Africom to Continue Under Obama

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by Daniel Volman

With the Obama administration set to oversee significant increases in US security assistance programmes for African countries, Daniel Volman examines the US government’s plans for its military operations on the African continent over the coming financial year. Stressing that the US president is essentially continuing the policies outlined under his predecessor George W. Bush, the author considers the proposed funding increases for initiatives like the Foreign Military Financing programme and the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme. Pointing out that the administration is yet to offer any public explanation of its policy, Volman concludes that it would be a mistake to assume that there will be no US military action if the situation in Somalia deteriorates.

At the beginning of May 2009, President Obama submitted his first budget request to Congress. The Obama administration’s budget for the 2010 financial year proposes significant increases in US security assistance programmes for African countries and for the operations of the new US Africa Command (AFRICOM). This shows that – at least initially – the administration is following the course laid down for AFRICOM by the Bush administration, rather than putting these programmes on hold until it can conduct a serious review of US security policy towards Africa. This article outlines the administration’s plans for Africa in the coming year and the money it intends to spend on military operations on the continent.

FOREIGN MILITARY FINANCING

The Obama administration proposes maintaining or significantly increasing funding for the Foreign Military Financing programme, which provides loans for the sale of weaponry and other military equipment to a number of African countries. The administration’s request raises the total funding for arms sales to Africa from $8.3 million in financial year (FY) 2009 to $25.6 million in FY 2010. The new funding includes funding for arms sales to Chad ($500,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo ($2.5 million), Djibouti ($2.5 million), Ethiopia ($3 million), Kenya ($1 million), Liberia ($9 million), Nigeria ($1.4 million), South Africa ($800,000) and African regional programmes ($2.8 million).

INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING

The Obama administration proposes small increases in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programmes for African counties, raising the total funding for this programme from $13.8 million in FY 2009 to $16 million in FY 2010. Significant increases in funding are requested for Chad ($400,000), Djibouti ($350,000), Ethiopia ($775,000), Ghana ($850,000), Kenya ($1,050,000), Liberia ($525,000), Mali ($350,000), Niger ($250,000), Nigeria ($1,100,000), Rwanda ($500,000), Senegal ($1,100,000), South Africa ($900,000) and Uganda ($550,000). The United States will continue its major IMET programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo ($500,000), and the Obama administration is proposing to start new IMET programmes in Equatorial Guinea ($40,000), Somalia ($40,000) and Zimbabwe ($40,000).

PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS

The Obama administration proposes major new funding for security assistance provided through the Peacekeeping Operations programme. The FY 2010 budget proposal includes increasing funding for the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership – from $15 million in FY 2009 to $20 million in FY 2010 – and for the East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative – from $5 million in FY 2009 to $10 million in FY 2010. It also includes $42 million to continue operations in support of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accords in southern Sudan, $10 million to continue operations to create a professional 2,000-member armed force in Liberia, $21 million to continue operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reform the military (including the creation of rapid reaction force for the eastern Congo), and $3.6 million for the Africa Conflict Stabilization and Border Security Program, which will be used to support monitoring teams, advisory assistance, training, infrastructure enhancements, and equipment in the Great Lakes region, the Mano River region, the Horn of Africa, Chad, and the Central African Republic. The budget request also includes $67 million to support the African Union Mission in Somalia. And it contains a request for $96.8 million for the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). The request for GPOI includes funding for the African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance Program (ACOTA) – which provides training and equipment to African military forces to enhance their peacekeeping capabilities – although the specific amount requested for ACOTA is not provided in the budget summary.

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