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Defence and Security Strategy


Idriss Zackaria

I don't know if our human minds can ever fully understand the deepest levels of calculus of military interventions in Africa. A more complicated SWOT analysis and evaluating interventions outcome is required.

Western powers’ appetite for the dispatch of armed forces to Africa has been increased greatly in the twenty-first century. The so-called protection of civilians and counter-terrorism were behind most of foreign military interventions over the past two decades.

Unfortunately, these interventions in the continent have not changed anything. In fact, they worsened the situation in the continent as it has become more complicated in places like Somalia, Central African Republic [CAR], Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] and Libya, particularly.

Mali and CAR are almost in the same way as Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq. Western powers have been committing the same mistake every single time they kick off a military intervention in Africa since their intervention in Somalia.

Perhaps, just like me, you have been wondering how Western powers evaluate their calculus and decisions with their African partners when it comes to any military intervention in the continent. How do their policy makers understand their SWOT analyses?

Probably their policy makers think that each military intervention is taking place in a state similar to each other or looks like a western model at least. This kind of thinking has led Western powers into failed combats. Somalia, Libya, Mali and CAR were and are all failed states – or rather, these states have become less good than my African father’s corral.

Take a look at CAR now, despite strong support to the French mission; the power vacuum occurring in Mali has occurred equally in CAR or even worst - the country has become deeply divided by violence between Western Christians and Eastern Muslims. The latest battle north of Bambari last month has proved to us that the country is still in chaos. One in four has fled their homes in CAR and the past week has been outstanding for Bambari. What is more, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children are sill displaced. But is this the correction for which we've been waiting?

Despite many military interventions in the continent to battle the increased terror threats or protect civilians, little is known about the effects of military interventions in Africa. Military interventions in Somalia in 1992 marked the emergence of an episode that had previously received little analytical attention in the continent.

Foreign military interventions for the proclaimed objective of saving lives of civilians or helping the local population to survive the ruthlessness of armed men and terrorists were not a fledgling coincidence as shown by interventions in Rwanda, Libya and CAR in the ensuing years. There are a million reasons to believe that humanitarian interventions in Africa will continue in the future as long as Western Sahara still lacks peace as we all know that the next very horrifying danger is coming from there - humanitarian crises will continue to arise, hence I expect a number of national and global militaries maintain the capacity to respond.

Although, military and security solutions may finally represent an inevitable choice in the African reality, however, they reflect the failure of preventive measures such as mediation and negotiations. I am not trying to suggest that we should negotiate with all radical groups and terrorists. However, we have no choice and it is my candid opinion that we sit down with rebels/terrorists and negotiate sometimes.

What is negotiation and why do we need it? Surely these kinds of questions should not be asked by military strategists, but should be in the mind of young foreign policy makers when thinking about going to war and ending it as it’s been said that “It is easier to start a war than to end it.”

I wonder if French policy makers had deeply thought of the outcomes of the military interventions in Mali and CAR? It is obvious that France does not have the military and intelligence abilities required for a long counter- disorder or terrorism war in Africa and it does not possess the domestic economic engine needed to sponsor a decade-long war.

In Mali for instance, we have seen the mediation of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré with Tuareg rebels ended in 2012 throughout an abject failure, where the radical Islamic groups such as Ansar al-Din, Tawhid and Jihad and al-Qaeda in the Arab Maghreb took over northern Mali and declared their silly independent state of Azawad.

So far, France repeated exactly the same mistakes made by the US in 2003 in Iraq. After the seizure of Timbuktu on January 29, 2013, French President, François Hollande declared: “We (France, Chad and Mali) are in the process of winning the battle.” This naivety and lack of foresight were followed by the declaration of the Defense minister of France, Jean-Yves le Drian, thus: “The mission is fulfilled.”

