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Africom Commander: Battling Threats in Africa Calls for Combined Efforts

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By Terri Moon Cronk 

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2016 — U.S. Africa Command is using a comprehensive approach in developing defensive capabilities and using diplomacy to address extremist threats before and during the crises that plague many African nations, Africom’s commander told the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.

Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez said Africa is of enduring U.S. interest as itseconomies, populations and influences grow.

Small, but wise, investments in African security institutions today offer disproportionate benefits to the United States, Africa and Europe, the general told the senators.

Africa Must Fight Threats

“African solutions to African problems are, in long run, in the best interest of Africans, Americans and the world,” Rodriguez said, but he noted that Africans have understandable fear and mistrust of their governments and security forces in the continent’s troubled areas.

“Predatory practices, patronage networks, corruption and political and economic exclusion of portions of the population, as well as inconsistent adherence to the rule of law combine to crush the hope of a better future,” he said. Such conditions create ripe environments for violent extremism in Africa, he added, which also threatens the United States and Europe.

“Africa Command’s contributions to this broad solution lie primarily in encouraging and enabling” the continent’s security institutions to protect its people, address security concerns and eventually play a role in global security, the general said.

Africom’s military strategy is a long-term, regionally focused approach to enable African partners, he said, and its operational approach is aimed at disrupting and neutralizing transnational threats by building Africa-partner defense capability and capacity.

Africom’s progress is evident in Central Africa, Rodriguez said, where the Lord’s Resistance Army, with about 200 fighters remaining, no longer poses a threat to regional stability thanks to combined efforts from agencies, organizations and military forces. And communities are better prepared to protect themselves, he added.

Threats Remain

Yet, although Africom has made progress with the help of partners and allies, the general said, threats and challenges remain across the continent.

InEast Africa, al-Shabab conducts lethal, asymmetrical attacks nearly every day, he said.

In North Africa, threats posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant negatively affect people in Libya and neighboring nations, Europe’s southern flank, and U.S. peace and security objectives in Africa and the Middle East, the general said. An international coalition is countering ISIL and cutting the risk of extremist expansion, he said, but stability in Libya calls for a long-term strategy.

In West Africa, a multinational joint task force is battling Boko Haram’s complex and lethal attacks, which are aimed at destabilizing governments and terrorizing civilians, Rodriguez said.

“Our requirements are increasing faster than our resources, but within the command, we seek innovative ways to mitigate capability gaps by refining our priorities and deliberately improving the alignment of our resources to our strategy,” he said.

But success requires teamwork beyond the command level, Rodriquez said.

“Close cooperation with our African partners, allies, the interagency, nongovernmental organizations and international organizations will, over time, strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth and advance African peace and security to a degree that U.S. military efforts alone cannot achieve,” he said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)