ÈÍÒÅËÐÎÑ > Vol. 2, No 2. 2011 > Conflict Prevention in East Africa: The Indirect Approach
Brian L. Losey
Helping other countries better provide for their own security will be a key and enduring test of U.S. global leadership and a critical part of protecting U.S. security, as well. Improving the way the U.S. government executes this vital mission must be an important national priority.1
The United States Central Command established the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF–HOA) as part of the response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In December 2002, the task force deployed to the Gulf of Aden aboard the USS Mount Whitney. Its mission was to counter terrorists linked to al Qaeda in Afghanistan during the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom. In May 2003, the task force moved ashore to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, to conduct counterterrorist operations throughout the East Africa region.2 Over time, and spurred by the formation of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) in October 2008, the task force's efforts have evolved into one of persistent engagement focused on building partner nation capacity in order to promote regional stability and prevent conflict.
The indirect approach used by CJTF–HOA is aimed at increasing the security capacity of partner militaries through military-to-military and civil-military engagements. These engagements enable our partners to bolster security and generate trust and confidence in populations impacted by instability and vulnerable to the influences of violent extremism. This article explains how and why, through persistent engagement, the task force conducts security-focused operations and activities that are in line with diplomatic and development initiatives in support of U.S. and partner nation objectives in the region.
The evolving whole-of-government approach in East Africa (otherwise known as the 3D approach—diplomacy, development, and defense) represents a "new and more effective means of applying the skills of our military, diplomats, and development experts"3 as directed in the 2010 National Security Strategy. Collaboration, coordination, and cooperation with key leaders, to include the Ambassador, Embassy staff, and host nation military counterparts, help align the military-to-military and civil-military operations (CMO) to support attainment of objectives. These measures "help us diminish military risk, act before crises and conflicts erupt, and ensure that governments are better able to serve their people."4 Operating under USAFRICOM, the task force serves as one of the defense components supporting this approach. In some cases, engagements with East African partners are evolving beyond a whole-of-government approach to a more Comprehensive Approach where these engagements complement the capabilities and capacities of our allies, coalition partners, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations.5
The whole-of-government emphasis fosters transparency, accountability, and rule of law—in other words, it builds governance. Developing education, health care, and security helps to mitigate the root conditions that contribute to instability. The CJTF– HOA mission to prevent conflict is aligned with mutual interests in stability shared by the United States and partner nations. U.S. military partnerships and engagements not only build security capacity, but also promote military obedience to civil authority, human rights awareness, and standards of conduct, which are translated into African Union and other regional security initiatives. Building partner nation civil-military capacity, in addition to meeting basic human needs, generates trust and confidence among vulnerable populations and the military, helps to create important connective tissue between the host nation government and its citizens, and reinforces mutual support between the citizen and the state.
The CJTF–HOA area of operations presents challenges and opportunities that are both complex and dynamic. This diverse area encompasses 18 sovereign nations that cover a land mass roughly the size of the continental United States.6 Aside from limited infrastructure, multiple factors contribute to the potential for conflict and threats to stability and security in the region: poverty, drought, food and water insecurity, corruption, porous borders, constrained resources, and ethnic, tribal, religious, and political tensions. Undergoverned spaces provide sanctuaries that foster violent extremism, piracy, and trafficking of humans, weapons, drugs, and other contraband.7
The Bab el-Mandeb Strait lies between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is a 20-mile-wide strategic chokepoint through which 11 percent of the world's maritime commerce passes.8 To the northeast lies Yemen, where security, economic, and social challenges have made the country a fertile breeding ground for violent extremism. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has demonstrated that it is a threat to Yemen, the region, the United States, and its allies. The inability to secure the borders of Yemen enables violent extremists, criminals, and contraband to flow in and out of East Africa using the historical smuggling routes across the Gulf of Aden.
