Week in Review - December 5, 2014


Sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Kenya is in the midst of what African Argument’s Jeremy Lind calls a “security meltdown.” According to The East African, Kenya is bearing the brunt of terrorism in East Africa, due to its underfunded and ineffective security forces. However, other analysts argue Kenya’s security forces have grown more specialized and efficient and their methods more extreme resulting in the increased radicalization among those affected. Al-Shabaab continues to target Kenyan security forces and citizens, such as the recent attack at a mine where the militants divided workers by religion and murdered 36 Christians. Facing intense pressure and criticism, President Kenyatta fired and replaced his interior minister and police chief, stating “we will not flinch in war against terrorists.” In addition, the president announced new security laws, including indefinite detention of suspected terrorists.
  • Nigeria is demanding the United States halt training a battalion of soldiers after the United States refused to sell Nigeria helicopter gunships. In response, Nigeria plans to purchase one to two squadrons of the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17 fighters. In the face of ongoing attacks from Boko Haram, a five country coalition of African countries formed to coordinate operations against the terrorist group. Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad, and Benin have all signed onto the alliance.
  • The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its first attempt to comprehensively map foreign military interventions and sales on the African continent. Focusing on China, France, Russia, U.K., U.S., E.U., and the U.N., the report found increasing instances of these powers advancing their interests. SIPRI’s analysis of these actors’ activities  in Africa shows an increasing use of multilateral approaches, support for the “Africanisation” of African security and the privatisation of foreign security support. For instance, Russia announced a plan to boost military ties with Sudan while Brazil is planning a naval mission in São Tomé and Príncipe.


Latin America:

The case of the missing students has sparked widespread outrage (Photo Credit: Reuters)

  • Following weeks of widespread, sometimes violent protests across Mexico, the federal government has proposed a set of reforms to the police and judicial system, promising to reduce the violence and corruption that brought many of the demonstrators into the streets. Included in the package are plans to essentially outlaw public protests and to dissolve ineffective or corrupt municipal governments and police forces in order to replace them with state or federal forces. The United States has pledged $68 million over the next five years to help shore up the Mexican judicial system, but many experts have voiced concerns about the feasibility of these plans.
  • Peace talks between the FARC rebel group and the Colombian government restarted following the release of an army general captured by the guerilla group last month. The general’s capture caused the government to suspend negotiations until his release. The FARC have indicated to President Juan Manuel Santos that they wish to discuss a “de-escalation” of the decades-long conflict to help prevent similar disruptions to the negotiations in the future. However, many concerns remain about the peace process, which is viewed with skepticism by a large majority of Colombia’s citizens.
  • The Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University released its biannual report on public opinion in Latin America. The findings indicated increasing concerns among citizens about insecurity in the region and noted that average faith in the court system has fallen to its lowest level in ten years. Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Haiti and Mexico, respectively, had the region’s least-trusted police forces.


Central Eurasia:

  • NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai met with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and several other high-ranking Georgian government officials in Tbilisi. They discussed the implementation of the ‘substantive package’ of cooperation that Georgia was promised at the NATO Summit in September. The main element of the cooperation package is a joint NATO-Georgia training center to be established at an undetermined location within the country. NATO and Georgian officials have yet to decide what kind of training the center will provide, what kind of military units will receive training, or “how [the center] will be integrated into Georgia’s own requirements.”
  • U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki stated during a press briefing that the U.S. government is “increasingly concerned that the Government of Azerbaijan is not living up to its international human rights commitments and obligations.” Last week, an Azerbaijani Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent was briefly detained and a court in the capital of Baku decided to send another RFE/RL journalist named Khadija Ismayilova to pre-trial detention for two months. The court’s decision came after Azerbaijan's Presidential Chief of Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev accused Ismayilova of treason and called RFE/RL's employees spies.  
  • According to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration plans to keep extra troops in Afghanistan next year on a temporary basis. These additional troops are separate from the previously announced force of 9,800 set to remain in Afghanistan in accordance with the planned drawdown. Discussions about troop commitments from NATO allies for the upcoming training support mission, named Operation Resolute Support, are ongoing. U.S. officials stated that the extra U.S. troops are necessary due to the inability of some NATO allies to meet their targets for troop contributions.


Middle East & North Africa:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes the Defense Department’s activities for Fiscal Year 2015. The House-passed version of the NDAA authorized the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) and the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund. Part of ITEF will support the Kurdish U.S. delivers 10 Apache Helicopters to Egypt (Photo Credit: defenseWeb)Peshmerga and Sunni Anbar tribal forces, but this has come under scrutiny for its potential to reinforce sectarian divides. Additionally, Sunni Anbar tribal leaders have expressed a reluctance to work with the United States, fearing that the Iraqi government’s “racing towards America is the result of other interests” that will harm the tribes. Meanwhile, in an effort to correct the corruption of the previous administration, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi “retired” at least 24 senior military officials after an Iraqi government reportuncovered tens of thousands of “ghost soldiers” collecting pay without actually working.
  • The Egyptian Air Force (EAF) announced that it received ten U.S. Apache helicopters that the U.S. State Department had suspended in October 2013 pending democratic reforms in the country. The delivery comes after Egyptian security forces have moved to refer civilians to military courts after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a law allowing military courts to try civilians who target “public” or “vital” facilities.
  • The House also passed legislation that allows the Defense Department to deliver surplus military equipment to Israel as well as other measures aimed at strengthening the Israeli-American strategic relationship. Meanwhile, the Israeli government announced that it would reduce the number of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters for procurement in the next few years from 50 to 33. Israel pays for the aircraft package, worth $2.8 billion, through the $3.1 billion in military aid the U.S. gives to Israel annually.