Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Qassem Soleimani. War with Iran. The Afghan papers.

These are some of the more important topics that have been trending in defense and foreign policy news. Russia and China, conversely, have been conspicuous in their absence.

But, arguably, these two countries are the most important long-term threats to U.S. national security. And their strategy, when it comes to Africa, has largely been sidelined by the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

What do Russia and China offer to autocratic African regimes? Arms and money. What does the U.S. offer? Democratic values, high-speed Special Operations trainers, and the occasional loan or grant, which, however, comes with a hefty and unenviable package — to the regimes — of domestic reforms (human rights, rule of law, democratization, etc.). Although the American option is the moral one, the foreign policy chessboard is brimming with immoral players.

A U.S. Green Beret teaches African soldiers the basics of Close-Quarter Combat.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), however, seems to have developed a new strategy to counter Russian and Chinese influence in the African continent. This strategy is based on building and enhancing partnerships with African nations, thereby making America the go-to choice of a foreign friend on the continent.

“I think the most important part of our approach is, it’s about relationships, it’s not about access to a resource or to a mineral, or to sales of U.S. equipment,” said U.S. Army Major General William Gayler, the director of operations for AFRICOM. “I think the relationships we build will have a far-lasting impact.”

Yet foreign policy doesn’t work in a void. You can’t — twice — abandon the Kurds and hope no other current or future partner notices it. Allies and partners aren’t fools. They can see that American foreign policy lacks foresight and tends to wander like a master-less ship.

To be sure, on the tactical and operational levels, human relations go a long way. But when it comes to national strategy, African autocratic regimes are bound to pick the easiest of the two options.