This funny scenario looks too much like the 2003 mission accomplished speech by former US President George W. Bush after the fall of the Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, but look at these countries now after that arrogant declaration. Currently, these countries are nothing, but failed states and strongholds of terrorists. These French and American temperamental behaviors only functioned as a guideline for future actions for the spread of terrorism, thus reminding the world of their status of dominant powers. Any expert would agree that the war in Libya, Mali and CAR is far from being won. The war might just be a tool to please public opinion at home or challenge China abroad.

In the case of Libya, more than five years after Gaddafi fell, Libya is on the brink - just forget about the political landscape and portrait the security implications in the region for a moment - the country has become a magnet for radical militants who receive weapons training in terrorist camps before launching deadly attacks in other countries across the Sahara and Sahel.

The terrorist groups' immediate goal is to create a new caliphate in Libya or around the Sahara as it has become a safe haven for them. If no quick solution for Libya is found, terrorism activities will spread in the region and the whole world. The current attack on the Christians of Sinai/Egypt last week is another consequence of the chaos in Libya.  During Gaddafi, Libya was a bulwark against the terrorist groups spreading in the Sahara and Sahel strip, but the balance of power in that region has been upset, creating a dangerous threat that a new terror state will rise in the border lines due to the terrorism expansion therein.

In an interview with a Chadian army colonel who spoke on condition of anonymity, he told me that the intervention in Libya was definitely great for terrorists as they thrive in conditions of chaos. Muammar Gaddafi was making strong overtures against them. The truth that many people do not know about Gaddafi is that he spent billions of dollars in counter-terrorism and stopped terrorists from going to the Middle East and Europe.

He was like a security belt for Africa and the whole world. Chad is the most country affected by the chaos in Libya. The situation in Libya has gone from bad to worse and is horrific in many dimensions. "I am not a politician, but the future doesn’t look much brighter there," the Chadian Colonel said.

Many African leaders including Chad’s President Idriss Deby have condemned the international community for its interventions in Africa. Deby argues that the crises engulfing the continent come from outside and not within Africa itself. “Gaddafi is dead and has left Libya to armed groups. Africa must now bear the consequences of this chaos," said Deby in an interview with DW.

He said Europe must take responsibility for the fact that formerly peaceful countries are being terrorized by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. According to Deby the arms come from Libya and Boko Haram fighters were also trained there after Gaddafi's death.

It’s obvious that there is still a huge gap between the international community and these African leaders as they criticize the international community for its military intervention in Libya in 2011, in which Gaddafi was killed. Deby argued that France played a leading role in the deployment. Today, Africa must bear the consequences of the intervention. "But the African continent has never asked to fight against Libya," Deby stressed.

Senegal’s president Macky Sall also told the French minister of defense, Yves le Drian during the closing session of the Dakar International forum on peace and security in Africa in 2014 that NATO’s intervention in Libya led to the assassination of Gaddafi and the destruction of Libya, but then left Africa to clean up the mess. “There was no after-sales service,” he added.

Perhaps, just like me, you have been wondering why American troops engaged in lengthy conflicts that have not been able to get out of it for more than a decade such as Afghanistan and Iraq, while French forces were able to finish the operation quickly in Libya and Mali, regardless of the outcome of the military interventions. Thus, there is no reason to believe that the result will probably be different in CAR in the future.

Recently, the French government has establishment a 3,000-strong counterterrorism force across the Sahel region under the name of Barkhane Operation, starting in August 2014, with its headquarter in N’Djamena, Chad and its forces present in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania and such a step demonstrates the long-term involvement of France in the Sahel region.

More than two years later the Sahel is nothing, but a drought-prone region of the continent and Africa still hasn’t forgiven France, Britain and the United States for their military intervention in Libya.

Numerous current studies clearly indicate that outside military interventions tend to lengthen the expected duration of civil wars, making the hostilities more bloodier and longer, consequently, more serious regional disaster, hence if we look back at Somalia, Libya and CAR or even Iraq,  foreign military interventions in these countries are nothing, but just disastrous failures.

What then are the solutions?

I am not an expert in security as I don't have a wealth of information on security matters. However, much of the empirical literature suggest incorporate mediations as the crucial importance to resolving the strategic problems that fragile states and civil war parties face.

