February 2012

  • Addressing Côte d'Ivoire's Deeper Crisis

    Abidjan-webBy Thierno Mouctar Bah. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, March 2012.

    Although Côte d'Ivoire's traumatic post-election standoff has been resolved, legacies of a national identity crisis fostered during ten years of exploitation of ethnic and regional divisions have left this strategic West African country vulnerable to further instability. Avoiding this will require constructive engagement from Côte d'Ivoire's neighbors. International partners' assistance is also needed to build stronger national institutions, particularly a more independent electoral commission and professional military, as well as reinforcement of traditional reconciliation mechanisms.

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  • Counternarcotics Symposium Participants Asked to Share Knowledge During Closing Ceremony

    Fifty-eight military and civilian officials from 32 countries received certificates for completing a four-day counternarcotics and transnational threats symposium on Feb. 16, 2012, at National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

    Four U.S. Department of Defense academic centers—Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, and George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies—cohosted the seminar on countering transnational threats and the illegal narcotics trade. Besides the drug trade, speakers discussed threats posed by international terrorism, smuggling, and environmental and health problems within, between, and among the disparate regions dealing with trafficking.

    ACSS Director Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy, who offered participants some closing thoughts, said the intention of the event had been to share experiences, best practices, and contacts among security-sector colleagues working in different countries.

    Through the symposium, it may be that, “as military officers, police, and public servants, all of you now have a clearer view of the dimensions of this threat—of narcotrafficking and other forms of illicit trafficking—than do your political leaders,” Bellamy said. “You are now aware of the threat this poses to governance. There is now much for you to do in terms of raising public awareness.”

    Charlie Snyder, Senior Advisor to the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the U.S. Department of State, relayed to attendees stories about the drug trade’s development during his time, from the Vietnam War to smugglers’ construction of submarines capable of carrying 3,000 tons of cocaine.

    Underlining the international nature of the problem, he said his State Department office alone runs a multibillion-dollar police-training program in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Pakistan, and areas throughout the Western Hemisphere.

    “It’s not just a counternarcotics problem, it’s a national security problem,” Snyder said.

    Dr. Benjamin P. Nickels, ACSS Assistant Professor of Transnational Threats and Counterterrorism, reinforced the need for international cooperation in the last words of the seminar.

    “We’ve considered in-depth the problem of cocaine trafficking from South America, through West Africa, and into Europe,” Nickels said. “We’ve discussed the need to build bridges to counter these threats. We all recognize the need for a unified front.”

  • Counternarcotics Seminar Session Focuses on Rule of Law and Corruption

    Counternarcotics_02_2012View Photos From This Event.

    Guest speakers discussed the rule of law and anticorruption measures during a session of the four-day Countering Narcotics and the Illicit Commons symposium organized by the Africa Center and three other regional Department of Defense academic centers on Feb. 12-16, 2012, at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

    According to the United Nations, the rule of law is “the principle that everyone – from the individual right up to the state itself – is accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated.”

    Ms. Kemi Okenyodo, Deputy Executive Director of Nigeria’s police reform advocacy group CLEEN Foundation, and Dr. John Picarelli, an analyst specializing in transnational threats at the National Institute of Justice, spoke to a full room of participants from the United States and 31 other countries about the challenge of fighting corruption and maintaining the rule of law.

    Okenyodo pointed to a raft of problems facing West Africa that hurt societies, including poor governance, inequality in control of natural resources, and a large number of young people who are unemployed. She said the problems become more difficult to overcome because of compounded issues like corrupt officials who have ties to criminal organizations, security agencies wrapped up in the political life of their countries, and cultures that glorify drug traffickers and those who flout the law. When these problems fester, officials and citizens dismiss the rule of law and compromise the electoral process and security apparatus.

    “Governments in West Africa refuse to see the nexus of high insecurity lowering overall human security,” she said.

    Dr. Picarelli said a government creates and maintains the rule of law through its authority, which is generated through the coercion and consent of citizens.

    “Corruption undermines the authority of the state,” he said. “It makes people lose faith and trust, which creates a vicious cycle that accelerates the loss of the government’s authority. Citizens then turn to organized crime.”

    He cited the combination of technology and corruption as a tactic that criminal organizations are using to maintain the illicit movement of people and goods across borders. In many cases, like that of Mexican marijuana growers who leveraged technology to move into the global trade in cocaine, the tactic is helping criminals graduate from localized to international models of operation.

    Picarelli said three elements must come together to counter increasingly advanced criminal enterprises moving narcotics and contraband internationally: countries must take whole-of-government approaches that bring together assets in intelligence, treasury, law enforcement, and defense; international cooperation must be brought to bear through multiple channels; and the private sector, including the business community, must be brought into the fight as partners.

