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Thread: Africom Stands Up 2006-2017

  1. #261
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    FORT RILEY, Kan. ó Here on the Kansas plains, thousands of soldiers once bound for Iraq or Afghanistan are now gearing up for missions in Africa as part of a new Pentagon strategy to train and advise indigenous forces to tackle emerging terrorist threats and other security risks so that American forces do not have to.

    The first-of-its-kind program is drawing on troops from a 3,500-member brigade in the Armyís storied First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, to conduct more than 100 missions in Africa over the next year. The missions range from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to 350 soldiers conducting airborne and humanitarian exercises in South Africa.

    The brigade has also sent a 150-member rapid-response force to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to protect embassies in emergencies, a direct reply to the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, which killed four Americans.

    ďOur goal is to help Africans solve African problems, without having a big American presence,Ē said Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee Magee, a West Point graduate and third-generation Army officer whose battalion has sent troops to Burundi, Niger and South Africa in the past several months, and whose unit will deploy to Djibouti in December.
    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/19...r.html?from=us
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  2. #262
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    Seems this thread has once again gained some much needed momentum.
    Some great posts and equally great responses ! Iíll begin with Davidís 09.2013 post.

    Letís first discuss the ďalmost always normalĒ process that takes place with training:

    We offer or the host country requests - Both parties have to agree to training in or outside of the host country. Itís simply cheaper to send four instructors to Mali that a platoon of Mali to South Carolina. So, it happens in country.
    The Country Team (as many or as few of the embassy members deemed necessary which varies from post to post) assesses the situation and the Host Country provides their concurrence and trainees. Once this has happened and the CT finds it a good idea, a Pre-Deployment Site Survey is organized (which often includes instructors that will eventually come back and perform the training). The PDSS determines that the CT is on the right path and that this training is tailored to the caliber of trainees in question and the problem is adequately addressed through training. It could and has worked out that we cannot provide the required assistance and training.

    The CT then begins the vetting process both in country and then at home to DOS. Letís keep in mind that vetting does not determine nor discriminate against oneís race, religion, or sexual orientation. It is designed to vet out human rights violators/violations.

    The Pentagon is only as blind as the Country Team will allow !

    DoD does not pull the hamstrings. The Ambassador (State Dept) does. If the CT fails to inform and address cultural issues prior to vetting, thatís their bad. If the CTís agenda is politically driven, then all of the above mentioned info is just Bravo Sierra at this stage (thatís pretty much norm in Africa).

    Kingjaja: I stress that it is the Host Country that determines and accepts training, and, provides the candidates. They can and have refused. But that rarely happens with free training, free conference trips to Europe and free equipment. Your military commander or President can tell the CT that the training being offered is below our candidatesí educational levels. At that point the PDSS will tune or turn off the training. In most cases, the PDSS will figure that out during the visit and take into consideration what the Host Country needs (this assumes the Host Country was requesting assistance and not the CT offering assistance). If the Host Country is not transparent, the system wonít work and will be a detriment to both parties. Having said that the US needs to be transparent too; not only with the host country but also her own public.

    The US gets played because the CT is weak and lacks what most former colonial powers have learned over the decades. We also get played because the offered assistance is politically driven. Something neither you nor I can control. We just get to run with it and try and fix it along the way. See Billís excellent post !

    ďThe Nigerian Army is very prickly about the condescending tone of "US training"
    If that was the case, their voices are not being heard at the CT and AFRICOM. All they need do is refuse. That however will more than likely be the last time they are offered assistance. Not something your administration is willing to risk (apparently).

    General Ham is little more than a victim of his own command. He doesnít make up his own speeches and is dependent on both his team and the CT in the host country. He is however on the blame line !

    Hei Mikka ! It is up to each and every one of us to ensure we are not the culturally challenged ugly American. Some things do happen outside of the Diplo Circle at embassies. That depends on just how much the Ambassador values your opinion and trusts your judgment. That also means you need to have some big cojones at the CT, and, as John W opined, you could end up with a very short career path !