Somalia has been mired in chronic violence and chaos for nearly two decades. This failed state poses a significant threat to regional and international security by providing a safe haven for violent extremists. Al-Shabaab (The Youth) militia remains the principal security threat to the internationally supported Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Key al-Shabaab leaders have publicly aligned themselves with al Qaeda and operate multiple terrorist training camps in Somalia with al Qaeda's direct support and participation.9 International efforts to restore a functioning government through the TFG are bolstered by the presence of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) led by Ugandan and Burundian troops, but not without costs. In a single incident that occurred in July 2010, 73 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a series of bomb attacks in Kampala, Uganda. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks, which they announced was a response to Uganda's support of the AMISOM mission.
Several other areas of ongoing or potential conflict pose challenges to security and stability in the region, to include:
A few of many positive features include the vision, energy, and commitment of leaders and citizens in the region, rich natural resources, along with investments and infrastructure projects such as the proposed Lamu, Kenya, port and associated road, pipeline, and rail links. All have the potential to enable African prosperity and stability. Promising engagement opportunities are resident in supporting the development of regional partner capacities to secure and sustain these infrastructure investments.
Concept of Engagement
The CJTF–HOA mission is "to build partner nation capacity in order to promote regional security and stability, prevent conflict, and protect U.S. and Coalition interests."15 This approach, achieved through long-term commitment and engagement, exemplifies the indirect approach to enhancing regional stability by enabling partner nations and regional security organizations to more effectively address East African security challenges. The indirect approach used emphasizes two principal types of engagements. The first is by implementing professional military-to-military training focused on providing basic soldiering skills that can be employed in direct support of regional security initiatives. The second is partnered civil-military operations, which meet basic human needs and build trust and confidence between the military and vulnerable populations.
Military-to-military engagements occur throughout the area of operations and generate security capacities that can positively influence areas of instability. These engagements generally occur under Title 22 authorities, primarily under the Department of State–led African Contingency Operations and Assistance (ACOTA) program.16 Other military-to-military activities include (but are not limited to) traveling contact teams and functional engagements, such as intelligence, logistics, and Public Affairs training authorized under Title 10.17 Ongoing task force efforts include support provided to a broad spectrum of training and the collaboration of best practices relevant to peace support operations, with a higher level of focus and support to those forces that deploy to the AMISOM and the United Nations Mission in Darfur. Over the last 4 years, 89 traditional military capacity-building engagements were conducted. These events involved nearly 4,000 man-days contact training and imparted knowledge and skills to over 7,000 African military servicemembers.
Civil-military engagements and projects are dispersed along an arc-shaped area that roughly shadows the Somali border area, to include the western reaches of Ogaden Region in Ethiopia, and extends from Tanga, Tanzania, on the Swahili coast across eastern Kenya, Ethiopia, and north of Djibouti. This arc generally defines the forward edge of violent extremist influence in the East Africa region. Engagements with partners along this arc focus on meeting basic human needs and on providing essential services through development projects that build trust and confidence between the host nation government, military, and populations vulnerable to the influence of extremist groups and their ideology. Over the last 4 years, sustained commitment has delivered the new construction of, refurbishment of, or additions to 148 schools, 83 medical clinics, and 66 essential service projects (water wells, cisterns, water catchment systems, medical waste incinerators, and other infrastructure), and multiple veterinary and medical Civil Affairs (CA) program engagements. Each of these engagements employs small, but scalable teams that operate in a geographic area the size of the United States. The distributed and extended nature of many of these engagements requires unique training, logistics, and operational support, and most important, the extra measure of experience and maturity to operate independently in uncertain environments. In many areas, the teams have generated positive civil-military relations and built trust and confidence. By meeting basic human needs, they help to mitigate instability and catalysts that provide a footing for extremist groups.
In April 2010, the government of Kenya and Lamu West community, supported by CJTF–HOA U.S. Navy Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) and the Kenya Country Team, launched a Community Watch on the Water (CWOW) program. The CWOW integrates local government officials, local community, and Kenyan Defense Force in a joint initiative to improve the level of maritime security, report suspected criminal activities or injuries on the water, and expedite response times to incidents. The program has helped foster a community awareness campaign that builds security capacity within the local community. Additional CWOW programs have also been initiated in Malindi, Tana Delta, and the Lamu East Districts of Kenya, covering a key stretch of the Swahili Coast. In this potentially vulnerable area, acts of piracy (supported from motherships at sea) are increasing, but will find difficulty in securing footing for shore-based support. Active engagement and leadership from the Deputy Chief of Mission in the 3D process have enabled the carefully measured growth and Kenyan Defense Force partnership in this effort.
