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Africa: A FMF – Section 1206 Comparison June 11, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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Last Saturday night, Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte went to New York’s Kennedy airport with the intent of traveling to Mogadishu to join Al Shabaab, an Islamist militia fighting to establish Somalia as a launching point for global terrorism.  The FBI had other plans, and they were arrested.  Neither Alessa or Almonte are of Somali background, but their case harkened back to the 20 young men from Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community that succeeded in joining Al Shabaab between late 2007 – late 2009.

This is the lens through which the Defense Department looks at Africa.  Across the continent is a ready supply of collapsed states hosting and attracting frustrated, young populations – fertile ground for organizations with terrorist ambitions.  Having been squeezed out of Afghanistan and stressed in Pakistan, Al Qaeda’s demand for safe haven exceeds even that ready supply.

The Defense Department thinks that supply and demand will connect in Africa. It’s putting its money where its mouth is, using its Section 1206 Train and Equip authority.  Sometimes, but not always, the State Department comes along in the form of Foreign military Financing (FMF).  Taken together, the U.S. national security policy for Africa that emerges appears schizophrenic.

Top-Level Security Assistance Picture: FMF and Section 1206 Combined

Two operations define U.S. security assistance in Africa: Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans-Sahara (OEF-TS) and Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).  84% of aggregated FMF and Section 1206 spending between fiscal years 2006 – 2009 ($224M out of $268M) went to eleven of the states under these operations’ remit.

Meaningful security assistance is not going to the failing states on which OEF-TS and CJTF-HOA focus, though.  Somalia, the crux of CJTF-HOA, is not a state and thus receives no assistance.  Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Chad are only marginally better.  Together, and along with Algeria, they drive OEF-TS but receive only 4% ($11.3M) of this security assistance.  Instead, 77% of aggregated FMF and Section 1206 spending between fiscal years 2006 – 2009 ($207M) went to six states (Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya) that border those in the OEF-TS and CJTF-HOA focus.  To the extent that there is a strategy, it seems containment is the order of the day.

Strategy schizophrenia: FMF and Section 1206 in detail

The reappearance of containment aside, considering FMF and Section 1206 individually reveals that U.S. security assistance strategy in Africa is conflicted.  The Defense Department’s Section 1206 authority to set security assistance policy is supposed to be a rare exception from the norm of State Department leadership in this area.  Yet the exception dominates the rule in Africa.  Section 1206 nearly doubles FMF assistance (62% and 38%, respectively).

Policy imbalance follows budgetary imbalance in this case.  The Defense Department has determined that twenty-seven African states warrant Section 1206 assistance while the State Department has made a similar FMF decision for only twelve.  This imbalance is even more pronounced among each department’s priority states.  Nine African states have received $5M or more in Section 1206 assistance but only three have received comparable FMF sums.  Importantly, all of the $11.3M given to the weak and corrupt states at the center of OEF-TS came from Section 1206.

Strategy schizophrenia in this case is driven by differing State and Defense Department priorities, evident in the resource decisions.  The Defense Department believes that strengthening states to control their territory best prevents an Al Qaeda toehold on the continent.  It’s ‘Building Partner Capacity’ mission flows from that belief.  The State Department, by contrast, finds arming most African governments to be counterproductive for our democracy, development, and human rights agenda and, by extension, for the counterterrorism mission.  Instead, development spending is its priority in Africa.  Coordination is wholly lost between the defense and diplomacy/development sides of the equation, with FMF and Section 1206 caught in the tangle.

Costs of strategy schizophrenia: CJTF-HOA

The CJTF-HOA mission involves far more than just FMF and Section 1206 assistance.  It is clear from this assistance, however, the Defense and State Departments have different regional priorities. 74% of Africa’s FMF assistance goes to states in OEF-TS’ area of operation compared to 18% in CJTF-HOA’s area.  By contrast, 49% of Africa’s Section 1206 assistance goes to states in CJTF-HOA’s area of operation relative to 30% in OEF-TS’ area.

Strategy schizophrenia results, in part, from this tension.  CJTF-HOA includes substantial development elements rather than just military assistance.  According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “about 60 percent of its activities are civil affairs projects, such as community medical care and bridge construction” – reworded, USAID missions.  (GAO-10-504)

Using troops for development does not seem to be going well here.  The same GAO report determined that “some personnel lack needed skills for (1) applying funding to activities, (2) understanding African cultural issues, and (3) working with interagency partners at U.S. embassies.”  Six weeks ago, on the basis of these findings, GAO issued one of the most scathing recommendations a government agency can face: that the Defense Department and U.S. Africa Command evaluate “whether the task force should be retained.”

The Defense Department did not concur, of course, and the strategy schizophrenia that governs U.S. security assistance in Africa appears set to persist.  It will change only when decision-makers back in Washington tackle the difficult issue of clarifying policy authorities.



1. Carl LeVan (American University) - June 25, 2010

Section 1206 is one of the big sleeper issues that is about to unravel foreign aid to advance development through human security and diplomacy. To compliment your larger analysis, take a look at the recently released State Department IG report on the US Embassy in Ethiopia. More than merely a coordination problem, it reports that DOD staff are challenging civilian authority. You can find the report on my blog at:


along with a comment from a retired ambassador.

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