Blog Roll Additions (revised)

Two additions to the blogroll:

See this post on the Smart Power Blog for some resources on civil-military relations beyond the above blog. Hopefully there will also be an engaging discussion on the importance of understanding c-m.


Draconian Observations was paying attention SecDef Gates talking tothe Senate Armed Services Committee today. From Gates:

“The president has decided to stand up a new unified combatant command, Africa Command, to oversee security, cooperation, building partnership capability, defense support to nonmilitary missions, and, if directed, military operations on the African continent,” Gates said. This command will enable us to have a more effective and integrated approach than the current arrangement of dividing Africa between Central Command and European Command, an outdated arrangement left over from the Cold War.”

While you’re reading the Scandinavian’s other comments, check out Armchair Generalist’s players card on the combatant commands. He’ll have to add a slot soon for AFRICOM.

I’ve gotta run.

China and Africa, a brief update

At the beginning of 2006, China released an impressive policy towards Africa that had all the right nouns and verbs for an effective public diplomacy strategy. The real result was to be seen over time as China needed to overcome its reputation in Africa, despite some successes that were mostly lauded by China itself.

This month, however, China seems to be finding some success with its new policy: China and African Nations Set Trade Deals Worth $1.9 Billion.

China and a number of African nations agreed Sunday on 16 trade and investment deals valued at $1.9 billion, as Beijing extended its efforts to create a broad economic and diplomatic partnership with Africa, a resource-rich continent.

President Hu Jintao also pledged to extend $5 billion in loans and credits to Africa, forgive past debts and double foreign aid to the continent.

The aid announcement and deal-making capped a weekend of meetings that brought high-level representatives of 48 of the 53 African countries to Beijing. It was an unusually sweeping diplomatic initiative by China, which until recently had tended to focus mainly on domestic development rather than overseas expansion…

More recently, Mr. Hu has made cultivating new economic and diplomatic ties to Africa a foreign policy priority even as the United States concentrates on combating terrorism.

China has been busy throughout Africa. While China actively moves into areas ignored by and to the detriment of the United States, we continue to borrow from them, partly financing their forays around the continent. As we address problems through largely superficial methods, they are softly and quietly creating (potentially) long-term partnerships.

Let’s not be naive and think China will immediately ‘win’ Africa and have partners for life. For sure China still has to follow through with its commitments and perhaps more importantly, do a better job integrating with Africa to not annoy the locals. However, they are much further along the path of combating the root-causes of terrorism than we are.

On the bright side, al-Qaeda and its associates movements will probably learn to hate the Chinese as well. I’d be interested to hear how believers in the Clash of Civilizations will frame anti-Chinese attacks (when they happen ‘in public’).

See earlier posts on China in Africa.

Technorati tags: China, Africa, Public Diplomacy


Quick hits from the world of private military companies…

With the war continuing to spiral out and a stream of revelations the Administration failed to work to secure the peace, the roles of private security contractors (the ‘shooters’) and private military contractors (technically includes the ‘shooters’ but meant here to include all other commercial businesses providing services previously or historically considered in the domain of the military) in the peace and stability phase of the Iraq War are becoming known.

From CorpWatch comes this headline: US: Pentagon Spends Billions to Outsource Torture. This story hits at the reality of image management in the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT). The failure to manage certain contracts and practice what we preach gives ammunition to the enemy, which is exactly what Joshua Holland points out.

The thousands of mercenary security contractors employed in the Bush administration’s "War on Terror" are billed to American taxpayers, but they’ve handed Osama Bin Laden his greatest victories — public relations coups that have transformed him from just another face in a crowd of radical clerics to a hero of millions in the global South (posters of Bin Laden have been spotted in largely Catholic Latin America during protests against George W. Bush).

The internet hums with viral videos of British contractors opening fire on civilian vehicles in Iraq as part of a bloody game, stories about CIA contractors killing prisoners in Afghanistan, veterans of Apartheid-era South African and Latin American death squads discovered among contractors’ staffs and notoriously shady Russian arms dealers working for occupation authorities. One Special Forces operator told Amnesty International that some contractors are in it just because they "really want to kill somebody and they can do it easier there … [not] everybody is like that, but a dangerously high element."…

Osama Bin Laden’s greatest victories in the crucial media war have been the series of prisoner abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and a number of detention centers across Iraq, the most infamous of which is Saddam Hussein’s former torture complex at Abu Ghraib.

