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African Horizons: The United States Army Working Toward a Secure and Stable Africa

February 1, 2016

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Today’s security environment is more volatile and unstable than ever before. The velocity of change within certain regions of the world is quite evident; the nightly news vividly captures the images. There are, however, regions that are just as volatile but do not receive the attention they require; Africa is one such region. Long-term stability in Africa is essential to U.S. interests. However, the priority that the United States places on the African region when compared to Europe, the Middle East or the Pacific is low. If ignored, the security environment in Africa could quickly deteriorate to a quagmire similar to the Middle East.

Indeed, 18 of the top 25 most fragile states in the world are in Africa. They suffer from poor governance, economic and environmental challenges and threats from violent extremist organizations (VEOs) and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).2 Additionally, the continent is plagued with a growing number of youth, extreme poverty, corruption and social tensions from the ethnically diverse population. In spite of these challenges, Africa democratically and economically is on the rise.3 Therefore, to promote the transition toward a secure and stable Africa, the United States must use a whole-of-government approach to develop long-lasting partnerships that employ all of the elements of national power toward well-defined U.S. interests.

The size and diversity of the African continent results in a complex environment that requires not only a whole-of-government approach but a synchronized one. The population of Africa exceeds a billion people who speak more than 2,000 languages, belong to 400 ethnic groups and occupy a land mass more than three times the size of the United States. The continent is divided into 54 sovereign nations and is religiously divided between Christians (48 percent or 495.8 million) and Muslims (41 percent or 423.5 million). Underdeveloped African countries collectively contain 13 percent of the world’s oil supply and vast natural reserves.4 To influence the complex and unstable African environment to achieve U.S. interests, the United States must leverage all of the elements of national power.

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National Security Watch