Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD in the News

November 20, 2012

What Has the United States Already Tried in Mali? (The Christian Science Monitor)

Vice President of Programs and Senior Fellow Todd Moss and Visiting Policy Fellow Kate Almquist Knopf are quoted in an article by The Christian Science Monitor on US foreign policy in Mali.

From the article:

Since 2002, the US government has plowed at least $700 million in counterterrorism funding into Africa's Sahel, a large swathe of semi-arid territory on the southern edge of the Sahara desert. Mali was a key recipient, taking in approximately $60 million since 2002 from the US.

The money was supposed to boost the capacity of governments to respond to the challenges posed by terrorism and organized crime across the Sahel.

As the US mulls its position on military intervention in Mali and looks to continue shoring up other governments in the Sahel, the debate over how best to use aid in the region has grown sharper.

For Todd Moss at the Center for Global Development (CGD), the performance of the Malian army and the collapse of the Malian state is a “pretty big indictment” of US counterterrorism efforts there. Moss, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department from 2007 to 2008, wrote on CGD’s “Rethinking US Foreign Assistance Blog,” that the crisis in Mali “suggests that something is very wrong about the U.S. approach to counterterrorism cooperation in the Sahel.”

USAID officials told The Christian Science Monitor that counterterrorism programming in Mali is guided by the “widely recognized assumption” that “soft side inputs such as strengthening community capacity and addressing factors contributing to radicalization” are essential to effective counterterrorism.

These approaches are in fact “largely in sync with the level of scholarship on drivers of violent extremism that exists at this moment,” says Kate Almquist Knopf, who served as assistant administrator for Africa at USAID from 2007 to 2009 and is currently at the Center for Global Development in Washington.

However, Ms. Almquist Knopf, who describes herself as a “skeptic of the use of development programs to counter violent extremism,” also says that the scholarship is only one part of the equation. “Even when we know what the empirical evidence suggests – to whatever extent that it exists thus far – the challenge for managers and policymakers of these programs is translating that, practically speaking, into policies and programs that make sense.”

Read it here.

October 31, 2012

Vulnerable, Volatile Youth May Threaten Somalia's Fragile Stability; Radicalization Felt across Africa (Africa Center for Strategic Studies)

Visiting fellow Kate Almquist Knopf is quoted in a piece on youth in Somalia.

From the piece:

Over the past year, sustained military offensives by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force and the Somali government may have dealt a devastating blow to al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group that had controlled much of southern Somalia since late 2008. Recent elections that brought educator and activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to power have even ushered in hope that Somalia, long-considered the world’s most failed state, might finally be on the path to peace.

However, until the country finds a way to integrate and empower a generation of Somalis that has known only conflict, experts warn Somalia will remain fertile ground for youth recruitment and radicalization by terrorist and criminal organizations.

According to Kate Almquist Knopf, Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and an Adjunct Fellow at ACSS, African government agencies with the responsibility for youth empowerment often lack the resources necessary to fulfill their mandate. “In Africa, Youth Ministries often have the longest name but the smallest budget,” says Knopf, referring to the fact that these ministries often are responsible for youth, sports and culture. Knopf insists that youth-centric programming should not be confined to a single ministry but rather integrated into the mandates of a wide range of government departments.

Read it here.

September 13, 2012

Hopes High for Oil Restart as Sudans Return to Talks (MEES)

Visiting policy fellow Kate Almquist is quoted in an article from the Middle East Economy Survey on divisions between Sudan and South Sudan over oil revenues.

From the article:

Having originally been scheduled for 26 August, this latest round of African Union (AU) mediated talks between the two sides began on 4 September with the issues of border demarcation and security high on the agenda.

An interim deal on oil transit fees was reached early last month, but is yet to be finalized as both North and South Sudan feel an agreement on these issues is vital before Southern Sudanese oil can resume its flow through the North.

The division of oil revenues was one of the main issues left unresolved when the South broke away from Sudan in July 2011, taking with it around 75% of Sudan’s historical oil reserves (MEES, 9 July 2011). The two sides had since been locked in a bitter dispute which came to a head in late January, when the South shut down its 350,000 b/d or so of oil production following admissions from the Sudanese government that it had been seizing some of the South’s oil as it flowed through the North and on to Port Sudan for export.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 31 August urged the two sides to push on in their efforts to reach a permanent deal that could dramatically improve the deteriorating economic situation in both countries.

The UNSC has set a deadline of 22 September for the two sides to conclude all negotiations.

Yet despite the setting of this deadline, observers are on the whole pessimistic as to whether this timeframe is one the two sides will be able to work with. “I would be surprised if they manage to deal with all their unresolved issues by the UNSC deadline,” Kate Almquist, a visiting policy fellow with the Center for Global Development tells MEES. “This raises big questions about what the AU Security Council and the UNSC could do to further pressure the parties on both sides to resolve the outstanding issues.”

Read it here (subscription required).

August 29, 2012

Africa Doesn't Need the Pentagon's Charity - Why I'm Grumpy About DOD's Development Programs in Africa (

Kate Almquist writes about Department of Defense development programs in Africa for

The following op-ed originally appeared in

Kate Almquist is a visiting policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. Previously, Almquist served in various capacities at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) including as assistant administrator for Africa, Sudan mission director, deputy assistant administrator for Africa, and special assistant and senior policy advisor to the administrator.

In her recent Foreign Policy column, "The Pivot to Africa," Rosa Brooks made a plea for letting go of comfortable old assumptions about roles and missions between the civilian and non-civilian sides of the US government, particularly when it comes to US civil-military cooperation in Africa. My plea is for an evidence-based discussion of US development policy and its intersection with US national security.

