March 2009

Map of AFRICOM presence in Africa, current and projected locations, from the GAO report (PDF), click map to see the graphic readable full size (you may have to click more than once to make it big enough to read the small print). AFRICOM still intends to locate its headquarters on the continent, but has not yet selected or persuaded a host.
1.AFRICOM has not confirmed whether these 11 embassies are the same embassies in which it currently intends to establish offices, but is still negotiating with State.

The US Africa Command is already active all over Africa. AFRICOM is operating out of US embassies in a number of countries. This according to the February GAO report released last week, PDF: Actions Needed to Address Stakeholder Concerns, Improve Interagency Collaboration, and Determine Full Costs Associated with the U.S. Africa Command.

… initial statements about the new command’s intended mission and scope of its activities met with concerns from U.S. government, nongovernmental, and African partner stakeholders. Concerns are particularly keen in areas like humanitarian assistance and other non-combat activities that involve non-DOD agencies and organizations. Their concerns center on the view that AFRICOM could blur traditional boundaries between diplomacy, development, and defense.

Until AFRICOM has a communications strategy that ensures a consistent message and facilitates two-way communication with stakeholders, it may be limited in its ability to reduce persistent concerns from U.S. government, nongovernmental, and African stakeholders and garner support for the command.

The Africa Command’s communication problem remains the same as it has been, and has been mentioned many times across the archives of this blog. The description of the mission does not describe the actual mission. The mission statement has been changed and modified several times. The current mission statement from

United States Africa Command, in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners, conducts sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign policy.

This statement does not accurately describe the true mission, which is more accurately described as: secure and guarantee U.S. access to vital energy sources and distribution channels while containing China’s growing superpower status. That is what “a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign policy” means. Stable and secure does not mean stable and secure for the people of Africa. It means stable and secure for US energy needs and policy objectives. An example of the difference is the elections a year ago in Kenya, where the US decided it preferred to continue dealing with President Kibaki, a known quantity with whom they were comfortable, and did not want to allow the possibility that the opposition might be democratically elected. So the US supported a Coup in Kenya.

Security and stability operations are the language of the new colonialism, the recolonizers. This has been researched and described eloquently by Mahmood Mamdani. From an interview:

Q. Are you saying that humanitarianism is a form of colonialism?

A. I’m saying that historically it has been. The movement after which Save Darfur patterned itself is the antislavery movement of the 19th century. Remember that the elimination of slavery was the ostensible reason given by British officials for colonization of the African continent. The cataloging of brutalities – real ones, not exaggerated – was essential preparation for seizing chunks of real estate, again ostensibly to protect victims. Today, the humanitarian claim uses ethics to displace politics. Conflicts are typically presented as tribal or race wars between perpetrators and victims whose roles are unchanging.

Q. Does the problem lie in who uses the humanitarian label?

A. The language of human rights was once used primarily by the victims of repression. Now it has become the language of power and of interventionists who turn victims not into agents but into proxies. It has been subverted from a language that empowers victims to a language that serves the designs of an interventionist power on an international scale.

All the narratives about war and disasters in Africa enable more “humanitarian” intervention. The intervention is “justified” by a disasterous situation. But the intervention is not designed to alleviate the situation, but rather, take advantage of it, allowing the “humanitarians” to acquire land and resources. Only the surface of the intervention is designed to appear humanitarian to the people outside the affected countries, who are generally not knowledgeable, and not particularly interested. For examples see the land acquisitions of Jarch in Sudan, or the US sponsored invasion of Somalia Dec 2006 and Jan 2007, or the military assistance provided to the Nigerian government to help put down the violence in the Niger Delta.

As the GAO report (PDF) points out:

In November 2005, DOD directed that stability operations be given priority on par with combat operations.

AFRICOM is primarily focused on this shift toward emphasizing the importance of stability operations.

According to the President’s National Security Policy, defense, diplomacy and development comprise three key elements of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus.

The words defense, diplomacy and development are called the 3Ds. US officials have claimed they are what AFRICOM will bring to Africa. This is eerily and offensively reminiscent of 19th century colonialism, in which Europe claimed it was bringing the 3Cs to Africa, commerce, Christianity and civilization.