    JohnT, Great post ! There are some great FSOs and FAOs. Some of the mistakes that keep FSOs from excelling are their 2 or 3-year cycles. If something new crosses their desk and there is little time to make the grade, the project dies. Canít get the award in, then Foxtrot it ! Too much dependency on the end result being credited to a single person for an end of tour award. Had that happened here in 98 we would have never succeeded. Some great FAOs kept that from happening and the momentum and money never stopped.

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  3. #263
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    Default Has AFRICOM plus others learnt nothing?

    Stan,

    Thank you for your wise words as an experienced African "old hand".

    It does appear from this latest "puff" NYT article on the Kansas-based brigade that little has been learnt - from Mali - and sadly it appears the USA's only helping hand for Africa comes in a uniform with a gun and just maybe a drone.

    The same article appears on SWJ Blog and has one comment by hitman483 (who I don't think is a SWC contributor) :
    This has to be a joke. The military, specifically, the US Army is coming up with a Foreign Internal Defense (FID) strategy for the African continent. So we are going to mentor, train, and advise different countries National Security Forces in Africa on how to defeat insurgencies and terrorists attacks. OK, we couldn't beat the insurgencies in Iraq or Afghanistan and the Army is putting plans together for FID in Africa. LOL, I can't wait to see this. US Army conventional forces conducting Irregular Warfare training. This is a lose, lose all day long.

    Department of State (DOS) should handle this. Because, it's the police that will be out in front. Once again, insurgencies and terrorists are criminals, not combatants. Organized narcotics gangs, and organized crime have the same makeup of terrorist and insurgent cells. The behavior is the same. It's a shame the military doesn't understand this.

    The author is a former Embedded Police Mentor and former Law Enforcement Professional. Assigned to Special Operations Task Force South (SOTF South)from 2010-2012.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-20-2013 at 12:58 PM.
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    David,
    I have not a clue what advance preparations have been accomplished to adequately prepare the brigade for Africa.

    My first thought would be nothing (which is not as bad as it sounds). If I pump you up with all my experience and you get there and discover I'm but an old Africa hand beyond his time, then we have accomplished nothing. If however, I give you little to nothing other than some language and cultural advanced training (that's all I received in 84), we stand the chance that you (the individual soldier burned out 5 times on some desert missions) will hopefully think outside the box and figure out what's best. Hence the need for a PDSS.

    The uniform and a gun is typical of non-Africa corps personnel that have in fact had too many tours in a combat zone. The PDSS will cover that high hurdle and preclude yet another SNAFU in Africa. A firearm in Africa is a joke and Africans are less likely to comprehend our goal and intent.

    Seems hitman does not understand nor has he worked with embassies abroad.

    A shame, because that is exactly where most of the US Military reside (blind to what really happens at an embassy and/or DOS).

    Break - off to comment on hitman's post at the blog !

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Stan,

    Thank you for your wise words as an experienced African "old hand".

    It does appear from this latest "puff" NYT article on the Kansas-based brigade that little has been learnt - from Mali - and sadly it appears the USA's only helping hand for Africa comes in a uniform with a gun and just maybe a drone.

    The same article appears on SWJ Blog and has one comment by hitman483 (who I don't think is a SWC contributor) :
    Last edited by Stan; 10-20-2013 at 01:28 PM.
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    Stan,

    The US gets played because the CT is weak and lacks what most former colonial powers have learned over the decades. We also get played because the offered assistance is politically driven. Something neither you nor I can control. We just get to run with it and try and fix it along the way. See Billís excellent post !
    So what can the US do to avoid getting played? I look at Mali and I doubt the French would have been played like the US was played.

    I cannot emphasise how important it is not to get played - Africa is now quasi-democratic; what this means is that virtually every government in Sub-Saharan Africa represents some sectional/ethnic interest, while the opposition to government represents entirely different sectional/ethnic interests.

