The crab does not bite, it is the handshake that hurts. – Proverb

Somalia belongs to HOA Phase Zero of AFRICOM’s activities in Africa according to a CJTF-HOA slideshow. You don’t see any mention of partnerships or listening to African partners on this list of Phases from the beginning of the slideshow. If you look at the Phases listed on the slide, Phase 1 is to Deter, Phase 2 is Seize. Anything the US is seizing in Africa does not belong to the United States. Phase 3 is to Dominate, followed by Phase 4, Stabilize. That is what stability operations are, keeping the dominated stabilized and under control, aka peacekeeping, and then, Phase 5, Enabling them to serve the dominant, or enabling them to get out of the way of dominant interests. For all these Phases in Africa, AFRICOM needs proxies, proxy soldiers and proxy governments. That is what Africans solving Africa’s problems means. It means solving local and continental problems to the advantage of the United States, and arranging the business of government to serve the US and the West through the use of proxies and client governments.

Phase Zero

Roger Pociask linked to the DTIC pdf slideshow from his blog. He has some important observations for the US Africa Command, he says:

In spite of the good things that AFRICOM has accomplished across the continent, by and large you have been viewed by the natives as nothing but an embarrassment to be mistrusted across Africa. Your self-declared benevolence (or security cooperation) is absolutely NOT believed by anyone. They smile and nod and readily accept millions of U.S. dollars.

CJTF-HOA strategic objectives

Above you see a list of CJTF-HOA strategic objectives over the banner Africans Solving Africa’s Problems. Nothing on the itemized list is specifically African other than The middle item, Engage African Union. The items are all about the Africa Command. To what purpose does the Africa Command engage the African Union? The US has certainly done its best to marginalize and ignore the African Union on the subject of Libya, AFRICOM’s first war in Africa. The US also made quite cynical use of the African Union in the post electoral conflict in Ivory Coast this year.

Mark Fancher at Black Agenda Report writes With Friends Like AFRICOM, Who Needs Enemies?

The crab does not bite, it is the handshake that hurts.

Beware of Americans bearing gifts, guns, and an AFRICOM patch; their embrace can turn fatal. “One minute, Gadhafi was America’s best friend in northern Africa and in the next minute he was an evil menace.” The turnabout can be sudden.

Public statements issued by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) frequently refer to Africa’s governments and military forces as “our African partners.” The following AFRICOM website excerpts are typical:

“An important part of this approach is that we learn from our African partners what is important to them.”

“Our African partners have expressed four common, defense-oriented goals that are consistent with U.S. interests and AFRICOM objectives…”

“U.S. AFRICOM’s programs and activities support the development of capable, professional partner military forces…”

Partnerships typically involve trust, mutual respect and shared decision-making. These may be hard to find in relationships that AFRICOM has with Africa’s armies because history and circumstances have determined that Africa’s true, best interests and U.S. interests will always diverge. Consequently, in any relationship between Africa and the U.S., one set of interests will likely dominate the other.

For its part, AFRICOM has declared: “As a military organization, our responsibility to the American people is to support U.S. national security priorities.” Africa’s security priorities were forced to yield to so-called U.S. national security priorities when AFRICOM initiated military attacks against Libya at the same time that the African Union was calling for dialogue as a means of resolving conflicts in that country. This provides the best clue that if an African “partner” were to attempt to give African interests priority over U.S. objectives, the partnership would be short-lived.

Historically U.S. imperialism has embraced selected governments as “allies,” or “friends,” or “partners” when there is something to be gained from the relationship. But when these “friends” in some way jump ship, the U.S. turns on them like an enraged schizophrenic. Libya is the latest example.

when it comes to fickle friends, the U.S. has no peer, and this should give pause to any African country considering a relationship with AFRICOM.

Lest any would-be AFRICOM “partner” assume that Libya is an aberration, it is important to recall that Gadhafi is not the only African leader to be kicked to the curb. Robert Mugabe too has been romanced by imperialism and then jilted.

Mobutu in the Congo was a long time client of the US until it turned against him. Saddam Hussain in Iraq was another US client the US turned against. Uganda’s Museveni and Rwanda’s Kagame are currently US favorites for their military cooperation, and for their incursions into the Congo that advantage US, Canadian, and other Western mineral and mining interests. This has led to the deaths of millions of citizens in the Congo, as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congolese Army, and various militias vie for control of the mineral trade. It has led to the use of rape on an unimaginble scale as a weapon of terror and war. Recent oil discoveries and projected discoveries are likely to exacerbate the violence and conflicts. The US spends a lot of money on training the Ugandan and Rwandan militaries. And the US has recently begun training the DRC Congo military as well.