In the 12 US embassies in African countries, listed in the map above, AFRICOM is active, and as a consequence, has been militarizing diplomacy. But the military actions coming out of these embassies are more than just military to military liaison. As an article in HStoday writes:

one of the Command’s fundamental roles is indeed counterterror intelligence and disruption operations.


For the time being, AFRICOM will be based in Stuttgart, with covert intelligence operatives working out of US installations and front companies throughout Africa.

So look at the list of countries where the US Africa Command already has an active presence: Algeria, Botswanana, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia. What kind of covert ops and disruption operations are being run in your country? or in a country near you? Who are the targets? Which companies are front companies? Does this make you feel more stable and secure?


Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

The energetic continuation of Bush administration policies in East Africa and the Horn of Africa are damaging the United States. Though far less well known, these policies are as mishandled and misbegotten as the Iraq war, the handling of the Katrina disaster, and the global financial meltdown.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger bears much responsibility for the disasterous handling and direction of these policies. He actively undermined democracy in the Kenya elections a year ago. As a result Kenya is less democratic, and less safe and secure. Extra judicial murders are on the rise.

The New York Times finally wrote some of this up in A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll. Much of this was reported at the time in a variety of places, you can read an account with links in this article, including the comment thread: The Coup in Kenya.

What the NYT article makes clear is that Ranneberger had determined Kibaki should win the election before the election occurred.

Heading the institute’s Kenya operations in 2007 was Mr. Flottman, on leave from his job as a senior counsel for a major defense contractor. … Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador’s office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.

“It was clear, in my opinion, that the ambassador was trying to influence the perceptions of the Kenyan electorate, and thus the campaign,” Mr. Flottman said.

Many of us watched the polling in Kenya and felt the soaring optimism that democracy might really be working. It was quite clear to any observer that the trend was strongly in favor of Mr. Odinga, and the polling was reasonably orderly and peaceful. As the ballots were being counted, President Kibaki and his cronies made a coup, seized control, and declared Kibaki the winner. Ambassador Ranneberger was quick to congratulate Kibaki on his win, although in the face of international opinion he had to retract this later. Then the US through Ambassador Ranneberger and Jendayi Frazer did its best to prevent completion of the vote count, and prevent a recount. Terrible violence followed the elections, and it was clear the security forces were responsible for a majority of the killings. Since it was clear and could not be denied that Odinga had won a lot of votes, the US pressed for a coalition government. That is not what Kenyans voted for. And now Kenyans say government failing them 1 year later.

During the Kenya election the IRI, was conducting an exit poll, which Mr. Flottman was supervising. Since the votes were not counted, Kenyans really wanted to see the results of the exit poll. but the results were supressed. From the NYT:

Under its contract, the institute was expected to consult with the Agency for International Development and the embassy before releasing the exit poll results, taking into account the poll’s technical quality and “other key diplomatic interests.”

Quality was not expected to be a concern. …

When the voting ended and ballot-counting began, Mr. Gibson and others involved in the exit poll said they expected its results to be announced soon.

But senior institute officials decided to withhold it. Most opposed to releasing the numbers, Mr. Flottman said, was Constance Berry Newman, … Mr. Flottman said Ms. Newman opposed “any kind of release from the outset — essentially suggesting it would be inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Ms. Newman, who had worked with Mr. Ranneberger when she was the Bush administration’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, declined to comment.

Mr. Gibson said he told the institute that its technical concerns were baseless, to no avail. His contract barred him from publicly disclosing the polling data for six months, and in March of last year the institute asked him to sign a new contract that would have restricted him from speaking publicly about the institute’s polling program without written permission.

I think they were trying to shut me up,” he said. “I refused to sign it.”

In July, after his contract expired, Mr. Gibson and one of his doctoral students presented their analysis of the data at a seminar in Washington. A month later — one day before Mr. Gibson was to testify before Kenyan investigators — the institute announced that, after the outside review, it “now had confidence” in the poll and released the results.

When Mr. Kibaki claimed victory on Dec. 30, 2007, the State Department quickly congratulated him and called on Kenyans to accept the outcome, even though international observers had reported instances of serious ballot-counting fraud. American officials backed away from their endorsement the next day and ultimately pushed the deal that made Mr. Odinga prime minister.

