|WASHINGTON, March 8, 2006 Modest near-term investments in Africa will prevent costly future intervention, U.S. European Command's leader said. |
"African security issues will increasingly continue to directly affect our homeland security," Marine Gen. James L. Jones, commander of European Command, told the Senate and House Armed Services committees in statements prepared for delivery yesterday and today, respectively. "For relatively small, but consistent investments, our theater efforts in Africa will have major impacts on ... challenges we face.
"Early recognition of this reality is very important," he said.
U.S. European Command maintains operational responsibility for most of Africa. U.S. Central Command is responsible for the Horn of Africa, and U.S. Pacific Command is responsible for Madagascar, an island nation off the continent's southeastern coast.
Jones said political instability in Africa is aggravated by social, economic and security problems. These problems stem from multiple factors, including high population growth rates, agricultural and environmental issues, massive refugee movements, and pandemic disease outbreaks.
In the past five years, the United States has responded to humanitarian crises and political instability in several African countries, including Somalia, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and most recently in Sudan, Jones said. During this time, the United States has worked to take a more engaged approach to achieving long-term stability on the continent through proactive and preventive measures, he added.
Not taking action now could result in continued and repetitive U.S. intervention, he said. This is especially true when it comes to the presence of radical fundamentalism in Africa.
"Violence in West Africa has created ungoverned pockets that extend across national borders and threaten to further destabilize an already fragile region," Jones said. "Broad expanses of marginally governed areas can become havens for terrorists and criminals and have become ... attractive to terrorists groups increasingly denied sanctuaries in Afghanistan and the Middle East."
North Africa and, in particular, the Pan-Sahel region of sub-Sahara Africa, provides opportunities to Islamic extremists, smugglers and other insurgent groups, he said. In fact, parts of the continent have become home to "franchise groups" who ally themselves with major terrorist organizations but are composed of native Africans, he said.
The situation in East Africa is dim as well, Jones said, using the situation in war-torn Darfur, Sudan, as an example of the human tragedy that Africa faces. Large numbers of residents have been displaced by conflict in the region.
One command priority in Africa is to increase the capability of African nations to conduct peacekeeping and contingency operation in each of their five regions, he said. The hope is that these capabilities will be developed through the African Union and other regional organizations.
Other priorities involve promoting stability by providing medical advice and assistance in dealing with health issues that have humanitarian and strategic consequences, he said. Jones named HIV/AIDS, cholera and malaria as three diseases plaguing Africa.
"As we strive to assist in halting the deteriorating condition in this increasingly important continent, we impact on Africa's potential for becoming the next front in the war on terrorism," Jones said.
Command initiatives are in place to achieve that goal, he said.
The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative is a long-term interagency plan to combat terrorism in trans-Saharan Africa using a range of political, economic and security tools, Jones said. The need for the plan stems from concern over the expansion of Islamic terrorist operations in the Sahel region, which is roughly the size of the United States.
U.S. European Command supports the plan through involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara, Jones said. "(The operation) is a regional and preventive approach to combat terrorism and enhance partner nation border security and response in trans-Sahara Africa."
The 2002 Pan Sahel Initiative involved training and equipping a least one rapid-reaction company in each of the four Sahel states: Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. The current initiative involves those four states and Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and Nigeria.
The benefits of cooperation between the states are great, he said. Among other things, it strengthens regional counterterrorism capabilities, as well as enhancing and institutionalizing cooperation among the region's security forces. It also assists participating nations in better protecting their borders and contributes to common security, which helps halt the illegal flow of arms, goods and people through the region, Jones said.
The Global Peace Initiative, a U.S. State Department program, also is key to the African Union and regional organizations move toward self-sufficiency, he said. Planned and implemented with the Defense Department, the initiative's goal is to train and equip peacekeepers.
The African Contingency Operations, Training and Assistance program is directed toward African nations and undertakes the bulk of the initiative's activities, Jones said. "(The training assistance program) is a Department of State peace support operations training initiative designed to improve the African Union's ability to respond quickly and professionally to regional crises at the battalion, staff, brigade, and increasingly, at the multinational and regional economic community level," Jones said. "Our support to the Department of State contract-led training will continue throughout 2006."
Piracy, resource theft and trafficking, among other issues, epitomize the West Indian Ocean and Gulf of Guinea regions of Africa, Jones said. To address these issues, Jones' command is creating a comprehensive maritime security initiative for Africa. "U.S. Naval Forces Europe, (the command's) lead component in this initiative, has developed a robust maritime security strategy and regional 10-year campaign plan for the Gulf of Guinea region," he said.
The Gulf of Guinea Guard, a EUCOM initiative, will help the nations of the region protect their natural resources and use their wealth to develop economically and socially, Jones said. Initiative objectives include enhanced port security, better control of coastal areas, and promoting cooperative maritime security beyond coastal areas, he said.
"Africa's vast potential makes African stability a near-term global strategic imperative," Jones said. "Development of effective security structures in Africa will establish the foundation for future success."
That successful foundation, however, is dependent upon the commitment of manpower, as well as financial and institutional resources necessary to establish and sustain real progress, he said.