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Less is More: A New Strategy for US Security Assistance to Africa

Post-9/11, security sector assistance has been America’s default tool for combatting terrorism and instability in Africa. But the recent military takeover in Niger—the latest in a string of eight coups on the continent since 2020—is raising questions about that strategy moving forward.  

“The US approach to Africa today is neither effective nor sustainable. It’s time to flip the script,” the Council’s Elizabeth Shackelford, Ethan Kessler, and Emma Sanderson argue in a new report. “Rather than presume that security assistance will enhance stability and increase our influence, the US government should recognize that security assistance in the hands of weak, fragile, or illiberal states is innately risky. Accordingly, it should use security assistance sparingly and only after assessing that the benefits, should they be attainable, are likely to outweigh the long-term costs.” 

Read additional analysis and recommendations, along with related case studies on Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. 

The Data Dimension

Just how much does the United States spend on security sector assistance to African countries? Since the turn of the century, officials have directed $11 billion toward the continent, including $1.1 billion in 2016 alone.

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Ask an Expert

Where did the policy of nuclear sole authority come from? 

"headshot of Lama El Baz"“[After the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,] President Harry Truman ordered that no more atomic bombs be dropped without his express authority. He believed that nuclear weapons were political and therefore, should be controlled by a political office like the presidency, rather than the military. […] In recent years, some have called upon Congress to reconsider the nuclear chain of command and require presidents to consult with others before authorizing the use of nuclear weapons.” 

—Research Assistant Lama El Baz in Running Numbers​​​​​​

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About the Author
Communications Officer
headshot of Libby Berry
As the communications officer for the Lester Crown Center, Libby Berry works to connect audiences with foreign policy research and analysis.
headshot of Libby Berry