Other civil-military operations outside of the arc are conducted at the direction of USAFRICOM or at the request of Country Teams to support U.S. Government initiatives. In the aftermath of Kenya's December 2007 to January 2008 post-election violence, where more than 1,000 people died and over 300,000 were displaced, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya requested the task force support a series of school rehabilitation projects in the Greater Rift Valley, an area then reeling from the significant trauma of post-election violence. The subsequent 14 school rehabilitation projects conducted over a 2-year period represent an application of CMO in a tense environment where the population had security concerns, both personal and in the ability of the government to respond to another civil crisis. The intercommunity dialogue, which resulted from the population's involvement in the series of projects, contributed to returning stability in the Greater Rift Valley before, during, and after the Kenyan constitutional referendum of 2010.
As part of the whole-of-government approach, CJTF–HOA closely collaborates with each Country Team and partner military to coordinate its activities. There is no single template that can be used for this coordination process as the dynamics of the Country Team, the host nation, and their objectives vary considerably. Task force projects and engagements must be vetted through the 3D process with the Country Team, which in turn coordinates with host nation government ministries. This ensures that activities are arranged in time, space, and purpose to achieve shared goals that support the Mission Strategic Resource Plan, USAFRICOM theater strategic objectives, and host nation objectives from inception through execution. The principal responsibility and authority for these whole-of-government efforts, particularly when used in conflict prevention, lie with the Ambassador. During execution, the same close collaboration is maintained. The population in the area of operations must also be included in the process. The key indicator of successful collaboration and cooperation is a positive reflection from all equity holders on the effects of the project or engagement.
The 3D process should guarantee long-term sustainability of projects and activities through other agencies and the departments or ministries of partner nations. Sustainability is a shared responsibility, not one that can be carried by a single U.S. Government department or agency. Task Force project funding authorities enable the construction, refurbishment, or additions to a school or clinic. However, without desks, books, consumables, credentialed teachers, medical supplies, or clinicians, projects will neither succeed nor be sustainable. The formal 3D coordination process highlights those areas in which Country Team coordination with host nation ministries is essential for achieving long-term sustainability. Three D project coordination is best when projects are constructed with quality, the partner nation military or local contractors are involved, and the project is outfitted with essential staffing, equipment, and supplies as coordinated between governments, and finally, is sustained by the partner nation.
In Djibouti, the leadership and commitment of the Ambassador and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) director in bringing school, clinic, and essential services projects, supported by the task force Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (Seabees) and Army CA teams, have precipitated collaborative military-to-military engagements with the Djiboutian Armed Forces on both national and regional security issues, and are reflected in an increased demand for training to build military capacity and deploy forces in support of AMISOM. The task force supported a substantial increase in State Department ACOTA training programs in the fall and winter of 2010 and into 2011. Djiboutian leadership roles in the East Africa Standby Force and as a facilitator for diplomatic initiatives such as the Djiboutian Accords are additional positive indications of advancement under the whole-ofgovernment approach.
Lines of Operation
CJTF–HOA conducts a range of engagements that fall under several broad areas: militaryto-military engagements, CMO, strategic communication, functional engagement (for example, intelligence, logistics, communications support, and public affairs), and key leader engagements.