T. Christian Miller gives sort of a bullet list of PMCs in Iraq he discusses in his new book Blood Money. His approach: essentially an agent relationship and false dealings of the PMCs are a direct result of oversight failures, intentional and unintentional. (With regard to actions such as those of Custer Battles? I believe that’s closer to treason than fraud.)

I wrote a story for the Los Angeles Times this weekend about yet another lawsuit accusing Halliburton of fraud in Iraq. This time, the company allegedly bought a big-screen television and tubs of chicken wings and cheese sticks for the Super Bowl, and then stuck us with the tab.

I’m not going to weigh in on the merits of the lawsuit; Halliburton gets blamed for plenty of things it didn’t do. But what is clear is that when it comes to the Bush administration’s record on prosecuting corruption in Iraq, there’s no there there…

The upshot is, either we’ve only sent angels to Iraq, or somebody hasn’t been paying attention. As I document in my new book about the reconstruction of Iraq, Blood Money, the record suggests that the “accountability administration” has let the war profiteers run amok….

That said, Iraq did not have to be the Wild West. There could have been more control. There could have been more order. There could have been the rule of law.

If someone had wanted it.

The Gulf of Guinea, one of the most important places Americans couldn’t find on a map, but will soon

The Gulf of Guinea is one of the more important places most Americans don’t know that they don’t know. I don’t mean to get all Rumsfeldian, but GoG will figure more prominently in news in the coming year. In today’s Washington Post is a story about security concerns in the Gulf. Fortunately, it seems the ‘Risk Entrepreneurs’ weren’t able to pander and the author implicitly acknowledged the difference between Arab fundamentalists and West Africans. While Nigeria has a larger Muslim population than most of the Middle East states combined, we aren’t seeing the same practice of jihad come out of there.

The Army responds to charges it will miss its recruiting goal

The US Army takes its recruiting very seriously and issued a statement essentially saying there’s nothing wrong with the recruits coming in, waivers are nothing new, etc. The reality of Army recruiting, which is lowering its requirements, plus artificial promotions, will lower the quality of the general army. (See post at The War Room besides other posts on here on MountainRunner) Which brings us to the next story… 

Lastly, a story on the difference between Counter-Insurgency and, well, ignorance

A number of bytes have been recorded on this blog about the need to conduct appropriate counter-insurgency and how the US military knows what to do, it just didn’t do it. Some Special Forces units, notably the famed Green Berets, were designed to work with locals for this very purpose. The Washington Post story highlights the difference between the ‘old’ military and the ‘new’, in terms of tactics and skills. An almost ironic clash of culture symbolizes more than different management styles but a root failure to adapt and learn.

Green Berets skilled in working closely with indigenous forces have enlisted one of the largest and most influential tribes in Iraq to launch a regional police force — a rarity in this Sunni insurgent stronghold. Working deals and favors over endless cups of spiced tea, they built up their wasta — or pull — with the ancient tribe, which boasts more than 300,000 members…

But the initial progress has been tempered by friction between the team of elite troops and the U.S. Army’s battalion that oversees the region. At one point this year, the battalion’s commander, uncomfortable with his lack of control over a team he saw as dangerously undisciplined, sought to expel it from his turf, officers on both sides acknowledged.

The conflict in the Anbar camp, while extreme, is not an isolated phenomenon in Iraq, U.S. officers say. It highlights two clashing approaches to the war: the heavy focus of many regular U.S. military units on sweeping combat operations; and the more fine-grained, patient work Special Forces teams put into building rapport with local leaders, security forces and the people — work that experts consider vital in a counterinsurgency.

AFRICOM: focusing America’s attention

Briefly, the creation of a new command centered on Africa, likely to be named AFRICOM, is really a no brainer. With current attention to Africa by our primary ‘diplomats’ divided between three different commands (Pacific, Europe, and Central), it’s hard to focus resources on outreach programs, some of which have been blogged about on MountainRunner.

