Africa Command (AFRICOM), our geographic command that controls United States Forces in Africa (minus Egypt, which is in CENTCOM--Central Command), has Army forces throughout Africa working to improve African militaries in both military capabilities and in proper civil-military relations (no coups):
For American soldiers, the mission in Africa is a refreshing and welcome change from Middle East and Afghanistan deployments, said Army Col. Barry “Chip” Daniels, commander of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. The brigade was assigned to support Africa Command from January through September. Of the brigade’s 4,500 troops based in Fort Bliss, Texas, as many as 1,100 were deployed in Africa at one time, Daniels said during a meeting with reporters last week at the Pentagon.
“We did theater security cooperation across the continent. About 100 missions in 26 countries,” he said.
These engagements are nothing like the standard Army brigade deployment, Daniels said. For one, the teams bring a much lighter footprint than what the Army is accustomed to. Only one battalion of about 800 soldiers was in Djibouti for the entire nine-month tour. The rest of the brigade stayed back at Fort Bliss. “We would rotate small teams of three to 130 people to conduct theater security cooperation and exercises,” he explained. “They may go for a week to four months.”
This is pretty new for the Army. Traditionally, special forces and not regular units carried out training of other countries' troops. But our special forces are pretty engaged in the kinetic side of their skills portfolio in the war on Islamist terrorists.
So to help fill the gap--because you can't snap your fingers and quickly expand special forces enough while keeping them "special"--the Army has committed to the concept of Regionally Aligned Brigades, which commits units to specific regions. In this case, the third brigade of the 1st Armored Division.
So the troops fill in on the training role--and have a battalion for emergencies--across Africa. (And a Marine unit ashore in Spain has the same job at the northwest part of the continent.)
Ideally, we train African troops so they are effective enough to defeat threats to stability--and so preclude the need for foreign direct intervention to keep threats from rising against us, too.
And ideally these more effective African troops have leaders who won't use those military skills to set themselves up in the presidential compound outside of democratic processes.
As a benefit, we build relations with local forces and build up knowledge of the region in case the worst happens and we have to intervene.
It's also nice to read that despite the suspicion that greeted the creation of AFRICOM in 2007, countries have welcomed our deployments that come in, help out, and then leave.
UPDATE: This blew up big before. It could blow up again (tip to Instapundit):
Dissatisfied with Nigeria’s messy governance and the recent election of a Muslim president from the country’s north, the Igbo people are starting to talk again about reviving Biafra, the secessionist state that was repressed in a brutal civil war in the late 60s.
That kind of problem and intervention would not pass unnoticed.
So let's hope that low-key efforts can keep the place from blowing up.
Boko Haram would exploit that internal conflict. They're still a factor in Nigeria, recall.