The U.S. Spends Millions Each Year on African Forces
American training programs go largely unnoticed
The American military is training counterterrorism units across Africa and Pres. Barack Obama wants billions of dollars to aid these programs. But the U.S. government isn’t “pivoting to Africa”—it’s been doing this for almost a decade.
Recent reports say that the Pentagon is training specialized units to fight extremists in Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The U.S. is spending some $70 million to get these units going.
However, this “new program” is really just the latest iteration of a larger effort that has been going on since at least 2005. Washington funded the creation of at least 14 other military units in Africa in at least four countries between 2006 and 2010.
The U.S. also supplied millions of dollars of weapons, vehicles, radars, radios, computers, night vision scopes and other equipment to countries across the continent. American commandos and other military personnel then trained existing African units how to use them.
The Department of Defense funds their projects with monies set aside specifically for foreign militaries. The Department of State funds other similar program out of their peacekeeping operations budget.
Between 2007 and 2013, U.S. Africa Command alone spent almost half a billion dollars on foreign assistance. Of that total, more than $275 million went to training and equipping forces on the continent.
In 2012, State said it was shelling out another $155 million every year to provide similar support to peacekeepers around the world. The bulk of formal peacekeeping operations are located in Africa.
Washington’s efforts in Africa generally receive little attention and those involved might be grateful. U.S. help does not always produce the desired results.
For instance, Mali has received significant aid over the past 10 years. State and DOD ponied up over $4 million for the creation of at least 6 Echelon Tactique Inter-Armée units in Mali since 2005.
Mali’s 33rd Parachute Regiment also received U.S. aid. The paratroopers found themselves on the wrong side of the coup in 2012 and suffered a bloody reprisal.
Washington also helped create a light infantry company in Nigeria sometime between 2006 and 2007. The next year, the Defense Department started a $6-million program to form a specialized counterterror unit in the west African nation.
Last August, militants also stole weapons and other gear from a base in Libya. American commandos used the site to train their counterparts in that country.
U.S. personnel recovered most of the stolen items, but some probably made it onto the North African nation’s black market. Last week, the American-trained special forces allied themselves with renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who is trying to overthrow the government.
But Washington is unlikely to stop supporting African forces despite this checkered track record. Training foreign militaries and working with them is definitely cheaper than launching spectacular American interventions.
Unfortunately, inept and corrupt local forces are also often part of the problem. “Not … every problem has a military solution,” Obama said.