National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks to Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon earlier this year. Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm/Department of Defense
Dec. 14 (UPI) -- National Security Advisor John Bolton said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation that the U.S. has to readjust it's strategy for Africa regarding military and civilian aid with Chinese and Russian encroachment on the continent.
"ISIS, al-Qaida, and their affiliates all operate and recruit on the African continent, plotting attacks against American citizens and targets. Any sound U.S. strategy toward Africa must address this serious threat in a comprehensive way," Bolton said during the speech on Thursday.
"In 2017, China established a military base in Djibouti that is only miles from our U.S. base, Camp Lemonnier, which supports critical U.S. operations to counter violent terrorist organizations in East Africa," Bolton warned. Camp Lemonnier is the primary U.S. bases in Djibouti and one of the most important U.S. posts in the Horn of Africa.
The United States has accused China of using military-grade lasers from that base to affect the vision of U.S. military pilots. Bolton said that two pilots were injured in the attacks.
He cited the national security implications of Chinese and Russian trade routes and investment being funneled into Africa, and billions of dollars being invested as a dire threat to U.S. national security interests. He called for more direct investment as long as results for U.S. interests were met.
Bolton said the Chinese and Russians will move into the vacuum if the United States does not maintain a strong posture on the continent.
U.S. military involvement has received increased attention following the deaths of four U.S. special forces soldiers during an operation in Niger in October 2017 as part of an effort to locate a local ISIS leader.
Bolton cited the G5 Sahel Joint Force, a multinational security alliance that includes Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali, where ongoing insurgencies threaten regional and U.S. interests.
The statements follow an announcement that the U.S. is planning to draw down military assets, particularly Special Operations forces in the region.
Bolton noted that it has been difficult to get U.S. officials to focus on Africa during both Republican and Democratic administrations because of conflicting priorities, but that not focusing on the continent could lead to bigger problems in the future.
"Should this occur, the balance of power in the Horn of Africa -- astride major arteries of maritime trade between Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia -- would shift in favor of China. And, our U.S. military personnel at Camp Lemonnier could face even further challenges in their efforts to protect the American people," Bolton said.
In recent years, ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorists operating in Africa have increased the lethality of their attacks, expanded into new areas and repeatedly targeted U.S. citizens and interests.
In fact, in Fiscal Year 2017, the Department of State and USAID provided approximately $8.7 billion dollars in development, security and food assistance to Africa.
"Under our new strategy, we will also take several additional steps to help our African friends fight terrorism and strengthen the rule of law," Bolton said. "We will assist key African governments in building the capacity of partner forces and security institutions to provide effective and sustainable security and law enforcement services to their citizens."