[dehai-news] Ecadforum.com: The Obama Administration is Following the Same Old Policy

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat Jan 23 2010 - 07:40:40 EST

The Obama Administration is Following the Same Old Policy

January 22nd, 2010 <http://ecadforum.com/blog1/News/author/administrator/>
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When <http://www.whitehouse.gov/> Barack Obama took office as president of
=38.8833333333,-77.0166666667%20%28United%20States%29&t=h> United States in
January 2009, it was widely expected that he <http://ecadforum.com/>
http://ecadforum.com/blog1/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/obama.jpg would
dramatically change, or even reverse, the militarised and unilateral
national security policy toward <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa>
Africa (as well as toward other parts of the world) that had been pursued by
the Bush administration.

For many, expectations about the Obama administration’s approach to Africa
were raised even higher by the speech that Obama delivered in Ghana in July
2009 and by the tour of Africa that
<http://www.state.gov/secretary/index.htm> Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton made in August 2009. But, after one year in office, it is clear that
the Obama administration is essentially following the same policy that has
guided <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_armed_forces> US
military involvement in Africa for more than a decade.

Thus, in its budget request for the State Department for the 2010 financial
year the Obama administration proposed significant increases in US arms
sales and military training programmes for African countries, as well as for
regional programmes on the continent.

These included the Foreign Military Financing Program (to pay for arms sales
to African countries), the International Military Education and Training
Program (to train African military officers in the United States), the
Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership and the East African Regional
Strategic Initiative (to provide training and equipment to the military
forces of countries in North Africa, West Africa and East Africa), the
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Program (to provide
equipment, infrastructure and training to police and other law enforcement
units in Africa), military training programmes to help implement peace
agreements (in Sudan, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo), the
African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance Program (to provide
training and equipment to a number of African military forces to enhance
their ability to conduct peacekeeping operations and other military
activities), and to several anti-terrorism programmes including the
Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, the Terrorist Interdiction Program, the
Counterterrorism Financing Program and the Counterterrorism Engagement
Program (to provide training and equipment to African countries and build
ties with key political leaders on the continent).

And in its budget request for the Defense Department for the 2010 financial
year, the Obama administration asked for $278 million to fund the operations
of the new Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism
Partnership programme from the AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

In addition, the administration requested $60 million in Defense Department
funding in the 2010 financial year to pay for the operations of the Combined
Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), as well as $249 million to pay
for the operation of the 500-acre CJTF-HOA base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti
and $41.8 million for major base improvement construction projects at the

In addition to the Obama administration’s budget requests, the statement
made by Secretary Clinton during her visit to Nigeria in August 2009
provided another indication that the new administration would continue the
militarised and unilateral national security policy of its predecessor
toward Africa. Following her meeting in Nigeria with Ojo Maduekwe, the
foreign minister, and Godwin Abbe, the new minister of defence, Secretary
Clinton was asked what the US government intended to do to help the Nigerian
government establish stability and security in the Niger Delta.

‘Well, the defense minister was present at the second larger meeting that
the foreign minister convened,’ she said, ‘and he had some very specific
suggestions as to how the United States could assist the Nigerian Government
in their efforts, which we think are very promising, to try to bring peace
and stability to the Niger Delta. We will be following up on those. There is
nothing that has been decided. But we have a very good working relationship
between our two militaries. So I will be talking with my counterpart, the
Secretary of Defense, and we will, through our joint efforts, through our
bi-national commission mechanism, determine what Nigeria would want from us
for help, because we know this is an internal matter, we know this is up to
the Nigerian people and their government to resolve, and then look to see
how we would offer that assistance.’

Thus, in addition to the security assistance programmes in the budget
request for the 2010 financial year, the Obama administration is now
considering providing even more military support to the Nigerian government
for use in the Niger Delta if the current amnesty programme collapses, as
many analysts expect, and the government resumes military operations against
insurgent forces in this vital oil-producing region (which produces 10 per
cent of America’s total oil imports).

Further indications of the Obama administration’s national security policy
toward Africa are provided by its decision to expand US military involvement
in Somalia and its decision to continue the Bush administration’s policy of
unilateral military attacks against alleged al Qaeda operatives in that
country. In June 2009, a senior State Department official (presumed to have
been Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson) revealed that the Obama
administration had initiated a programme of indirect military support for
the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia (the internationally
recognised government of the country, although it only exercises control
over a small part of the capital, Mogadishu, and a few other towns in the
southern part of the country).

According to the official, the US government was providing funding to the
TFG to finance weapons purchases and had also asked the governments of
Uganda and Burundi (which have deployed troops to Mogadishu under an African
Union mandate to protect the TFG) to transfer weaponry from their own
stockpiles to the armed forces of the TFG in exchange for promises that the
US government would reimburse them. In addition, the US government made its
base in Djibouti available to other governments for them to provide military
training to the armed forces of the TFG.

