Access to Africa: Setting the Theater for Long-Term Strategic Success

Access to Africa: Setting the Theater for Long-Term Strategic Success

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Success at the strategic level in Africa is attained through a long-term, integrated effort with country teams, African partners and U.S. allies. Lasting progress requires these relationships and a continuous, collaborative process that increases U.S. Army Africa’s organizational knowledge of the African theater and maximizes the “three D’s” —diplomacy, development and defense—which are the pillars that promote and protect U.S. national security interests abroad.

To support U.S. Africa Command’s Theater Campaign Plan objectives and achieve U.S. national interests, U.S. Army Africa’s long-term effort provides access to the continent, reinforces long-term security stability efforts and enhances Army readiness.

The primary role of U.S. Army Africa (USARAF), an Army Service Component Command, is to set the theater for joint or multinational operations during a crisis or emergency and enable long-term strategic success. Setting the theater is a continuous process that requires enduring relationships with African partners, constant information-sharing within the interagency and our allies, and implementation of plans with long-term objectives that ensure tactical actions (security cooperation activities, exercises and engagements) build toward strategic effects.

Army activities that support African security institutions are important because a prosperous and stable Africa matters to the U.S. and our allies. Due to the threat of violent extremists such as the Islamic State group, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and al-Shabab, the security of the U.S., our allies and partners will remain susceptible to attacks as long as violent extremists continue to exist. Security instability in key regions of Africa, combined with a youth bulge and lack of economic opportunities, has more than tripled the number of African illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean into Europe in the past five years.

Other drivers of instability such as Lake Chad quickly drying in a region that heavily depends on it, a rapidly increasing population with limited employment opportunity and perpetual conflict in ungoverned spaces will continue to destabilize African countries if the root cause of insecurity is not addressed. Without U.S. and allied assistance, Africa’s security and development of government and economic institutions may be undermined, which could result in increased illegal immigration in Europe from the thousands to the millions while allowing extremists to maintain sanctuaries to continue offensive activities.

Importance of Exercises

The ACCORD-series exercise program provides access to Africa because it strengthens African partner relationships, facilitates a learning environment for projecting U.S. combat power in support of allies and partners on an austere and vast continent, and allows the USARAF staff to capture critical data to help plan for possible contingencies. Exercises build relationships with African partners and provide joint, interagency and multinational training opportunities for the U.S. Army.

Readying for live-fire training in Senegal, soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division move into position.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Garner assists Ugandan forces during live-fire mortar training in Uganda.

Gabonese troops and soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) review squad-level tactics in Gabon during an exercise.

Every time we conduct an exercise, the organization learns about the theater and the operational environment. By capturing data and information that can be accessed by multiple DoD and State Department organizations, USARAF enables future success in interagency, joint and multinational operations. Most ACCORD exercises occur at or near a cooperative security location or contingency location. The availability of these locations enables the projection of timely U.S. combat power at the appropriate time and place. They also provide access for U.S., allied and African multinational operations when required. Whether supporting a U.S. Embassy during a noncombatant evacuation, or responding to a humanitarian crisis such as Ebola in Liberia, access to security or contingency locations increases strategic U.S. military readiness to react to a crisis or contingency.

USARAF’s engagement program cultivates relationships with African partners, which results in greater security cooperation and access. Trust in relationships cannot be surged when there is a crisis or emergency; rather, relationships must be built in advance, over time. USARAF utilizes interagency, official or partner engagement, Regional Leader Seminars and the African Land Forces Summit to build relationships and strengthen security cooperation throughout the continent. The seminars are regionally focused, while the summit is USARAF’s main annual strategic engagement. These programs allow the command to maintain regular contact with over 42 countries every year, and they build relationships based on trust.

In a visit to Southern Africa this summer, a high-ranking African general expressed early apprehension among African military leaders over the purpose of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) when it was established. Over time, the skeptical general had come to value USAFRICOM thanks in part to USARAF’s engagements, calling them “effective military diplomacy” because the consistent interaction resulted in trust and mutual respect.

In another case, a high-ranking African general communicated to USARAF’s senior leadership that Africans want a U.S. partner that “walks side by side, not ahead, and not behind.” Relationships matter. They not only facilitate intelligence and security cooperation, more importantly, they build trust. By building relationships with African leaders and facilitating security cooperation among partners, USARAF’s engagement program facilitates access in the African theater and supports U.S. military preparedness.

Supporting Long-Term Stability Efforts

USARAF’s theater security cooperation activities are regionally focused and support ambassador-integrated country team strategies with the goal of achieving long-term stability in Africa. Title 10 and Title 22 allow funding for security cooperation activities, and they are the means that enable USARAF to achieve strategic goals in support of USAFRICOM’s Theater Campaign Plan. During fiscal 2017, USARAF conducted 252 security cooperation activities. Security cooperation activities took place 60 percent of the time in the Lake Chad Basin, which includes Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. During fiscal 2018, USARAF will increase activities in the basin by 20 percent, which will make the region USARAF’s top priority on the continent.

The stability of the basin continues to diminish due to environmental changes as Lake Chad decreases in size, affecting the livelihood of over 40 million Africans living there. Boko Haram, the Islamic State group and other illegally armed groups in the area remain a threat, creating internally displaced persons and refugee populations numbering more than 7 million people, a number that continues to grow daily.

