviews have highlighted an emerging trend of thought affecting U.S. vital interests: the importance of the African continent to America's security. In response to this growing strategic realization, both President George W. Bush's 2007 National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 50, which articulates U.S. strategy for sub-Sahara Africa, and President Barack Obama's 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) promote economic development and stability in Africa. While well established multilateral alliances and partnerships exist in other theaters such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), this is lacking in Africa. Without similar arrangements or authorities, the U.S. military is limited to aggregating bilateral efforts in pursuit of similar effects.
Multilateral approaches to U.S. security assistance in Africa should be balanced with bilateral approaches as a means of empowering African states to take responsibility for their own regional security. To achieve that, both NSPD–50 and NSS stress investing in regional capabilities and organizations. They direct policymakers to strengthen Africa's regional organizations, with a specific focus on the African Union (AU).1 Multilateral approaches would also make U.S. security assistance plans and programs more efficient, as described in Department of Defense (DOD) 5105.38–M, Security Assistance Management Manual. This article identifies this disjuncture between policy objectives and the manner in which the United States currently executes security assistance—namely a highly promoted but hollow focus on regional organizations.
Why Regional Approaches Are Important
While case studies are drawn from Africa, the challenges of developing regionally appropriate strategies, plans, and programs have relevance throughout the U.S. military. Globally, there has been tremendous growth in regional organizations interested in peace and security: NATO, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, European Union (EU), Organization of American States, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Gulf Cooperation Council, and Organization of the Islamic Conference are but a few examples. Not all of these organizations have formalized civilian oversight of military structures to the same extent as NATO, which complicates the manner in which authorities to work with the regional organization can be granted. This is the case in Africa, where some of its regional economic communities do not exercise full civilian control over the emerging multilateral African Standby Force brigades, and it is possible some never will.
U.S Africa Command (USAFRICOM) engagement reflects the challenges the United States faces in working regionally. Presidential determinations (PDs) are currently authorized in Africa for the AU, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This allows these organizations to receive defense articles and services under section 503(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 as amended, and sections 3(a)(1) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) as amended. However, PDs do not exist for the North or East Africa regions. Even in those regions with PDs, U.S. security assistance programs do not exist to directly support these regional organizations.
The question becomes whether we can accept the risk inherent from forgoing direct interface with those regional organizations. In light of the transnational threats facing the world, the answer is clearly no. In the case of Africa, support to regional organizations is of particular U.S. national security interest but is impacted by U.S. reluctance to place "boots on the ground" there in response to crises and lack of capacity in many countries to respond unilaterally. Although the United Nations (UN) is still the preferred response mechanism for crises, it often lacks the capacity, consensus, and resources to intervene. As a result, there is recognition in Africa of the need for collective responses to peace and security challenges. Recent examples include the African Union Mission in Sudan, 2004–2007; African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), 2007–present; the ECCAS mission in the Central African Republic, 2008–present; and ECOWAS discussions on intervention in Côte d'Ivoire.
The relational dynamics of security demonstrate that "no nation's security is self-contained."2 Dysfunctional, failing, and collapsed states can produce spillover effects on neighboring countries, threatening regional peace and security. These problems transcend national borders and represent what former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates refers to as "the main security challenge of our time."3 Terrorism, for example, cannot be addressed bilaterally if a neighboring nation allows the harboring of terrorists, or if ungoverned spaces traverse national boundaries. Regional approaches address these issues more efficiently. In Africa, security threats, balkanization, and marginalization have led to calls for unity and collective solidarity as the deus ex machina for the maintenance of continental peace, security, and development.4 However, Africa's regional organizations lack funding and capacity to effectively address these issues. This is further undermined by U.S. challenges in providing security assistance to regional organizations, given the way this assistance is organized and administered.
