Libya be­comes fo­cal point for fight­ing ter­ror

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY KRISTINA WONG

A break­down of security in Libya has al­lowed a sig­nif­i­cant flow of mil­i­tants and weapons into other trou­bled ar­eas in North Africa, ac­cord­ing to the top Pen­tagon of­fi­cial on Africa pol­icy.

The out­flow of Libyan weapons and mil­i­tants has “cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties for al Qaeda in the Is­lamic Maghreb to ex­ploit in­sta­bil­ity and es­tab­lish new and ex­panded safe havens,” said Deputy As­sis­tant De­fense Sec­re­tary Amanda J. Dory.

Speak­ing at a con­fer­ence spon­sored by the Africa Cen­ter for Strate­gic Stud­ies last week, Ms. Dory specif­i­cally noted the tur­bu­lent sit­u­a­tion in Mali, where rebel mil­i­tary forces and Is­lamist mil­i­tants have seized con­trol of a large part of the coun­try.

The de­vel­op­ments high­light the grow­ing U.S. mil­i­tary in­ter­est and in­volve­ment in Africa as the Pen­tagon im­ple­ments a strat­egy to thwart mil­i­tants and ter­ror­ist groups across the con­ti­nent.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s 2012 World­wide Threat As­sess­ment, Africa-based ter­ror­ist groups such as al-Shabab in So­ma­lia, al Qaeda in the Is­lamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Al­ge­ria and Boko Haram in Nige­ria will sur­pass the rem­nants of the “core” al Qaeda in Pak­istan in terms of threats to U.S. in­ter­ests and will seek op­por­tu­ni­ties to strike Western tar­gets in their operating ar­eas.

To counter the threat, the Pen­tagon is work­ing in close co­or­di­na­tion with the State De­part- ment and 10 part­ner coun­tries to build a re­gional coun­tert­er­ror­ism ca­pac­ity, Ms. Dory said.

“Re­gional co­op­er­a­tion and in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing be­tween mil­i­taries will be more im­por­tant than ever as we grap­ple with the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with the out­pour­ing of weapons and peo­ple from Libya into the greater Maghreb and Sa­hel re­gions,” she said.

It is this kind of part­nered re­sponse that the Pen­tagon is build­ing upon in its de­fense strat­egy in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, which seeks to deepen security part­ner­ships with African na­tions and re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions to ad­dress threats and chal­lenges.

“The in­ter­ests of the United States and Africa converge in im­por­tant ways,” Ms. Dory said. “The United States is more se­cure when our friends and al­lies around the world are se­cure.”

De­fense of­fi­cials note that Pres­i­dent Obama re­cently is­sued an Africa di­rec­tive call­ing for a fo­cus on strength­en­ing demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, spurring eco­nomic growth and in­vest­ment, pro­mot­ing de­vel­op­ment, and ad­vanc­ing peace and sta­bil­ity.

Ms. Dory’s pub­lic re­marks Mon­day were the first by a de­fense of­fi­cial on the new pol­icy and strat­egy in Africa.

The strat­egy calls for the U.S. to lever­age its ex­per­tise in border security, mar­itime-avi­a­tion security, cy­ber­se­cu­rity and fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions to counter the il­licit move­ment of peo­ple, arms, drugs and money, she said.

“We will con­cen­trate our ef- un­der Bashir and Zim­babwe un­der Mu­gabe, there’s vir­tu­ally no African govern­ment that the United States and [U.S. Africa Com­mand] does not part­ner with, even in the most mod­est of fash­ions.”

Still, he said, he wel­comes the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to for­mu­late a new pol­icy on Africa.

“I con­grat­u­late the ad­min­is­tra­tion for do­ing it. I think it’s some­thing that’s worth­while; on the other hand, I think it’s over­due,” Mr. Pham said. “Three­and-a-half years into an ad­min-

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s 2012 World­wide Threat As­sess­ment, Africa-based ter­ror­ist groups such as al-Shabab in So­ma­lia, al Qaeda in the Is­lamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Al­ge­ria and Boko Haram in Nige­ria will sur­pass the rem­nants of the “core” al Qaeda in Pak­istan in terms of threats to U.S. in­ter­ests and will seek op­por­tu­ni­ties to strike Western tar­gets in their operating ar­eas.

forts on dis­rupt­ing, dis­man­tling and even­tu­ally de­feat­ing al Qaeda and its af­fil­i­ates and ad­her­ents in Africa and else­where,” Ms. Dory said.

J. Peter Pham, direc­tor of the Michael S. An­sari Africa Cen­ter at the At­lantic Coun­cil, said the new strat­egy is re­ally a con­tin­u­a­tion of var­i­ous pro­grams be­gun by Pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton and Ge­orge W. Bush to build up African mil­i­tary ca­pac­ity and peace­keep­ing.

“This is con­ti­nu­ity,” he said. “With the ex­cep­tion of a few despotic regimes like Sudan is­tra­tion of a pres­i­dent who was hailed as the first pres­i­dent of African de­scent, he spent less than 24 hours on the ground in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa.

“So it’s long over­due, but it’s go­ing to take more than a piece of pa­per that doesn’t list pri­or­i­ties to r ight U.S. pol­icy in Africa.”

One ex­am­ple of a long-ex­ist­ing ef­fort that will con­tinue is the de­ploy­ment of U.S. Spe­cial Forces to Africa.

In Oc­to­ber, the pres­i­dent au­tho­rized the de­ploy­ment of about 100 com­man­dos to ad­vise local forces pur­su­ing the Lord’s Re­sis­tance Army (LRA), and in April an­nounced a con­tin­ued de­ploy­ment through 2013.

“The small teams of U.S. mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers now present with for­ward-de­ployed Ugan­dan mil­i­tary forces and na­tional mil­i­tary forces in field lo­ca­tions are in LRA-af­fected ar­eas,” Ms. Dory said.

“At th­ese lo­ca­tions, the ad­vis­ers have made progress in strength­en­ing the re­la­tion­ships be­tween mil­i­tary of­fi­cials and [. . .] civil­ian of­fi­cials and other or­ga­ni­za­tions, en­hanc­ing in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing and syn­chro­niza­tion and help­ing with train­ing and plan­ning,” she said, adding that re­gional part­ners in­clude Uganda, the Cen­tral African Repub­lic and South Sudan.

Ms. Dory also noted that U.S. mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers in Congo are sup­port­ing U.N. op­er­a­tions as well as the na­tion’s ef­forts to drive out mil­i­tants with the LRA, which has plagued the area for years.

“We’re sat­is­fied with the re­sults of the de­ploy­ment to date. The ad­vis­ers have es­tab­lished a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship and foun­da­tion with part­ner mil­i­taries,” she said.

The strat­egy is aimed at in­form­ing do­mes­tic au­di­ences and part­ners in Africa that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion views Africa as im­por­tant, said re­tired Army Col. Tom Dempsey, chair­man for security stud­ies at the Africa Cen­ter for Strate­gic Stud­ies.

“Lead­er­ship mat­ters, and Amer­i­can lead­er­ship mat­ters a lot,” he said. “This strat­egy is say­ing that this mat­ters, it mat­ters to us, and we need to do some­thing about it.”

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