As I am digging for solutions, I was not really surprised by Mr. Chuck Hagel, the former US Secretary of Defense when he claimed in August 2011, by discussing the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq: “We’ve got to get out of those wars. Let the people [Afghan and Iraqi people] decide what they want. If they don’t want what we wanted for them, or if they certainly don’t want what we wanted for them as much as we want it, then we can’t control that.”

This point might be very interesting for a military strategist to think this way. At first glance, it sounded to me like hell, yeah - this is the only solution for the construction of a viable Malian state and for the ones in CAR and Libya or even in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, here are the real questions: Is it the desire of local populations in Africa to commit genocide? Or to be killed by the Bats of darkness– the so called terrorists?

No sir. At this moment the answer is absolutely not to let the people decide what they want, but you’ve got to get out of those wars anyway.

Why shouldn’t the international community let the people of conflict-affected areas choose what they want? It is a misconception that education and economic solutions are not immediately critical solution for this dilemma. We all know that most of the people live in conflict-affected areas are poor, not educated and face the lack of national identity as well as the limited allegiance to a centralize source of power, these are the challenges to success peace, sovereignty and integration.

Tribal warfare and religious variable – or the so-called Islamic radicalism is the element of the complexity of conflicts in the contemporary reality of Africa. Therefore, African governments have resorted to the use of security and military solutions to confront and resolve these conflicts, rather than diplomatic techniques and strategic games.

Even though the U.N. Security Council could be the preferred authorizing body for military interventions according to the U.N. Charter, however, the African Union and sub-regional organizations should be legitimate authorizers in resolving armed conflicts in Africa because I deeply believe that regional and sub-regional African organizations have the right moral, cultural and political ability to resolve armed conflicts in the continent. Nevertheless, we cannot depend only on Africa and the ideal situation would be at all three levels - the international, regional and sub-regional actors to be focused and in agreement on actions that have to be taken.

In connection with this, my argument is based on the experiment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) tactics in Gambia that served as a model according to ECOWAS Article 58 of its revised treaty relating to regional security which justifies interventions. We have seen an amazing combination of muscle and diplomacy that forced Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to cede power last month to challenger Adama Barrow who won the nation’s general election.

Don’t you think that this is the right calculus that our new generation dreams of?

It has perhaps, never been more important to wonder about the best steps to take in ensuring Africa’s stability. In an exclusive interview with Dr. David R. Leffler, Invincible Defense Technology Expert, he argues that the ultimate and best step to ensure Africa’s stability would be for the military of each African country to fund, staff and maintain their own Prevention Wing of the Military. Such elite, highly trained units would meditate together using IDT twice daily, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In this manner, their nations would always be fully and safely protected. If this plan could be implemented, Africa would be self-sufficient for both international and domestic security. It would not be necessary for the US or any other outside country to take responsibility for Africa’s stability.

In addition to using invincible defense technology, various studies have confirmed that diplomacy is conclusive for understanding the duration of civil conflicts or any domestic stress. They find that mediation has a spectacular effect on the expected duration of a civil war or any domestic stress and that when controlling for diplomatic efforts, economic interventions can also play a crucial role. Therefore, there are important and need to re-examine history in understanding conflicts as well as academic attention is urgently needed instead of military interventions.

But hang on a minute: does one plus one equal one?

About the Author

Idriss Zackaria is an international reporter, editor, and specialist in international media and strategic communications, with an emphasis on support for independent journalism in emerging democracies and communications campaigns for international development. His previous role has been the coordination of all aspects of local and international media based in Istanbul and Cairo.

His time in Africa and the Middle East has seen him plan, implement, evaluate and report on programs that provide both journalistic, media marketing and acquisitions for sustainable local development.

He is currently based in Chad writes mainly for international media on Middle Eastern and African politics, human rights, political risk, security risk management, African economies and media ethics.

Zackaria has completed a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication, and holds a master's degree in political sciences and public administration.