U.S. to spend up to $550 mln on African rapid response forces

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The United States announced yesterday plans to spend $110 million a year over the next three to five years to help African nations develop peacekeeping forces that can be rapidly deployed to head off militant threats and other crises.

President Barack Obama unveiled the program during the third day of a summit of African heads of state in Washington, along with another U.S. plan to spend an initial $65 million to bolster security institutions in Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia, the official said.

The United States plans to partner with Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to develop rapid response forces. Those forces would be ready to deploy as part of United Nations’ or African Union missions.

“The United States doesn’t have a desire to expand and create a big footprint inside of Africa,” Obama said at a news conference at the conclusion of the summit.

“What we want to make sure we can do is partner with the African Union … with individual countries, to build up their capacity,” he said.

Reuters reported earlier that Obama would make the announcement.

“We’ve seen over time increasingly capable African peacekeepers who are deploying to address crises across the continent,” an administration official said.

“But there continues to be a gap in systematically supporting these peacekeepers to help them deploy more quickly and to help them better sustain themselves once deployed.”

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