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Ambassador Looks to Further Partnership With African Nations, DOD




U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young is the personification of U.S. policy on the African continent — diplomacy first.

 
Young is the deputy to the commander for civil-military engagement at U.S. Africa Command, and the highest-ranking civilian at the combatant command.  

His presence so high up the food chain indicates things are done differently there. 

From its inception, Africom was designed to be unique. There is a higher-than-average number of civilians in high positions. It is based on the 3-D strategy — diplomacy and development supported by defense. 

Young calls it a triangle, with diplomacy being one line, development and the U.S. Agency for International Development being another, and the defense aspect providing the security for diplomacy and development to work. 

“We try to bring together the strengths of each part of that triangle, to find ways where we’re advancing our national interests,” he said. “But the top framework piece is the diplomatic part, because I kind of think of it as diplomacy planting a seed, and then development is watering that seed so [it] grows in prosperity with our partners, and then that security piece coming behind — safeguarding that which we’re trying to grow together with our African partners.” 

And he does mean together. Another strength of the command, he said, is that everything is done with partners. Africa Command listens to the partners on the continent and doesn’t try to impose “Made in the USA” solutions on situations. 

The nations have a plethora of problems many pushed by the threats from violent extremist organizations. He said he had a conversation with an African leader “and he said that a drowning man will reach up to grasp any hand that will pull him right from the raging river. The raging river now is … the raging waters of violent extremism flowing across the Sahel and down towards the coastal West African States.” 

There is a thirst in Africa for security assistance to combat these groups. Part of Young’s role “is to reinforce that a long-term sustainable response to the expansion of violent extremism in West Africa in the Sahel has to be justice,” he said. “It has to be governance; it has to be accountability. It has to be that connection between the population in the state and those who govern.” 

But other nations promise results with other methods. “I think there is a desire for a solution to the wave of violent extremism that we’re seeing particularly in the Sahel and in West Africa,” he said. “And I think that some nations are seeking to take advantage of these fragile states.” 

Russia has an “extractive mentality” in Africa. “They want to sell weapons and extract resources, but they don’t have an interest in long term stability,” Young said.  

The deployment of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group in Africa is a case in point. “The business model of a company like Wagner — a private military corporation — is chaos,” he said. “Continued chaos is good for business. Maintaining chaos at a certain level, just continues to keep the extractive opportunities available to that private company that has a profit motive.” 

The Chinese have a long-term perspective on engagement with African nations — and they want stability. “But underneath that plan, is an authoritarian model,” he said. “And an authoritarian model undermines the opportunities of the populations who are oppressed by that authoritarian model.” 

All told, Young believes the U.S. model is the clear winner and America is “naturally the sought-after partner.” 



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