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Optimizing Africa's Security Force Structures (Africa Security Brief, Number 13, May 2011)

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The most pressing challenges facing many African states are paramilitary threats that are beyond the ability of most police forces and frequently transcend national borders. Organized crime, rural banditry, piracy, local warlords, guerrillas, ethnic and religious violence, and extremist Islamist groups are just a few of an array of such threats. These paramilitary threats are growing in size and scope. Organized crime is increasingly linked to narcotics trafficking from South America through West Africa and from Asia through East Africa -- a trade now running in the tens of billions of dollars. Oil theft amounts to 10 percent of Nigerias total oil production. Moreover, illegal fishing costs the continent 1 billion annually. Illegal logging and mining, arms trafficking, and general smuggling further add to the dimension and complexity of these threats. Irregular forces include guerrillas fighting perceived disenfranchisement Darfur or injustice Niger Delta, for secession Angola, Senegal, or for other causes. They also comprise militias protecting territory and resources, private armies hired by illegal miners, loggers, and smugglers, and groups with no rational cause the Lords Resistance Army. There is also a growing problem of terrorism, including groups such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM and al Shabaab in Somalia, and efforts by international Islamist terrorist groups to establish themselves elsewhere in Africa. African security forces must be able to counter and defeat experienced, highly mobile, and well-armed irregular forces that are often tightly embedded with local communities. Security forces must be demonstrably competent and professional if they are to be accepted by local populations, whose support is indispensible to defeating irregular forces. Small units of balanced general purpose forces capable of conducting operations over dispersed territory without support are key to effective force design when facing irregular forces.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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