    Four U.S. Department of Defense academic centers—Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, and George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies—co-sponsored the seminar on countering transnational threats and the illegal narcotics trade. Besides the drug trade, speakers discussed threats posed by international terrorism, smuggling, and environmental and health problems within, between, and among the disparate regions dealing with trafficking.

  • Foreign Area Officers Visit ACSS

    Senior-AFAO-2012WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) welcomed 17 foreign area officers on Feb. 16, 2012, for a visit to the Center and a roundtable discussion on the current political and security environment in Africa.

  • African Illicit Commons Seminar Participants Network at ACSS Event

    ACSSHostsAfricanLeaders-wView photos from the event. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies hosted 19 African military and civilian leaders for an informal briefing and networking event at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 15, 2012. The leaders were on campus as participants in the Countering Narcotics and the Illicit Commons symposium being held jointly by the Department of Defense’s four regional academic centers. ACSS Director Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy welcomed the group as new members of the Center’s community, which strives to open dialogue between Africa’s security professionals to solve the continent’s most pressing issues. “We hope when you complete the course you will use the tools we have given to you to stay in touch with each other and to stay in touch with us,” Bellamy told the group that also included ACSS expert faculty and staff.
  • Defense Official Calls for More Cooperation Against Trafficking During Symposium Opening

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    The only way for the world to counter the expanding international criminal drug trade is for nations to work together, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said during the opening of a transnational threats symposium in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 2012.

    “Cooperation is the only way to counter the network of criminal organizations trafficking drugs,” said William Wechsler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, during a keynote address for the Transnational Threats Symposium: The Illicit Commons. “It takes a network to defeat a network.”

    Wechsler, who leads the department’s counternarcotics and threat finance policies and operations around the world, said a recent government assessment of the problem found that illicit trafficking had grown dramatically in size and scope. American success in interdicting drug shipments en route to the United States combined with expanding markets in different regions have forced smugglers to traffic drugs from South America, through West and North Africa, and into Western Europe.

    Opening remarks by Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.) , Director of The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS)

    But with strengthening links between crime syndicates and terrorist organizations, which use trafficking to fund their operations and provide logistics, Wechsler said the international movement of contraband has evolved into a clear threat to U.S. national security. Making matters worse, criminal organizations have begun using successful terrorist techniques while terrorist organizations have started using methods employed by organized crime.

    He pointed out to the audience, which included 59 symposium participants from 32 countries in Latin America, West and North Africa, the United States and Europe, as well as representatives from international organizations, the enormity of the problem—a U.N. analysis found drug trafficking revenues equivalent to those seen in the global crude oil market.

    “It’s a massive industry,” he said, “and as other societies move more of their people into the middle class, the problem will only get bigger.”

    In his welcoming remarks, ACSS Director Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy reinforced the need to explore cooperation between countries during the symposium.

    "By definition, narcotics trafficking respects no international boundaries,” Bellamy said. “Drug traffickers thrive best where borders and seaports and airports are porous or are inadequately protected. They thrive where governments fail to cooperate across their common borders. And when it is a matter of narcotics originating in South America, transiting West Africa, and ending up in Europe the need for international cooperation becomes even more complicated and demanding."

    Opening remarks by William Wechsler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats

    Four U.S. Department of Defense academic centers—The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies—are cosponsoring the four-day seminar at the National Defense University on countering transnational threats and the illegal narcotics trade. Besides the drug trade, speakers will discuss threats posed by international terrorism, smuggling, and environmental and health problems within, between, and among the disparate regions dealing with trafficking.

    Welcome remarks by Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondeau, United States Navy, President, National Defense University

  • Major General Leins Discusses Joint Chiefs of Staff at ACSS Defense Attaché Seminar

    MG-Leins-ADATTwView photos from the event. The U.S. Government is relying on regional cooperation and African leadership to solve the most pressing issues facing the continent, a senior military official told participants at the African Defense Attaché Seminar on Feb.9, 2012.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), the seminar organizer, invited Major General Christopher Leins, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Deputy Director of Politico-Military Affairs (Africa), to explain how African issues affect U.S. military strategy. He also talked about the role the JCS plays in implementing U.S. security and foreign policies toward Africa.

    “From a U.S. perspective, the greatest challenge is to think about how we work together—the European Union, African Union, and the United States—for the next crisis,” Leins said. “We value partnership, and our intention is to help our African partners take the leadership on African issues.”

