Trump must re-engage Africa to halt Chinese inroads

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Donald Trump has not yet unveiled his foreign policy agenda in Africa. While this may cause anxiety amongst some, we mustn’t really be surprised. Trump and his transition team have a tremendous amount of work to do.

American foreign policy toward the continent has taken a back seat over the past eight years. One can argue about the myriad of reasons why this has occurred, but one thing is for certain — when America eased off the accelerator in Africa, the security situation deteriorated, and China quickly filled the gap.

Nowhere is this more evident on the continent than in Djibouti.

Djibouti is an important country to American counterterrorism efforts throughout Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Whether it is ISIS, Al-Shabaab, or Boko Haram, Djibouti is strategically located to be part of the coalition to confront and defeat the radical Islamic threat.

Our policy of disengagement in Djibouti has diminished our ability to combat terrorism abroad and ensure it is not exported to our shores.

The U.S., through USAID, earmarked just $7,914 for “Elections and Political Processes” and another $4,486 for “Political Parties” as Djiboutians primed for a critical national election in 2015.

Nonetheless, no American election monitors were present. If you could put a number on our disengagement, $7,914 is a good place to start.

Contrast that with China, which has, over the past several years, poured billions of dollars into Djibouti’s development. China is financing a railroad, a port terminal expansion, fuel and water pipelines, a natural gas liquefaction plant, highway upgrades, two airports, and several government buildings.

Even more concerning, Chinese funds appear to have paid for President Guelleh’s campaign for an unprecedented fourth term. He amended the Constitution to enable him to run again.

It should be to no one’s astonishment that the Djibouti government kicked the U.S. military off its installation in favor of the People’s Liberation Army.

President Trump has a genuine opportunity to reverse this frightening trend. The president has taken a hard line with China, threatening a 35 percent tariff on Chinese-made goods.

When China captured an American drone last month, Trump weighed in. This forced a pathetic response from the Chinese foreign ministry. They professed that stealing the drone was similar to finding something on the street and picking it up to determine who it belonged to. 

Accordingly, President Trump’s hawkishness toward China resulted in his selection of Peter Navarro to lead the new White House Trade Council.

Navarro, who wrote “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World”, undoubtedly understands the dangers of China’s posturing throughout the African continent.

In order to ensure and execute his agenda to “Make America Great Again”, President Trump should not overlook the regions and countries neglected by the Obama administration.

There is a real need for Trump to re-engage the African continent. Dealing with radical Islam and opening the U.S. to new economic prosperity are the two areas where cooperation must take place.

This will ultimately help insulate the U.S. from terrorist threats rooted in Africa. In addition, it will grow our economy, stop further Chinese entrenchment in the region and will guarantee that President Trump makes good on his promise.


Pete Hoekstra is the Shillman Senior Fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism and was Chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.


The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

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