The effect of instability in the basin will not only affect Africa but also impact Europe as the number of emigrants will likely increase. Regarding Europe’s immigration crisis stemming from Africa, Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, stated recently, “Today, we are trying to solve a problem of a few thousand people, but we need to have a strategy for millions of people.” The emerging problems of the Lake Chad Basin require a sustained, long-term focus that maximizes Army resources where tactical activities must produce long-term strategic gains. USARAF will continue to make the basin a priority for long-term U.S. stability efforts.

Information-sharing with the interagency, our allies and partners is critical to support long-term stability efforts in Africa. Every month, USARAF conducts regional video conferences with country teams and European allies to improve common understanding, maximize interagency efforts and optimize use of the Army’s limited resources. During each conference, USARAF provides its intelligence assessment of the region and transparent information of its activities. The embassies and allies participating in the conferences do the same where they concur or disagree with the intelligence assessment and provide a brief overview of activities in their respective countries. The video conferences increase regional understanding and help USARAF prioritize resources through collaboration.

To increase organizational collaboration, the USARAF Knowledge Management Office also uses a cloud-based knowledge management system to share information with all U.S. embassies in Africa, the interagency and Army organizations supporting efforts on the continent. Authorized individuals can log into the management office site on Intelink from any location. The site is updated daily with timely information on engagements and USARAF activities with the intent of ensuring information is maximized to achieve future long-term effects. Through collaborative video conferences with the interagency and allies, combined with a management office platform that shares timely data across U.S. government efforts, USARAF is optimizing information sharing to achieve long-term, strategic effects.

Focusing on Predictability

USARAF enhances Army readiness through predictability. The USARAF staff, in close coordination with USAFRICOM and embassy country teams, is focused on providing predictability to the Total Army to meet the Army strategic objective of building and maintaining readiness. USARAF must provide at least 180 to 270 days of predictability to Regionally Allocated Forces and the Army Reserve, with a goal of scheduling some activities more than a year out to access unique capabilities in the National Guard and Reserve, while preserving or improving their readiness.

By providing predictability, Army units supporting USAFRICOM can plan their training at home station to maintain or increase readiness prior to supporting their missions on the continent. Col. Al Boyer, former Regionally Allocated Forces brigade commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), stated that the brigade’s Regionally Allocated Forces mission increased his unit’s readiness due to the predictability that USARAF provided. His unit was able to conduct required collective training while supporting USAFRICOM exercises and security cooperation activities.

A Ghanaian Armed Forces trainer assists a U.S. soldier with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during an exercise in Ghana.

Army Reserve surgeon Maj. Michael Shotwell and Chadian surgeon Col. Bakhit Saleh Harane team to perform patella repair surgery in Chad.

Regionally Allocated Forces units can also take advantage of opportunities to increase readiness through USAFRICOM exercises, such as Judicious Activation, by using Joint Chiefs of Staff funding to increase readiness. This year, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command increased its command-and-control readiness by deploying 35 soldiers to a Cooperative Security Location in Gabon during Judicious Activation. The exercise allowed the sustainment command to confirm its readiness by deploying and rehearsing its early-entry command post operations. The exercise benefited the sustainment command and improved U.S. logistics access in Africa, resulting in increased U.S. readiness to support a crisis or emergency.

In addition, Africa provides a leadership lab opportunity that allows soldiers the opportunity to train with partners, support U.S. ambassador objectives and gain invaluable experience in coalition operations.

Increasing Medical Readiness

Medical Readiness Training Exercises also provide our doctors and medical teams opportunities to train in austere locations without all their high-tech tools. USARAF’s medical readiness program in Africa, which allows medical teams to train in five countries throughout the year, is increasing medical readiness. The predictability that USARAF provides Army Regionally Allocated Forces units, combined with training opportunities funded by the Joint Chiefs exercises and medical readiness programs, expands training opportunities for our partners, U.S. Army units, leaders and doctors. Training exercises in Africa provide access and support Army readiness through opportunities to train in austere, multinational and interagency environments while exposing leaders to complex conditions, in turn preparing them for the uncertainty of combat.

USARAF is focused on the long-term success of Africa, while maintaining and building Army readiness. Self-sustaining, long-term success where our partners run their own Sergeant Major Academy in Malawi, for example, is the preferred end state. Plans that result in long-term success must be integrated with country teams and partners, where every tactical activity leads to a strategic effect. The USARAF staff must develop plans that provide Regionally Allocated Forces units at least 180 days of predictability by working closely with USAFRICOM, the country teams, allies and our partners.

As Boyer stated, “If you do [Regionally Allocated Forces] the way USARAF did [through predictability], it builds readiness.” USARAF’s efforts are not effective if they rely on short-term, tactical wins. Success in Africa requires a long-term view in key regions such as the Lake Chad Basin, where efforts are integrated with other U.S. government agencies and partners and drivers of instability are addressed by strong African institutions. The Army’s readiness to respond to any crisis or emergency requires that USARAF set the theater.

Setting the theater is an enduring requirement, where relationships with partners are nurtured and learning the African operational environment is continuous and collaborative. Africa matters to the U.S. and our allies. Through an approach that sets the theater, USARAF will continue to support Army readiness and implement efforts that reinforce the long-term stability of Africa.