Fancher continues:

African countries considering “partnerships” would do well to engage in sober analysis when AFRICOM arrives bearing gifts of humanitarian assistance and military training. Given the treatment accorded other U.S. “friends” who have fallen out of favor, it is worth contemplating the dangers of having to tell AFRICOM “no” if one day a request is made to participate in a mission that is clearly contrary to Africa’s best interests. This is not a far-fetched potential dilemma.

AFRICOM announced that one of its exercises for this summer is called “Shared Accord.” Its purpose is to train “… U.S. and African forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in sub-Saharan Africa.” Once trained, who will be the targets of these “peace keepers”? Will they include the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND)? According to reports, MEND recently vowed to attack facilities of an Italian company that MEND accuses of theft of Nigeria’s oil. MEND claims its attacks are in solidarity with Libyans enduring imperialist attacks by Italy and others.

Or then again, perhaps AFRICOM will decide to move militarily against Robert Mugabe. Whatever the target, if prospective “partners” don’t have the stomach for anti-African imperialist missions, or the wherewithal to resist U.S. retaliation for refusing to cooperate, they should probably refuse to answer the door when AFRICOM comes a knocking.

The US has clearly and frequently taken sides in internal conflicts in African countries, Libya, Ivory Coast, Somalia, are just a few of the most recent. The DJTF-HOA slideshow pictures the post election violence in Kenya as one of the things it wishes to protect against. It ignores the US role in subverting the counting of the votes that led to the violence.

And the US fear of Shabab in Somalia is not really about growing terrorism but about a political threat to what the US sees as its interests. As Johnnie Carson told us last July in Kamapala”

It is important that the TFG be strengthened, for if it is not, Shabaab will continue to emerge as a significant political threat not only in the south, but also throughout the region.

Currently for the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia: U.S. Sends in the Marines and More Drones

Even as U.S. militarization of the Horn of Africa has contributed massively to the threatened starvation of millions, the Americans have announced an escalation of drone attacks against Somalia and the establishment of a Marine task force for the region. A United Nations spokesman describes the food and refugee emergency in Somalia as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” with millions at immediate risk. Not coincidentally, the epicenter of the disaster is the area where Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia meet – which is also a focus of U.S. Special Forces, surveillance and logistics activity.

Whenever the U.S. rachets up its armed interventions in Somalia, disaster follows.

In addition to the famine in which 3.7 million people are in crisis and more than 10 million affected, two current major stories about Somalia are Jeremy Scahill’s The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia and the creation of AFRICOM Marine task force to help train militaries fighting al-Qaida-linked groups in Somalia, Maghreb region For more background and analysis on these two stories and Somalia’s situation in general, please see africa comments.

AFRICOM continues its incursions into Africa. Roger Pociask calls our attention to a brief article in the Indian Ocean Newsletter, for which he provides a screenshot:

AFRICOM in Juba South Sudan, click to enlarge

South Sudan is on the western borders of Ethiopia and Kenya while Somalia is on their eastern borders. South Sudan is the target of intense US military interest and part of the reason for military buildup in the region. There is significant oil there. South Sudan is also where US investors have been making highly questionable purchases of large tracts of land without much or any reference to the people who are actually living on and using the land, who are its ancestral owners. For the new colonial “landowners” to enforce their purchases, they intend to use force. As the head of Jarch Capital LLC said:

“You have to go to the guns, this is Africa,” Mr Heilberg said by phone from New York.

[He is] backed by former CIA and state department officials

AFRICOM will be getting busy training proxies in South Sudan to look after Mr. Heilberg’s land acquisitions as well as those of other US investors such as Nile Trading. The proxy armies it is training can evict any of the present local inhabitants from their ancestral land if they object or are in the way, in Sudan, or in other countries.

