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African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA)

The Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program is a US Department of State funded and managed initiative designed to improve African militaries' capabilities by providing selected training and equipment required to execute multinational peace support operations. US Africa Command (AFRICOM) supports the ACOTA program by providing military mentors, trainers, and advisors at the request of the State Department. ACOTA provides a full range of peacekeeping training and instruction tailored to match a country's needs and capabilities. The program focuses on sub-Saharan African soldiers from partner nations who are scheduled to participate in a peace support operation or who are designated to be in a standby mode to do so.

ACOTA benefits its partners by: training African soldiers on topics including convoy escort procedures, refugee management, and small-unit command skills; overseeing exercises for battalion, brigade, and multinational force headquarters personnel; providing equipment to partner nations, including mine detectors, field medical equipment, uniforms, and water purification devices; conducting refresher training periodically to ensure that trained units maintain their capabilities; and training African trainers who in turn train their own nations soldiers in peacekeeping skills.

Under the Bush Administration in 2004, the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) was transformed into a new program called the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA). The program had a growing record of supporting African militaries that had afterwards participated in peacekeeping or peace support activities throughout the continent. It was funded by the Department of State peacekeeping operations account, which was not affected by the American Servicemembers' Protection Act legislation. The Bush Administration sought $24 million in FY04 under the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) for Africa programs, compared with an $40 million requested in FY03. In FY04, ACRI was succeeded by ACOTA, which would focus on training trainers and on programs tailored to individual country needs.

In 2007, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was created, splitting the African contintent from the US European Command (EUCOM) area of responsibility. Subsequently, responsibility for ACOTA was transitioned from EUCOM to AFRICOM. Between 2004 and 2008, ACOTA trained approximately 45,000 African soldiers and 3,200 African trainers,, who had supported deployments to peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Darfur, Somalia and Lebanon. Rwanda was a prime illustration of ACOTA's success. Its forces in Darfur were recognized as a capable and highly affective military unit, due in large part to ACOTA training. Additionally, nearly all new Rwandan peacekeeping forces were indigenously trained by ACOTA-trained instructors.

As of 2008, ACOTA's immediate goal was to support the establishment of the African Union's (AU) African Standby Force/Brigades by June 2010. In the near-term, the number of ACOTA partners was expected to rise as the demand for African peacekeeping missions increased. In addition, ACOTA had a long-term objective to assist the AU, the REC brigades, and individual Troop Contributing Countries in its peacekeeping operations for as long as it is needed.

As of 2012, ACOTA had facilitated the deployments of roughly 20 African battalions annually and helped them build peacekeeping training capacity. The importance of the program was evident in its wide acceptance from its 25 participating nations, its ongoing support by the US State Department, and by the budgetary increases it has received from the US.Congress over the years. Between 1997 and 2012, the US had provided training and non-lethal equipment to more than 215,000 peacekeepers from African partner militaries in 238 contingent units as part of the ACRI and ACOTA programs.

As of 2012, ACOTA's 25 partners included Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. These partners had sent peacekeeping contingents to varied missions such as Sudan (AMIS, UNAMID, UNMIS and UNMISS), Sierra Leone (ECOWAS and UNAMSL), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC/MONUSCO), Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic (MISAB, MINURCA, MICOPAX, and MINURCAT), Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE), Cote dIvoire (ECOWAS and UNOCI), Liberia (ECOWAS and UNMIL), Burundi (OMIB and ONUB), Kosovo (UNMIK), Lebanon (UNIFIL), Somalia (AMISOM), Chad (MINURCAT II), and humanitarian relief efforts in Mozambique.




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