    The British & French know who is bull####ting & who isn't, because they created the mess in the first place. They have deep, first hand knowledge of each African nation and they (especially the French) are unlikely to tell the US everything they know.

    In an increasingly connected, better-educated Africa (for example: 48 million Nigerians have access to the Internet), the US cannot afford to engage Africa as she did during the Cold War. It is a lot different and a lot more complicated.

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    The US Military should be used very sparingly in Africa. Given our history, the terms "US Military" and "CIA" ring alarm bells.

    If a combination of police/FBI can do the job, why not use them? Why are you telling us "you are preparing a brigade for operations in Africa"? You want all the "Pan-Africanist intellectuals & journalists" (and they are quite a few of them) to blow off steam?

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    Default U.S. Military Investing Heavily in Africa

    U.S. Military Investing Heavily in Africa

    Entry Excerpt:



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Hey Kingjaja !

    We are working with the French in Mali, but that is mostly international and humanitarian organizations. The US got played due in part to the Country Team and the input provided by the Host Country. I had very good relations with the French in Zaire, but I also spoke French and Lingala, so that bridged the gap in understanding. I also realized just how much the Zairois hated the French. That combination made for some interesting times !

    Our current administration does little to make the French feel welcome. That makes for some bad cocktail parties in Africa Our diplomatic corps -- some or all of the CT really need a course in diplomacy when working in Africa. I work with the foot soldiers and meet with Generals only when required. The US gets played thinking they are smarter than the Africans.... Bad mistake.

    Regards, Stan

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Stan,

    So what can the US do to avoid getting played? I look at Mali and I doubt the French would have been played like the US was played.

    I cannot emphasise how important it is not to get played - Africa is now quasi-democratic; what this means is that virtually every government in Sub-Saharan Africa represents some sectional/ethnic interest, while the opposition to government represents entirely different sectional/ethnic interests.

    The British & French know who is bull####ting & who isn't, because they created the mess in the first place. They have deep, first hand knowledge of each African nation and they (especially the French) are unlikely to tell the US everything they know.

    In an increasingly connected, better-educated Africa (for example: 48 million Nigerians have access to the Internet), the US cannot afford to engage Africa as she did during the Cold War. It is a lot different and a lot more complicated.
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  9. #269
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Exactly !

    The Country Team also has a Legal Attache (FBI). In fact, the CT should be reviewing whether the Department of Justice is not the better choice as a training provider. Considering the problems with counterinsurgency, the FBI would be the better trainer.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    The US Military should be used very sparingly in Africa. Given our history, the terms "US Military" and "CIA" ring alarm bells.

    If a combination of police/FBI can do the job, why not use them? Why are you telling us "you are preparing a brigade for operations in Africa"? You want all the "Pan-Africanist intellectuals & journalists" (and they are quite a few of them) to blow off steam?
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

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    Our current administration does little to make the French feel welcome. That makes for some bad cocktail parties in Africa Our diplomatic corps -- some or all of the CT really need a course in diplomacy when working in Africa. I work with the foot soldiers and meet with Generals only when required. The US gets played thinking they are smarter than the Africans.... Bad mistake
    US isn't going to go very far in Francophone Africa (that's most of the Sahel) if it doesn't work well with the French or develop a very solid understanding of that region.

  11. #271
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Well, there goes a decade of diplomacy with the French

    Kingjaja,
    Seems with the latest news of spying on French Diplomats, we may have set relations and cultural differences back another decade
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    Kingjaja,
    Seems with the latest news of spying on French Diplomats, we may have set relations and cultural differences back another decade
    True, but there are other issues at play here.

    The French know they are too weak to hold on to Francafrique forever & they guess they'll need some American help to protect their interests (against the rapidly advancing Chinese).

    There's something known as Western interests (why the US has never felt the need to distance itself from the legacy of really awful former colonial masters in Africa like Belgium & Portugal is a never ending source of amazement) - anyway US & France need to work together to protect Western interests (whatever that means).