More on the need for AFRICOM:

Senior special operations officers believe that the creation of an African
Command would alleviate the cumbersome bureaucracy that is slowing progress on
the Horn of Africa.

Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa was created in 2002 to stop the
influence of radical Islamists coming over the border from Somalia. The task
force oversees an area roughly a third of the size of the continental United
States and has or had forces working in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda,
Tanzania and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

But much of the Horn of Africa task force’s time is taken up by turf battles
with the embassy, host nations and regional commands….

Under a regional command structure, the staff would serve longer tours and
“institutional” relationships between the command and the host nations and
embassies would be created, Whelan said.

Unlike deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan where staff officers deploy in one
unit, individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deploy to the Horn of
Africa staff for tours of six months to one year.

“This is where people come to check off their war on terror box,” said a
senior noncommissioned officer.

Most of the officers are not trained in aid missions, and they are not around
long enough to see projects and programs from start to finish.

“There is a learning curve with the staffs that go out to these missions,”
Whelan said.

She said many officers have to learn new regulations and missions since most
are military officers trained primarily for combat.

Trained for aid missions? More militarized humanitarian aid by the guys who can do it… no time for analysis but just a cry for increasing Jointness…

2006 Naval S&T Partnership Conference

Next week — July 31 to August 3 — MountainRunner will be blogging from the Naval Science and Technology Partnership Conference in Washington, DC.

What is this conference?

Presented by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) with technical support from the Office of Naval Research, the 2006 Naval S&T Partnership Conference is the successor to, and builds upon the success of, the six annual partnership conferences previously presented by ONR.  The 2006 Naval S&T Partnership Conference will provide key insight into the Navy & Marine Corps drive to enable revolutionary naval operational concepts that meet the challenges of the 21st century through strategic investment in S&T research.  The Conference will inform government, industry and academia of the direction, emphasis, and scope of the Department of the Navy’s investment in science and technology research, and how companies and universities can do business with the Naval Research Enterprise.

A number of blogs were inviting, including obviously MountainRunner. We will be credentialed as media in an experiment for the conference. In return, the conference simply requests we report (blog) on the conference. This may seem different, and it is, but it is certainly inline with a growing awareness of the Internet (see Defense Science Boards’ research into the value of Google, blogs, and other Net resources). I’ll post which blogs actually show when I get there next week (the confirmed list right now is short so the blog-exclusive press availability with the Chief of Naval Research may be closer to a one-on-one interview).

Here are the highlights of the conference, direct from its preliminary agenda:

  • Hear from the senior leadership of the Department of the Navy, the Office of Naval Research, and the Naval Research Enterprise
  • Gain an understanding of partnership opportunities for industry and academia, and learn how to do business with ONR and the Naval Research Enterprise
  • Get key insights into the Power and Energy challenges and opportunities facing the Navy and Marine Corps in the 21st Century
  • Meet one-on-one with Program Managers from ONR and across the Naval Research Enterprise, including Naval Laboratories and Warfare Centers
  • Learn how to participate in the challenge to creative innovative solutions to meet Fleet and Force requirements in the Future Naval Capabilities (FNC) and Innovative Naval Prototypes (INP) programs.
  • See and discuss innovative technologies from Industry, National and Federal Labs, and Academia in the Conference Exhibit Hall.

The Conference is being extremely helpful in facilitating additional interviews with the Office of Naval Research. Topics I’m looking to discuss and investigate further with ONR includes programs similar to the USS Emory S. Land reach out to Africa recently (blogged here previously and other public diplomacy programs), building strategic relationships ("partnership capacity" as defined in the QDR), thoughts on the Core-Gap & Barnett, and of course piracy. Of course those are just a few things I hope to ask and discuss, but we’ll see what actually transpires after reality sets in.

By the way, "science" is stretched beyond technology if you look at the ONR Science and Technology Departments, which include at the top level: Expeditionary Warfare and Combating Terrorism; Command, Control Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR); Ocean Battlespace Sensing; Sea Warfare and Weapons; Warfighter Performance Department; Naval Air Warfare and Weapons; and Office of Transition.

