Noah Pitcher is a U.S. and global politics writer at Today News Africa who specializes in covering the White House. A full-time undergraduate student at California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo, Noah is studying Political Science with a concentration in global politics. Noah’s background and experience include working on congressional campaigns, with elected members of the American government, and as part of numerous research teams.
The United States is working continuously toward helping with security and prosperity across Africa through military trainings and exercises by the United States Africa Command, Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, said on Thursday.
U.S. AFRICOM has been controversial since its activation, which came in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency. While some believe that the U.S. Africa Command’s presence is a tactical advantage and net positive in Africa, there are others that feel it is “neocolonialist” and driven by self-interests rather than altruism.
“Increased U.S. military presence in Africa may simply serve to protect unpopular regimes that are friendly to its interests, as was the case during the Cold War, while Africa slips further into poverty,” said Nigerian journalist Dulue Mbachu in 2009, echoing the concerns of many Africans following U.S. AFRICOM’s establishment.
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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently requested that the U.S. African Command headquarters be moved from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa. This is a dramatic reversal of position from Nigeria, which has historically been more critical of the United States’ military presence in Africa.
This shift is likely a reflection of the deteriorating security situation in West Africa, as extremist insurgent groups have collided with security forces to wreak havoc throughout the region.
“Boko Haram killed hundreds of civilians and carried out abductions which targeted women and girls. Government forces carried out indiscriminate attacks against villages and continued to detain thousands in inhumane conditions,” said Amnesty International in its annual report of human rights in Nigeria.
“Southern European Task Force Africa wakes up every morning, as we did before, thinking about maintaining security, prosperity, and stability on the African continent,” said Major General Rohling during Thursday’s Department of State briefing.
Speaking on what the United States is doing to address growing threats and conflicts, the Major General said, “We have introduced security force assistance teams to several countries across the continent that are providing persistent presence with our key partner nations on the continent, and they are training with those armies to help improve their capabilities and capacity.”
As Rohling explained, a large component of the U.S. Africa Command’s role is conducting exercises and trainings across the continent such as medical readiness exercises and IED training.
The Major General asserted that African leadership is included in all these processes, saying, “this headquarters brings together the commanders of the land forces across the continent to discuss the tactics, techniques, procedures, lessons learned and opportunities for interoperability amongst the African partners to increase the stability across the continent.”
The African Land Forces Summit met Wednesday to bring together the continent’s military leaders to discuss challenges and opportunities.
Security concerns are pervasive across the continent, including regions in West Africa, East Africa, and the Horn of Africa.
The United States is committed to its partnership with Kenya, said Major General Rohling, asserting the importance of increased training and exercises for security forces and infantries in Kenya.
If the United States’ presence in Africa is to be productive and fruitful, it will need to be done so collaboratively and cooperatively with the leaders of African nations.
The Major General asserted Thursday that the United States is also looking for ways to partner with South Africa to explore opportunities.
In order to better foster regional stability, African security forces should be better equipped to handle security threats and respond accordingly; the United States believes that it can help provide exercises and training to make this happen.
“I think that the United States Army and its components – or and its partners across Africa are doing numerous things to help security and prosperity across Africa,” said Major General Andrew M. Rohling. “Clearly, a safe, secure, and prosperous Africa is good for the globe. We’re committed to that.”
As security concerns across the continent continue to grow, U.S. African Command has the potential to be used to promote stability and improve deteriorating situations. However, its success is contingent on the use of strategic and collaborative efforts to work cooperatively with regional leadership in order to be best assist with resolving challenges and addressing crises.