    So China will force France & US to work together - and US will never query French policy in Africa. Hasn't done that once in 400 years, won't do that tomorrow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    True, but there are other issues at play here.

    The French know they are too weak to hold on to Francafrique forever & they guess they'll need some American help to protect their interests (against the rapidly advancing Chinese).

    There's something known as Western interests (why the US has never felt the need to distance itself from the legacy of really awful former colonial masters in Africa like Belgium & Portugal is a never ending source of amazement) - anyway US & France need to work together to protect Western interests (whatever that means).

    So China will force France & US to work together - and US will never query French policy in Africa. Hasn't done that once in 400 years, won't do that tomorrow.
    I would be surprised if that happens ever. The idea that China in Africa is a threat for everybody since it is a threat to US is, IMHO, over rated.
    France let Chad sell oil to China without any problems. It is even the french companies who denied the offer in the first place.
    What is more interesting is the African wind of change that is now blowing on the China/Africa relations.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/18/wo...ber_274912827#!

    The basic thinking that former and new colonial powers will take care of Africa security issues is, IMHO, also much over rated on the continent. Africa is adjusting, so should also the observers.

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    Default The Road to Bamako

    Interesting piece by David Danelo

    Consequently, if you are a sub-Saharan West African and want to acquire a citizenís national pride (as an American or European may suggest you should), doing so requires accepting certain aspects of British, French or Portuguese heritage as your own. Notwithstanding Liberia, which was founded by freed U.S. slaves under somewhat suspicious circumstances, the machinations of colonial powers are the only reason your country exists in its current configuration. They constitute the primary reason you speak to and relate with the rest of the world in French (most of West Africa), English (Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia) or Portuguese (Guinea-Bissau). And of course much the same applies to east, central and southern Africa as well.
    -

    See more at: http://www.the-american-interest.com....TziLaGKb.dpuf

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    Quote Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
    I would be surprised if that happens ever. The idea that China in Africa is a threat for everybody since it is a threat to US is, IMHO, over rated.
    France let Chad sell oil to China without any problems. It is even the french companies who denied the offer in the first place.
    What is more interesting is the African wind of change that is now blowing on the China/Africa relations.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/18/wo...ber_274912827#!

    The basic thinking that former and new colonial powers will take care of Africa security issues is, IMHO, also much over rated on the continent. Africa is adjusting, so should also the observers.
    M.A Lagrange,

    This is what the former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said about China:

    He argues that China is not seen in Washington as a military or security threat at the moment. But he says there are, what he calls "tripwires" in Africa for the US when it comes to China.

    "Have they signed military base agreements? Are they training armies? Have they developed intelligence operations? Once these areas start developing then the US will start worrying," he says.

    "The United States will continue to push democracy and capitalism while Chinese authoritarian capitalism is politically challenging. The Chinese are dealing with the [Zimbabwean president] Mugabe's and [Sudanese president] Bashir's of the world, which is a contrarian political model."
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11955516

    So Western diplomats fear China's rise in Africa - & they will drive the policy thrusts.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    I would be careful using Wikileaks as a source of Western intelligence and their thoughts.

    The quoted concerns and documents are but a bunch of junior staff with ridiculous and profound thoughts from their desktops. Those that fear to even breach the city walls into what is really the city where all walks of life live day to day.

    We were also cautioned on a potential rise in Chinese influence in Zaire. What we determined was they were taking over defunct construction contracts that most Westerners abandoned long ago.

    Yes, they are after natural resources. But to take over the continent for security or intelligence

    Hanging onto 8% of the US debt, China is not a big deal. Imagine the pressure if we say "the hell with you" and stop paying

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    I would be careful using Wikileaks as a source of Western intelligence and their thoughts.

    The quoted concerns and documents are but a bunch of junior staff with ridiculous and profound thoughts from their desktops. Those that fear to even breach the city walls into what is really the city where all walks of life live day to day.