Any questions or topics you’d like to have asked or looked into, let me know. I’m open for suggestions, leads, etc.

More to come…

Nigeria delivers final debt payments to Paris Club


Nigeria said Friday it made a final wire transfer to pay off its Paris Club debt, becoming the first country in Africa to clear its books of loans by that group of Western creditors.

While the move will free up cash for investing at home, Africa’s most-populous nation still isn’t completely debt-free, owing US$5 billion to other creditors.

Nigeria worked off US$30 billion in Paris Club debts through cancellation grants and buy-backs and it sent the last tranche of US$4.5 billion in several currencies on Friday, said Mansur Muhtar, head of Nigeria’s Debt Management Office.

"All the creditors need is to confirm receipt and automatically that will trigger the terms of the deal," said Muhtar.

Most of oil-rich Nigeria’s debt came from loans taken in the early 1980s, as oil prices fell. In 1985, the total debt stood at US$19 billion (euro15.4 billion).

At the end of 2004, it had ballooned to US$35 billion (euro28.4 billion) with arrears and penalties piled up under a succession of corrupt military governments.

The Paris Club deal required Nigeria to pay about US$12.4 billion (euro10 billion) in exchange for the cancellation of US$18 billion (euro14.6 billion) in debt.

Link to article…

China’s ZTE to produce GSM phones in Nigeria

Further expansion of China into African infrastructure (this is part of an info dump into the blog).
Akwa Ibom, Chinese firms in ultra low cost handset deals
By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

There are possibilities that Nigeria will become the first country in Africa to experience local manufacture of ultra low cost handset judging by initiatives already put in place by the Federal Government, the Akwa Ibom State government and some Chinese equipment manufacturers.

Continue reading “China’s ZTE to produce GSM phones in Nigeria

Brown in $15bn education vow to poor nations

The Financial Times reports (10 April 2006):

Gordon Brown earmarked $15bn (£8.6bn) of future British aid spending for education in some of the world’s poorest countries Monday, on a trip to Africa intended to urge western nations to commit similar sums.

The chancellor arrived in Mozambique on Monday morning for talks with African leaders and finance ministers as well as Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa.

“In 2005, ‘Make Poverty History’ forced governments to make promises on aid,” Mr Brown said at a visit to a school in Mozambique. “Now, in 2006 it is time for us to keep our promises.”

The UK’s commitment involves a step change in British aid spending over the coming decade and means that the Department for International Development will be one of only a few winners in the next Whitehall spending round.

Link to article…

Watchdog seeks lost Africa wealth

Transparency International watching Africa:

[TI] urges western governments to help Africa recover wealth lost through corruption.

An anti-corruption campaign group has urged governments in the West to help Africa recover part of the wealth lost through corruption.

Transparency International made the appeal in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The group estimated the amount of illegally appropriated money invested outside Africa to be $140bn (£80.4bn).

It called on Western governments to change their banking laws to make it easier for illegally acquired wealth to be repatriated to Africa.

Transparency International (TI) which leads a campaign against corruption worldwide, says the phenomenon is seriously undermining Africa’s fragile democracies and hindering efforts to achieve sustainable development.

Link to BBC article…

Nigeria Pressed by U.N. Court to Arrest Liberia’s Ex-Leader

From the New York Times…

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, March 26 — Pressure mounted Sunday on Nigeria to arrest Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia who is under indictment for war crimes in connection with his role in the brutal, decade-long civil war here.

Mr. Taylor apparently remains in Nigeria, where he has been living since 2003, when a deal brokered by Nigeria’s president, Olusegun Obasanjo, sent him into exile. But security around the compound where he is living has been lax, according to local news reports and Human Rights Watch, leading to fears that Mr. Taylor may try to flee.

Link to article…

[Update: comment on the ‘decade-long civil war’ was a typo on my part and not the text of the original article which is updated appropriately above.]

Nigeria, Chinese firm sign investment MOU

Expanding the essential presence of Chinese companies in Nigeria across a variety of sectors. An MOU is one thing, let’s see the partnership deliver.

Nigeria has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on economic cooperation and investment with the Guangdong Xinguang International Group of China.