The government of South Sudan barely exists, there is little or no infrastructure and little or nothing in the way of government institutions, as this report from AlJazeera English describes. If AFRICOM comes in for “partnering” and training, the armed forces will be by far the strongest institution in the country, unless there are other equally well funded efforts to build the institutions that do the real business of government. I don’t see any signs of that at present. It should be fairly easy to install a US client military government and keep it starved for anything other than more military buildup. The people who worked and voted for independence may discover they have brought themselves a harsh colonial client dictatorship instead. They may stand to lose more than they have gained.

Returning to AFRICOM’s CJTF-HOA slide show, take a look at the last two slides in succession:

Africans (pictured as children) solving African problems, CJTF-HOA Overview Summary

CJTF-HOA asking if there are any questions

The Summary looks more about AFRICOM than Africa, but the banner says Africans solving Africa’s problems. The Africans pictured are all children. It looks like there may be one US soldier at the back of a classroom holding up a child. The children are huddled together in order to be in the shot, but they look huddled together. Are these children supposed to be Africa’s problems? Or are they supposed to solve Africa’s problems? There are no African adults pictured as problem solvers. If you look at just the graphics in the two slides below you will see how the US and AFRICOM see Africans and the US role in Africa, a bunch of children facing the military might of the United States arrayed before them, perhaps I should say arrayed against them. Questions?

CJTF-HOA images on the last two slides

Africom’s budget of $763 million in the coming fiscal year, compared to the Africa Bureau’s allocation of $226 million, is enabling the US military to take on roles previously played by American diplomats and civilian development experts. (from the East African)

KARAMBO, Rwanda - Members of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) show Lieutenant Darren Denyer, from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, a water distribution point built by the RDF during ’Army Week’ — the RDF’s civil-military operations campaign conducted throughout Rwanda. CJTF-HOA sent Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 104 to Rwanda, August 1-8, 2009, to strengthen the partnership between the Rwanda and U.S. militaries and to observe civil-military operations throughout the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jon E. McMillan)

KARAMBO, Rwanda - Members of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) show Lieutenant Darren Denyer, from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, a water distribution point built by the RDF during ’Army Week’ — the RDF’s civil-military operations campaign conducted throughout Rwanda. CJTF-HOA sent Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 104 to Rwanda, August 1-8, 2009, to strengthen the partnership between the Rwanda and U.S. militaries and to observe civil-military operations throughout the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jon E. McMillan)

“The US military is stepping into void created by a lack of resources for traditional development and public diplomacy,” the inspector general warns.

That finding appears to confirm charges by some independent analysts that American policy toward Africa has grown increasingly militarised in the years since the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

… the Obama administration is continuing to move in that direction, despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emphasis on development issues during her recent seven-nation Africa tour.

The inspector general’s report contrasts the work of Africom’s “military information support teams” (Mist) with what it describes as the “failure” of the State Department’s 10-year-old effort to integrate public diplomacy into its operations. “Mist teams have exponentially more money to spend in a country than do embassy public affairs offices,” the report says

For more on the spending inequities the August OIG report, PDF reports:

In Somalia, for example, the Embassy had $30,000 to spend on public diplomacy while the MIST team had $600,000. Given the urgency of combating terrorism in Somalia, money was needed and the reported successes of MIST programs elsewhere served as a recommendation. Under MIST, AFRICOM inherited an established military practice of working closely with embassy public affairs officers to develop and fund effective programs.

In Somalia so far there is no evidence of any success resulting from MIST, or any other US spending. Although if one assumes the purpose of US spending and intervention is to weaken and destabilize Somalia, then the policy has been a success. Spending this money would have been the responsibility of US Ambassador to Kenya Ranneberger, who is tasked with managing Somalia relations, and who has engineered a consistently disastrous policy for Somalia, as well as damaging Kenyan democracy.

Daniel Volman writes that:

In May 2008, the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, hosted “Unified Quest 2008,” … it was the first time the war games included African scenarios as part of the Pentagon’s plan to create a new military command for the continent: the Africa Command or Africom.

There were 4 scenarios gamed, including one in Somalia and one in Nigeria, about which we have some information:

… set in 2013 — which was a test of how Africom could respond to a crisis in Nigeria in which the Nigerian government is near collapse, and rival factions and rebels are fighting for control of the oil fields of the Niger Delta and vying for power in the country which is the sixth largest supplier of America’s oil imports.

As the game progressed, according to former U.S. ambassador David Lyon, it became clear that the government of Nigeria was a large part of the problem. As he put it, “we have a circle of elites [the government of Nigeria] who have seized resources and are trying to perpetuate themselves. Their interests are not exactly those of the people.”

