How Liberia Lost Out As A Host Country For US Africa Command HQ

Liberia squandered a valuable opportunity in 2007 to host the headquarters of the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) Africa Command known as AFRICOM.

AFRICOM

AFRICOM which is based in Stuggart, Germany says it maintains partnerships with African nations to strengthen security forces, counter transnational threats and respond to crisis in an effort to advance the interests of the United States.

It is one of six Geographic Combatant Commands that the U. S. maintains globally.

According to AFRICOM, “Along with regional partners, U.S. Africa command conducts military operations to disrupt, degrade and neutralize violent extremist organizations that present a transnational threat.

Operations set conditions for continued partnering to help African partner nations build the capacity they need to secure the region.”

According to the document seen by West African Journal Magazine, Liberian Legislative Committees lawmakers – Representatives and Senators, who were briefed by US Embassy officials at the time on AFRICOM “…expressed overwhelming support for the initiative and reiterated President Sirleaf’s request that Liberia be chosen as the new site of the headquarters…”

At the time, AFRICOM was actively seeking a continental base in Africa and the West African country expressed interest in being a host country.

Liberia -Some Strategic Characteristics

Geographically, Liberia is accessible through its southern coast via the Atlantic Ocean. It has a relatively young civilian population whose capacity can be trained to function in support roles. Liberia and Liberians have and maintain a “positive view” of the United States due to a very long period of mutual co-existence and collaboration in diplomacy, government, education, culture and economic matters.

Map of Liberia, West Africa

Additionally, it is in the strategic interest of the US to ensure the maintenance of a stable Liberia and the subregion.

In their enthusiasm, Liberian lawmakers at the time asked the U. S. diplomatic mission near Monrovia to assist them to, “counter arguments against AFRICOM and two legislators who also hold seats in the ECOWAS and Pan-African Parliaments agreed to lobby their African counterparts on behalf of AFRICOM.”

The US Embassy in Monrovia further briefed and educated the relevant Liberian lawmakers on the history, structure and function of AFRICOM and provided assurances to dispel the misconception that AFRICOM would “take over USAID”.

Richard Saah Gbollie

According to the documents, former Margibi County Representative Richard Saah Gbollie told U.S. Embassy officials that the Liberian Senate would ultimately be the ones to approve any agreement to host the AFRICOM headquarters and requested that some lawmakers travel to the US for further discussions on the issue with U. S. Congressional Armed Services And Foreign Relations Committees in Washington DC.

But US Embassy officials who saw the request as an attempt to get a “free trip” to the US discouraged the idea.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Senator Prince Y. Johnson, who is a member of the National Security Committee in the Liberian Senate told U. S. Embassy officials at the meeting that ECOWAS Parliament members, at their recent meeting, were concerned that hosting an AFRICOM Headquarters would make Liberia a terrorists target. Senator Johnson said he countered to his colleagues at the ECOWAS Parliament that “…AFRICOM’s fundamental role is to bring stability to the continent and ultimately help Africa fight global threats itself. The security brought by AFRICOM would help foster development… (C) Senator Johnson said the Liberian Special Security Services had been advising President Sirleaf not to offer to host AFRICOM because of an increased terrorist threat, but that they were the only GOL agency that felt that way.

Johnson said he would be willing to introduce a bill in the Senate to support AFRICOM because of the stability it could bring to all of Africa. He and the other Senators present agreed that they would introduce a formal resolution echoing

President Sirleaf’s offer for Liberia to host AFRICOM when the legislature reopens in January.”

Another former Liberian lawmaker and Pan African Parliament member Representative Eugene F. Kparkar of Lofa County in the briefing disclosed thatat their last Pan-African meeting, a colleague from Botswana called AFRICOM “anti-African Union measure” and “U.S. neo-colonialism.”

Representative Kparkar reportedly said he rebutted the position of the Botswana Representative and instead advocated for hosting AFRICOM on the African continent but asked that the U.S. undertake advocacy with other African countries.

