Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF), and a panel of experts on violent extremist organizations in Africa conducted a web event, “The crossroad of competition: Countering the rise of violent extremists and revisionist powers in Africa,” moderated by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Sept. 9.
“Anyone who deals with Africa, I think one of the quick frustrations is why does Africa matter and explaining, ‘why do we care?’” said Anderson in opening remarks. “Africa is providing [violent extremist organizations] that safe haven, that venue where they can establish themselves … that will give them resources to then carry out these attacks and then undermine the international order and attack the United States and Western allies and partners.”
After explaining more thoroughly how violent extremist organizations also exploit Africa for resources to fund their nefarious activities, Anderson was prompted to explain what SOCAF does in Africa:
“I think the biggest thing, as we look about our engagements across the continent, is we enable others. We enable our African partners to do more,” Anderson said. “Our security presence helps enable those other levers of government to come to bear and allows our international partners to also engage.”
Included in his response, Anderson touched on engaging with the Danab in Somalia to counter al-Shabaab and piracy, the work being done in West Africa, and providing training through the Flintlock exercise.
“Flintlock is our annual exercise that we do as a special operations exercise,” Anderson said of the event that provides training for units from nearly a dozen West African countries. “We had Japan come and observe, we had Brazil come and observe, because they understand the threat that terrorism brings to the global order in Africa.”
The full transcript and video of the event can be found here, which included further expert analysis, questions and answers from the panelists, to include:
Joining the conversation were Frederick W. Kagan, director, Critical Threats Project, AEI; Andrew Lebovich, policy fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations; Mark Mitchell, former principal deputy assistant secretary for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Department of Defense; Katherine Zimmerman, resident fellow, AEI; and moderator: Emily Estelle (moderator), research manager, Critical Threats Project, AEI.