Furthermore, according to U.S. Army Major Robert Thornton, an officer with the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, “it became apparent that it was actually green (the host nation government) which had the initiative, and that any blue [the U.S. government and its allies] actions within the frame were contingent upon what green was willing to tolerate and accommodate.”

This information should not have been a surprise to anyone with even a moderate knowledge of Nigeria. I’m sure most Nigerians could have told the wargamers this same information. I think one thing it makes clear is that diplomacy, NOT military force is what is needed now, and what will be most useful going forward. So far, despite examples such as this, or the ongoing disaster in Somalia, continually made worse by US interference, the Obama administration seems committed to the military path. And despite all the talk of cooperation and development from those promoting Africom:

… neither the commander of Africom, General William Ward, nor his deputy, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, are under any illusions about the purpose of the new command.

Thus, when General Ward appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2008, he cited America’s growing dependence on African oil as a priority issue for Africom and went on to proclaim that combating terrorism would be “Africom’s number one theater-wide goal.” He barely mentioned development, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping or conflict resolution.

And in a presentation by Vice Admiral Moeller at an Africom conference held at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008 and subsequently posted on the web by the Pentagon, he declared that protecting “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market” was one of Africom’s “guiding principles” and specifically cited “oil disruption,” “terrorism,” and the “growing influence” of China as major “challenges” to U.S. interests in Africa.

So far President Obama, rather than seeking the civil and diplomatic route, has decided:

… to expand the operations of Africom throughout the continent. He has proposed a budget for financial year 2010 that will provide increased security assistance to repressive and undemocratic governments in resource-rich countries like Nigeria, Niger, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to countries that are key military allies of the United States like Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Rwanda and Uganda.

And he has actually chosen to escalate U.S. military intervention in Africa, most conspicuously by providing arms and training to the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, as part of his effort to make Africa a central battlefield in the “global war on terrorism.” So it is clearly wishful thinking to believe that his exposure to the real risks of such a strategy revealed by these hypothetical scenarios gave him a better appreciation of the risks that the strategy entails.

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h/t b real of africa comments for source material

It looks like Obama is marching in zombie lockstep with Bush policy in Somalia and Honduras. It also looks like a Great Leap Backward to the days of US suported military coups in Latin America, and despots propped up by US aid in Africa. In both cases the United States provides the military training and the weapons.

follow me over the cliff

Follow me!

In Honduras, the leader of the coup:
… General Vasquez attended the School of the Americas and … a good part of the Honduran military were trained there and in its successor, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
… the U.S. has a military base in Honduras, gives the Honduran military a few million dollars each year, and … most of the military equipment used against the people was from the U.S.
… a group that openly supported the coup, “Paz and Democracia” (Peace and Democracy), received money from the USAID. (Eva Golinger reported that the USAID pumps more than 50 million dollars into the country each year.)
… the immediate response from Washington was tepid and non-committal. … Dan Restrepo, the presidential advisor for Latin American affairs, said the administration was waiting to see how things would play out. (The response has been stronger since then, but still seems to lack the strength other America nations have put forward in their demands.)
This is most unfortunate for the Obama administration, or for any US government and ongoing relations with Latin America. Like Africa, most people in Latin America want the military back in the barracks, and want democratic governments. A coup is not democracy. Supporting, or even tolerating a coup is a US blow against democracy. Eva Golinger writes:
Yes, I know Fox News is not the best way to judge the political scene in the US, but this video clip is a hint into the way US media is now beginning to portray the coup events in Honduras over the past few days. And note the NPR correspondent’s comments, very similar analysis as to mine over the past few days regarding Washington’s ambiguity regarding this coup so as to buy time and possibly recognize the coup government as “transitory” until the elections in November…….very dangerous.

Note, this will isolate the US/Obama Administration from the rest of Latin America and definitely show Obama is not an agent of change.

Meanwhile, in Somalia, the US is still trying to prop up the TFG, the Transitional Federal Government, in Somalia. As one Somali commentator put it, the only true word in that name is the word transitional. The TFG is neither federal, nor a government. The TFG only controls a few blocks in Mogadishu.
Reuters:  Al Shabaab and allied fighters control much of southern and central Somalia and have boxed the government and 4,300 African Union peackeepers into a few blocks of Mogadishu.
The US has stepped up arms transfers and training, ostensibly to the AMISOM troups, but in actual fact it is violating the UN arms embargo, US, EA gunrunners violating UN’s Somalia arms ban.  And the US is stepping up the training of troops in Somalia.

