'Ties Yes, U.S. Troops No' in Africa, Cohen Says
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Feb. 11, 2000, Feb. 11, 2000 The United States is strengthening ties in Africa, but Defense Secretary William S. Cohen sees no significant role for the U.S. military in settling disputes on the continent.
The U.N. Security Council currently is considering sending a 5,000-member peacekeeping force to the Congo. Cohen, here on the first stop of a weeklong three-nation trip, said Feb. 10 that he does not anticipate U.S. ground troops taking part in this U.N. mission.
"To the extent that there are any kind of transportation needs, I'd have to look into that," he noted. U.S. forces are already "stretched" by ongoing missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, and overseas deployments in Europe, the Persian Gulf and Asia, he said.
When asked to join the U.N. mission in East Timor, he noted, DoD officials "had to point out that we were limited in what we could do and not make another major commitment and put that much more stress on our forces."
High operations tempo has had a great impact on recruitment and retention, the secretary said. "We act where we can ... but other countries have to pick up a much bigger share of the load," he said. "We are carrying that load right now."
Cohen departed Washington Feb. 10 for visits in Morocco, South Africa and Nigeria. The secretary told reporters en route that the United States hopes to promote stability and economic reforms and is not trying to intervene in or dominate African affairs in any way.
He pointed to the African Crisis Response Initiative, an effort to help train African nations' militaries for multilateral peacekeeping missions. The United States budgets about $20 million a year for the program, which U.S. defense officials hope will ultimately lead to the creation of a peacekeeping brigade of about 12,000 troops.
So far, U.S. Special Forces teams have conducted initial training for battalions in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Benin and the Ivory Coast. Along with instructing the African troops in peacekeeping and individual soldier skills, the United States provides nonlethal equipment such as uniforms, boots, generators and radios.
The United States also has set up an Africa Center for Strategic Studies to offer courses in the rule of law, civilian control of the military, national security strategy and defense economics. About 115 senior military and civilian personnel from 43 African and six European nations participated in the center's pilot Senior Leader Seminar in November 1999.
Throughout the region, Cohen told reporters, local leaders are trying to modernize their militaries, develop prosperous, free-market, economies and promote stability. U.S. defense officials hope to help them through the International Military Education and Training program. "It's in their interest and it's in our interest as well," he noted.