Military-to-Military Engagements. Military-to-military engagements utilize small, scalable units that integrate experienced subject matter experts in a variety of military training and familiarization events. In addition to increasing the security capacity of partner nation military and regional security organizations, these engagements foster the development of strong professional relationships founded on mutual respect. The benefits of military-to-military engagements flow both ways; U.S. Servicemembers have the opportunity to learn valuable skills and tactics from partner forces while they gain a better understanding of complex operating environments.18
ACOTA, the task force, and Marine Forces Africa19 teams work together continuously to refine and enhance each program of instruction. Specific engagement areas over the past year include collateral damage and casualty avoidance, riot control, countering improvised explosive devices, force protection, casualty care, logistics, and tactical operations center best practices. In late 2010, a senior commander from a troop-contributing country explained that he conducted a survey of the troops who recently returned from Somalia, and "they overwhelmingly stated that the training they had received from the ACOTA training prepared them for Mogadishu." In addition, the ACOTA program manager has pointed out that "since 2004, the task force has continuously supported ACOTA training, providing essential technical and tactical reinforcement for the ACOTA curriculum while lending an invaluable presence of ‘role-model' military professionalism."20
From June to July 2010, CJTF–HOA supported an ACOTA-led command and staff training and confirmation exercise at the International Peace Support Training Centre in Karen, Kenya, an African regional training center of excellence. The task force mentors were able to provide relevant staff and operational experience to the new staff of the East African Standby Force designed to assist in their preparation for multinational peace support operations in Africa. Interactive discussions based on a wide range of experiences helped to foster cohesion and the exchange of ideas between professional officers at a more personal level. During an overheard discussion between a Kenyan, Burundian, and Ugandan officer speaking on the pros and cons of long-term U.S. involvement in the region, the Kenyan commented, "When the U.S. goes somewhere and stays, it works out well for that country—look at Germany and Japan."
The demand for military-to-military engagements has been steadily increasing as partner militaries seek additional training and security capacity. The growth in missions has been especially evident in fiscal year 2011, where scheduled engagements for the first two quarters have already exceeded the totals from any single year since 2002. With the use of subject matter experts from across the Services and a "train-the-trainer" approach, the task force enables partners to generate their own capacity. With ACOTA, Ugandan, Rwandan, and Burundian defense forces have each developed trainers who support capacity-building within their forces.
Civil-Military Operations. Task force CMO and host nation CMO counterparts build trust and confidence with populations vulnerable to violent extremist influences by providing essential services and meeting basic human needs. The focus is typically on low cost, smaller infrastructure projects that are partnership intensive and aimed at building capacity through locally sustainable projects. CMO military-to-military partnerships also build partner nation capacity to conduct CMO.
Within East Africa, task force CMO elements face the following unique conditions:
Given these complex conditions, task force CMO elements must build and maintain an in-depth understanding of the environment and continually look for ways to increase local stability and security. The most effective teams tend to be mature with excellent interpersonal skills, which are critical when working independently with host nation minority or vulnerable populations. CMO engagements and projects are most effective when the local community is actively engaged. Locally contracted support in the form of skilled and unskilled workers for projects, as well as drivers and interpreters who are often attached to teams for an extended period of time, is a key enabler in connecting the team with the community while also helping to stimulate the local economy.
Whenever possible, CJTF–HOA works hand-in-hand with partner nation CMO elements to emphasize the train-the-trainer approach. An example of this approach is the Navy MCAT in Tanzania. Located in an area of increasing piracy and vulnerability to violent extremist influence on the Swahili coast, the team conducted basic lifesaving (BLS) training to 110 security personnel over a 3-month period on Pemba Island in the summer of 2010. Following the final class, the MCAT conducted train-the-trainer BLS courses at the regional medical facility on Pemba Island. The local population and Country Team were engaged throughout the process, helping to create shared ownership. As of November 2010, the program has become self-sustaining and used by local clinic staffs to train their own medical personnel.