US interests will be ill-served if we merely move from comfortable old (and false) assumptions about poverty and terrorism in Africa to comfortable new (and equally false) assumptions about "whole-of-government responses" to complex challenges. While the United States should of course think and work creatively, skepticism and, dare I say, opposition, from civilian agencies to AFRICOM taking on non-traditional military roles is not rooted in turf battles but in legitimate concerns about efficiency and results.

In terms of comfortable old assumptions about poverty and terrorism, the reality is far more complex than "poverty breeds terrorism." We know from empirical research that underlying "root causes"--socioeconomic, political, and cultural drivers of violent extremism--are important.

However, their salience varies greatly from one situation to another, their role is more often indirect than direct, and they are best understood in conjunction with other factors-- for example, the influence of a charismatic leader; the quest for dignity, recognition and respect; or a profound sense of marginalization and victimization.

If the Defense Department's humanitarian assistance in Africa is intended to prevent or counter threats to the United States from violent extremists, then these programs should be predicated on context-specific analysis of likely drivers of violent extremism and be independently evaluated to verify that the programs are effective. There is no evidence of either.

This has gotten lost in the rush to comfortable new assumptions about whole-of-government responses to complex challenges. AFRICOM was intended to be a new breed of geographic command: non-kinetic (no longer in the wake of the operation in Libya), whose primary objective would be to lend security sector support to diplomacy and development efforts to "prevent problems from becoming crises, and crises from becoming catastrophes."

Specifically, it "would help build the capacity of African countries to reduce conflict, improve security, deny terrorists sanctuary and support crisis response." Accordingly, interagency participation in the command (for instance, one of two deputy commanders would be a civilian) would ensure that its efforts supported US diplomacy and development efforts.

In other words, AFRICOM was intended to support civilian efforts to confront drivers of violent extremism, not to attempt to do so directly.

Unfortunately, AFRICOM's mission was muddled when it was launched in 2007 and remains muddled today. As Brooks writes:

"The Pentagon is right to see poverty, underdevelopment, disease, repression, human rights abuses, and conflict as likely drivers of future security threats to the United States. And if the Defense Department's job is to defend the United States, the mission must surely include preventing threats."

Yet the fact that "poverty, underdevelopment, disease, repression, human rights abuses, and conflict" persist in many African countries is the result of myriad factors. Their mere existence does not make any of them a driver of transnational violent extremism. Nor is it evidence that civilian-led development and diplomatic efforts in these regards have failed or that a void exists that the Defense Department (DOD) must step into.

At the time AFRICOM was announced, US development-related assistance to Africa totaled nearly $9 billion; security assistance amounted to $250 million, or 1/36th of non-security related assistance. The proportion is still roughly the same now. If we look more specifically at DOD's so-called humanitarian assistance in Africa--more or less what we call development assistance in the civilian world--it is not clear that the Defense Department even knows how much it is spending.

Through some budget sleuthing, it appears that AFRICOM spent around $150 million on development and health-related activities in FY2011; 87% of this was HIV/AIDS-related. That left $17 million in "humanitarian assistance" for countering the "likely drivers of future security threats to the US"--hardly an amount to get excited over, much less see lasting impact from. In contrast, USAID's Africa bureau alone programmed more than $4.1 billion in development assistance for FY2011. (This excludes food aid and emergency response programs; Millennium Challenge Corporation funds; and other State-funded, non-security sector programs.) The militarization of US aid to Africa is a myth.

What I found irksome about the discussion at the time AFRICOM stood up--and I still find irksome today--is the suggestion that USAID's initial grumpiness at spending staff time and program resources to help AFRICOM do work that it had minimal resources and no competency or experience to do was somehow a sign of being unreasonable, short-sighted, and turf conscious. The real root of this grumpiness came from understanding that "development is more than improvements in people's well-being: it also describes the capacity of the system to provide the circumstances for that well-being," to borrow some words from my colleague, Owen Barder. Development is not simply providing an input (digging a well or handing out used clothes) that improves a person's well-being for only as long as the assistance is provided.

Yet there is still little evidence that the Defense Department grasps that development is more than temporary fixes, much less that it understands how security and development intersect in specific situations. Introducing any resource into a resource-scarce environment is an inherently political act, affecting the haves and have-nots. The non-security sector programs DOD conducts are largely ad hoc and without regard for a broader development strategy or plan to support lasting change. In fact, they are explicitly intended to increase the visibility, access, and influence of DOD above all else.

While USAID is not a perfect agency when it comes to fostering development around the world, it is a serious professional institution with more than 50 years of development experience, lessons learned, expert staff, resources, and credibility with the peoples and governments where it works. In Africa, security is a pre-requisite for development; AFRICOM's role in helping to professionalize African militaries is vitally important to achieving US governance and development objectives there. DOD and USAID should be informed of the other's priorities and coordinate strategies and efforts where it makes sense; some organizational integration can help this. But that does not mean either should attempt to do the other's job.

Development done badly is not only a waste of taxpayer resources; it's harmful to the societies we're trying to assist and detrimental to the rest of the US government's development efforts--and, by extension, to our broader national interests. If development progress in Africa is important to our national security, then it's too important to leave it in the hands of newcomers without the knowledge, expertise, mandate, or resources to help promote it effectively. If that's what whole-of-government means, then we should expect outcomes that fall far short of our goals.

Read it here.