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29 juin 2013 6 29 /06 /juin /2013 11:45
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28 June 2013 by defenceWeb (Reuters)

 

Striking Islamist militants with drones, supporting African forces in stabilizing Somalia and Mali and deploying dozens of training teams, the U.S. military has returned to Africa.

 

Its presence remains mostly low key, barely mentioned in the context of President Barack Obama's visit this week to Africa.

 

Nevertheless, with some 4,000-5,000 personnel on the ground at any given time, the United States now has more troops in Africa than at any point since its Somalia intervention two decades ago. That ended in humiliation and withdrawal after the 1993 "Blackhawk Down" debacle in which 18 U.S. soldiers died, Reuters reports.

 

There are two main reasons behind the build up: to counter al Qaeda and other militant groups, and to win influence in a continent that could become an increasingly important destination for American trade and investment as China's presence grows in Africa.

 

Obama's eight-day trip is heavily focused not on military issues but on trade and economic development in visits to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

 

In the Horn of Africa, the vast majority of U.S. forces deployed in Africa are at a major French military base in Djibouti, a tiny country sandwiched between northern Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

 

While U.S. officials will not comment in detail on what happens at the base, experts say it has provided a staging post for occasional special forces deployments and drone and air attacks against Islamist militant targets in Somalia.

 

Dramatic as those actions are, smaller U.S. operations and outreach programs often with only a handful of troops are key to the strategy of winning influence in a continent where China has surpassed the United States as the No.1 trade partner and has huge mining, energy and infrastructure investments.

 

Such limited missions, U.S. officers say, have gone a long way to reducing initial African skepticism over Germany-based AFRICOM, set up in 2008 to bring all U.S. military activity in Africa under one unified command, rather than dividing responsibility between commanders in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

 

"We are focusing on building human capital," says Major General Charles Hooper, head of strategy and plans at AFRICOM. "The smaller missions can be some of the most effective when it comes to gaining trust."

 

In Angola, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, U.S. engineers have helped train local counterparts in landmine clearance. In southern Africa, military medics have helped local armies tackle HIV infection while in Mauritania, the focus has been on veterinary aid to local ranchers.

 

U.S. warships combating piracy off both East and West Africa are increasingly frequent visitors to local ports.

 

One U.S. aim is to convince African militaries their interests are best served by remaining democratically accountable and not interfering in politics.

 

Some operations, however, have hit just that problem. The hunt in Central African Republic for Ugandan warlord and head of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army Joseph Kony has largely been suspended following a March coup in CAR.

 

The anti-LRA mission had been the only one in Africa in which combat troops were deployed, involving just over 100 U.S. special forces personnel. U.S. forces continue to train Ugandan and other armies as part of that operation.

 

KICKED OUT OF MOROCCO, ACTIVE IN SOMALIA

 

Critics in Africa complain Washington's approach to the continent has become increasingly militarized and focused on counterterrorism. Others worry U.S. military clout may ultimately be used to seize resources.

 

Administration officials disagree and point to Obama's visit as evidence of U.S. intentions.

 

"This trip ultimately disproves the notion that we're somehow securitizing the relationship with Africa," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told a conference call last week. "This trip is expressly devoted to trade and investment, democratic institution-building, young people and unleashing economic growth through some of our development priority."

 

In general, U.S. forces have only been able to operate when African governments - or sometimes France, which maintains a network of bases in former colonies - allow them to.

 

Permission can be quickly withdrawn for political reasons.

 

In April, Morocco canceled its annual Exercise African Lion with U.S. forces after a suggestion from Washington that U.N. monitors in the disputed Western Sahara region should extend their mandate to include human rights.

 

The United States still treads carefully in Somalia, the scene of a serious reverse in 1993 when militia fighters killed 18 Americans on a mission to capture a Somali warlord in support of a U.N. mission.

 

U.S. officials say there are often one or two U.S. liaison officers deployed inside Somalia helping African Union forces fight Islamist group al Shabaab - which is linked to al Qaeda - on behalf of Somalia's transitional government.

 

Most of the U.S. support for the African Union mission AMISOM remains outside the country, training forces in Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere.

 

It is a similar picture on the other side of the continent, where the U.S. military is also acting primarily in support of local nations and France.

 

The aftermath of the 2011 Libya war has seen a flood of weapons and militants across the Sahel, fueling the rise of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which briefly captured much of northern Mali before a French offensive there earlier this year.

 

The U.S. Air Force provided much of the transport for both African and French reinforcements in Mali, while U.S. air tankers from RAF Mildenhall in England have flown long missions over the Sahara refueling French combat jets.

 

Some 100 U.S. personnel deployed to Niger to set up a drone base. Unlike in East Africa, however, the drones will be unarmed and used only for reconnaissance to track Islamist militants.

 

U.S. and African officials say Washington has long been reluctant to share its most sophisticated intelligence with African partners, in part over worries it might fall into the wrong hands.

 

African officers say that if they are to be truly effective at fighting militants in their own countries and as part of broader Mali-type missions, they need to know as much as possible about rebel movements, locations and plans.

 

"The Americans are our friends - but often they are friends who are not frank," says former Senegalese army chief Mansour Seck, also an ex-ambassador to Washington. "They have a tendency to ask you what you have but will not tell you what they have."

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5 juin 2013 3 05 /06 /juin /2013 17:45
Too early to judge AU crisis capacity response - analysts

05 June 2013 by defenceWeb/SA News

 

Analysts have welcomed an African Union (AU) resolution to create a rapid response force that will help Africa militarily respond swiftly to emergency situations. At the same time they caution it is too early to make meaningful judgments on the new force.

