Week 6: The United States in Africa: from Aid to Anti-Terror

Emily McManus

This week we discussed US foreign aid in Africa and how it has evolved since 9/11 and created a greater focus on anti-terrorism. The first article, ‘Trojan Horses? USAID, counter-terrorism and Africa’s police’ speaks to the flawed policies of USAID and US national security objectives. The author, Alice Hill points out that the US is trying to appear as if they are “helping” and “developing” parts of Africa, however may have their own agenda for finding extremists and terrorists. The American government is using their “humanitarian” efforts to essentially gain control and to benefit their own national security. This is very sneaky, demeaning and insulting to the African people who are expecting neutral and objective aid, when it appears this is just a cover as the US prioritizes themselves and fights global terrorism.

The second article ‘Kenya, the United States, and Counterterrorism’ written by Jeremy Prestholdt, uses Kenya as a case study for the USAID’s presence in Africa and their agenda, similar to Hill’s article. Prestholdt criticizes the impacts of the US counterterrorism strategy, stating that “unless US policymakers and their African allies address the social tensions upon which counterterrorism is being grafted, security aid may produce few results beyond the alienation of Muslim communities and the empowerment of domestic security forces with greater martial resources” (p.3). Therefore, Prestholdt argues that the American agenda is creating more harm than good, because they are not present to help fix actual social problems, rather increasing violence and social tensions to capture a few extremists, sacrificing and violating a number of human rights in the process.

In the third article, ‘The Banana Theory of Terrorism: Alternative Truths and the Collapse of the ‘Second’ (Saharan) Front in the War on Terror’ by Jeremy Keenan, Keenan uses the USA-Algerian relations as a case-study exposing “alternative truths” within the Sub-Saharan war on terror. These three articles use different examples but all revolve around a main idea, that USAID is a selfish means for the US to gain military control over terrorist organizations by entering countries with the idea that they will be given aid and use this as a platform to pursue their own agenda.

Are we seeing both sides of this argument? It is easy to pin the USA as selfish with a hidden agenda, but are we overlooking the positive aid that has been provided? Or would these African countries be better off without USAID?

Would it be different if the US simply provided the training for local governments as opposed to offering their own troops? Or does the US have the right to be weary of training other militaries when it came back to bite them after their support of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war, pre-9/11?

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