From May to September 2010, the task force's functional specialty and CA teams partnered with the Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF), Uganda District Veterinary Officers, and local animal health NGOs to provide a two-phased Veterinary Civic Action Project (VETCAP) in the Karamoja Region of Uganda. The project included training to UPDF Civil-Military Coordination Centers while enhancing Community Animal Health Worker (CAHW) capacity by supplying equipment, medicine, and training in sustainment of veterinary services. The VETCAP provided classrooms, practical hands-on training, and certification to 110 CAHWs, and treated over 44,000 animals in the process. The VETCAP focused on disease vector control and selective breeding as measures to enable the Karamojong to more effectively expand their herds to reduce rustling and associated violence. Throughout the mission, U.S. forces observed improved trust and confidence, as well as increased cooperation between the UPDF leadership, local village elders, and NGOs. They also observed a transfer of knowledge and capacity to the Ugandan participants. Task force members who began the mission as trainers transitioned into partner mentors, and ultimately, into observers.
The highest form of engagement builds enduring capacity largely reflected by the following three indicators:
Strategic Communication. Strategic communication is key to generating understanding and support of activities in a distributed operations environment. The process of getting the message out occurs continuously throughout the engagement cycle, with the goal of setting conditions prior to the engagement, creating effects during the engagement, and reflecting effects upon completion of the engagement. These three temporal categories make up one axis of an effects-based, collaborative "3×3" external communication matrix, with the other axis referring to the means of delivery. At the first level, the task force uses public, proprietary, and USAFRICOM means (traditional media, organizational Web site, and social media). The next level seeks to coordinate integration of team public diplomacy capabilities as appropriate. Finally, at the highest level, the partner nation generates its own coverage through local outlets and public affairs representatives, which can be enabled by interactions with task force public affairs personnel.
To optimize effective and accurate communications reflecting partnering objectives, the task force conducts formalized strategic communication training for all teams and individuals who will be working with partner militaries or populations. Operating under the idea that every member on the team is a communicator, the training pulls together the expertise of the task force staff, the Socio-Cultural Research and Advisory Team (SCRAT), Public Affairs office, and coalition officers assigned to the task force to ensure that actions and words are aligned and reflect the mutual interests and objectives of all participants.
Functional Engagements. Military-tomilitary engagements in functional areas such as intelligence; logistics; information and command, control, communications, and computers systems; and Public Affairs enable the task force to build capacity through exchanging ideas and best practices with our partner militaries. An example of this type of engagement was the participation by CJTF–HOA Staff Judge Advocate personnel in a regional seminar held at the Ethiopian Defense Command and Staff College in April 2010. A multinational audience of 42 students, comprised of field grade to general officers, participated in courses that revolved around law of war, operational law, and rules of engagement.
Key Leader Engagements. An integral part of building enduring partnerships is the interaction between the task force and decisionmakers within our partner nations' militaries, governments, and religious organizations. These engagements establish personal relationships that support a common understanding of the environment, areas of mutual concern, and opportunities for future cooperation. The task force's commander, his deputy, and senior staff, to include the Foreign Policy Advisor and Unified Action Advisor (both seasoned State Department officials), engage with senior government and partner nation officials in ways that create opportunities to mature partnerships and deepen capacity-building effects. In July 2010, the aircraft carriers USS Eisenhower and USS Truman supported two engagements that enabled over 45 ambassadors, chiefs of defense, chiefs of services, and key officials from throughout the East Africa region to embark, participate in discussions, and view military operations and an airpower demonstration at sea. These engagements pay dividends in fostering relationships that continue to enable cooperation and capacity-building in the region.
Coalition Integration. Coalition officers play a vital role in carrying out the overall strategic objectives of the task force. On average, there are 20 coalition officers from across 12 nations assigned. They are integrated into the various staff sections to help develop and execute engagement concepts.21 Their perspectives and experiences enhance the task force's cultural awareness and understanding of the political, social, religious, and economic contexts for issues in East Africa.
