5 Positive Points and 5 Critical Questions on the US Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability Part (2)

Mekki ELMOGRABI is a press writer on African affairs and a former diplomat in Washington DC.
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In April 2022, the US has taken a major step forward in the spirit of partnership with Africa and the Third World to implement the “US ten-year Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.”

Pilot countries selected under the strategy include Haiti, Libya, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and a group of West African coastal countries including Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo.

The strategy is based on the Global Fragility Act of 2019, which emphasizes preventing conflict and promoting stability to break the cycle of costly fragility in some parts of the world.

Question 1) How does the United States respond to negative impacts on selected countries from neighboring or regional countries that are not part of “Phase 1” implementation of the strategy?

US administration has chosen Haiti, Libya, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and five countries in the Coastal West Africa region (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo) to implement the ten-year U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.

Having that terrorism and violent extremism are motivated by “Push Factors” within the country, community, and the local environment, and “Pull Factors” such as regional and international terror networks and extremist groups that might be out of the country and possibly very active in neighboring countries. The nine selected countries share the same tribes and ethnic groups as the neighboring countries which are not part of the first phase of the strategy. The most influential religious and tribal leaders in some cases could be in another country but they are still able to shake the political equation in one of the selected countries. 

The answer could be: No problem at all, counterterrorism measures are still valid and able to deal with pull factors. Yet, this answer applies to the cases of terrorist groups but not all cases.

The problem is that the USA will deal through prevention in an area and then after a few kilometers will shift to counterterrorism measures and possibly drop bombs while giving the same ethnic extension of the same tribe tons of USAID relief. How can the USA address this contradiction?

Question 2) How will the US respond to China and Russia’s strategies that contradict this strategy? They always succeed in finding their shortcuts to reach the Third World governments before the US.

Part of the new strategy is the tool of sanctions “unilateral or international” but other countries could veto the sanctions in international organizations and could use US’s economic absence – because of sanctions – to fill the vacuum and keep the US away.

Also, the US wants to enhance the private sector but other countries like China prefer to encourage the government to completely take over the economic decision to facilitate confidential clauses in their agreements and to limit the local private sector from competing Chinese companies? How the USA will deal with the active third parties and its local lobbies and groups? Conflicting big powers’ strategies could lead to fragility faster than before. The USA is not alone, in some parts of the continent, Russia and China can intervene more strongly than the USA. How can the USA make Africans choose the best choice without using sanctions against them because this will open doors for Russia and China?

Question 3) In some parts of the Third World, especially in Africa, local communities do not use modern ways of interacting to raise funds, apply for a job or gain support from the Western countries? They want the support but they think doing so is waste of time because Westerners choose their partners from their favorite westernized activists! How can the US develop new and investigative methods to map the real actors and reach them instead of opening opportunities at embassies and agencies, waiting for people to come and apply for grants?

Only a small part of African civil society knows how to access the US donation system, others think that big countries like the USA have the allies that will never change them while the official calls of opportunities – through embassies and agencies – are just for filling the gap of bureaucratic procedures. Some think the USA’s partners of the social liberties agenda – which is not that popular in local African communities – will remain the only channel to the USA and not the local and conservative leaders. How can the USA recruit the real local actors who are strongly needed for the success of the strategy? In other words, how can the US develop new and investigative methods to map the real actors and reach them instead of opening the applications system at embassies and agencies for NGOs that will be filled by activists who are good for urban communities which are already out of the center of extremism’s circle? How can the USA be balanced between westernized activists and local-oriented leaders or even anti-westernization? How can the USA avoid making the new strategy a process of re-packaging the old programs, funds, and even old partners?

Question 4) Things change quickly locally. How do U.S. officials and state actors empower people on the frontlines of implementation to act with no bureaucratic obstacles?

Some African countries pulled out from the path of democratization to military rule in months. Natural disasters just like lack of water can explode conflicts suddenly and some actors who are supporting the strategy of combating violent extremism can turn into fighters within days, the yesterday’s fighters can turn into victims. Having that in reality, how can bureaucratic complicated steps make it possible for US agencies to adapt the programs and policies fast? Why didn’t the strategy task force discuss a wider mandate for people who are on the front line of implementation? It is a bipartisan strategy, which is a good thing but is it necessary to be updated only by legislators within bipartisan work or there is room for keeping the head titles and changing the subtitles?

In contrast, China and Russia can make their shifts on the ground and respond to the changes faster because they can do that without waiting for multi-party debate and multi-level approval like the USA.

Question 5) How does the US prevention strategy protect itself from the threats it will face inside the US? From whom and why?

US administration, the related agencies, and the preventive strategy’s supporters are not alone in the US political arena. The pressure groups are calm now and the atmosphere of bipartisanship is dominating over this topic but not all other issues.

The media could explode it “Americans are targeted in countries benefit from prevention strategy more than countries that out of the strategy”. They might pick one incident of terrorism in one of the selected nine countries of the strategy and launch a campaign. Other big players in the world are not happy with American successful bipartisan efforts. They might use their cyber power to influence the US to divert the wheel away from the strategy. In an event related to the strategy, one of the audience criticized the strategy for not containing the word “Gender” in its text.

Others might judge the strategy by not stating things related to sexual orientations. It is still possible the strategy faces more criticism and “the external third party” might use these internal American disputes to push the strategy to the water edge and beyond.

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