After insisting for months that the poll was flawed, the institute released it last August — long past the point of diplomatic impact — after outside experts whom it had hired determined that it was valid. It showed Mr. Kibaki losing by about six percentage points.

Michael Ranneberger led an active fight against democracy in Kenya. But it is not just in Kenya. As his State Department bio says:

Michael E. Ranneberger is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and is also responsible for U.S. relations with Somalia.

He has been ambassador to Kenya since mid 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia. This brought the first functioning government Somalia had in 15 years. Under the ICU, piracy by Somalis stopped completely. Peace was restored, businesses sprang up, Somalis abroad returned home. But the US claimed that the Islamic government was allied with al Qaeda, even though many people knew, and a West Point study told them that:

“Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.”

At the end of 2006, the US supported an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, contrary to international law. The US helped install a (non) government by the hated Ethiopians allied with the hated Somali warlords, restoring civil war, exploitation, and insecurity to the Somali people. The US arranged with Kenya to rendition refugees of that disaster, who crossed the Kenya border, to be tortured in Ethiopia as “terrorists”. When asked about the US participation in the invasion, and killing Somalis, Ranneberger just ignores the truth and repeats lies:

Question [Dom]: Ever since the last attack by US to Somalia near Kenyan Border, which killed more than 20 innocent civilians. No word of apology has been spelled out yet. Was that not a mistake?

Answer [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I appreciate your question, because there has been a lot of rumors and misinformation, and I am happy to clarify what happened. No innocent civilians have been killed in U.S. attacks. U.S. efforts are solely directly against known terrorists.

This despite the fact that the US was:

running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

But Ambassador Ranneberger blithely continues to support the violent and corrupt TFG he helped install, and innacurately condemn the ICU government he helped overthrow:

Q [Abdalla]: … Somali people were able to say enough is enough and they established a government free from the warlords. The international community instead of forcing the warlords to accept the government it sided with the warlords and allowed the government to be dismantled and Ethiopia succeeded in establishing a client government led by warlords. Somali people again as usual and eager to have law and order they accepted the TFG with it is short comings and the past/present records of its members. The Warlords instead of working for their people they become dysfunctional and started harming the Somali people. Fortunately, in June 2006 the Somali people plus Islamic courts succeeded in getting rid the south-central part from the warlords. The only city they remained was in baidabo with the protection of their Ethiopian master. The international community blatantly ignored the presence of Ethiopian soldiers in a sovereign country. During the reign of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the Somali people were able to forget the clan mentality and corrupt clan elders. For the first time the minority and un-armed Somali communities felt that they are part of the Somali society. They had a voice thanks to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sheikh Dahir aways who was able to control former militias.

Also, we Somalis in the Diaspora were able to invest in the country in my case I built a house for my mum and planned to visit her in January 2007. Unfortunately, the American justice is with us and our old enemy plus the warlord government is back to Mogadishu. America rewarded the warlords and punished the ICU who brought peace and tranquility to their people. …

All of these good things are destroyed now and we are back to 1991.

A [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I recognize that the Islamic Courts did manage to establish a degree of order in Mogadishu. However, the Islamic Courts never had broad support among the Somali people and, importantly, the Islamic Courts were moving in a very radical direction, which would not have been to the benefit of the Somali people. The Transitional Federal Institutions were developed, with the assistance of Kenya, as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people. With the ousting of the Courts, the TFG now has an opportunity to establish its credibility in order to become an effective, inclusive government. Our objective is to support this process.

I want to emphasize our commitment to an inclusive process that truly bring together all Somalis who reject violence and extremism. This is the only way forward for Somalis to achieve lasting stability and security. I believe that the Somali people are tired of the chaos and conflict that has plagued their country and want to participate in an inclusive political process. This will, in turn, lead to a smooth transition to an elected government in 2009.

You can not appeal to people who reject violence and extremism if you have just overthrown their government by violence and extremism. There is no path to “security and stability” that way. Overthrowing the Somili government with Ethiopian proxies meets no definition of the word inclusive. It works against any possibility for democracy.