    We were also cautioned on a potential rise in Chinese influence in Zaire. What we determined was they were taking over defunct construction contracts that most Westerners abandoned long ago.

    Yes, they are after natural resources. But to take over the continent for security or intelligence

    Hanging onto 8% of the US debt, China is not a big deal. Imagine the pressure if we say "the hell with you" and stop paying

    It takes two to tango !
    On an unrelated note, if any global power is culturally unsuited for engagement with Africa, then it must be the US.

    I look at the hundred odd years of relationship between the British and the ruling class in Nigeria's North - deep, solid, personal relationships. US has nothing near to that and if the US were to try to cultivate those relationships in this day and age, it would be accused of favoring one part of Nigeria over the other.

    If you look at cultural similarities, Chinese have a lot in common with Africans - extended families, respect for elders, respect for culture & a sense of "morality" that tolerates bribery. Americans on the other hand, are often seen as "rigid" & possibly "moralistic" (both the French & British had to compromise a lot during colonial rule - they might not tell Americans that).

    In Nigeria, the Chinese are already speaking Hausa, Berom & other native languages. They have an instinctive understanding of the land - many Americans will struggle to grasp that; the cultural gulf is far too wide.

    Smarter people than myself have pointed out how complex West Africa & Africa are. Neat nation states don't exist & terrorism isn't a problem, but merely the symptom of a problem - i.e. the Tuareg rebellion long precedes the 2012/13 assault on Mali by Al Qaeda.

    Does the US have the right mind set to navigate through these cultural landmines? I doubt it. Americans lack the patience to deal with deep rooted historical issues, we've seen it time and time again: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq - I don't think Africa will be any different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    On an unrelated note, if any global power is culturally unsuited for engagement with Africa, then it must be the US.
    I would say that if any Western Government is culturally inept in the WORLD, it is the USG. Not to kick a dead horse herein, but our government abroad is run by State, and the personnel she employs tend to embarrass me. Little I can do about that !

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    I look at the hundred odd years of relationship between the British and the ruling class in Nigeria's North - deep, solid, personal relationships. US has nothing near to that and if the US were to try to cultivate those relationships in this day and age, it would be accused of favoring one part of Nigeria over the other.
    I once had a Zairian tell me about the Brits in Zaire vs the Yanks. I now live with an Estonian who bitterly complains about Russians. Don’t take this personally, but every culture on earth has something bad to say about another. Easier to adapt to your local norm, stand back and laugh. You, my friend, have a “hard on” for AFRICOM, despite the fact you know very little about it. I back you on the culturally inept at embassies in Africa, but, without your government’s support, this bickering will go nowhere. I recommend a trip to Rhodes in the summer with loud and obnoxious Brits and worse yet, rich Chinese and Russians on vacation together.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    If you look at cultural similarities, Chinese have a lot in common with Africans - extended families, respect for elders, respect for culture & a sense of "morality" that tolerates bribery. Americans on the other hand, are often seen as "rigid" & possibly "moralistic" (both the French & British had to compromise a lot during colonial rule - they might not tell Americans that).
    We are all to some extent culturally challenged. The Chinese both in Africa and here live like dogs. I don’t see the respect or morality and would prefer to be an ignorant Yank.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    In Nigeria, the Chinese are already speaking Hausa, Berom & other native languages. They have an instinctive understanding of the land - many Americans will struggle to grasp that; the cultural gulf is far too wide.
    That may very well be because few speak Chinese, so there is little left to do but get with the local language and cultural gap. If not a soul in Nigeria spoke a single word of English, that would be a different matter and the majority of diplomats would then be required to learn your local language. IMO, there is little in Africa that could be concluded as instinctive.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Does the US have the right mind set to navigate through these cultural landmines? I doubt it. Americans lack the patience to deal with deep rooted historical issues, we've seen it time and time again: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq - I don't think Africa will be any different.
    The USG does not have the right mindset, but the Americans I work and live with do. Would you care to strike a comparison with Vietnam and Afghanistan, so that I can see where you are going with this ? I'm only in my late 50s, so you may very well know more about those campaigns than I.