US violations are said to include a missile attack on a target inside Somalia along with “intensive and comprehensive military training” conducted inside Ethiopia for officers from the breakaway Somalia region known as Somaliland.

The previous incarnation of the TFG was an alliance of the oppressive warlords and the hated and oppressive Ethiopian army. The current incarnation of the TFG was engineered by the US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, in an election held in Djibouti. Because the TFG is under siege, and controls so little of Mogadishu, and none of the rest of Somalia, the TFG has invited the hated Ethiopians back in for help. The US, Ambassador Ranneberger, and the UN donor countries characterize the the TFG as a representative government, although they are the only ones it represents. They characterize the opposition as al Qaeda, although their only proof is to keep invoking the names of two men who bombed the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. al Qaeda has never been welcome or successful in Somalia. But as long as the US government and media say al Qaeda whenever any opposition in Somalia is mentioned, US citizens will shiver with fear and support more bombing and killing. And it looks like the US and the donor countries are stepping up their outside interference, rather than letting the Somalis settle their own affairs.

Daniel Volman writes on security policy in Somalia:

The only other indication we have about the president’s true intentions is provided by his decision to authorise the use of force to rescue the kidnapped captain of the Maersk Alabama in May 2009. When he was a candidate, President Obama declared that he believed that ‘there will be situations that require the United States to work with its partners in Africa to fight terrorism with lethal force.’ But his action during the kidnapping episode show that he is also willing to use military force in situations that have nothing to do with terrorism. According to recent news articles, a debate is currently underway within the administration about the wisdom of direct US military intervention against Somali pirates or against the al-Shabaab insurgents. Top administration officials and military officers are convinced that, in the words of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, ‘there is no purely military solution’ to piracy and political conflict in Somalia. And Johnnie Carson, the president’s new assistant secretary of state for Africa, told the BBC that ‘there would be no case of the US re-engaging on the ground with troops’ in Somalia. But some in the military and a number of prominent neo-conservative leaders contend that the United States must strike back at the pirates and the insurgents to prevent future acts of piracy and terrorism against Americans. It would be a mistake to assume that Obama will not take further military action if the situation in Somalia escalates.

If you read this transcript of the June 25 State Department daily press briefing, it sounds like the US government really does not know what it is doing in Somalia. And so far it looks like more US interference just recruits more Somali insurgents. US violence and interference will never resolve Somali problems. The US is interested in possible oil in Somalia. The EU continues to steal fish from Somali waters, and dump toxic and nuclear waste in those same waters. Keeping things unsettled in Somalia works to the advantage of all these outside meddlers.

As b real puts it:

the TFG2 has always been a weak actor in the mix. as i’ve elaborated on in multiple threads, there is more evidence that, rather than create a strong federal govt, the int’l community’s overriding objective has been to pit islamist factions against each other in order to engage them into battle amongst themselves rather than be united and [1] establish an independent govt and [2], so goes the reasoning of the unrestrained paranoid fantasies of the int’l actors, threaten & carry out ‘terrorist’ activities beyond the borders of somalia. letting them wage a war of attrition between themselves requires a minimal amount of overhead & a modicum of commitment.

their lip service to sh. sharif’s govt can be seen as an inside joke, directing, instead, the bulk of support to AMISOM and putting pressure on the UN to get more countries paying for the militarization of east africa. meanwhile, the main beneficiaries are int’l arms dealers, int’l NGOs, and, eventually, the wildcatters up through the big oil companies still comfortably playing the force majeure card.

In the long run it does not pay to be an international bully. It comes back to bite you. And the US cannot afford to garrison the entire world. It cannot afford the wars it is already waging. The proxy armies it is creating with the US Africa Command will go into business for themselves. President Obama has a lot on his plate at home. It may seem easier to let the policies that were already in place continue to run their course. In general Obama seems reluctant to get out front and lead on specific issues. If the US is going to retain its own democracy, and carry any moral weight in the world, President Obama will have to step forward and lead in the democratic direction. There is no hope and change without democratic leadership.

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Note: the illustration above is from BibliOdyssey.