Ranneberger is telling the Somalis that he knows better what is good for them than they do. Whatever else this is, it is NOT democracy. The TFG brought violence, exploitation, and insecurity. It has been beaten and discredited since then. The 2009 elections were held by a small group of Somalis in Djibouti, arranged by the US, and then called “representational”. They elected Sheikh Sharif, the handpicked choice of Ambassador Ranneberger. Sheikh Sharif has been “persuaded” by Ranneberger to become an ally of the United States. Sheikh Sharif is supposed to give a new face to the TFG, but so far, there is not much evidence he will be accepted, or that things will change for the better. Any solution to the governance or the piracy problems in Somalia must involve Somali communities. Ranneberger’s actions continue to actively harm any possibility for democratic processes or participation. Inviation only “elections” in Djibouti will not help Somalia.

As b real points out, Ranneberger:

… has had official capacity wrt sudan during the early part of this decade, possessing a cv that intertwines w/ a history of cia hotspots & covert arms transfers

  • country officer in angola (1981-84) while the u.s. was overtly supporting the “proto-terrorist” Unita
  • then constructively engaged as deputy chief of mission in mozambique from ’86-9 while the u.s. was covertly supporting the outright terrorist mvmt Renamo
  • then paraguay for the ’89 coup and on through 1992
  • then ’92-94 around el salvador & guatemala for who knows what
  • a brief stint as deputy chief of mission in mogadishu around ’94
  • then some work in haiti
  • then coordinator for cuban affairs (’95-99)
  • on to ambassador to mali from ’99-2002
  • in sudan from 2002-4 for a civil war while the u.s. supporting the south
  • then on to the african bureau
  • sudan again, as senior representative for sudan
  • and, since 2006, ambassador to kenya & responsibility for u.s. relations w/ somalia

One of the things that has distressed me for decades is how negative and counter productive US policy has been towards the developing world, particularly during the Cold War. This is not just in Africa, but in Asia and Latin America as well. Look at the ravages that military coups wrought on Latin America under the training and aegis of Southcom and US Cold War policy. Cheney, with Rumsfeld and Bush, has done his best to lock Cold War patterns and thinking into place, and to lock Bush’s successors into misguided and counter productive policies going forward, policies that ultimately hurt the United States. So far Obama has slipped right into that trap.

In an interview Mahmood Mamdani speaks about the:

way in which the Cold War almost seamlessly morphed into the war on terror.

We see that in action in the work of Ambassador Ranneberger. He opposed democracy when it was actually working. By doing so he hurt the United States by harming people in countries that would like to be our friends, by denying democracy, and by damaging trust, and the reputation and integrity of the United States.

Hero Rat sniffing a landmine

Hero Rat sniffing a landmine

From Afrigadget comes the story of:

“Scratch and sniff” Africas HeroRATS

I heard about this extraordinary use of rats years ago and am hoping that sharing it today will bring a smile to many faces. Although Mozambique’s civil war ended nearly two decades ago, unexploded ordinance continues to be a major cause of injury and death. But now they have a solution. Rats! Local giant rats are being trained and employed to assist in mine detection.

Rats have the amazing record of being able to detect mines 95% of the time. If only all our politicians would work this hard and for a banana….. I keep hoping against hope…

For more scientific information, read this article in the Journal of Mine Action

HeroRat videos on YouTube:

APOPO (5:55)
(links corrected 3/22)

You can adopt a rat at the website for 5€ per month.

Adopt a HeroRAT

HeroRats not only detect landmines, they also detect tuberculosis in sputum samples. When demining:

A trained HeroRAT can clear 100 m2 in 30 minutes, equivalent to two days work for a manual deminer.

In detecting tuberculosis:

… in 7 minutes one rat can evaluate 40 samples which is the equivalent of 2 days of microscopy work for a lab technician.

Plus, the rats are too light to explode landmines, they don’t mind repetitive tasks, and because, although they are large rats, they are small animals, they are easy to house and move around, and inexpensive to feed. The program provides work for farmers and restores land for farming.

I think supporting this program is an excellent idea for anyone. It is also nice because it is something that can be shared with children. But it would be even better to see some government security dollars spent on an inexpensive program that actually makes people a lot more secure.

