Week in Review - December 12, 2014

Middle East and North Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Latin America and the Caribbean
Central Eurasia

Latin America

  • Eight members of Honduras’ “elite” U.S.-supported TIGRES special police were implicated in the theft of more than $1 million dollars from a stash of illicit profits. The money was discovered during an October raid that resulted in the arrests of two members of the powerful Valle Valle crime clan, but the officers under-reported the seizure and kept some of the haul for themselves. They were found out after spending lavish sums on prostitutes, cars and homes and bragging on social media about their new wealth. For more information on the Unites States’ security relationship with Honduras read the Security Assistance Monitor’s country profile on Honduras here.
  • A new report from The New York Times details the rise of the drug trade in the Amazon city of Manaus, Brazil. The rise in violence is likely rooted in a turf war between two powerful crime groups, the First Capital Command, a prison gang with origins in the urban southeast, and the Familia do Norte, the traditional crime lords in the rural north. This report is evidence of a larger pattern of the expansion of the drug trade and associated criminal activities in northern Brazil.
  • InSight Crime released its first “Latin America Crime and Corruption Index” compiling an “assessment of organized crime's earning power and ability to corrupt elements of the state.” Mexico, Colombia and Honduras - all large recipients of U.S. security assistance - topped the list, followed by Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, Paraguay and Argentina. The organization also highlighted data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project showing citizens’ perceptions of insecurity are on the rise throughout the region.


Middle East and North Africa

  • Military officials announced that 1,500 additional trainers for Iraqi forces have been promised by allied countries, but declined to disclose the specific countries contributing advisors. The current U.S. training of Iraqi pilots on F-16 fighter jets in the United States are at least two years away from being approved for combat according to U.S. trainers. Meanwhile, China’s foreign minister reportedly pledged to assist Iraq in its fight against ISIL with airstrikes, though any cooperation with Iraq would be outside of the U.S.-led international coalition.
  • At the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) annual summit held in Doha, Qatar, the group announced the establishment of a joint military command based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that will be modeled on NATO’s rapid deployment force. This joint military command will be accompanied by two other new GCC forces, a joint naval force based in Bahrain as well as an Interpol-like police force called GCC-POL to be based in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond unveiled an agreement with Bahrain to build the first permanent British military base in the Middle East in forty years. The new base will be positioned adjacent to the U.S. Naval Support Activity Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and will cost roughly $23 million to build.
  • If Congress passes the spending bill, the $1.3 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt would likely be released despite concerns over the country’s human rights record. Israel would maintain its annual $3.1 billion in military aid, but would include a large increase in funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system. And Jordan would receive increased U.S. aid for not less than $1 billion to Jordan under the Economic Support Fund (ESF) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) Program.


Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Kenya’s security forces faced renewed criticisms for alleged human rights abuses.  Al Jazeera reported on Kenyan “Death Squads,” where officers from four counterterrorism units admitted that police forces regularly assassinate suspects on government orders. Kenyan President Kenyatta adamantly denies the program. These Kenyan police forces argue that Kenya’s judiciary is too weak, as terror suspects are rarely convicted and too often post bail, which in turns necessitates the practice. In a separate piece, Al Jazeera argued that Kenya’s practice of extrajudicial killings is hardly new, having been a regular tactic over decades. Al Jazeera traced Kenya’s practice in targeted killings back to the early 1990s and is deeply entrenched in the Kenyan police system.
  • According to Business Daily Africa, senior Kenyan Internal Security ministry officials used a secret account at the National Bank of Kenya to steal Sh2.8 billion, or roughly $30.9 million, of taxpayer funds. The money apparently disappeared into a slush fund for purposes marked “confidential.” President Kenyatta has in the past acknowledged that corruption has plagued Kenya’s development, but this latest corruption scandal coincides with a report by The Guardian arguing that “endemic fraud,” particularly of Kenyan security officials and police willing to accept bribes from terrorists is costing Kenyans their lives.


Central Eurasia

  • The Assistant Secretary of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal stated that “the United States has and will continue to support Uzbekistan, and a leadership that Uzbekistan has provided in the region,” during her visit to the Central Asian country. The Assistant Secretary linked that leadership to increased security for both Central Asia and the United States. In addition to leadership in the region, the Assistant Secretary explained that the U.S. works with Uzbekistan to develop good governance, the rule of law, and respect for rights.
  • The Senate passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 (S. 2828), which would authorize the provision of lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons. The bill requires the president to submit a report on the anticipated defense articles and training to be provided to Ukraine after the law’s enactment. If it becomes law, the bill would authorize $100 million in spending on military assistance to Ukraine for Fiscal Year 2015 and a total of $250 million in military aid for Ukraine in FY 2016 and FY 2017. Other provisions of the bill include additional sanctions on Russian officials and increased spending on measures to “counter Russian Federation propaganda.”
  • The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report on elements of the U.S.-funded reconstruction effort in Afghanistan that are “especially vulnerable to significant waste, fraud, and abuse.” Corruption and a failed $7.8 billion counternarcotics effort in the country were both listed as factors increasing the risk that reconstruction will be unsuccessful. Inspector General John Sopko also argued in recent remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that continued aid should be contingent on “Afghanistan’s commitment to allow U.S. auditors to be stationed at ministries receiving substantial aid.”