Representative Rufus Gbeoir, a lawmaker from the Administrative District of Grand Gedeh County, who was the Chairman of the House Committee on Defense at the time, suggested a visit to AFRICOM’s headquarter in Stuggart, Germany “…to personally vouch for what AFRICOM is and is not and would have a better understanding of its mission.”

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The confidential US document seen by West African Journal Magazine, and which is now in the public domain, revealed that although there was huge support, especially among lawmakers at the time, for hosting AFRICOM’s headquarters in Liberia at the time, they had to table the effort because of a tug-of-war between the Executive and Legislative branches of the Liberian government.

The U.S. Embassy, through its Ambassador in Monrovia at the time, sent a cable to the State Department in Washington DC and summarized that, “While we cannot get in the middle of this tug-of-war with the two branches, we need to recognize the complicated nature of the relationship of all these actors with checkered and sometimes violent pasts, and do our best to ensure that all parties feel part of the process. Whether or not an AFRICOM presence comes to Liberia, the legislators remain an excellent resource for us in the public relations effort on AFRICOM, both in Liberia and all over the African continent through the Pan-African Parliament and ECOWAS. They are eager and willing to help. It is in our interest to keep them involved.”

The U. S. Embassy cable which included a mention of Liberian lawmakers with violent past include former warlord turned Senator Prince Johnson of the former rebel Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), former lawmaker Richard Saah Gbollie, a military police commander of the Taylor led rebel National Patriotic Front (NPFL).

Capitol Building in Monrovia

It is unclear if the Government of Liberia made further serious overtures to the U. S. Administration afterwards, given the enormous benefits of hosting a strategic ally.

AFRICOM’s Headquarters did not make it to Liberia nor Africa and remains in Stuggart, Germany where it coordinates Education and Training, Threat Assessments, Pandemic Response, Deployment Assistance, Military Partnership and Foreign Military Sales, etc. for the 53 countries in Africa.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Fallout From Niger Ambush Could Scale Back US Africa Missions, Strip Commanders Of Autonomy

A probe into the Niger ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers is expected to recommend reducing ground missions in West Africa and stripping field commanders of the autonomy that allows them to send service members on risky missions, The New York Times reported.

AFRICOM General Thomas D. Waldhauser
AFRICOM General Thomas D. Waldhauser

According to the Marine Times, an independent news sources for the US Marine community, although the report has not been released, two military officials with knowledge of the findings spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity.

The military investigation focused on the events surrounding the ambush in Tongo Tongo, Niger, on Oct. 4. Four Americans and five Nigeriens were killed near a remote village close to Niger’s border with Mali. The region is flush with activity by militants associated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, who often engage local authorities and even French forces operating in Mali.

The report also highlights the bad decision-making process that may have led to the deadly ambush, according to those sources.

The investigation found that there was a communications breakdown that resulted from unchecked equipment the soldiers took on their mission.

When the unit came under attack, they were unable to establish direct communication with the French aircraft providing cover. Instead, the soldiers had to relay coordinates through other forces in Niamey, Niger’s capital, roughly 120 miles away.

The report is expected to advise that U.S. troops should continue accompanying partner forces in the region on armed patrols, but the missions should be more thoroughly vetted, the sources said.

US Marines Killed in Niger
US Marines Killed in Niger

One measure to subject ground operations to more scrutiny may include approval from senior leadership at U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, or possibly the Pentagon, according to the sources.

The investigation is supposedly completed and circulating among Pentagon officials, according to The New York Times’ sources. The public release is being delayed, however, until after Waldhauser appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee to present AFRICOM’s annual “posture hearing.”

That event is scheduled for the last week of February.

Additionally, a more classified version of the report will briefed to families of those slain in the ambush before a public version is made available to the media.

It is also possible some personnel may receive administrative punishments for skirting the rules when the mission was carried out, according to CNN.

Map of Niger
Map of Niger

Currently, roughly 6,000 U.S. troops are deployed across Africa. Most forces, approximately 4,000, are at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the continent’s primary base of operations for Africa Command, according to the Times.

