The Lead Inspector General has published an unclassified report to Congress entitled East Africa and North and West Africa Counterterrorism Operations. The 84-page report covers the period of October through December 2019. Congress requires (since 2013) the IGs of the Departments of State, Defense, and USAID to provide quarterly reports to Congress on active overseas contingency operations. The DoD Inspector General was designated the Lead IG for CT operations in Africa. The report also includes an appendix containing classified information that is provided to relevant agencies and congressional committees.
The report is timely given the desire of the U.S. to shift assets – military personnel and resources – from Africa to Europe and the Pacific. The shift in focus will allow the U.S. to counter threats from Russia and China. AFRICOM has presented its view that the threats in Africa remain and are growing – from jihadist groups and from Russia and China.
The threat by ISIS-Somalia and al Shabaab in East Africa remains high. The U.S. recently suffered three deaths and several aircraft destroyed in January 2020 in the al Shabaab raid at Manda Bay. In West Africa the U.S. is assisting French and Africa partner forces to conduct counterterrorism operations against jihadist groups. The attacks by these violent extremist organizations (VEOs) have been intensifying. In West Africa U.S. Africa Command has shifted its strategy from degrading the VEOs to one of containment. North Africa is not spared the threat from VEOs. These groups remain active and there is concern that they will once again rise up in Libya.
AFRICOM and SOCAfrica may soon be losing resources to employ in the counterterrorism fight. These lost resources will affect a host of other activities that ensure stability and security across the region. The ability to sustain or grow U.S. influence in the region may also diminish due to the loss of assets and resources. This is happening at the same time that China and Russia are seeking to expand their security cooperation efforts and their influence in Africa.
The report covers several topics to include the status of the conflicts, capacity building, diplomacy and political developments, humanitarian assistance, and strategic planning. In addition, there are two appendices. Appendix A is classified and Appendix B describes the methodology for preparing the Lead IG Quarterly Report. There is also an acronym list, several maps, and 152 endnotes.
Over six thousand U.S. military personnel are deployed at various locations in Africa. The U.S. efforts in Libya have diminished due to the instability, ongoing civil war, and muddled political and military environment. The French are appealing for continued assistance with their CT operations in Africa; but it is unlikely that the U.S. will heed their requests. The French may need to rely more on other European nations.
The threat in Africa remains high; yet the challenge presented from Russia and China cannot be ignored. The defense budget can only go so far and tough decisions will be made over the next several months that will have consequences around the globe.
The report can be accessed on the website of the Department of State Office of Inspector General:
East Africa and North and West Africa Counterterrorism Operations
Lead Inspector General Report to the United States Congress