In Summary
  • The growing reliance on military might in Africa is accompanied by a lessened investment in diplomacy.
  • The Trump team has also resisted an African Union push for more direct UN funding for the AU's military mission in Somalia.

NEW YORK

One year after his election as president of the United States, Donald Trump has further militarised Washington's dealings with Africa while taking a more unilateral and decentralised approach to the continent.

"You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham remarked recently in regard to strategic shifts in the US global war on terrorism.

"You’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less. You’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field."

AL-SHABAAB
That new policy has been given concrete expression in Somalia, where the US has stepped up drone strikes on targets identified as Al-Shabaab encampments.

On November 10, for example, the US Africa Command announced it had killed "several" Shabaab fighters in the latest of more than a dozen air attacks this year inside Somalia.

The strikes became more frequent following a Trump directive in March designating parts of Somalia as war zones and giving US field commanders greater leeway in launching attacks.

US SOLDIERS
With at least 6,000 US troops now said to be deployed in various African countries, the Pentagon is involved in offensive operations in the Sahel region as well as in the Horn.

A total of five US soldiers have been killed since May in the course of such actions in Somalia and Niger.

The growing reliance on military might in Africa is accompanied by a lessened investment in diplomacy.

This adjustment in priorities can be seen in Mr Trump's budget proposals, which would lift Pentagon spending by nine per cent while lowering State Department allocations by 29 per cent.

BUDGET
In addition, the US was the catalyst for a United Nations decision in June to cut its annual peacekeeping outlay by $600 million.

And that in turn resulted in a 7.5 per cent reduction in Washington's $2 billion contribution to the UN blue helmets' previous yearly budget of nearly $8 billion.

The Trump team has also resisted an African Union push for more direct UN funding for the AU's military mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Washington's opposition to enhancing the UN role in Somalia relates to Mr Trump's preference for unilateral US decision-making in wars against Islamist forces in Africa.

AMBASSADORS
Mr Trump has also been slow to fill Africa-related diplomatic posts.

He has yet to nominate ambassadors to fill vacancies at US embassies in Tanzania, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.

Former President Obama's move to name a US envoy to Somalia for the first time in decades has also been left hanging following the resignation of his appointee in October.

Mr Trump has also eliminated the posts of US special envoy for the Great Lakes region and for Sudan/South Sudan.

POLICIES
Donald Yamamoto, a career diplomat with long experience in Africa, was given the State Department's top Africa job on an acting basis in August.

But Mr Yamamoto's announced appointment for no more than a one-year period is causing him to be seen as a temporary figure with little autonomy.

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