by DAVID AXE
Our mission — our new mission, I should say — is, U.S. Army Africa as the Army service component command, for U.S. Africa Command, enables full-spectrum operations while conducting sustained security engagement with African land forces to promote security, stability and peace.
That was Army Major General William Garrett, speaking to bloggers earlier this week. In recent months the Army has organized exercises in Gabon and Uganda, focusing on communications, logistics and disaster-response. U.S. soldiers also reportedly helped Ugandan forces pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group across Central Africa.
For all that, Africom and U.S. Army Africa are not involved in any of Africa’s most vexing conflicts. Nor should they be, necessarily. Our intervention doesn’t always help. Still, I wanted to hear Garrett’s response. So I asked about Chad and Sudan first:
AXE: With regards to the Chad/Sudan border conflict and recent moves to reinitiate talks, both rebel groups and with each other, and with the party — with various parties sort of working to set up some kind of framework for stabilizing that area and jointly patrolling the area, is there any prospect of U.S. involvement, you know, as you track this? What are your thoughts?
GEN. GARRETT: David, there’s no involvement that I’m aware of. Certainly we encourage the regional cooperation that’s going on, but right now U.S Army Africa is not involved in it.
AXE: Well, then let me follow up. It seems this — I’m not sure how to frame this question, but some of Africa’s most persistent and, in some cases, bloodiest conflicts — U.S. Army seems to steer clear of them: DRC, Somalia, Chad, Sudan. Why is that?
GEN. GARRETT: Yeah, David, the — that — I mean, that’s a great question. I — you know, I — like you, probably, I work for someone. So we typically follow U.S. policy towards these kind of things. And I would just say, you know, unless U.S. policy dictates we’re going to do something, then typically you don’t see the U.S. military involved in it.
Of course. But I’m struggling to reconcile that important truth with Garrett’s description of U.S. Army Africa’s mission:
[W]hether terrorism, violent extremism, cyber attacks, piracy, illicit trafficking, crime, corruption, disease, displaced people: all nations are directly or indirectly affected in some way by these transnational threats. These threats are not 10 feet tall. Most nations already have some ability to deal with these threats. And we see across the continent these range from the sophisticated to the rudimentary, and include things like pandemic response capabilities, border-control procedures, drug interdiction and security patrols.
The U.S. Army’s role in all of this is to help strengthen the capabilities and capacity of our land force partners … so they can help protect their people, secure their borders, support development, contribute to better governance and help achieve regional stability.
Except, apparently, in cases where there’s too much terrorism, violent extremism, cyber attacks, piracy, illicit trafficking, crime, corruption, disease and displaced people.
(Photo: David Axe)