Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance: Developing Training Partnerships for the Future of Africa

By Handy, Russell J. | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance: Developing Training Partnerships for the Future of Africa


Handy, Russell J., Air & Space Power Journal


Editorial Abstract: Shifting the emphasis from direct US involvement in African peacekeeping toward support for the Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance program promises to create an "African solution for Africa." The program builds upon the African Crisis Response Initiative by reinforcing training packages, including peace-enforcement training.

AFRICA IS A continent of immense social diversity, rich in human and natural resources. Regrettably, its history has been marred by images of governmental corruption, failed states, and shattered economies. The collapse of apparent "bright spots" such as Cote d'Ivoire suggests the presence of only a very dim light at the end of the tunnel. As fledgling governments struggle to hold on to order and stability, various groups undoubtedly will continue to challenge their rule. Thus, the requirement for competent and capable peacekeeping and peace-enforcement forces remains strong.

How extensively should the United States involve itself in African peacekeeping? Since it has at least peripheral interest in ensuring that the continent doesn't disintegrate, should America directly participate in these operations or find ways to help Africans help themselves? The administration of President George W. Bush clearly favors the latter option. Funding for direct US involvement in African peacekeeping is on the decline-from $31 million in fiscal year 2003 to a projected $9 million in 2004.1 Conversely, forecasts for the Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) program call for funding to increase from $10 to $15 million over the same period.

Is the United States getting the most for its money from ACOTA? Evidence indicates that ACOTA has instituted some beneficial changes to its predecessor-the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI). This article argues that the United States should continue to support ACOTA, redouble its follow-up efforts to measure effectiveness, and initiate the formation of training partnerships with key African nations, beginning with South Africa. It briefly reviews ACRI's history, describes the Bush administration's design for ACOTA to improve upon ACRI's success, outlines the potential for US-African partnerships, and offers recommendations for implementation.

Background

The United States experienced few successes with its involvement in African peace-keeping operations during the early 1990s. Public perceptions of Rwanda and Somalia put the administration of President Bill Clinton between a rock and a hard place with regard to the scope of US involvement on the continent. Prior to Somalia, the United States had taken a more active role in African peace-keeping, but American attitudes toward operations in Africa took a drastic turn for the worse on 3 October 1993-a fateful day for US forces. President Clinton's subsequent Presidential Decision Directive 25 made it very clear that the United States was not interested in an expanded role in African peacekeeping.2 America's renewed timidity toward involvement in Africa undoubtedly contributed to the Clinton administration's reluctance to enter Rwanda in 1994. The absence of timely US support in the early stages of the genocide that occurred there lingers in the memories of many African leaders.

The looming crisis in Burundi in 1996 acted as a catalyst for the United States to engage more actively in African operations. In the aftermath of Rwanda, influential leaders on the continent and the international community sought ways for African nations to tackle their problems effectively without constantly requiring help from the United States or other Western nations.3 Initially, America offered assistance by suggesting the creation of an African Crisis Response Force (ACRF)-an indigenous African military force, trained and equipped with the help of the US military, available for deployment to trouble spots on the continent. This concept seemed to offer a perfect way for the United States to help prevent a repeat of a Rwanda- or Somalia-type catastrophe while minimizing the number of US boots on the ground. …

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