Al-Qaida and its affiliates are operating in a wide arc from Nigeria through Mali, Libya and into Somalia. Gen. Ham says there are indications the groups are starting to work together.

“What I worry about more than anything is a growing linkage which I think poses the greatest threat to regional stability across Africa, certainly into Europe and to the United States as well,” Ham says.

And to counter that terrorist threat, the Obama administration wants to rely on African forces. That means giving them proper equipment and training, and that’s where the troops from Fort Riley come in.

“We’ve been really just basically trying to understand you know, a little bit more about Africa,” Broadwater says. “The history of those areas, the culture so when we do employ to those countries we have a little bit better idea of what’s going on.”

But what’s going on in the continent, says Africa expert Richard Downie, cannot be addressed by just providing military training and equipment.