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AFRICOM warns of growing Russian influence in Africa

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) seeks to strengthen stability in Libya and curb Russia’s efforts, based on its previous relations with Qaddafi family, to make arms supply contracts or build military bases in the region, the commander of AFRICOM, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, told lawmakers Thursday, adding Russia seems to have its sights set on areas that could give them an edge over U.S. allies.

“It’s, I think, clear that’s their strategy along the northern part of Africa, southern part of NATO, the Mediterranean, to have influence inside of Libya, for example,” Waldhauser told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He asserted that AFRICOM is engaged throughout the continent to encourage allies and partners, and strengthen the rule of law.

Waldhauser added that AFRICOM’s new strategy focuses on six key areas related to strengthening and developing security capabilities, especially in Somalia, and supporting partners in the Lake Chad region.

Somalia is a good example of this. Yes, there is a military aspect to countering al-Shabab, Waldhauser said, but the command works closely in Mogadishu with the U.S. ambassador and the resident office of USAID.

He acknowledged the failure of U.S. air strikes in Somalia to defeat Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab and urged the Somali army to take more responsibility in the fight.

Waldhauser said a whole-of-government approach is the centerpiece for everything the command does on the continent. Command officials work closely with colleagues in the State Department and the Agency for International Development.

“U.S. strategic interests on the continent cannot be solely advanced through the use of military force alone,” he said. “As such, AFRICOM uses the military tool in concert with diplomacy and development efforts to help negate the drivers of conflict and create opportunity.”

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