By Scott Morgan /Washington, D.C.
The U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled President Donald Trump’s policy for Africa on December 13.
The major announcement was made at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C.
Although much has been said about the radical speech, it seems to me that the recent national security strategy directive shows there are four countries posing direct challenges to the national security interests of the United States – Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
A fifth concern happens to be violent extremist groups scattered across the continent.
How do these issues unpack?
China has been able to expand its influence through the use of Soft Power. More often than not this is in the form of either Direct Foreign Investments (DFA) or through providing loans to ensure that African States join the Belt Road Initiative. There are legitimate concerns regarding what occurs when Countries default on these loans. How will China react? There were concerns earlier this year specifically involving Zambia when reports emerged of it potentially defaulting on loans. How this will play out in 2019 will be a factor.
The actions by Russia in returning to the Continent have proven to be unique in both their timing and in which regimes they support in general. They have been able to sign a Military Assistance pact with General Haftar in Eastern Libya as attempts to resolve the post-Gadaffi conflict muddles on. A recent deal with the Central African Republic appears to be adequate on paper but implementation is controversial to put it mildly.
It is not just the Russian Army that is currently on the ground in the country but Private Military Contractors as well. Another area of concern should be Mozambique. Reports now indicate that some of the Russians will be soon operating in the strife torn Northwestern part of the country.
Several key partners in Africa such as Uganda have proven adept at assisting Pyongyang in circumventing the Sanctions regime currently in place by purchasing or assisting in the transfer of small arms it is not known how these allies will be held accountable by Washington for these poor decisions.
One of the more interesting issues has to be the violent extremist groups. It was officially announced that the US will reduce its military presence in Africa by 10% to deal with actions by Russia and China in other parts of the Globe. With some of the issues present in Africa this decision appears to be short sighted. However over the last decade there has been copious criticism levied against the Pentagon for conducting the Policy of the United States towards Africa.
The death of four members of the U.S. Green Berets last year in Niger during an operation shows that the current footprint by the United States in Africa is inadequate. A strategy based on Counter terrorism is woefully inadequate when a counter insurgency strategy may yield a better result. Several places have been allowed to fester and grow worse without being addressed by either its neighbors or by the international community as a whole.
Time wise it may have been best for this speech to have been delivered a decade ago. At that time a new Administration was taking over in Washington to present a fresh look and perspective into events in Africa. Now we are a decade later and some of the wounds were not addressed. It is past time to resolve these issues.