The very nature of an indirect, population-centric approach to foster enabling stability through CMO and humanitarian assistance activities makes determining whether a specific activity achieved a tactical or strategic objective, rather than being correlated with its occurrence— a very tall order.22 Assessing how individual and aggregated engagements have achieved security interests is one of the task force's top priorities. CJTF–HOA continues to refine and mature an assessment process that analyzes the effectiveness and impact of engagements while helping to provide feedback that informs decisions on the placement, nature, and timing of future engagements. The assessment process also catalogues lessons learned and supports the evolution of engagement practices through cumulative qualitative and quantitative indicators. These indicators are reflected in daily reporting, postmission after-action reporting, focused studies by SCRAT, and various databases populated by task force members, to include Tactical Ground Reporting and Joint Civil Information Management System. The commander's emphasis on assessment helps to provide feedback on how well each of the Country Teams' objectives, host nation objectives, and USAFRICOM's theater strategic objectives has been met. Phase zero conflict prevention activities do not yet lend themselves to metrics that can conclusively demonstrate their success "beyond a reasonable doubt." However, with the increasing density of reports and data points, a slightly lower, but still meaningful standard of "the preponderance of the evidence" can be achieved.
Assessment studies further help the task force to determine the longer term impacts of engagements and projects and help to develop future efforts. The task force employs SCRAT social anthropologists to gain a better understanding of the social and cultural effects of CMO and other activities. These anthropologists measure the local perception of the role of the U.S. military in their community, and views on the United States and their own military. Examples of assessment studies conducted in 2010 include sociocultural impact studies on CA projects in Kenya's Rift Valley and Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, well projects in Garissa, Kenya, and on a series of VETCAPs in Pemba, Tanzania.
In June 2010, an assessment team comprised of personnel from the task force and the Kenyan Ministry of Defense conducted a joint assessment of past CMO well-drilling projects in the North Eastern province of Kenya. These projects were conducted between 2006 and 2008 as a partnered effort between the Navy Seabees and the Kenyan Army's Engineering Battalion. In addition to conducting a technical assessment of the functionality and utility of each project, one of the SCRAT's social scientists explored social views and local perceptions on U.S. and Kenyan militaries by conducting interviews with 139 members of the community. The assessment provided a critical look at longer term impacts of task force civil-military efforts in a key region, and provided a positive overall sensing of the Kenyan-U.S. engagement with a vulnerable population. It also shed light on the need to be utterly transparent and inclusive in these interactions. This assessment reflected that the impact of such an engagement goes well beyond just the project focus of provisioning water to a rural area, but into personal connections with the local populace.
Enduring Presence Impacts
There are clear indicators that an enduring presence and genuine commitment to capacity-building do contribute to advancing regional security and stability. The evidence supporting this observation is rooted in the assessment of capacity-building activities and involvement in civil-military operations and humanitarian assistance projects in the region that have been conducted over the past 8 years. Some indicators that have been assessed in the last year include:
The task force continues to evolve to make its capabilities more effective in responding to the demands of operating in a complex security environment. Capacity-building requires a total team effort between partner nation governments, military forces, and Country Teams. The focus on enduring partnerships and capacity-building over time has created positive impacts on attaining partner nation and U.S. mutual interests within East Africa.
The CJTF–HOA mission in East Africa as a component of USAFRICOM and as a part of a whole-of-government approach is a continuously maturing effort. The examples reflected in this article demonstrate only several of many different ways that partner nations are developing capacity and are welcoming greater responsibility for security in their region. The complex operating environment of East Africa is a varsity-level challenge, but one in which we find genuine partners serious about developing capacities to address security issues while simultaneously addressing the root causes of instability. Eight years of task force operations have been centered on building security capacity and trust and confidence among vulnerable populations, the military, and government. This trust cannot be surged on demand, but is only built through sustained engagement and commitment over time.
It must be acknowledged that security trends in the most unstable areas of the region are not favorable. Inside "the arc of instability" (Somalia as a whole, extending across the Gulf of Aden into Yemen), violent extremist influences have expanded.23 The evidence presented in this article indicates that U.S. Government objectives in conflict prevention, capacity-building, generating trust and confidence, and setting overall conditions for stability are achievable in those areas where time and even limited resources have been committed. In continued implementation of this approach, consideration of additional leverage points to enhance indirect approach efforts by, with, and through partners will be examined. When supported by policy, consideration of indirect approach activities to be undertaken in areas of expanding extremist influences and not accessible under current conditions is warranted.