Africa is not new to the concept of regional efforts. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in 1963 but was steeped in Westphalian notions of sovereignty, where Africa's heads of state pledged noninterference in each other's internal affairs. The result was an organization that maintained the status quo and tolerated dictators to include Uganda's Idi Amin, who was the head of the OAU in 1975, and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who headed it in 1997. The problems and ineffectiveness of the OAU eventually led to its restructuring. In its place, the African Union was established in 2002. The AU, comprised of 49 member nations,5 is focused on economic development, peace, and security, and promotes democratic institutions, good governance, and human rights. However, the AU's Constitutive Act now defines sovereignty in the conditional terms of a state's capacity and willingness to protect its citizens. This shift from regime security to human security goes even so far as to recognize the AU's right to militarily intervene in its member states' affairs.6
U.S. Navy instructors conduct self-defense training with members of Congolese military during boarding team operations course aboard High Speed Vessel Swift
U.S. Navy (Ian Carver)
Along these lines, the AU is developing a comprehensive African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) that aims to prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts and support peace-building. Central to APSA is the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the central AU decisionmaking body. The PSC oversees the resolution and management of conflict, and its powers include the ability to authorize peace support missions, impose sanctions, and militarily intervene in a member state as a last resort. The PSC is a decisionmaking body in its own right, and its decisions are binding on member states. Additional conflict resolution organs in the AU include the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), a Panel of the Wise, and an African Standby Force (ASF). The ASF is comprised of five brigade-size elements,7 one for each of Africa's five regions, and also includes police and civilian components. Once fully operational, the ASF will serve as a permanent African peacekeeping force.
Another distinguishing feature between the AU and OAU is the intensive cooperation the AU has with Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The AU sees regional trading blocs not as competitors, but as essential building blocks and implementation agencies for its programs. Although Africa has multiple regional blocs, the AU recognizes eight, of which five are key elements of the AU's CEWS and contribute troops to the ASF.8 By basing its security architecture on these "regional pillars" and incorporating existing initiatives into its continental policy, the AU profits from the regions' comparative advantage where countries have a vested interest in regional stability, greater understanding of the local environment, and increased legitimacy. Under this approach, the primary responsibility for peace and security remains squarely with the RECs, while the AU serves as a legitimizing clearinghouse and framework for all initiatives. This is important because of the confusing web of institutional overlaps in Africa, which may take some time to change since countries often benefit politically from multiple memberships, which increase their regional influence and donor attractiveness.
The EU and NATO have recognized the AU desire to develop regional security capabilities and are providing support to AU capacity-building initiatives and peacekeeping missions. This affects not only how the United States coordinates security assistance with its African partners, but also how to best synchronize and deconflict assistance provided by other countries and organizations. Coordinating security assistance through a regional organization provides the benefit of addressing transnational security concerns, while leveraging relative capacities within an African framework and reducing donor redundancy and overlap.
The United States is challenged in supporting regional organizations in multiple ways. Restrictive authorities, conflicting policies, misaligned or improper distribution, execution of funding, and disparate timelines all affect U.S. ability to support regional organizations effectively.
Although bilateral funding will remain the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy throughout the world, U.S. bilateral-centric security assistance structures are less efficient at developing sustained, integrated, and synchronized security cooperation programs that build effective capacity and capability to address regional issues. This Cold War structure was created when U.S. bilateral relations were a zero-sum game against a perceived Soviet threat, and states often defined themselves internationally by affiliation with the United States or Soviet Union. Today, the Department of State still grants Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and coordinates Foreign Military Sales and peacekeeping funds bilaterally. Yet the proliferation of regional organizations necessitates the availability of more flexible tools to engage directly with them. This has manifested itself in several ways.
Unnecessarily Complex Funding Plans for Multilateral-oriented Programs. Although State and DOD security assistance specialists have been creative in building patchwork programs to address regional security concerns, this is not sufficient, especially since ad hoc programs and funding are hard to sustain and lack flexibility in the event of real world crises. The Africa Partnership Station (APS), for example, is a much acclaimed international initiative that was developed by the U.S. Navy in 2007 to assist African militaries, coast guards, and mariners in improving their abilities to address maritime safety and security concerns. However, the execution of APS during its first 3 years required the cobbling together of more than a dozen Title 10 and Title 22 funding sources and authorities. While this is time consuming and complex for Americans, the consequences for Africa are more serious if these programs cannot be sustained. Similarly, the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) is an interagency plan to combat terrorism in trans-Sahara Africa. The military component of TSCTP is Operation Enduring Freedom–Trans Sahara. The goal of TSCTP is to counter terrorist influences in North Africa and the Sahel in order to help governments better control their territories and prevent huge tracts of largely deserted African territory from becoming safe havens for terrorist groups. Although this program seeks to promote interstate cooperation, it is constrained by ad hoc and short term bilateral funding and works outside of the ASF construct.
Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) is another popular program that "enhances the capacities and capabilities of African partner countries and regional institutions to assist African planning, training and deployment efforts to sustain sufficient quantities of professionally competent peacekeepers to meet conflict transformation requirements with minimal non-African assistance."9 It also has collaborative relationships with the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands. However, like TSCTP, ACOTA engages bilaterally. ACOTA's strength is in its ability to conduct tactical-level peace support operations training for countries participating in regional or international peacekeeping missions. ACOTA is not structured to provide support directly to regional organizations. But there is a need for multinational staff training at the regional level—a critical precondition to effective command and control in complex peacekeeping and stability operations scenarios.
A key legal challenge is the issue of end-use monitoring of defense articles and services and related technical data subject to licensing under Section 38 of the AECA concerning the compliance of U.S. export regulations. End-use monitoring entails prelicense or postshipment checks on any party or other aspect of a defense trade transaction to verify its bona fides and to provide reasonable assurance that the recipient is complying with U.S. Government requirements with respect to use, transfers, and security of defense articles and services, and that such articles are being used for the purpose for which they are provided. In Africa, RECs do not always have the ability to store and inventory items or staffs dedicated to accountability and proper use of these items. As a case in point, night-vision goggles are valuable and easy to pilfer. Although mechanisms exist to oversee end-use monitoring in individual countries, managed by respective U.S. Offices of Security Cooperation, these have yet to be developed for regional organizations.
Inability to Engage Hybrid Defense/Nondefense Security Organizations. Another challenge the United States has in supporting regional organizations is the inability to train ASF integrated staffs, which include both police and civilian components. This is significant since international peacekeeping forces now most often include these elements. Thus, the capacity for the United States to meaningfully contribute to African peacekeeping efforts is limited. Whereas America strongly advocates an interagency approach to synchronize its own elements of national power, it does not have the mechanisms to support international organizations taking the same approach.
Overly Restrictive Ability to Share Information. From an information-sharing perspective, regional interactions with nonmilitary organizations are also problematic. Although the United States has agreements with NATO, this is a military organization with standing agreements in place. To disclose information to regional organizations, even with sovereign governments, Foreign Disclosure Officers must likewise cobble authorities together based on Cold War bilateral information-sharing agreements. This is cumbersome and time-consuming. USAFRICOM is especially challenged because it does not yet have mature sharing relationships across the continent.
As a result, there is a significant lag in the amount of time it takes to obtain Exceptions to the National Disclosure Policy (ENDP). The U.S. information-sharing policy is "owned" by the National Disclosure Policy Committee (NDPC), comprised of members from 18 different U.S. agencies. However, before an ENDP is granted by the NDPC, it requires unanimous approval by all voting members, whether the issue is sharing training, techniques, and procedures, technology, or operational information. This process is bureaucratic and slow, making quick and flexible responses difficult unless they are specifically directed by the National Security Council. This is particularly salient given the importance of satellite images in rapidly changing peacekeeping scenarios, and further complicated by the membership of countries in regional organizations where U.S. diplomatic relations are strained. Here the United States must evaluate the costs of sharing information with states deemed inimical to U.S. interests versus the benefit of contributing to Africa's overall stability.
African Challenges to Regional Integration
Challenges and obstacles remain that impact the effectiveness of the AU and its associated RECs. Interinstitutional rivalry and competing aims, for example, play a major role among these organizations. This is not restricted to Africa. The EU has long had to deal with contending regional agendas. Europe's multiplicity of regional and institutional rivalries, though, are contained within a stable democratic framework with developed conflict resolution mechanisms.10 Africa still lacks such a framework, and the degrees of differences are greater. In the case of the EASF, for instance, the membership of Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea result in a largely dysfunctional organization, contested international recognition, and internal political and military conflict. Another factor hampering regional integration is when national identities and priorities, or personal power politics, hold sway over regional decisionmaking bodies, especially if a leader or economically powerful country believes it has more to lose than gain from regional priorities.