The MOU would herald at least two-billion-dollar worth of investment in the agriculture, health, education, transport, industry, commerce and housing sectors of the economy.

Link to article…

Lessons from Biafra: The Structuration of Socially Relevant Science in the Research and Production D

From Social Forces comes this:

Africa’s dismal economic performance is directly attributable to its weakness in the production and use of modern technology. Even Nigeria, a country with immense human and material resources, coupled with significant scientific infrastructure, has not yet been able to manage the all-important technological leap forward. The situation was different in Biafra (1967-70), when indigenous scientists and engineers performed socially relevant science without the preconditions conventionally perceived as necessary for technological development. Anchored in structuration theory, this article explores the sociology of scientific and technological practice in Biafra, outlines the achievements of Biafran scientists and engineers, and offers explanations of why the Biafran technological success has not been replicable in post-civil war Nigeria. Discussion concludes with a suggestion for development-driven geopolitical restructuring.

Interesting to overlay the seemingly valuable partnerships with outsiders with the past.

Link to article…

Nigeria: Corruption – Tough talk, tough action

From Foreign Direct Investment (1 Oct 2005):

    Recent high-profile arrests of prominent Nigerians on corruption charges have buoyed public opinion that the government’s promise to stamp out graft is sincere. Corruption itself is unlikely to disappear soon but the government’s best hope is to win the battle of perceptions, convincing Nigerians and external stakeholders that it has the upper hand in a grinding war that has a long way to go. These small victories, among others, chip away at a firmly entrenched perception of deep-seated corruption in Nigeria. The country is ranked third-last in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. But the government, and the president in particular, is quick to admit that there is a long way to go. Although Nigerian authorities are adamant that ground has been won in the fight against graft, and even suggest that the country’s reputation is worse than the reality, there is a healthy recognition of where they have to take the fight. In particular, it is at the state and local government level that the anti-corruption push is being resisted or failing to reach.

Link to article…

NCC Penalizes Globalcom for refusal to Reconnect PTO’s

The Nigerian Communications Commission, in line with section 53 (1) of the Nigerian Communications Act, has on April 7, 2004 issued a Direction to Globacom Limited demanding the payment of a penalty of N34 million to the Commission for flagrantly refusing to reconnect certain private telecom operators 24 days after the expiration of the seven-day period within which to comply.Of the amount, N10 million is the lump sum payment for non-compliance with the preceding Direction of the Commission and N24 million is the aggregate of the sum of N1 million per day for each day of non-compliance.
As a result of complaints received from some operators that they had been disconnected from Globacom’s network, the Commission held a meeting with Globacom on December 13, 2004. Arising from that meeting, the Commission forwarded to Globacom a Notice of Intention to issue a Direction dated January 19, 2005.
Following the failure of Globacom to respond to the Notice of Intention to issue a Direction, the Commission on March 7, 2005 issued a Direction in the following terms:
That Globacom Limited should ensure interconnection of its network with all the affected operators including but not limited to Cell Communications Limited (CELLCOM), Disc Communications Limited (DISCOM), Independent Telephone Networks Limited (ITN), Reliance Telecommunications Limited (RELTEL), XPT Links Limited (XTP), and other PTO’s affected by the disconnection within seven days thereof.
Upon failure to reconnect any of the said operators within seven days, Globacom Limited shall pay to the Commission a penalty in the sum of ^10 million and thereafter the sum N1 million per day as long as the contravention persists.
The seven-day period within which compliance was required by the Commission expired on March 14, 2005. Up till April 7, 2005 Globacom had not migrated any of the affected operators to another switch as it undertook to do at the meeting held on December 13, 2004 or as required by the Commission in its Direction issued on March 7, 2005. The Commission is of the considered opinion that ample opportunity has been given to Globacom to comply with its lawful Direction.
At the expense of repetition, the Commission wishes to stress that the issue of unilateral disconnection of operators without its approval is expressly prohibited by law. A situation where an operator does not only unilaterally disconnect other operators but also refuses to heed a Direction from the Regulator to reconnect them is inimical to the growth of the industry and must be discouraged.

Link to article…