Counterterrorism Takes All
By Cassidy Regan on 03/29/2012 @ 10:00 AM
A quick look at this year’s budget requests reveals some alarming trends when it comes to U.S. policy toward Kenya. Rather than emphasizing peace and conflict prevention, this year’s funding focuses much more on counterterrorism and military assistance – an approach that could undermine stability in the long-term.
While the majority of U.S. assistance to Kenya focuses on important civilian programs that could help lay the foundation for peace – such those related to health and education – very few funds are specifically dedicated to the account titled “peace and security,” whose programs may more immediately address potential violence. And within that tiny allocation, the funds directed toward conflict prevention and reconciliation (rather than counterterrorism and military initiatives) are, as of now, next to nothing.
In this year’s budget – including what I initially found in the State Department, USAID, and the Department of Defense’s requests – funding for Kenya appears in a number of different security accounts:
- Antiterrorism Assistance Program: $5 million
- Foreign Military Financing: $1.096 million
- Counterterrorism Financing: $850,000
- International Military Education and Training: $750,000
- International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement: $500,000
- Export Control/Border Security: $300,000
TOTAL: $8.496 million (not including other accounts mentioned below)
Aside from the funds that have already been assigned to specific countries, Kenya and East Africa are also noted as major beneficiaries of some broader counterterrorism programs (which haven’t been divided yet):
- Countering Violent Extremism Program: Kenya is highlighted as one five priority countries, along with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Algeria, and Pakistan
- Terrorist Interdiction Program: Kenya is mentioned as a key partner for decreasing vulnerability to terrorist travel
- Partnership for Regional East African Counterterrorism: Kenya is a likely participant in this initiative, described in the past as the “framework” for AFRICOM’s work in the Horn of Africa (AFRICOM is the controversial command for U.S. military operations and relations on the African continent, established in 2007 and located in Germany)
- Department of Defense “program growth” request*: $9.865 million for “global training and equipment” for initiatives in Yemen and East Africa
*Though it’s difficult to find a country-by-country breakdown for the Pentagon’s budget, it’s likely that additional funds will come from the Defense Department’s foreign assistance allocations (as they have in past years).
Meanwhile, a quick comparison to what I found focused specifically on peace and violence prevention reveals cause for concern:
- Office of Transition Initiatives: Notes Kenya as a country in which work is underway to promote greater transparency, community leadership, and strategically targeted assistance to national recovery efforts
- Program area of “Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation”: One mention of Kenya as a country of focus
TOTAL: Unknown (no dollar requests for Kenya noted, as of now)
While the country-specific appropriations haven’t been determined for these peacebuilding accounts as of yet, the number of mentions in these programs as compared to those focused on counterterrorism and military assistance is disheartening. Though some of the counterterrorism initiatives mentioned here include a focus on providing alternatives to violence or on strengthening civil society’s preventive efforts, most emphasize finding and thwarting extremists – and, more specifically, training and providing materials to foreign military and law enforcement to do so.
One silver lining is the significant increase in funds dedicated to just governance, which makes for a total of $14.4 million and indicates a commitment to supporting reform. Unfortunately, though, the U.S. has a long history of allowing short-term emphasis on “catching the bad guys” to obscure that long-term goal most effective in countering extremism: a peaceful, just society. As long as the U.S. places abundant focus on capturing terrorists, it risks losing sight of – and allowing its assistance and support to perpetuate – the larger systems from which extremism can arise.
According to some of those I’ve spoken with in Nairobi and the Rift Valley, examples of this have already arisen in the Kenyan context. Despite widespread human rights abuses by Kenya’s police forces and government resistance to related reform, the U.S. continues to invest much of its counterterrorism assistance in law enforcement – without holding Kenya’s leaders accountable for past violations. And despite many concerns about how Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia might further radicalize the region (and distract from other important political issues, such as corruption and land inequity), the U.S. recently expressed support for the action and commitment to providing additional bilateral assistance to Kenya’s military.
Over the upcoming year, the U.S. – a key economic and political partner – can play an important role in pressing the Kenyan government to respond to the needs of its citizens and to support their efforts toward peace. But if this budget provides any indication of what the U.S. intends to prioritize, the risk is high that military means will take precedence over peace.