Congressional Record Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold on Africa-Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mr. President, in recent years more and more observers have noted Africa’s failing states, ungoverned spaces and pirate-infested waters, and the threat they pose to our own national security. I have long raised these concerns on this Senate floor and I am pleased that they are receiving increasing attention. However, it is not enough to simply acknowledge Africa’s security challenges; nor is it sufficient to s hift resources toward them, although that is a good start. We must institute long-term strategies to further our national security goals while developing sustainable partnerships with Africans that advance our mutual interests and support nascent democratic institutions.

  As a 16-year member and the current Chairman of the Subcommittee on African Affairs, I have closely followed U.S. policy toward the continent for many years. Too often, I have found that our approach has been driven by short-sighted tactics designed to buy influence or react to crises. In the absence of comprehensive interagency strategies, these tactics often undermine long-term efforts to build civilian institutions and strengthen the rule of law. This must change if we are to successfully pursue our strategic objectives on the African continent. It remains critical – and long overdue – that the United States develop a carefully planned and long-term approach to both promoting stability and combating terrorism in Africa. I would like to offer some thoughts today on key components of such an approach.

Mr. President, during our December recess, I traveled to the headquarters of the new Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany and discussed a range of issues with senior officials there. Although I have been focuse d on AFRICOM since its inception – and on the idea of such a command prior to that – I was reminded during my trip of the very important and strategic roles that AFRICOM, if advanced properly, can play. These roles include helping to develop effective, well-disciplined militaries that adhere to civilian rule, strengthening regional peacekeeping missions, and supporting post-conflict demobilization and disarmament processes. If carried out properly, AFRICOM’s work can complement that of the State Department, USAID, and other US government agencies working on the continent and help contribute to lasting peace and stability across Africa.

It is because of the significant need for this important work that we must support AFRICOM, while also working to ensure that it adheres to its defined military mandate and defers to the State Department as the lead on policy matters. The challenge for AFRICOM is to strike the right balance with our civilian agencies and not become our primary representation throughout Africa. Serious work remains to be done in ensuring that the Command is operating within comprehensive interagency national security strategies and squarely under the authority of our Chiefs of Mission.  I also remain concerned that AFRICOM has been unable to adequately convey its role within a larger policy framework to Congress, to the American people or to African governments and reg ional organizations – perhaps its most important partners. 

It is true that the Command’s initial rollout was fraught with mistakes and the Command understandably received a cool reception on the continent, among civilian agencies and here in Congress.  But I am confident from my recent meetings that the staff in Stuttgart has recognized and is learning from these setbacks. Rather than merely criticizing, we in Congress should work across the spectrum of agencies here in Washington as well as with AFRICOM’s leadership to help craft a combatant command that is doing the right job, for the right reasons and can thus be adequately resourced. Mr. President, in the months ahead, I intend to use my role as Chairman of the Subcommittee on African Affairs to do just that.

I hope, however, that no one thinks for a minute that military tools alone are sufficient to transform the underlying causes of violence and instability in Africa. To promote long-term stability, it is crucial that we strike a better balance between our military relationships and our support for civilian institutions and the rule of law.

Mr. President, achieving that ba lance is no small task and it will only be possible if we invest seriously in new institutional capacities for our civilian agencies on the continent. This begins with ensuring our embassies have the Foreign Service officers and resources they need to do the job properly. We cannot continue to shortchange our embassies across Africa while we focus on one or two other locations around the world. We need to make sure our embassies have sufficient resources to meet the challenges of today, and to identify the challenges of tomorrow. And we need to make sure our presence includes the right kind of people – trained political and economic officers who can get out and about to do their job.
 
By expanding our diplomatic presence in Africa, including outside the capitals, we increase our ability to learn about the continent – its governments, its people and its cultures. Right now, we do not have the necessary human resources or expertise on the African continent to gather this information and anticipate emerging crises or fully understand existing ones. Diplomatic reporting and open source collection in Africa are a critical complement to the clandestine work of the Intelligence Community, and I have long called for more resources for both. I have also called for an integrated, interagency collection and analysis strategy, which is why Senator Hagel and I last year introduced=2 0legislation to establish an independent commission to address this long-term, systematic problem. This legislation was passed by the Intelligence Committee last year and, although Senator Hagel has retired, I intend to reintroduce this legislation this year.

Mr. President, developing these capacities and a balanced approach is in our national security interest and is necessary if we are to better address areas of concern in Africa. At present, there are several devastating crises that we cannot ignore, including in Congo, Nigeria, the Sahel, Sudan and Zimbabwe. But I believe one region stands out for its particular significance to our national security, and that is the Horn of Africa and specifically the deepening crisis in Somalia. I would like to spend the rest of my remarks discussing the situation in this region, where the need for a carefully planned and long-term approach is particularly urgent.
Mr. President, during my December trip, I also visited Djibouti. There, I met with many leading figures in Somalia, including the Prime Minister of the Somali Transitional Federal Government, the leadership of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, the UN Special Representative for Somalia, the President of Somaliland and members o f Somalia’s civil society. I also met with Djiboutian government officials and members of civil society, as well as with our diplomats working on Somalia out of both Djibouti and Nairobi, who are extraordinary and deeply committed individuals.

Tragically, the situation in Somalia continues to get worse. Six months ago I stood on the Senate floor to discuss Somalia’s humanitarian crisis – the worst in the world. According to a local human rights group, an estimated 16,000 people have been killed since the start of 2007, with over 28,000 people wounded and more than one million displaced. USAID now estimates that 3.2 million people—soon to be half of the population—are in need of emergency assistance, including hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries. The stories and images of human suffering coming out of Somalia are horrifying.

In addition to the humanitarian impact, I am deeply concerned by the potential impact of this crisis on our national security. With the Ethiopian army withdrawing, the transitional government remains deadlocked, new militias are forming, and existing ones continue to gain new territory. And while the Somalis are a moderate people, the terrorist group al Shabab has grown in ranks and expanded its reach.&n bsp;Moreover, just last month, several senior officials, including CIA Director Hayden and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen, said that al-Qaeda is extending its reach in Somalia to revitalize its operations.

Mr. President, the Bush administration’s approach to Somalia—endorsing the Ethiopian invasion, backing an unpopular transitional government and launching periodic military strikes in the absence of a broader coherent strategy—was an abject failure. Without a carefully crafted strategy for Somalia, we have long relied on short-sighted tactics and a “manhunt” approach, rather than investing fully in efforts to promote a sustainable peace and help build legitimate and inclusive institutions. The result has been increased anti-Americanism, which helps enable extremist groups to effectively recruit and operate.

With the Obama Administration now in office, there is a critical opportunity, as well as an urgent need, to identify the lessons of this failed policy and signal a break from the past. One of my top priorities is to work with the Obama Administration to develop a new comprehensive interagency strategy to bring stability to Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa. Support for the Djibouti process should continue, but we need to be far-sighted about what it will take to tra nslate diplomatic initiatives into security for the people of Somalia. That effort must include efforts from the ground-up to build legitimate and inclusive governance institutions that respond to the needs of ordinary Somalis.

For only when those institutions take hold will we finally be able to limit the appeal of violent extremism and achieve sustainable peace and security – and bolster our own national security.
I yield the floor.

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