    Regards. Stan
    Last edited by Stan; 10-24-2013 at 04:52 PM.
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    Stan,

    I was trying to bare my mind. Yes, Chinese actually speak English (& pidgin), but probably due to their socio-economic status (which is closer to the "natives"), they tend to be more at "ground level".

    We agree that the USG will be challenged in its engagement in Africa. Africa is of relatively little importance to the American people & it is very difficult to sell a sustained, significant engagement there to them.

    I don't have a "hard on" for AFRICOM, my views on AFRICOM are typical for an educated African (go to South Africa, you'll hear an earful). Isn't it better for me to say what's on my mind, so we can arrive at a common understanding?

    About the last point - the Vietnamese saw their war in nationalist terms, it took the US a bit of time to see it that way. In Iraq, it took the US quite some to understand the rifts between Shia & Sunni or the internal workings of Iraqi society.

    I see the same thing at play in Mali. Mali is being framed in terms of the "war on terror" - but it goes deeper. The French know well enough that the Tuaregs have had a long running rebellion against first French colonialists, then with the government in Bamako. Will the US have the patience to untangle this mess & engage productively with all parties in the conflict? I doubt it.

    Northern Nigeria is no less complex - the US ambassador here has made statements that are so ill-judged that he had to be summoned to explain what exactly he meant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Stan,

    I was trying to bare my mind. Yes, Chinese actually speak English (& pidgin), but probably due to their socio-economic status (which is closer to the "natives"), they tend to be more at "ground level".
    OK, my bad ! I often get where youíre coming from
    Oneís status at an embassy abroad is bit tricky. Although I had more freedom that others and the trust of the Ambassador, I couldnít go around acting or looking like a homeless person. At least not as a US Soldier.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    We agree that the USG will be challenged in its engagement in Africa. Africa is of relatively little importance to the American people & it is very difficult to sell a sustained, significant engagement there to them.
    There are over 260,000 Nigerians living in America and 10% of those have post graduate degrees. Thatís not only a big deal, thatís a strong voice. They are either not supporting you back home, or have no immediate intentions of returning ďhomeĒ. In comparison, there are but 25,000 Estonians living in America. Also very well educated, but, staunch supporters in Washington.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    I don't have a "hard on" for AFRICOM, my views on AFRICOM are typical for an educated African (go to South Africa, you'll hear an earful). Isn't it better for me to say what's on my mind, so we can arrive at a common understanding?
    No problems with you spilling your guts. At least I get to intervene and explain the nuts and bolts

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    About the last point - the Vietnamese saw their war in nationalist terms, it took the US a bit of time to see it that way. In Iraq, it took the US quite some to understand the rifts between Shia & Sunni or the internal workings of Iraqi society.
    Yes, most are still stymied by the cultural gap. But, entering those countries for purely political reasons is where most see the underlying problems. French colonial rule in Vietnam was certainly not a demonstration of cultural awareness either.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    I see the same thing at play in Mali. Mali is being framed in terms of the "war on terror" - but it goes deeper. The French know well enough that the Tuaregs have had a long running rebellion against first French colonialists, then with the government in Bamako. Will the US have the patience to untangle this mess & engage productively with all parties in the conflict? I doubt it.
    As of late September there is little more being planned for Mali other than release of aid and continuing cooperation with international players. Even before President Keita was inaugurated, US involvement was limited to logistical support to the French. I doubt Obama wants another disaster, and I doubt the American public will support him if he was to.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Northern Nigeria is no less complex - the US ambassador here has made statements that are so ill-judged that he had to be summoned to explain what exactly he meant.
    I was unable to find any recent statements by Ambassador McCulley. Are we talking about the current Chargť díAffaires Maria Brewer ? She has been in charge since August 2013 (meaning there is no Ambassador in Abuja).

    Regards, Stan
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