Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI)
Under the Bush Administration, the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) was transformed into a new program in 2004 called the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA).
The Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) was a US State Department managed, Defense Department supported training initiative. ACRI was intended to enhance the capacity of selected African militaries to respond effectively to peacekeeping or humanitarian relief operations on the continent. ACRI's emphasis was on training based on a common peacekeeping doctrine and the supply of interoperable communications equipment, which would enable the units to work together more effectively. ACRI had a long-term objective to train up to 12,000 military personnel.
Headed by the US State Department Special Coordinator for ACRI, the initiative sought to promote common doctrine, interoperability, and standard communications technology among African forces. While ACRI encouraged joint training exercises between African forces to hone their capacity to respond in emergency situations, ACRI was not designed to create a standing force. Peacekeepers from a number of African nations would stand ready in their nations of origin for rapid deployment to areas of crises as needed. Deployment of ACRI-trained troops was a sovereign decision of the ACRI partner in response to a request from international political entities such as the United Nations (UN) or the African Union (AU), or a sub-regional organization such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ACRI-trained troops could also deploy as part of a multinational coalition force for peacekeeping.
As Executive Agent for ACRI, US European Command (EUCOM) was responsible for the development of the military aspects involved in establishing and maintaining the concept. EUCOM was supported in this role by the US Central Command (CENTCOM), US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), US Atlantic Command (LANTCOM; later redesignated as Joint Forces Command or JFCOM), and US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). US forces conducting ACRI battalion-level training came under the operational control of the Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). ACRI training was largely conducted by soldiers deployed from the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
During initial battalion training, US Army instructors trained African soldiers in highly professional interoperable program of instruction in peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations. The ACRI program, for both initial and follow-on training, exposed the host military to the full range of peacekeeping tasks authorized under chapter 6 of the UN Charter, from convoy escort, logistics, and protection of refugees, to negotiations and command and control. Conducted by US Army instructors, the initial training included instruction in military operational skills, command and staff operations, and computer-simulated exercises. Observance of human rights, issues of humanitarian law, negotiation and mediation, and other humanitarian concerns relevant to peacekeeping are interwoven into the training program. ACRI increased both the level and character of involvement of non-governmental, private voluntary and international organizations in ACRI training in order to increase African peacekeepers' capacity to respond to complex humanitarian emergencies.
A series of 4 follow-on events offered a mix of commuter assisted exercises, refresher as well as battalion staff training activities. Follow-on training begins 6 months after initial training, and continued every 6 months for 2 and a half years. This allowed a progressive building-block process focused on commanders and staff at all levels, and was based on the "train the trainer" concept, combining classroom instruction, field training, and computer-assisted simulation.
As part of a comprehensive policy review undertaken by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, International Security Affairs/Africa worked on a transition plan graduating the program into a viable security tool for the US Government. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa and the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa were working toward an organizational change for ACRI that would meet the objectives of both departments.
ACRI was established in 1997, with training conducted in Senegal and Uganda in late July 1997 following the arrival of about 120 US soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Group and XVIII Airborne Corps, both of Fort Bragg, North Carolina; US Army, Europe (USAREUR); and SOCOM. US special forces trained African military forces to respond within 30 days to a contingency, humanitarian or peacekeeping related. The American teams started 60-day training programs on 1 August 1997 for about 750 host nation soldiers in each country. Later in 1997, US teams were scheduled to train similar forces in Malawi, Ethiopia and Mali. The US training teams used peacekeeping doctrine based on international standards. Training each battalion was expected to cost the United States about $3 million, including $1 million in mainly non-lethal US equipment, primarily communications gear such as hand-held radios.
Approximately 70 soldiers from the US Army's 3rd Special Forces Group headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, accompanied by a Belgian military training element, along with US support troops deployed on 1 April 1998, to begin training a battalion-size unit in Ghana. Other African nations that had joined the US in an ACRI partnership included: Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Mali and Ethiopia. Since the ACRI training program began in July 1997, the 3rd Special Forces Group had trained forces in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, and Mali.
Initial training had been scheduled for October 2000 in Kenya. ACRI has conducted battalion follow-on training for Senegal, Ghana, Uganda, Malawi and Mali. Future follow-on training was scheduled for all ACRI partner nations. Initial and follow-on training in Ethiopia had been deferred until resolution of the Ethiopian/Eritrean conflict. Follow-on training in Uganda and Cote d' Ivoire had also been placed on hold due to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the case of the former, and a coup, the case of the latter. Between July 1997 and 2001, ACRI conducted battalion initial training in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Benin. Up to that point, ACRI had provided training and non-lethal equipment to almost 6,000 peacekeepers from seven African militaries.
As part of ACRI, USEUCOM also provided tailored packages of equipment and trainers for brigade-level training in the area of responsibility, as evidenced by the first-ever brigade training event conducted in Senegal between 11 September and 2 November 2000. Brigade-level training provided for sub-regional command and control structures. Brigade staff training was to follow in Kenya in April 2001. The 509th Signal Battalion, out of Vicenza, Italy, observed Senegalese communications soldiers as they setup and aligned a mobile satellite telephone antenna during a field training exercise. Two mobile SATCOM phones were provided to participating African countries as non-lethal equipment under the ACRI. A medical readiness training exercise (MEDRETE) was part of a culminating practical application exercise for Senegalese medical troops participating in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance training.
In support of the program's objectives, ACRI expended $15 million in FY97 and $22 million in FY98. ACRI expended approximately $18 million for FY99, $20 million for FY00 and FY01 and requested an additional $20 million for FY02. The Bush Administration sought $24 million in FY04 under the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) for Africa programs, compared with an $40 million requested in FY03. Support for ACRI came from the PKO program. In FY04, ACRI was to be succeeded by the Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA), which would focus on training trainers and on programs tailored to individual country needs. Foreign Military Financing resumed in FY99 and would rise from $18.5 million to $23 million under the FY04 request. International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs in Africa were aimed at promoting professionalism and respect for democracy and human rights, while enhancing capabilities for participation in peacekeeping operations. These programs usually ran well under $1 million per country, although Senegal was slated for $1 million in under the FY04 request and South Africa, would receive $1.6 million. Overall, IMET would rise from $11.1 million to $12.5 million under the FY04 request.
The United States contributed to United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa and elsewhere through a program entitled Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA). Funds for CIPA were appropriated in the legislation that funds the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, rather than in the Foreign Operations appropriation, which governed foreign assistance. CIPA for Africa had increased significantly in FY02 due to US support for UN peacekeeping in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Stabilization in Sierra Leone brought a subsequent reduction in this program. Still, between 1997 and 2004, ACRI was put to good use. An ACRI-trained battalion from Mali deployed to Sierra Leone as part of the ECOWAS peacekeeping force. Soldiers from Ghana were also involved in that operation. ACRI-trained troops from Benin were deployed as a part of an ECOWAS-approved peacekeeping force in Guinea-Bissau and Senegalese soldiers were engaged under the UN mission in the Central African Republic.
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