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U.S. Africa Command

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The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established by the U.S. Department of Defense in February 2007 as the United States fifth regional operations base and a separate command "to oversee military operations on the African continent." [1]

Currently, the "[r]esponsibility for operations on the African continent ... is divided among three combatant commands: U.S. European Command, which has responsibility for most of the nations in the African mainland except in the Horn of Africa; U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya; and U.S. Pacific Command, which has responsibility for Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean area off the African coast." [2]

Overview

On February 6, 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that President George W. Bush "has decided to stand-up a new unified, combatant command, Africa Command, to oversee security cooperation, building partnership capability, defense support to non-military missions, and, if directed, military operations on the African continent." [3]

"The president asked Gates to stand up the command by the end of the 2008 fiscal year or September next year." [4] Bush "said the US would consult African leaders on the command's base," the BBC's Rob Watson reported February 6, 2007.

Leadership

According to defense officials, "[n]o one has been nominated to lead the new command, but Rear Adm. Robert Moeller will lead the team in place to make the transition to the new command," Gordon Lubold reported February 6, 2007, in the Navy Times.

"Moeller has served as 'Special Assistant' to the CENTCOM commander since July 2006, according to the Navy," Jeff Schogol reported February 7, 2007, for Stars and Stripes.

"Prior to that, he served as director, strategy, plans and policy for CENTCOM from August 2005 to July 2006.

"Since November, Moeller has also served as executive director of an 'Implementation Planning Team' that looked into proposals on how the DOD could improve how it deals with Africa, such as creating a command focusing solely on the continent, the official said.

"The team was created last summer after former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tasked the Defense Department with looking into how it could improve how it deals with Africa, the official said.

"Then in the first week of December, Rumsfeld recommended to the president that a command dedicated to Africa be created, the official said," Schogol wrote.

"Gates has not publicly recommended who might lead the command, but Gen. Kip Ward, now the deputy commander of EuCom whose job has him spending much time on Africa issues, would be a possible candidate, defense officials have said," Lubold wrote.

Headquarters

"Initially, the command headquarters cell will occupy some buildings at Kelly Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where EuCom is now based. Ultimately, the command will move to somewhere in Africa, but that is up in the air as American officials search for a country willing to play host.

"At one point, it appeared that Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, now located in Djibouti in East Africa, could be home to the new command, as there are already about 1,500 U.S. military personnel on station there. But it now appears American officials are looking for other countries to host the command," Lubold wrote.

Mission

"Defense officials had been discussing the idea of a new position in the Pentagon because of growing concern about Africa's significance in the War on Terror, especially in the Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The countries lie across the Gulf of Aden from the Saudi Arabian Peninsula and are home to increasing religious and military tensions. ...

"Officials say that Chinese efforts to exert its military influence in Africa have drawn the interest of U.S. military planners," Fox News reported February 6, 2007.

"The US gets more than 10% of its oil from Africa and is worried about increased economic and diplomatic competition from China," the BBC's Rob Watson reported.

"There are also a variety of US security and humanitarian concerns ranging from the potential rise of militant Islam to the threat of failed states and the spectre of future genocides," Watson said.

Militarisation

Bush, speaking in favor of Africom, said that security and economic development would be increased but Africans don't all agree. In October 2007 the BBC wrote, 'Salim Lone, a columnist for a daily newspaper in Kenya, believes the creation of Africom is a milestone in US foreign policy - and that the fact Mr Bush is advertising it as a kind of panacea for Africa proves that the only future engagement the US plans for Africa is a military one. "It will militarise society," he says. "The military now is going to be working with civil society, to promote health and education.

'"Africa is going to look at all its development efforts through the lens of the Pentagon. That's a truly dangerous dimension. We don't need militarisation of Africa, we don't need securitisation of aid and development in Africa." He is convinced America's goal is not development, but resources such as oil, timber, cobalt and uranium.

'And he is not the only one who views Africom unfavourably. Morocco, Algeria and Libya are all reported to have refused US requests to base the command centre on their soil, while South Africa has been actively discouraging support for the idea amongst its neighbours.

'Not all of Africa is against Africom. Many states are waiting for more details to be made public before they declare where they stand. And the project does have its backers. Liberia has offered to host the headquarters on its territory.' [1]

In February 2008 Bush toured Africa. The New York Times compared him to Santa Claus handing out gifts of foreign aid as he pushed American military policy. It wrote "Mr. Bush used a news conference to address the widespread suspicion that the United States planned to establish military bases in Africa as it expanded its strategic role on the continent. And for the first time, he suggested that he might consider dropping a requirement that one-third of AIDS prevention dollars be spent on abstinence programs — but only if he was convinced that the approach was not working."[2]

OneWorld.net wrote, '"AFRICOM is driven by U.S. interests in preserving access to African resources," said Gerald LeMelle, executive director of Africa Action, a non-profit organization in Washington, DC working to support peace and development in Africa. "This aggressive initiative threatens successful U.S.-African partnerships for development and democracy," said LeMelle about AFRICOM, noting with concern that, "neither African governments nor the United Nations were consulted on the announcement of AFRICOM."' [3]

Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Daniel Gordon, "The controversy over Africom", BBC, October 3, 2007.
  2. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Bush Confronts Hard Questions in Ghana", New York Times, February 21, 2008.
  3. Haider Rizvi, "U.S. Military Plan for Africa Panned", OneWorld.net, February 25, 2008.

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