America's increasing emphasis on counterterrorism could undercut democracy promotion there.
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The White House recently released its new Africa policy. The top two pillars -- support for democracy and economic growth -- remain the same from previous policy statements. The new policy reorganizes conflict prevention, presidential initiatives, and transnational issues to reflect increasing concerns over terrorism on the continent.
Nevertheless, recent comments by Africom's commander, General Carter Ham, that "countering the threats posed by al-Qaeda affiliates in east and northwest Africa remains my number one priority," underscores how U.S. foreign policy establishment priorities can occasionally be at odds.
For example, counterterrorism efforts, unfortunately, do not always complement democracy promotion. Take Mali. Alleged international terrorist training camps in that country have most certainly caught the attention of the American counterterrorism establishment. And yet, who will it partner with after the March 22 coup and Azawad's de facto independence (or as one interlocutor put it, "Azawad's occupation")? Should we collaborate with the military government, then how can we support the reestablishment of democracy?