When the Botswana military conducted its first tactical intelligence course earlier this year, it was taught by U.S. soldiers. The second course, taking place in October through mid-November 2011, was being taught by a combination of U.S. personnel and the best Batswana students from the first course. The next course, in 2012, is scheduled to be taught entirely by Batswana soldiers, with a few U.S. personnel on hand to assist if needed. After that, that, the future of the program is up to the Botswana Defence Force.
In this way, the tactical intelligence course of the Botswana Defence Force is an example of how the U.S. Africa Command assists African militaries in improving their own capability.
« We work ourselves out of a job, » explained one U.S. instructor during a late October visit by U.S. AFRICOM civilian deputy, Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes. Holmes is deputy to the commander for civil-military activities.
The course was being attended by 40 noncommissioned officers and about 34 commissioned officers in the grades of 2nd lieutenant to major. In the past, a few soldiers reach year would be brought to the United States to attend U.S. military courses under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Under the new initiative, approximately the same money is spent on bringing U.S. instructors to Botswana, where they can work with dozens of people at once. These courses don’t replace IMET, but they mean IMET exchanges can focus on other leadership opportunities when sending foreign military students to the United States.
Captain Aubrey Makobo, military intelligence training officer for the Botswana Defence Force, explained that BDF troops are increasingly deploying on missions to counter wildlife poaching and livestock rustling. So military commanders recognize the growing importance of finding and sharing information that helps to thwart these illegal activities.
« It’s having a major impact, » Makobo said in late October. « And a lot of people are getting to realize the importance of having intelligence. »
Once the U.S.-led instruction finishes, Makobo said the coursework will be incorporated into the Botswana military’s regular training. The tactical intelligence course prepares officers and NCOs to be their unit’s intelligence officers, providing key information to the commander during operations and exercises. An example being studies during the recent AFRICOM visit included how to set up a VIP visit to a village school house, to include checking on the safety of the location and giving a recommendation on the least hazardous route.
Officers and NCOs receive similar training, but the officer portions include more emphasize on proper conduct and the laws of armed conflict.
With a population of 2 million, Botswana lies in southern Africa and has held free elections since its independence in 1966. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, based largely on mining and tourism.
By Vince Crawley