The Military, Nation-Building and Counterterrorism in Africa

Issue Briefs | National Security

No. 191
Monday, April 18, 2016
by David Grantham

History does not repeat itself, as the old adage goes, but it surely rhymes. What began in 2002 as an antiterrorism assistance program for a handful of impoverished African countries at risk from violent extremist groups has since expanded into the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

This expensive, Department of State-led program, which is now integrated into the military’s U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), boasts lackluster oversight and a penchant for nation-building –‒ using multiple agencies to rebuild a given country’s political, economic and social infrastructure. In fact, its shape and language resembles failed, Cold War anticommunism programs in Latin America that ended up complicating rather than solving American security problems.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) must take a more measured approach to the military’s financial commitment to the Trans-Sahara partnerships and its counterterrorism efforts in Africa, and rethink the rules of engagement within this broadly defined “capacity-building” program.

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