Back in January, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was talking openly of the need to rebalance the allocation of U.S. forces around the world.
As he explained it, the need to address potential military threats from Russia and Chinese expansionism in the Pacific Basin may have to be given precedence over American commitments elsewhere.
Gen. Milley’s remarks were footnoted by the suggestion any changes were, at that point at least, notional and would be presented to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and through him to the president as options for the future. Nonetheless, many see his comments as foreshadowing a major change in the importance the U.S. has assigned the war on terror.
President Trump entered office vowing to bring home many of the U.S. troops pursuing terrorists and prosecuting “unwinnable” wars.
He can take pride in the fact he is keeping those promises, having successfully subdued if not eliminated ISIS, entered into continuing negotiations aimed at allowing the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and, by using a drone strike to take out Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader and terrorist mastermind Qassem Soleimani, perhaps turned an important corner in Iraq.
None of that justifies a U.S. withdrawal from its commitments in the Middle East or North Africa. Both regions are rife with the kind of radical Islamic extremism from which anti-U.S. terror cells develop.
The raging conflagrations in these regions, feared by many, may have cooled to embers — but extinguishing those embers will take time and is linked inexorably to the same future conflicts to which Gen. Milley suggests the U.S. may need to shift its focus.
In Africa, we have assisted our allies there in the fight against extremism. The nations of North Africa have moved in our direction. Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco have vanquished terrorists within their borders and, with U.S. training and logistical support, proven themselves invaluable in the fight against those threatening the entire region.
To abandon them would be a mistake that would be, ironically, to Beijing’s benefit.
The Chinese, as we’ve most recently seen in the way they have conducted themselves through the coronavirus crisis, cannot be trusted. They operate by their own rules when it suits them, no matter what.
In many ways, they are economic partners with the West. They trade with us and we with them, but they are not our allies and cannot be treated as such.
From a national security perspective, we must remain vigilant – which is why reducing the limited U.S. troop commitments in North Africa would be a major mistake. If America leaves, China moves in – as it has been doing all over the developing world while engaging in rapprochement with Washington.
The current troop levels are small as such things go, fewer than 10,000 spread out among different countries on different missions. Merely by being there, however, the American military prevents the creation of a vacuum into which China would be glad to move to increase its economic and military presence on the continent.
This would fit perfectly into Beijing’s long-term strategic plans. Through its trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative, the Chinese have been “helping” the developing world build commercial and civil infrastructure since 2013.
By acting as a predatory lender, China has gotten its hooks into nearly 70 counties and international organizations, saddling them with projects so expensive that the money borrowed cannot possibly be repaid.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has been pushing back against this initiative by sending teams of advisers into countries to demonstrate that anyone considering saying “yes” to China is making a bad deal. But that’s not enough.
To prevent the creation of satellite outposts available to further Beijing’s global ambitions requires something more than accountants and attorneys.
Any hopes we once had of the world becoming a safer place with the fall of the Berlin Wall must now, unfortunately, be held in abeyance.
A new global order is forming, something President Trump rightly recognizes and is preparing for militarily as well as economically.
Pulling out of commitments that don’t make sense and asking our allies to shoulder a greater burden of the cost of those that do are steps in the right direction. Pulling out of commitments that do make sense, like our limited but successful activities in North Africa, would be folly and we’d regret it later if we do.
According to the AFP, Gen. Milley said “economy of forces does not mean zero” and that Washington was not pulling out of Africa completely. Let’s hope Secretary Esper and the president affirm this soon.
By Shawn Macomber • Lawfare Tyranny
The International Criminal Court’s arbitrary deadline for South Africa to explain its decision not to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir during a June meeting of the African Union came and went this week. And, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the ICC and its fair-weather allies, the South African government refuses to back down from its position that arresting the head of a state that is not party to the Rome Statute is far more problematic than the Court prefers to make it out to be.
Here is an excerpt from the official statement of the South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation on the matter:
by George Landrith • Townhall
Having just returned from his Africa visit last month, many of the President’s supporters in the US have described the visit as an unqualified success. But the truth is like his lack of engagement in the Middle East, the former Eastern Bloc and ASIA, the consequences of the President’s inattention to Africa is there for all to see. And South Sudan is a shining example. In 2011, the people of South Sudan agreed to become independent of Sudan, a reprehensibly brutal failed state. South Sudan had the support of the international community and along with its oil resources she had high hopes that her people could be lifted out of poverty.
But in two short years a civil war began once President Salva Kiir sacked his Vice President, Riek Machar, whose political ambitions and pocket-lining had become too great to bear.
As with virtually all-things Sudanese, the conflict cleaves along tribal lines rich in distrust – Kiir is Dinka; Machar is Nuer – and the brutality is hard to fathom. Now some 2 million South Sudanese are displaced, food and aid are in short supply, and the future of a nation stands in doubt. Continue reading
By Shawn Macomber
The 2014/2015 Amnesty International Report declares “a roadmap towards silencing all guns in Africa must be embraced and driven forwards.”
This, Amnesty naturally and sincerely believes, will require “a far more robust, consistent and coherent approach” — all well and good so far as it goes…right up until the storied institution cites the persistently inconsistent, utterly incoherent International Criminal Court as one of its preferred primary arbiters of justice:
“The Chamber noted factors including the Prosecution’s admission that the evidentiary basis remains insufficient to support a conviction and the Prosecution’s concession that it remains speculative whether the information sought in the cooperation request would, even if obtained, be sufficient to support the charges…”
So reads a statement issued by the International Criminal Court Trial Chamber shortly after the Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda backed away from its pursuit of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The term “Lawfare,” as defined by the Lawfare Project, “denotes the use of the law as a weapon of war, or more specifically, the abuse of the law and legal systems for strategic political or military ends.”
Could there be a better description of the International Criminal Court’s ambiguous and selective prosecutions, particularly in Africa?
Does anyone seriously doubt there are open-and-shut cases that could be more effectively brought against nations outside Africa if those nations lacked powerful friends and benefactors? Is Kenya seriously on par with, oh, North Korea?
“I supported the court at first because I like discipline,” Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said. “I don’t want people to err without accountability…but they have turned it into a vessel for oppressing Africa again so I’m done with that court. I won’t work with them again.”
The hands of all African leaders are not free of blood, of course, yet many Africans are beginning to see the ICC less as a fair and lawful entity than a club of cynics arbitrarily imposing its operational and political agenda.
By failing to establish itself as an institution of credibility, and using its own yardstick and political motives to promote a so-called justice, the ICC fails Africans as well.
The president’s Africa summit brought some of the continent’s worst kleptocrats to Washington.
by Peter Roff • US News
Over the past week, President Barack Obama and the United States have played host to a bevy of African leaders as part of an international summit. It seems a little out of the ordinary for them to come here instead of Obama going there, but one would hope the majesty of the capital city would have an impact on their outlook.
That’s because Washington, modeled as it is in so many ways on ancient Greece, was designed and planned to be a living homage to the democratic traditions the Founding Fathers borrowed from the Greeks, incorporated into the city’s architectural framework as a reminder of the origins of our political system. Continue reading