USS Boxer LHD 4 amphibious assault ship

USS Boxer LHD 4 Wasp class amphibious assault ship (click photo to see enlarged version)

The USS Boxer, pictured above, has just been named the flagship of the Combined Task Force 151 off the coast of Somalia.

From the Wikipedia entry on wasp class amphibious assault ship

The Wasp class amphibious assault ships of the United States Navy are designed to land forces on hostile shores, and they are the largest vessels of this type in service anywhere in the world. They are named after former aircraft carriers, United States Marine Corps battles such as the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), and previous amphibious assault ships. The Wasp class has an air group of helicopters that are used to ferry Marines and equipment to the shore from the ships. These helicopters are supplemented by a squadron of up to eight AV-8B Harrier II V/STOL ground-attack aircraft. Up to 20 Harriers can be embarked when the ship is used as a temporary STOVL or “Harrier Carrier.”[2] They also possess a “well”-deck for launching smaller landing craft, up to three Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft or Landing Craft Utility (LCUs).

As you can read, the Wasp class LDH 4 is designed for land assaults. You can see the helicopters and other equipment and features in the photo above.

USS BOXER, At Sea (NNS) — USS Boxer (LHD 4) … assumed the role as flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 March 8 after arriving in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations as part of a regularly-scheduled deployment.

Established in early January, CTF 151’s mandate is to deter and disrupt piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and currently includes naval forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark and Turkey.

“We’ve had a great deal of success in deterring piracy to this point,” said Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, commander, CTF 151. “We’ve conducted counter-piracy operations on the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17), two guided-missile cruisers — USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and USS Monterey (CG 61) — and now we’re going to continue our mission on Boxer, which continues our line of extremely flexible platforms. Boxer has a lot to offer in the fight against piracy.”

McKnight said that CTF 151 has coordinated with many nations to help thwart piracy in the region.

“Piracy isn’t a problem that affects one or two nations,” he said. “It’s a problem that affects the whole world and the free flow of commerce in the world’s waterways. Piracy requires an international solution.”

Of course, almost anyone who knows anything about Somalia and the Somali pirates will tell you that the only way to solve the piracy problem is to solve the political problem in Somalia by allowing a working government to settle in and try to work, without the disruptions of invasion, bombing campaigns, and other destabilizing interference, as the US did with the Ethiopians, bombing and invading Somalia at the end of 2006.

Piracy in Somalia cannot be defeated by military means alone, and dialogue with pirates is needed to address the root causes of the problem …

… Mwangura said without the involvement of local communities in Somalia the efforts were doomed to failure.

“If you are not going to invite the local community, it is not going to work,” he said. “We need to come up with a regional piracy information centre, security in Somalia and a regional action plan on illegal fishing and toxic dumping.”

Fishermen began targeting ships in the early 90s, saying they were defending their coastline from illegal fishing and boats dumping toxic waste in Somali waters.

UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said the two issues were closely linked …

It is clear that the problem of piracy is linked to the need for peace and stability in Somalia itself,” …

While Mwangura said this means pirates now can seize fewer ships, he said that naval patrols were never going to solve the problem completely.

“The warships are doing something, but it is only a short-term solution,” he said.

Combined Task Force 151, of which the USS Boxer is the flagship, from a jan 26th update:

Task Force 151 is a multinational force recently organized to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases along Somalia´s coast. The task force is operating in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea …

This was described in January by:

ADM. MCKNIGHT: Right now we’re looking at the — what we call a phase two operation — (audio break) — after the pirates and take them, you know, basically like a — round them up like a police force would, and basically take them to a country. And it was announced on the 16th of January that Kenya has agreed to take the pirates if we capture them. Now the lawyers are at work for the particulars, and as soon as we (can?) get those mechanisms in place, then we will shift our operation to go — to possibly go after some of the pirates and take them to Kenya. And they will be of course prosecuted in the Kenyan courts.