The internal capability of the AU and its affiliated RECs also varies considerably. All organizations suffer from resource and capacity constraints—even ECOWAS, SADC, and EAC, which are considered the most developed RECs within the AU. Another challenge is that many of these staffs do not have the human resource capacity to absorb security assistance programs. They quickly become oversaturated.
Common approaches help prioritize efforts and mitigate competition among regions for preeminence in promoting African peace and security. They also make individual state leaders more accountable to international norms and expectations. In that regard, the creation of the AU has helped inspire a new generation of politically responsible African leaders who are one by one replacing the autocrats and so-called big men of the continent. However, to ensure it is feasible and appropriate for the United States to engage directly with regional organizations, certain preconditions must be established. First, an organization must be willing to partner with the United States, and, in the case of Africa, the regional organization should be affiliated with the AU. Second, the organization must have a charter or constitution that articulates agreed rules, responsibilities, and procedures for its effective management. Third, it must have the ability to parcel out benefits equitably and appropriately to its members, to include mechanisms to oversee and control funding, training, and/or equipment provided by donor nations. Four organizations in Africa have met such conditions. PDs can therefore solidify an organization's legitimacy among its neighbors by demonstrating its credibility in the international community.
An additional condition should be considered if a regional organization has a pariah state where U.S. sanctions or restrictions have been levied to ensure security assistance contributes to the overall security goals of the organization but does not directly contribute to the individual state. This allows the United States to support regional staffs comprised of member nations that do not qualify for bilateral assistance. Leahy vetting would also still need to be conducted to ensure individuals with human rights violations on their record are not selected.11 While some would view this as a disadvantage since it could indirectly empower states that America does not support, the true advantage is that it transcends state politics and focuses on regional stability, allowing all state members to be part of a regional solution. It also encourages regional organizations to engage with their pariah states and gives incentives for reform. Although possibly contrary to some American mindsets, this gives actual meaning to the phrase "African solutions to African problems." It also encourages the principle of mutual accountability, where if the AU demonstrates progress in the development of the ASF, or in its ability to conduct sound end-use monitoring practices, the United States would commit to increasing support and collaboration on the basis of demonstrated results. Consequently, there is a shaping effect because states that benefit from a regional approach encourage other states to comply. For example, in 2008, SADC questioned the legitimacy of President Mugabe as the head of state for Zimbabwe. That paved the way for greater recognition and integration of the opposition party. This not only empowers the region, but also builds trust among members and lessens perceptions of U.S favoritism and self-interest.
Effective support cannot be furnished by the United States alone. It requires international cooperation. Complementing the assistance other international organizations are providing would help reinforce favorable conditions and further U.S. goals. The EU is the AU's most important partner when it comes to peace and security. In 2004, based on an AU request, the EU established the African Peace Facility (APF). Through the APF, the EU has been at the forefront of international support to the African Peace and Security agenda, providing, in parallel to EU political backing, substantial and predictable funding to African peace support operations and relevant capacity-building at the regional and continental level. To date, the EU has channeled over €740 million through this instrument.12 EU–AU cooperation on peace and security has become a driving force for the development of a fully fledged African-EU strategic partnership, culminating in a comprehensive Joint Africa–EU Strategy adopted in December 2007.13 Another example of EU support includes the European Union Training Mission–Somalia, which currently provides specialized training for approximately 2,000 Somali soldiers in support of the Somali Transitional Federal Government.
Animals return to graze after receiving veterinary care in Chemeril, Kenya, as part of Exercise Natural Fire 2006
U.S. Air Force (Nic Raven)
While EU support to the AU focuses on strategic level issues, such as the enhancement of African peacekeeping training centers, a U.S. strength is providing tactical training via the ACOTA program. Although ACOTA priorities for 2010 included support to AMISOM, the UN/AU Hybrid Mission in Darfur, other multinational peacekeeping operations in Africa, and the ASF,14 ACOTA needs the ability to train regionally integrated staffs, not just bilateral partners. This would harmonize efforts with the EU and NATO, as well as Brazil, China, India, and Japan, who are also keen to cooperate more closely with Africans on peace and security.
The Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) is a State Department Title 22 program intended to address major gaps in international capacity to conduct peace support operations. Africa receives approximately 60 percent of this funding—the largest block of Title 22 funding injected into USAFRICOM's area of responsibility—out of an approximate $100 million annual budget via State's peacekeeping operations account. (This is almost double what Africa receives annually in FMF.) Prior to USAFRICOM's inception, all GPOI programs in Africa were executed by the U.S. State Department–Africa Bureau with the bulk of the funding in support of ACOTA. To better synchronize U.S. peacekeeping capacity-building efforts with the AU, USAFRICOM should be included in State's GPOI funding prioritization process to ensure a more unified U.S. approach.
Another more efficient approach to regional capacity-building is through the empowerment of regional training centers. Peacekeeping training centers exist in many African countries, including Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Currently, the AU is conducting a study to determine an "approved" list of regional training centers. Once approved, leveraging these AU Centers of Excellence to address specific training needs in a multilateral forum can help prioritize security assistance efforts and reduce redundancies often produced through isolated bilateral training. They could also serve as repositories for military material to be used in contingency scenarios. Although this requires preexisting authorities for immediate distribution, it could support ASF development of regional logistics depots, or "prepo" capability, for regions to draw upon during crises or as directed by the AU. This was the original logic for Kenya's International Peace Support Training Center (IPSTC), which has classroom facilities and barracks space for a brigade-size element and is adjacent to a military airfield. IPSTC facilities conduct steady-state training but have the ability to stage and project forces to react to contingencies throughout East Africa. However, conditions might need to be levied to ensure that certain countries only use the equipment under certain circumstances, such as peacekeeping or disaster relief.
One encouraging legal development toward the ability to provide security assistance to regional organizations is the new DOD African Partner Cooperation Authority (10 U.S.C. § 1050a) enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011. This authority allows for the payment of travel, subsistence, and special compensation of officers and students of African countries and other expenses the Secretary considers necessary for African cooperation.15 This authority is identical to the authority that exists for Latin American cooperation, 10 U.S.C. § 1050. However, given the "authority gaps" for Africa, this new law has potential for more expansive and strategic application. One way to use this new authority could include allowing civilians working at regional organizations, such as members of the AU's Peace and Security Operations Directorate, to participate in U.S. security assistance activities and events or to engage with regional Centers of Excellence.
Further, such authorities are needed to help bridge the gap and extend services to regional organizations. Enhanced versions of FMF, International Military Education and Training, and peace operations funding are also needed that allow those programs to engage with regional organizations as clients just like individual states are now. This should also be expanded to include assistance to civilian and police capacity-building activities. Although rules and conditions may be different when working with regional organizations, these challenges need to be overcome.
Poverty, disease, environmental degradation, unsustainable population growth, and weak governance continue to undermine the future of Africa and much of the developing world. African states have taken steps to collectively face these challenges to stability and development. Whereas this article harbors no illusions about the obstacles facing regional institutions, or that PDs are a panacea to regional engagement, it nonetheless advocates giving the U.S. Department of Defense greater flexibility to directly assist these multilateral organizations in achieving common peace and security goals. This does not preclude the importance of bilateral relations, but suggests broadening the scope of current authorities and mechanisms to empower states within their own regional frameworks. If targeted, coordinated, and applied correctly, this provides a strong and legitimate foundation for pursuing sustained security engagement in Africa and throughout the world. PRISM
For their contributions to this article, the authors thank Jo Sherman Roberts, Ryan K. Stoffer, and Michael A. Casciaro.
Colonel Laura R. Varhola, USA, is an Africa Foreign Area Officer currently serving as the Division Chief for East, Central, and Southern Africa in the Deputy Directorate for Political-Military Affairs–Africa in the Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5). Lieutenant Colonel Christopher H. Varhola, USAR, has a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology and is a Reserve Civil Affairs and Africa Foreign Area Officer assigned to the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade in Riverdale, Maryland.