 

Weeks after the AU summit in Addis Ababa adopted the decision to establish the African Immediate Crisis Response Capacity (AICRC), analysts said it was too early to make any conclusions about the mechanism now apparently going to be tasked with bringing peace and stability to the continent.

 

AU Commission chair Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the decision to form AICRC, championed by South Africa, was informed by the overwhelming dependence of the Union on funds provided by partners. This directly affects implementation of African solutions to African problems, she said.

 

Last month the AU specialised technical committee on defence, safety and security pointed out there was “still a way to go” before the rapid deployment capability (RDC) of its African Standby Force (ASF) could become operational.

 

A report issued following a meeting of AU Chiefs of Staff said the Malian crisis highlighted the need to “expedite operationalisation of the RDC and accelerate establishment of the ASF”.

 

This was echoed by former Africom Commander, General Carter F Ham, who said Mali was an example of why Africa needed to invest in a standby capability.

 

“If Africa could have deployed a standby force, Mali might be in a different situation today,” he said earlier this year.

 

Leaders point out for instance, that 100% of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is funded by partners. It represents an annual budget of $500 million. In the same vein, African leaders agreed that in the case of the armed rebellion in Mali, Africa could have moved faster and made the French intervention dispensable if it had the appropriate tools and mechanisms.

 

Lessening dependence on partners

 

As Africa marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (now the AU), leaders of the continent felt it unfortunate that after 50 years of independence, African security was still so dependent on foreign partners, Dlamini Zuma said.

 

To date, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia have pledged to implement the decision on the establishment of the AICRC capacity.

 

On a voluntary basis, AU member states will contribute troops and finance the capacity so as to act independently. Command and control will be ensured by the AU Peace and Security Council on request from a member state for intervention.

 

David Zoumenou, a researcher and analyst at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said any AU military unit needs sufficient resources if it is to carry out its mission effectively.

 

“I say if you give it power and resources, any structure can work. But how do we resolve the financial problem, because the AU already has the Peace and Security Council but we seem to lack the political will needed to get it functioning.

 

“I do not think we need new mechanisms if we cannot provide resources for the existing ones,” he said.

 

AICRC is an interim tool, as the mooted African Standby force (ASF) is expected to be operational by 2015.

 

Mzoxolo Mpolase, an analyst at Political Analysis South Africa, said while the idea of establishing an armed rapid response mechanism was a noble one, questions needed to be asked around its funding.

 

“The idea is good, no doubt about it. But who will be funding it? The fact that the AU is funded almost 100% by external parties is because African countries cannot fund it. We need to really think about how this will be funded because it will be taxing to those countries that contribute troops.

 

“It’s hardly ever the case when it comes to bilateral relations whereby I give you money and don’t expect something in return. Countries who give you aid will tell you how that aid is to be spent.”

 

For the AU to achieve self-reliance, said Mpolase, its members should look for self-reliance themselves.

 

“The AU is a by-product of what is happening in the countries. If you have a case as you have in Malawi, where a country relies on foreign aid, it makes sense that the AU will also be funded by aid because the very countries that it has as members are funded by aid.”

 

African Standby Force

 

Efforts to make the ASF and its rapid deployment capability reality go back as far as 2002 when the AU Peace and Security Architecture was established. It is designed as a set of institutions and standards to facilitate conflict prevention.

 

The ASF consists of multi-disciplinary contingents based in own countries and ready for rapid deployment as and when required. Its mandate includes observation and monitoring missions, humanitarian assistance, more complex peace support missions, intervention in “grave circumstances” and the restoration of peace and security as well as preventive deployment and peace building.

 

To fill the gap before the RDC leg of the ASF is properly up and running, the technical committee proposed “an urgently needed operational collective security instrument” to promote “as far as possible, African solutions to African problems” and proposed it be called the African Immediate Crisis Response Capacity (AICRC).

 

The committee sees AICRC as a military tool, a reservoir of 5 000 troops made up of operational modules in the form of 1 500 strong battle groups. These groups should be able to deploy rapidly and operate under a central command with an initial autonomy of 30 days.

 

“AICRC should enable the continent to provide an immediate response to crises in the short term, while allowing for a political solution to the crisis,” the committee’s report said.

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8 mai 2013 3 08 /05 /mai /2013 14:45
Africom gets crisis response force

07 May 2013 by defenceWeb

 

The US military’s Africa Command (Africom) now has access to a crisis response force in the form of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF CR). This will respond to events like the deadly 2012 attack on the US consulate in Libya.

 

According to the US military, SP-MAGTF CR will provide limited defence crisis response in support of US embassies in the Africom area of responsibility, will support non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian disaster relief operations, search and rescue and provide recovery capabilities.

 

Some of its core assets are six MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and two KC-130J air refuelling tankers. These recently deployed from Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina to Moron air base in Spain, on April 27. The Ospreys can carry 20-24 personnel with combat equipment over 325 nautical miles at three times the speed of a helicopter.

 

SP-MAGTF CR comprises a rotational contingent of approximately 500 Marines, sailors and support elements sourced from a variety of Marine Corps units. It will report to the head of Africom, Army General David Rodriguez.

 

“The intent for the crisis-response force is just that. … It’s to move in and offset whatever challenges there are to our national interests,” Marine Lieutenant General Richard Tryon, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations told the Marine Corps Times last month.

 

The SP-MAGTF CR could respond to events like the September 11, 2012, attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

 

SP-MAGTF CR should not be confused with SP-MAGTF Africa, a unit based at Sigonella in Italy which advises, assists and trains militaries in Africa.

 

The SP-MAGTF CR may also support Marine expeditionary units and Fleet Anti-Terrorism Support Teams (FASTs).

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