General Waldhauser began by addressing Somalia and the country’s ongoing conflict, including al-Shabaab’s ongoing violent extremism and the emergence of ISIS-Somalia in the north. In 2017, al-Shabaab carried out one of the most deadly attacks in Mogadishu which killed at least 300 people. With this attack occurring just 10 days after the death of the four U.S. soldiers in Niger, it is reported that the U.S. has recently begun to play a bigger role in the civil war-ravaged country. Though not stated in the posture statement, it is reported that more than 500 U.S. troops are now stationed in Somalia. This number is the largest since the 1993 Black Hawk Down catastrophe. General Waldhauser did, however, note the creation of the 1st Danab Advanced Infantry Battalion in southern Somalia. Also, recent U.S. military activity in Somalia has been seen by the use of air/drone strikes. Since February 2018, seven strikes have been reported by AFRICOM, though investigators claim the number is over fifteen strikes. Though General Waldhauser claims to recognize that security and peace “must come from Somali citizens” themselves, the increased military action in the country has raised questions about the legitimacy of AFRICOM’s By, With, and Through strategy.
In Djibouti, General Waldhauser referred to our relationship as strong, and he said that security and access to Djibouti are a top priority. Camp Lemonnier is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa and is significant for numerous reasons. Djibouti borders Somalia, an area of perhaps the most current military conflict on the continent. Also, Djibouti’s placement on the horn of Africa is important because of its place in the Gulf of Aden and proximity to the Arabian Peninsula. It is reported that over 2,000 troops occupy Camp Lemonnier, about one-fourth of the total number of U.S. troops on the continent.
South Sudan is an extremely unstable country, as it has been involved in civil war since 2013. Over 2 million people have been internally displaced and another 2 million people are refugees. General Waldhauser did not mention any sort of military presence or activity in the country, and there have been no reports of such activity in South Sudan since the evacuation of marines from the U.S. embassy in South Sudan in 2014. However, General Waldhauser claimed that the U.S. “stands ready to assist [U.S. Embassy Juba] should the situation on the ground necessitate our support.”
In Ethiopia, the U.S. has a strong and longstanding partnership with this country, according to General Waldhauser. Aside from the fact that Ethiopia is the destination of more U.S. aid than any other African country ($933 million in 2017), Ethiopia maintains the strongest military in East Africa and the 6th strongest on the entire continent. This is largely due to U.S. assistance in terms of equipment and training. General Waldhauser reported that Ethiopia contributes over 4,000 uniformed personnel to AMISOM, the active African Union & UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia. This shows Ethiopia’s regional power and influence. Also, Ethiopia was home to a U.S. drone base from 2011 to 2016, which is reported to have been used primarily to deliver strikes in Somalia (CITE).
The final two countries mentioned in General Waldhauser’s testimony are Kenya and Uganda. Mentioned in terms of their “capacity for counterterrorism operations,” both countries have been active in fighting against al-Shabaab in southern Somalia. Both countries have small but growing militaries, as they receive more and more U.S. military assistance. In Kenya and Uganda are where Gen. Waldhauser most explicitly notes U.S. military assistance: both countries receive helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and other reconnaissance platforms; Kenya receive guided strike capabilities; and the U.S. is “developing air-ground integration mentorship programs to optimize the impact of these tools.” In addition, the U.S. is also known to be also heavily involved in training Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF). There is no question that while the number of troops is not officially stated or known, the U.S. military presence in Kenya and Uganda is robust.
By Brandon Beck, Intern