However, small teams of U.S. special operations forces fan out to other countries on the continent, like Niger, Somalia, Libya and Mali, the Marine Times reports.

Marine Times

Liberian Ministry of Defense Dedicates English Language Center

January 9, 2017 – The Liberian Ministry of National Defense dedicated the first-ever Armed Forces of Liberia English Language Center in Monrovia, Liberia Jan. 8, 2018.

Dedication of English Language Center
Dedication of English Language Center in Liberia

According to the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the project is a collaboration between the Liberian Ministry of Defense(MOD) and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy Monrovia, Liberia.

The facility is designed to provide English language training to Armed Forces of Liberia Soldiers and Ministry civilians to prepare them for overseas training and other operational requirements. It includes the renovation of the Language Center, purchase of English curriculum materials, and the training of AFL language instructors, AFRICOM said.

The purpose of the new English Language Center is to prepare soldiers to pass the English Comprehension Level (ECL) exam which is needed to attend professional military education and other U.S.-based training.

The OSC supports the development of the Armed Forces of Liberia through four program areas: strengthening defense institutions; professional development; medical readiness; and maritime security.  In each area, the OSC provides leadership, resource management, and professional military education to civilians, officers, and non-commissioned officers within the Ministry of Defense.

Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser
Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser – AFRICOM

Led by Marine Corp General  Thomas D. Waldhauser, the United States Africa Command, (U.S. AFRICOM) is one of six of the U.S. Defense Department’s geographic combatant commands and is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for military relations with African nations, the African Union, and African regional security organizations.

A full-spectrum combatant command, U.S. AFRICOM is responsible for all U.S. Department of Defense operations, exercises, and security cooperation on the African continent, its island nations, and surrounding waters. AFRICOM began initial operations on Oct. 1, 2007, and officially became fully operational capable on Oct. 1, 2008.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

According to several international sources including UNICEF, UNESCO, CIA World Fact Book, Index Mundi and others, the literacy rate in Liberia stands at 47.6% of a population of 4.5 million people. Literacy is defined as the those over the age of 15 who can read and write.

Globally, Liberia ranks 106 on the literacy scale: female literacy is at 32.8%,  and the male literacy rate is 62.4%.

Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

US Africom To Investigate Civilian Deaths in Raid In Somalia

The US Africa Command (Africom) is launching a second investigation in a raid in August in Somalia in which it was reported that 10 civilians in the northeast African country were killed.

Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser
Africom Commander Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser

The general in charge of U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has requested a second investigation into an August raid in Somalia after reports that U.S. soldiers killed 10 civilians, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday. Reports say that the about-face comes after U.S.Congressman Ted Lieu pressed a senior Defence Department official to review recent media reports that the US troops had shot dead 10 unarmed Somalis on a farm in the town of Bariire in August.

A spokesperson for the US military outfit Robyn Mack in a statement on Thursday said, “As a result, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command, referred the matter to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to ensure a full exploration of the facts given the gravity of the allegations.”

Media reports say that US Special Forces personnel had killed unarmed Somali civilians and a child in an operation on August 25 in Somalia, according to the Daily Beast website quoting survivors in the town of Bariire. Shortly following the news report, Africom released a statement at the time insisting that it had only killed enemy combatants in the operation.

Map - Somalia
Map – Somalia

The account of Africom was duisputed by Somali eyewitnesses who said the US soldiers fired on unarmed civilians in the southern town.

Africom, through its spokesperson now says it will full y investigate the allegations of the killings. According to Ms. Mack, ‘ After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia on August 25, 2017, and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants.”

In a separate development, the U.S is suspending food and fuel aid to the Somali military due to concerns over corruption.

Somali Military
Somali Military

According to Reuters, the U.S. suspension of aid came after the Somali military repeatedly failed to account for food and fuel, according to private correspondence between the U.S. and Somali governments.

An official at the U.S. State Department told Reuters last week that, “During recent discussions between the United States and the Federal Government of Somalia, both sides agreed that the Somali National Army had failed to meet the standards for accountability for U.S. assistance.”

West African Journal Magazine