Phase two is probably:

a reference to the traditional phases of military campaigns:

0. shaping
1. deter/engage
2. seize the initiative
3. decisive operations / dominate
4. transition

PHASE II–SEIZE INITIATIVE The primary focus of ‘Phase II’ operations is to deny the enemy its objective. This is done by executing offensive operations at the earliest possible time, with the aim of delaying, impeding, or halting the enemy’s aggression, and otherwise creating the conditions for the exploitation, pursuit, and ultimate destruction of enemy forces. During this phase, joint forces strive to gain access to infrastructure and to stabilize all lines of communication.

Gaining access to infrastructure requires invasion. The infrastructure is on land. If land invasions are planned or underway, this is just another example of what Steve Coll writes:

Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

If further invasion and interference with Somalia is the agenda, and it looks like it is, as Daniel Volman & William Minter write more generally about AFRICOM in: Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa:

It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States.

Like the whole of AFRICOM, these Somalia policies:

… are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

Many thanks to b real, who follows this story with in depth research and in great detail at Moon of Alabama You can read more in the comment threads on these posts:
Behind ‘Fighting Piracy’
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia
Somalia Thread for the most recent updates.

ADDED 3/17

b real added a comment on my earlier post that has much that is relevant to this post. I’ll add a couple of brief quotes here. He quotes an opinion piece published in Nairobi’s Daily Nation:

… what concerned me even more was Clinton’s assertion that the top US priority in Africa was “security”, which she described as “combating al-Qaida’s efforts to seek safe havens in failed states in the Horn of Africa”.

In short, America isn’t going to think about Africa much, but when it does, it will be to continue the Bush-era habit of worrying that there is an al-Qaida militant under every bed.

And he quotes Michael Weinstein about a recent CSIS panel on Somalia.

Somali civil society organizations … despite their diversity, their top priority was invariably peace and reconstruction.

Over and over again, their remarks betrayed a sense of astonishment and disbelief that the international coalition did not realize, particularly after the failure of the Ethiopian occupation, that the path to stabilization lay in helping Somalia rebuild its political and physical infra-structure, which, in their view, could be achieved at less financial cost than continued emphasis on military containment of terrorists and pirates. Why, they repeatedly asked this writer, did Washington, in particular, fail to understand what they believed was so obvious?

The disastrously ill-advised and destructive policies of the Bush administration are still operating in full force in Africa, being carried out by most of the same people who mismanaged things for Bush.

All of this is a huge and destructive waste of US taxpayer money. Those who don’t care one way or another about Somalia or Kenya, or even Africa, should understand these policies are a threat to the long term interests of the United States.

ADDED April 10, 2009:

There is much relevant information regarding the potential for invasion and war in the comment thread at Moon of Alabama Africa Comments. For the Somalia oil connection see comments 18 and 31, 32, 33. And there is much more information about the attempted hijacking of the Maersk Alabama starting with comment 21 and following, including these notes in 28.

this has gotta be bullshit. who are the kidnappers? special forces?
anomalies in this story:

  • only four individuals attempting to hijack a ship
  • sinking their own boat after boarding
  • taking a hostage off the vessel
  • and from 34:

    “It was on a regular three-port rotation through the Indian Ocean from Salalah, Oman, to Djibouti and then to Mombasa, [John F. Reinhart, president and CEO of Maersk Line Ltd.] said”

    If this is correct:

    1. where did the ship pick up its alleged cargo of humanitarian supplies? from the u.s. military base of CJTF-HOA in djibouti? or oman?

    2. how many pirates were involved in the hijacking? reports providing a number list it as four. four pirates in two skiffs? that far out at sea? even four individuals in only one skiff is an anomaly – esp taking on a vessel of that size, not to mention, one flying the stars & stripes.


    U.S. Military Programs in Africa, U.S. Policy Toward Africa, and AFRICOM by Daniel Volman

    From: ACAS Bulletin 78 : The Politics of Africom
    ACAS Bulletin, No. 78, Winter 2007

    TABLE: U.S. Military Programs in Africa, U.S. Policy Toward Africa, and AFRICOM (PDF)
    By Daniel Volman

    I took these tables from the PDF and made them into jpegs so they would be easy to view on the web. Click on one to see it full size. It will be more legible.

    Introduction: Dollars in thousands. Data is current as of 21 December 2007. Sources are listed at the end.


