Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin returned to the United States on Thursday after completing his first tour of the African continent as head of the Pentagon.
Austin began his tour in Djibouti, home to the main US military base on the African continent. There he met with the country’s leaders and the president of Somalia, whose forces, Austin said, made more progress against the al-Shabab terrorist group last year than in the previous five years combined.
Austin then went to Kenya and visited a base in Manda Bay, near the border with Somalia, where a terrorist attack in 2020 killed three Americans.
“The message here is very clear: the war on terror remains a priority on the US government’s agenda,” said Vincent Kimosop, policy analyst at Sovereign Insight.
The defense secretaries of the United States and Kenya signed a five-year security agreement to support joint efforts against their common terrorist threat.
Austin also pledged $100 million in support of security deployments in Kenya, as Kenya prepares to lead a multinational peacekeeping mission in Haiti to combat gang violence.
“Kenya is ready, Kenya is ready to lead that multinational peacekeeping force that is going to Haiti,” said Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Defense, Aden Duale.
Austin ended his trip on the west coast of Africa, becoming the first American secretary of defense to visit Angola. Officials from both countries hope that Angola will remove Russia as an arms supplier and opt for American-made weapons.
“Africa deserves better than foreigners trying to tighten their grip on this continent,” Austin said. “Africa deserves better than autocrats who sell cheap weapons, drive mercenary forces like the Wagner Group or deprive the hungry around the world of grain.”
Austin mentions military junta in Africa without mentioning Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali or Niger. It was his strongest comment since the military removed Niger’s elected president from power in July.
“When generals override the will of the people and put their own ambitions before the rule of law, security will suffer … and democracy will die,” Austin said. “The military exists to protect its people, not to challenge them. And Africa needs armies that serve its citizens and not the other way around.”
France decided this week to withdraw its military forces from Niger before the end of the year, and analysts said the United States could do the same if Niger’s army does not restore the elected government. of power.
“Niger has become a key hub for US and French counterterrorism operations in the region,” said Bill Roggio of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “And if it is, if it is cut, reduced or discontinued, there will be no other assets in the region available to the United States.”
Until now, the US has maintained its forces in Niger, but the Pentagon has refused to launch counter-terrorism operations with the Nigerien military.