US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (David Buimovitch / AFP)
WASHINGTON — Washington does not intend to engage in Africa militarily to resolve the continent’s conflicts but is boosting efforts to train peacekeepers, a senior US official said Wednesday.
Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, made the comments just days before almost all of Africa’s leaders descend on the US capital for an unprecedented summit.
“Contrary to some claims, the United States is not looking to militarize Africa or maintain a permanent military presence,” Rice said at the United States Institute of Peace.
“But we are committed to helping our partners confront transnational threats to our shared security.”
The Monday to Wednesday meeting will attract some 50 African leaders — almost all of them, apart from Western pariah figures like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Eritrea’s Issaias Afeworki.
Rice, in her speech, referred to kidnappings and bombings by Boko Haram Islamists, the Nigeria mall attack by Shebab rebels and how Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb controls parts of Mali.
“That is why we are stepping up our efforts to train peace keepers who are professional and effective forces who can secure the region and by extension the global community against terrorist threats,” she added.
Since Obama took office, the United States has contributed close to $9 billion to United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, Rice said.
And, she added, it has trained almost a quarter of a million peacekeepers from 25 difference African countries since 2005.
“We are committed to making sure that African peacekeepers have the capacity to deploy quickly ... in order to save lives and help avoid costlier international interventions down the line,” Rice said.
Very reticent when it comes to all direct military engagement in Africa, the Obama administration is pushing the region’s countries and institutions, such as the African Union, to set up peacekeeping forces for conflicts such as those in the Central African Republic, South Sudan or Somalia.