THE United States has said beginning from 2013, its army brigade will dispatch small army teams to 35 African nations, as part of its plan to check the rising terror threats from al-Qaeda-linked groups in Africa, particularly with the rise of the extremist Islamist sect, Boko Haram, in Nigeria.
According to a report the CBS News credited to Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence, “the army teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and will not be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approvals from the secretary of defence.”
The training exercise is also said to be part of Pentagon’s intensifying effort “to train countries to battle extremists and give the US a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the US military emerge.”
The Associated Press in its report said: “The sharper focus on Africa by the US comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali.”
The activities of Boko Haram sect in Nigeria and the Libya’s Islamic Maghreb’s attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the killing of US ambassador and three other Americans were also said to be part of the reasons the US is sending its troops to African nations.
“The terror threat from al-Qaeda-linked groups in Africa has been growing steadily, particularly with the rise of the extremist Islamist sect, Boko Haram in Nigeria.
“Officials also believe that the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which killed the ambassador and three other Americans, may have been carried out by those who had ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” a report said.
This particular exercise, according to AP, is “the first-of-its-kind brigade assignment involving teams from the 2nd Brigade and 1st Infantry Division of the US Army.
The 2nd Brigade, according to report will target countries such as Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger, where al-Qaeda-linked groups are said to be active.
It also will assist nations like Kenya and Uganda that have been battling al-Shabab militants on the front lines in Somalia.
The Associated Press quoted the US Commander in Africa, General Carter Ham, as saying: “The brigade has a small drone capability that could be useful in Africa. It would need special permission to tap it for that kind of mission.
“If they want them for (military) operations, the brigade is our first sourcing solution because they are prepared.
“But that has to go back to the secretary of defence to get an execute order,” the head of US Army Forces Command, General David Rodriguez, was also quoted to have said.
“Already the US military has plans for nearly 100 different exercises, training programmes and other activities across the widely diverse continent.
“But the new programme faces significant cultural and language challenges, as well as nagging questions about how many of the lower-level enlisted members of the brigade, based in Fort Riley, Kan., will participate, since the teams would largely be made up of more senior enlisted troops and officers,” Rodriguez said.
The mission for the 2nd Brigade known as the “Dagger Brigade” will begin first quarter of next year and will pave the way for Army brigades to be assigned next to US Pacific Command and then to US European Command over the next year, AP report said.
It said the brigade is receiving its regular combat training first, and then will move on to the more specific instruction needed for the deployments, such as language skills, cultural information and other data about the African nations.
Dagger Brigade Commander, Colonel Jeff Broadwater said the language and culture training will be different from what most soldiers have had in recent years, since they have focused on Pashtun and Farsi, languages used mostly in Afghanistan and Iran.
He said he expected the soldiers to learn French, Swahili, Arabic or other languages, as well as the local cultures.
“What’s really exciting is we get to focus on a different part of the world and maintain our core combat skills,” Broadwater said, adding that the soldiers know what to expect. “You see those threats (in Africa) in the news all the time.”
The brigade will be carved up into different teams designed to meet the specific needs of each African nation. As the year goes on, the teams will travel from Fort Riley to those nations, while trying to avoid any appearance of a large US military footprint.
“The challenge we have is to always understand the system in their country,” said Rodriguez, who has been nominated to be the next head of African Command.
“We’re not there to show them our system; we’re there to make their system work. Here is what their army looks like, and here is what we need to prepare them to do,” he said.
Rodriguez said the nearly 100 assignments so far requested by Ham would be carried out with “a very small footprint to get the high payoff.
“A full brigade numbers about 3,500, but the teams could range from just a few people to a company of about 200. In rare cases for certain exercises, it could be a battalion, which would number about 800,” AP said in its report.
It said to bridge the cultural gaps with the African militaries, the US Army is reaching out across the services, the embassies and a network of professional organisations to find troops and experts that are from some of the African countries.
The experts can be used during training, and the troops can both advise or travel with the teams as they begin the program.
“In a very short time frame we can only teach basic phrases. We focus on culture and the cultural impact how it impacts the African countries’ military and their operations,”AP quoted Colonel Matthew McKenna, Commander of the US 162nd Infantry Brigade, was quoted to have said.
McKenna said the US will begin training the Fort Riley soldiers in March for their African deployment.