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.

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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.

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