News / Africa

Ethnic Violence, African Extremists Worry Pentagon Officials

FILE - AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez
FILE - AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez
Twenty years after close to one million people were slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide, U.S. military officials are confident that forces are better positioned to prevent a repeat of such mass slaughter.  But, Washington is still concerned about security across the African continent.

Fears run rampant across much of the Central African Republic, where 2,000 people have been killed in ethnic violence since December, and some African peacekeepers already have pulled out.

But U.S. defense officials say the fact that African forces have been able to intervene is a sign things are slowly improving.

“The African forces that now are available that participate in these interventions and those types of things have expanded incredibly in the last 20 years; I mean six nations in Somalia, nine going to 16 in Mali," said General David Rodriguez.

And the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, General David Rodriguez, says American forces also are better positioned to respond, with as many as 6,000 troops on the ground, including some at a forward operating base in Djibouti and trainers on the ground in Uganda, aiding the effort to track and stop warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

“They continue to get weaker every day, and we’re going to continue to support the efforts of the African Union Regional Task Force to finish this off," he said.

But deep concerns remain about the growing nexus of extremists, especially in northeastern Mali and southwestern Libya.  Rodriguez points to the 2013 attack on a gas facility in Ain Amenas, Algeria, where three al-Qaida-linked groups joined forces.
“They’re also transferring things that are very worrisome like the IED technology, and tactics, techniques and procedures," said Rodriguez.

In addition, U.S. defense officials say they and their African partners worry about the flow of extremist fighters to Syria and their eventual return across sometimes porous borders.

But even as U.S. forces draw down from Afghanistan, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for African Affairs Amanda Dory says don’t expect a heavier U.S. presence in Africa.

“Our small footprint and targeted support, working with willing partners, fulfills both our own strategic approach and is the way our African partners prefer to work with us," said Dory.

However, U.S. officials do say they are considering ways to improve military capabilities, especially in West Africa.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Samson
April 09, 2014 2:57 PM
And Zimbabwe - has anyone heard of what has happened there?
Could be a good idea is someone in the Pentagon took a look back in time, when 20,000 people lost their lives and nothing happened.
Perhaps the General himself can read up about it.

by: ali baba from: new york
April 09, 2014 9:02 AM
the ethnic violence will increase and news show that it is getting worst in Nigeria , central Africa. it is local problem and the approach of Us Gov. the western countries and united nation are avoiding to talk about the action of Saudi Arabia and gulf countries .They send money and people whom they are spreading the message of hate and increase the violence. Saudi send imam to spread the massage of hate with the name of allah. no body is talking about it because Islam is peaceful religion !!!!!!.what about boko haram .they are devoted Muslim whom they are working in the name of Allah to kill innocent people.

by: Not Again from: Canada
April 08, 2014 11:03 PM
All these experts need to get out of the sand box and have a global look at the rapidly deteriorating security situation. There is a global increase in instability; be it in Europe; or in South America; Africa is burning; Asia is having numerous rapidly increasing zones of friction etc. The problems arise from the fact, that small smoldering fires are allowed to go out of control. All this political instability will increase food insecurity, which will continue to increase the rate of political instability.. and so on. It is a deadly spiral. A massive failure of leadership is taking place on the part of the developed countries, whose leaders are distracted by globalization and self introspection; at this rate of increase of instability, the number and magnitude of the conflicts will overtake the situation observed during the first 50 years of the last century. A very bad picture is developing.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs