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  • The US Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development? ed. by Jessica Piombo
  • Stephen Harmon
Jessica Piombo, ed. The US Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development? Boulder, Colo.: First Forum Press, 2015. xx + 265 pages. List of Acronyms. Map. Notes. Bibliography. Contributors. Index. $74.00. Cloth. ISBN: 978-162637-196-5.

Jessica Piombo’s useful volume on the U.S. military in Africa discusses its work across the divide separating development and security. Focusing on [End Page 254] the era of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), formed in 2007, the book questions the proper role of the U.S. military within the “whole of government” approach to security. Also called the “interagency” approach, it recognizes that good governance and development that addresses peoples’ needs are necessary, if not sufficient, conditions for establishing stability and security. The contributors identify what combination of civilian, military, and private programs can lead to outcomes that embrace all three aspects of the security-governance-development triad to reduce insecurities in sub-Saharan Africa. They assess the role of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as it adapts to initiatives beyond the functions of military training and provision of equipment for national security forces that form the basis of traditional security cooperation.

After an introduction by Piombo, the early chapters discuss the feedback loop among governance, security, and development. Some chapters are thematic, discussing such aspects as the military’s role in development, accountability, and security sector reform; others are case studies of specific programs in individual countries or subregions of the continent. Later chapters return to the thematic approach, discussing, for example, the role of civil society, making development assistance more effective, and integrating security and development.

In chapter 2 Andrea Talentino asks whether the military can adapt to the belief that development is a necessary condition for security. She warns that AFRICOM’s approach to development aims at meeting democracy markers, such as regular elections, rather than creating effective states that engage their populations. She questions whether development has been securitized, that is, bent to the priorities of security; or whether security has been developmentalized, that is, modified to promote the imperatives of development. Such questions, she argues, have dominated academic and practical discourse since the mid-1990s. The result has been the emergence of the security–development nexus, the link between improving the lives of local peoples and improving international security. She concludes, however, that after at first embracing the security–development nexus, AFRICOM, since coming under the leadership of General David Rodriguez in 2014, has moved away from development and from interagency coordination and now evaluates programs primarily on the basis of security priorities.

In chapter 3 Piombo discusses whether military interventions can achieve capacity-building and sustained development. She focuses on the different cultures in the military and in the civilian agencies such as the Department of State (DoS) and USAID, noting that development organizations distinguish between sustained economic development, which may reflect political priorities, and humanitarian aid, which must be politically impartial in order to protect aid workers in politically charged situations. The military, she claims, tends to blur the lines between economic development and humanitarian assistance. She also reviews the background of the DoD’s civil affairs division, which emerged during the Vietnam era but was [End Page 255] subsequently deemphasized in the wake of the post-Vietnam backlash against nation-building. But Afghanistan and Iraq have put the U.S. Army back in the business of nation-building with the deployment of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). She notes, however, that SSRT (Security, Stabilization, Transition, and Reconstruction) operations last longer than traditional “kinetic” operations and require their own training, often outside the purview of the military.

In chapter 4 Dustin Sharp analyzes the accountability of national security forces in Africa and their link to the security–development nexus. He argues that African security forces, especially in fragile states, can often become a source of instability through corruption, extortion, criminality, and human rights abuses. If violence perpetrated by the security forces goes unaddressed, an “accountability gap” appears, which leads to a culture of impunity. To forestall predation by security forces, security sector reforms, increasingly a...