    FMS deliveries: Foreign Military Sales is the total dollar value of defense articles delivered to a foreign government or international organization in any fiscal year

    FMF: Foreign Military Financing is the amount of credit/grant aid extended to a foreign government or international organization in any fiscal year for the procurement of defense articles. Such articles may be procured from U.S. Defense agencies through FMS or may be negotiated directly with U.S. commercial suppliers following the approval of the Department of Defense. FMF credit is extended in the form of direct loans, which must be repaid, or grants, which do not require repayment. However, repayments of nearly all FMF loans to African countries are waived, so that in effect all FMF aid for Africa is free.

    Dollars in thousands

    DCS: The total dollar value of Direct Commercial Sales purchased directly from U.S. manufacturers by foreign governments. The Office of Defense Trade Controls of the Department of State licenses all sales.

    EDA: Excess Defense Articles is the acquisition cost of surplus U.S. defense articles transferred to foreign governments by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the Department of Defense.

    Dollars in thousands

    IMET: International Military Education and Training is the dollar value allocated in any fiscal year for the training of foreign military personnel at U.S. military facilities and the total number of students trained at these institutions.

    As Volman says, data is current as of 21 December 2007. You can get a pretty clear idea of the continuing trend from these tables

    For More Information: For additional information, see Rachel Stohl, “U.S. Arms Exports and Military Assistance in the ‘Global War on Terror,’” Center for Defense Information (CDI), Washington, DC, 6 September 2007, available from CDI: See also country studies on Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya linked to the above report.

    Sources: Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2008, U.S. Department of State, 2007 and Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Construction Sales, and Other Security Cooperation Historical Facts as of September 30, 2006, U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, 2006.

    For an updated discussion of these programs, and more, see Daniel Volman’s recent article AFRICOM from Bush to Obama. And for more discussion of the implications of all this see his most recent article: Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa, by Daniel Volman and William Minter | March 13, 2009.

    Uganda, from google maps, showing the border with Sudan and the DRC

    Uganda, from google maps, showing the border with Sudan and the DRC

    Senator Feingold has been a leading proponent of AFRICOM. I am in many respects an admirer of Senator Feingold. But he has either missed the point entirely regarding AFRICOM, or he has one or more agendas he has not revealed.

    At the end of December AFRICOM funded and advised a strike by Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the northern DRC. I wrote about it with a map of the location here, with more details here. The raid was badly botched. It was the equivalent of striking a hornets nest with a stick. The raiders found only empty campsites. The Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, which had been relatively quiet, followed their habitual predictable practice of reprisals against the civilian population. The result was hundreds of children kidnapped to be conscripted as child soldiers or sex conscripts. At least 900 people have been brutally murdered, and at least 100,000 displaced, their homes, villages, and livlihoods destroyed. These figures come from January. The killing, the theft of children and the displacement continue.

    The New York Times described AFRICOM’s part in the raid:

    It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel.

    AFRICOM paid for the raid. Without the $1 million worth of fuel, it would not have been attempted, regardless of the other training and equipment provided. The LRA is a legitimate target for Uganda and its neighbors. But the raid was disasterously mishandled, and funded by US taxpayers.

    As Steve Coll writes:

    The larger issue here is the momentum that military liaison creates when it becomes the heavily funded nexus of U.S. policy. Africa Command’s mission is to “engage” with brother armies, its commanders have a professional bias to action, and they often do not take strategic direction from civilians until they are ready to present their war, engagement and training plans, whether in Colombia or Pakistan or Uganda. Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

    After the raid, Mary Yates defended AFRICOM’s actions with the only defense available, that it was the LRA’s fault for committing the same evil acts that it has commited for decades, not mentioning that anyone could and should have predicted the danger. The error, in addition to botching the raid, was the complete failure to make any attempt to protect the civilian population.