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies organized the week-long seminar at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. to show African defense attachés and embassy personnel with security portfolios how the U.S. Government creates and implements policy toward Africa.

     Leins reminded the audience that African security issues once rested in the domain of other geographic combatant commands before the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was created in 2008. Now AFRICOM takes the lead on all African issues and coordinates U.S. military operations on the continent. His presentation triggered questions from the audience on how the United States has dealt with the crises in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire. Leins acknowledged that during those crises, the U.S. military learned a powerful lesson on the importance of partnership.

    He said those experiences have reinforced the U.S. government’s plan to build long-lasting institutions in which civilian and military personnel can continuously work together rather than meet during sporadic training events. The goal is to bolster African leadership on security and crisis management and, in the long term, foster peace and stability on the continent.

    Finally, Leins said his team is looking forward to more engagement with African defense attachés in Washington, D.C. “We are committed to reaching out to you,” he said.

  • Ambassador Holmes Discusses AFRICOM Role at ACSS Defense Attaché Seminar

    holmes_acssView photos from the event. A senior diplomat with the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) told a gathering of African government officials on Feb. 8, 2012, that the United States is paying close attention to the continent and focusing on building mutually beneficial relationships.

    AFRICOM’s Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities, spoke with 15 African defense attachés and embassy personnel with security portfolios during the Africa Center for Security Studies’ annual African Defense Attaché Seminar. The event runs through Feb. 10 at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Over lunch, the group discussed AFRICOM’s role in building bridges between the United States and once skeptical African countries.

    “We believe that what is in your best interest is also in our best interest,” said Holmes, who directs plans and programs associated with health, humanitarian assistance and de-mining action, disaster response, security sector reform, and peace support operations¸ among others. “We can maximize our own interests by helping you.”

    Holmes said American concerns about Africa’s vulnerable security environment grew after two terrorist attacks targeted U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. But U.S. officials understood that unilateral and traditional security approaches would not fix Africa’s security problems, and effective solutions would require multilateral coordination and holistic approaches rather than purely military ones.

    “Fundamentally, we knew that only Africans could provide security in Africa, and we realized that AFRICOM couldn’t be a traditional military command,” he said. “We recognized that we needed to help African governments provide for their own security.”

    The resulting command, which went into operation officially in 2008, features a unique model that integrates the military, diplomats at the U.S. State Department, and experts from the U.S. Agency for International Development, along with other civilian government agencies.

    Since its founding, AFRICOM has focused on solving maritime security issues, training peacekeeping forces, and providing disaster assistance and humanitarian relief. The effort is designed to bolster African countries’ capacity to provide their own security. Holmes said the strategy has resulted in good military-to-military relations between the United States and every African country.

    “We are winning over political stalwarts in Africa. We believe most African concerns have been assuaged; all African military concerns have already been assuaged,” he said. “For only starting officially in 2008, we are well on our way.”

  • Regional Security Cooperation in the Maghreb and Sahel: Algeria’s Pivotal Ambivalence

    By Laurence Aïda Ammour, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | February 2012 army_algeria

    Despite growing concerns across the Sahel and Maghreb over the increasing potency of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the diffusion of heavily armed mercenaries from Libya, the expanding influence of arms and drugs trafficking, and the widening lethality of Boko Haram, regional security cooperation to address these transnational threats remains fragmented. Algeria is well-positioned to play a central role in defining this cooperation, but must first reconcile the complex domestic, regional, and international considerations that shape its decision-making.

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  • Africa Center for Strategic Studies completes its African Defense Attaché Seminar

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    View Photos From This Event. WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) held its African Defense Attaché Seminar at the National Defense University on Feb. 6-10, 2012.

    “The motives behind U.S. policy in Africa are very straightforward,” ACSS Director Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.) said to 17 African defense attachés and embassy personnel with security portfolios newly appointed to posts in the U.S. “What is harder to understand is how the policy is implemented, and that is what you will be learning this week.”

    The weeklong seminar showed African government personnel how the U.S. Government shapes and executes foreign policy related to Africa. First held in 2005, the African Defense Attaché Seminar has evolved from a program attended primarily by military officials to a program where civilians now attend in equal numbers. “This reflects a realization that interagency cooperation is needed—in Africa just as in the U.S.—to address contemporary security challenges,” said Bellamy.

    This year’s participants attended presentations by subject-matter experts and toured the Pentagon, the Department of State, and the U.S. Congress. They also had working lunches with several senior-ranking U.S. Government officials who discussed the U.S. Africa Command and the role of the Joint Staff.  

    ACSS is the pre-eminent institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 13 years, more than 4,500 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.