I saw a few Liberia stories pop up recently so I thought I would highlight them.
First, Voice of America has a story with video (also picked up by Chris Albon) about how the US military, using private contractors, is helping rebuild Liberia's military. The UN does not want to become Liberia's permanent police force, so the US is helping Liberia build an army that will hopefully not partake in its past excesses.
My take on it is that the US is using contractors because it doesn't have any Special Forces available. Past efforts training West African militaries have used both contractors (like MPRI) and uniformed U.S. Special Forces. Based on this 2004 interview regarding the now-defunct Pan-Sahel initiative, actual US personnel were used when they were available because it signaled that we took it seriously and weren't just throwing money at the problem. However with the massive strain Iraq and Afghanistan are putting on our ground forces, including Special Forces, it's likely that there just aren't any uniformed military available for the job.
While there's progress, all is not fine and dandy with Liberia's new military. Soldiers aren't happy with their conditions, and progress in training isn't as fast as some had hoped. The UN says it will not withdraw prematurely. One might say... as Liberians stand up, the UN will stand down.
A more positive story regarding the American military's involvement in Liberia is shown in this Navy press release. The Navy seems to be stepping its efforts up in West Africa, probably recognizing that the Gulf of Guinea's oil production will make it a key area in the future. The Navy press release talks about how Navy personnel in Liberia are renovating two clinics, a school, and repairing a road.
And the final, most important Liberia story is that Liberian former New York Dead Bulls striker Francis Doe is on trial at DC United. Doe is very fast and has good dribbling skills, formerly played in Minnesota and Greece, and has two goals in seven appearances for the Liberian national team. DC United has lots of attacking midfielders but needs another finisher to put the pressure on Emilio, so he doesn't stay fat and happy (Emilio was awful last Wednesday against Pachuca). DC United would be wise to pick him up.