    But Sen. Feingold ignored all that. He blames only the local militaries, Uganda and the DRC. This is the great advantage of proxy armies. You can blame them for the losses, and claim credit for the wins. On Thursday Sen. Feingold testified to Congress:

    Just over two months ago, the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudanese militaries launched a joint offensive against the LRA’s primary bases in northeastern Congo. Serious concerns have been raised about the planning and implementation of this operation. …

    … I am not ruling out that this offensive—still ongoing—may yet succeed. …

    As a 17-year member of the Subcommittee on African Affairs and someone who has been involved with AFRICOM since its conception, I would like to offer some thoughts on this matter. While I supported AFRICOM’s creation, I have been concerned about its potential to eclipse our civilian agencies and thereby perpetuate perceptions on the continent of a militarized U.S. policy. It is essential that we get this balance right and protect chief of mission authority. By doing so, we can help ensure AFRICOM contributes to broader efforts to bring lasting peace and stability across Africa. When I visited AFRICOM’s headquarters last December and talked with senior officials, we discussed the important roles that it can play. They include helping to develop effective, well-disciplined militaries that adhere to civilian rule, strengthening regional peacekeeping missions, and supporting post-conflict demobilization and disarmament processes. In my view, assisting a multilateral operation to disarm an armed group that preys on civilians and wreaks regional havoc fits this job description, theoretically, at least.

    Mr. President, to put it bluntly, I believe supporting viable and legitimate efforts to disarm and demobilize the LRA is exactly the kind of thing in which AFRICOM should be engaged

    Following this botched raid, again, quoting Steve Coll:

    The explanatory “commander’s vision” on Africom’s Web site is a mush of “Dilbert”-inspired, PowerPoint mission creep. The Africa Command, it says, “develops and implements military programs that add value to the important endeavor of stability and security on the content of Africa and its island nations.” It also “directs, integrates and employs credible and relevant military capability in peace and in response to crisis.” It is a “trusted and reliable partner for nations and security institutions in Africa.” And, of course, it is a “listening and learning organization.”

    If you could even sort out what those slogans mean in practice, would you believe them? Not anymore. …

    And it is important to emphasize again, that no one consulted with Africa, the African Union, or African governments in creating AFRICOM. It is not welcome in Africa.

    Olayiwola Abegunrin writes in AFRICOM: The U.S. Militarization of Africa:

    AFRICOM is an example of U.S. military expansion in the name of the war on terrorism, when it is in fact designed to secure Africa’s resources and ensure American interests on the continent. AFRICOM represents a policy of U.S. military-driven expansionism that will only enhance political instability, conflict, and the deterioration of state security in Africa. This is a project that most African countries have rejected to be located on their soil. … AFRICOM would destabilize an already fragile continent, which would be forced to engage with U.S. interests on military terms.

    Militarization of Africa with the U.S. designed so-called AFRICOM is not the solution to Africa’s problem. What African countries need is development of their own institutions for security, political and economic independence; massive infusion of foreign direct investment, fair equitable trade, access to U.S. markets, and for U.S. to decrease/or total removal of agricultural subsidies, debt relief and improved Official Development Assistance tailored towards the development aspirations of (recipient countries) African countries and not AFRICOM that will only lead to militarizing the continent.

    So what does Senator Feingold really expect to get out of AFRICOM? for the US or for Africa? Is he simply deluded as to the certainty that leading with military laison will destabilize a continent? Or is there something he is not saying that he hopes to accomplish? Does the importance to him of this unspoken goal outweigh recognition of the dangers of AFRICOM, just as the urge to attack the LRA outweighed the clear and obvious dangers of such an attack. The botched raid against the LRA is likely to be the template for many future disasters with AFRICOM leading US policy in Africa. All those involved in the planning and funding of AFRICOM will bear responsibility for this destruction.

    ADDED March 16:

    Daniel Volman & William Minter: Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa

    The government has presented AFRICOM as a cost-effective institutional restructuring and a benign program for supporting African governments in humanitarian as well as necessary security operations. In fact, it represents the institutionalization and increased funding for a model of bilateral military ties — a replay of the mistakes of the Cold War. This risks drawing the United States more deeply into conflicts, reinforcing links with repressive regimes, excusing human rights abuses, and frustrating rather than fostering sustainable multilateral peacemaking and peacekeeping. It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States

    While AFRICOM may be new, there’s already a track record for such policies in programs now incorporated into AFRICOM. That record shows little evidence that these policies contribute to U.S. or African security. To the contrary, there are substantial indications that they are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

    I strongly recommend reading Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa.  It provides an overview of the issues that is both clear and thoroughly researched.

    Next Page »