During her visit to Kenya in August 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
announced that the US government would ‘continue to provide equipment and
training to the TFG’, stating ‘very early in the administration, I made the
decision, which the President supported, to accelerate and provide aid to
the TFG’. She went on to declare that al Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent
group fighting to overthrow the TFG, was ‘a terrorist group with links to
al-Qaeda and other foreign military networks’ and that they ’see Somalia as
a future haven for global terrorism’. ‘There is no doubt’, Secretary Clinton
stated, ‘that al-Shabaab wants to obtain control over Somalia to use it as a
base from which to influence and even infiltrate surrounding countries and
launch attacks against countries far and near.’ Thus, ‘if al-Shabaab were to
obtain a haven in Somalia, which would then attract al-Qaeda and other
terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States’.

The US government arranged for the delivery of an initial supply of
approximately 40 tons of small arms and ammunition worth approximately $10
million to the TFG between May and August of 2009 from the stockpiles of the
AU peacekeeping force, along with between $1 million and $2 million in cash
to the TFG to finance its own arms purchase, and the delivery of another 40
tons of small arms and ammunition over the following months. A number of
other governments – including Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and France – are also
reported to have sent military personnel to the US base in Djibouti to
provide military training to TFG troops.

According to a report by the Associated Press, American officials ’say the
US military is not conducting the training and will not put any forces in
Somalia’. Other countries were conducting the training, the Associated Press
reported, because ‘the [Obama] administration is making a concerted effort
to avoid putting any American footprint in Somalia, which would risk
alienating allies and add to charges by Islamic extremists of a Western
takeover.’ However, it has since become clear that most of the arms and
training has been transferred to al Shabaab, either by Islamic militants who
had infiltrated the TFG military forces or as a result of the sale of the
weapons and ammunition on the black market.

Then, in August, US Special Forces troops attacked and killed Saleh Ali
Saleh Nabhan, an alleged al Qaeda operative who was accused of being
involved in the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August
1998, as well as other al Qaeda operations in East Africa. The US Special
Forces troops carried out the attack from onboard several helicopters that
had been launched from a US Navy warship off the Somali coast, using machine
guns and automatic assault rifles to strafe a convoy of four-wheel drive
vehicles carrying Nabhan and his retinue. Following the initial assault, the
helicopters landed so that their troops could seize Nabhan’s body for
positive identification. It is likely that the Obama administration will
conduct further military operations in Somalia since, in the words of Vice
Admiral Robert Moeller, the deputy commander of AFRICOM, ‘the threat posed
by al-Shabaab is something that we pay very, very close attention to’.

And in October 2009, the Obama administration announced a major new security
assistance package for Mali that was delivered on 20 October 2009. The
package – valued at $4.5 to $5 million (2.3 billion CFA) and which includes
37 Land Cruiser pickup trucks, communication equipment, replacement parts,
clothing and other individual equipment – is intended to enhance Mali’s
ability to transport and communicate with internal security
(counter-insurgency) units throughout the country and control its borders.
The security assistance package is officially known as a ‘Counter Terrorism
Train and Equip’ (CTTE) programme. Although ostensibly intended to help Mali
deal with potential threats from AQIM (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), it
is more likely to be used against Tuareg insurgent forces.

In addition, between April and June of 2009, 300 US Special Forces personnel
were deployed to Mali to train Malian military forces at three local bases
and, according to Lieutenant Colonel Louis Sombora, deputy commander of
Mali’s 33rd Parachute Regiment (which was the recipient of the new US
military aid package), more than 95 per cent of his soldiers have received
US military training. And in early November 2009, US Air Force Brigadier
General Michael W. Callan, vice commander of the US Air Force Africa (the
Air Force contingent based in Europe and dedicated to AFRICOM), visited Mali
along with other US military personnel in order to inspect local military
forces (including the 33rd Parachute Regiment) and tour local military
facilities. According to Lieutenant Colonel Marshall Mantiply, defense
attaché at the US embassy in Bamako, ‘we are working with the Mali ministry
of defense on a ten-year plan’ to enhance the country’s military

The aid package to Mali is just the latest instance of America’s growing
military involvement in the Sahel region. In his testimony before the Senate
Subcommittee on Africa hearing on ‘Counter-terrorism in the Sahel’ on 17
November 2009, Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson identified Mali
– along with Algeria, Mali, and Mauritania – as one of the ‘key countries’
in the region for the US counter-terrorism strategy. ‘We believe that our
work with Mali to support more professional units capable of improving the
security environment in the country will have future benefits if they are
sustained’, he stated.

It is clear, therefore, that President Obama has decided to follow the path
marked out for Africa by the Clinton and Bush administrations, one based on
the use of military force to ensure that America can satisfy its continuing
addiction to oil and to deal with the threat posed by al Qaeda and other
Islamist extremist groups, rather than chart a new path passed on a
partnership with the people of Africa and other countries that have a stake
on the continent (including China) to promote sustainable economic
development, democracy and human rights in Africa and a global energy order
based on the use of clean, safe and renewable resources.



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