By DoD News
By Terri Moon Cronk
While Africa presents opportunities for some of its regions, the continent continues to face varied challenges, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said in a Pentagon news conference today.
Africom protects U.S. personnel and interests from imminent threats on the continent and mitigates immediate threats and advances enduring security interests by working with international and interagency partners, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez said.
“Our programs, exercises and operations strengthen military-to-military relationships in a region where the United States has little forward presence,” making U.S. and partner forces more effective as they learn from each other and operate together, he explained.
Approaching Regional Concerns
And though some African nations are doing well, with many strengthening their democratic institutions, tough challenges such as weak governance, corruption, uneven development, disease, food insecurity, crime and violent extremism add to instability and conflict in others, the Africom commander said.
In East Africa, where the big threat is the al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia, the general said, Africom works with partner countries and is helping to develop the Somali national army so Somalia can govern with regional stability.
In North Africa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses a large-scale threat in Libya and its surrounding region, including Niger and Chad, which face border concerns, Rodriguez said.
In West Africa, Boko Haram is a threat in northeastern Nigeria, where it overlaps with Niger, Chad and Cameroon, he said. “We’re working with all those partners to help improve their capacity to defeat Boko Haram [by] doing some significant intelligence sharing and working with a multinational joint task force leading that effort,” he said.
ISIL Numbers on Upswing
U.S. intelligence shows ISIL’s numbers in Libya likely have doubled in 12 to 18 months — now estimated to be 4,000 fighters, including remnants of the Libyan National Army and various militias, Rodriguez said. “And with significant numbers and groups of fighters in Libya, they are stopping ISIL from growing as well as they can,” he added.
While the varied groups sometimes fight against one other, a proposed government of national accord is expected to bring them together to better Libya’s future, and drive out ISIL, the general said.
Unlike in Syria and Iraq, ISIL lacks “home-grown people” who know Libya and its conditions, the Africom commander noted. “Libyan people are also different in the way they treat and respond to foreigners,” he said.