MAPUTO, Mozambique — When blowing up land mines for military training is accompanied by a goat sacrifice, the cultural divide between the U.S. and the rest of the world looms large. Yet more and more the job of U.S. troops abroad is to bridge that gap in the service of peacekeeping by training local armies.
As recent developments in Libya have shown, in some parts of the world the U.S. is loath to put its own troops into action, and having soldiers trained by the U.S. in countries near conflict areas like Somalia is an ever-more-appealing alternative. The future of Iraq depends in part on whether the American efforts to train the Iraqi Army have succeeded. In Afghanistan, the withdrawal of American troops hinges on the same tactics, an ongoing mission of creating a viable Afghan Army.
Operation Shared Accord, a goodwill exercise between the United States Marines and the Mozambican military, is a snapshot of this kind of training. The exercise is part of an ongoing program of the U.S. Marines Corps, which has taken place in other African countries.
"I do believe we’ve seen increased attention to this area," says Col. Burke W. Whitman, speaking of cultural sensitivity and its ability "to thwart the development of hostile actions and hostile intents towards the United States."
Military cooperation in Africa also has the added benefit of keeping the U.S. relevant in countries that receive significant investment from the Chinese government. The rising influence of China, which has committed significant resources to African countries, including Mozambique, is a growing concern for American foreign policy officials.
Wired.com was on the scene in Mozambique to view one of these training events firsthand.
Above: Members of the Armed Forces for the Defense of Mozambique (FADM) and U..S Marines demonstrate infantry tactics before an audience of Mozambican and American officials.
Photo: Grant Lee Neuenburg/Wired.com.