AFRICOM Case Study: Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

August 2010
By Kerezhi Sebany, Africa Faith and Justice Network


The Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa was created by the US military in October 2002 at Camp Lejeune, N.C. with the intention to combat the spread of terrorism in the Horn of Africa region of the African continent. Comprising members of each branch of the US Armed Forces and civilian employees, the headquarters of CJTF-HOA was established at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti in December 2002. CJTF-HOA collaborates with the militaries of partner nations, training them to develop their own aptitude to counter violent extremism. The task force assumes responsibility for the total airspace and land areas of the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan. Additionally, other nations of interest are Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda. The Navy currently funds the bulk of CJTF-HOA's $80 million budget.

Current Policy:
With the creation of Africa Command (AFRICOM) in October 2008, CJTF-HOA officially fell under its control and has since then been regarded as the model for the integration of Defense, Diplomacy and Development efforts (what’s known as the “3D” approach). Consisting of approximately 1,800 personnel, CJTF-HOA justifies its presence by positing that it enables "African solutions to African challenges" through its friendships with partner nations. CJTF-HOA attempts to alleviate situations conducive to the breeding of extremist ideology, which is a threat to US national security. To accomplish this objective, CJTF-HOA’s duty has broadened to include creating long-term regional stability, preventing piracy, promoting tourism and short-term objectives of providing clean water, building schools and improving infrastructure, and now approximately 60 percent of the task forces.

1) A report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized CJTF-HOA for prevalent lack of ambiguity regarding its activities; furthermore, it cited CJTF-HOA’s inability to successfully function as a humanitarian entity due to inadequate knowledge and cultural sensitivity training, thus undermining its mission and compromising US credibility among locals.

2) The “hearts and minds” concept is not entirely convincing as locals are conscious of US objectives. Despite their gratitude for CJTF-HOA’s role in improving facilities, the people are not oblivious to the task force’s intention to gain their support and approval in armed campaigns.

3) By associating US national security interest with humanitarian efforts, CJTF-HOA jeopardizes aid delivery to conflict areas as the impartiality of humanitarian workers is uncertain.

4) CJTF-HOA’s training and equipping of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces as well as carrying out drone attacks against alleged terrorists serves as an impetus to embolden extremist groups such as al-Shabaab. By engaging in such activities, CJTF-HOA contributes to the instability plaguing the region and consequently antagonizes civilians.

1)    The delivery of aid and construction of facilities is the task of humanitarian agencies, not military units. Thus, the US should partner with such organizations and provide them with necessary logistical and monetary assistance.

2) CJTF-HOA should cease bankrolling and training military units guilty of human rights abuses; rather, security needs should be addressed through diplomatic means.