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USA/Africa: Questioning AFRICOM, 1
Aug 1, 2007 (070801)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
With the nomination in July of General William E. Ward as the first
chief of the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the long-discussed
new command took another step toward full operation, now scheduled
for October 2008. But the controversy about what this military
reorganization means for U.S. military involvement in Africa is
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a critique by Emira Woods and
Ezekiel Pajibo for Foreign Policy in Focus, countering earlier
positive comments by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It
also contains a press release on General Ward's nomination and
excerpts from an analysis written for the Brenthurst Foundation in
South Africa. Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains
excepts from an extensive critique from the Center for
International Policy, with particular emphasis on U.S.-Nigerian
In contrast to this bilateral U.S. initiative, the U.S. arrears in
payment of peacekeeping dues to the United Nations topped $1
billion earlier this year, despite an expected increase in the UN
peacekeeping budget, including for new deployment in Darfur. See
Other recent commentaries include:
GWB, Africa and a New African American General
by Carl Bloice, July 23, 2007
Africa: Africom Can Help Governments Willing to Help Themselves
Guest column by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 25 June 2007
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on African security and U.S.
involvement, see http://www.africafocus.org/peaceexp.php
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
AFRICOM: Wrong for Liberia, Disastrous for Africa
Ezekiel Pajibo and Emira Woods | July 26, 2007
Editor: John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus
[Ezekiel Pajibo is executive director of the Liberia-Based Center
for Democratic Empowerment. Emira Woods is the co-director of
Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies in
Washington, DC. She was born in Liberia.]
Just two months after U.S. aerial bombardments began in Somalia,
the Bush administration solidified its militaristic engagement with
Africa. In February 2007, the Department of Defense announced the
creation of a new U.S. Africa Command infrastructure, code name
AFRICOM, to "coordinate all U.S. military and security interests
throughout the continent."
"This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with
Africa," President Bush said in a White House statement, "and
create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our
partners in Africa." Ordering that AFRICOM be created by September
30, 2008, Bush said "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to
bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our
common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and
economic growth in Africa."
The general assumption of this policy is that prioritizing security
through a unilateral framework will somehow bring health,
education, and development to Africa. In this way, the Department
of Defense presents itself as the best architect and arbiter of
U.S. Africa policy. According to Navy Rear Admiral Robert Moeller,
director of the AFRICOM transition team, "By creating AFRICOM, the
Defense Department will be able to coordinate better its own
activities in Africa as well as help coordinate the work of other
U.S. government agencies, particularly the State Department and the
U.S. Agency for International Development."
Competition for Resources
This military-driven U.S. engagement with Africa reflects the
desperation of the Bush administration to control the increasingly
strategic natural resources on the African continent, especially
oil, gas, and uranium. With increased competition from China, among
other countries, for those resources, the United States wants above
all else to strengthen its foothold in resource-rich regions of
Nigeria is the fifth largest exporter of oil to the United States.
The West Africa region currently provides nearly 20% of the U.S.
supply of hydrocarbons, up from 15% just five years ago and well on
the way to a 25 share forecast for 2015. While the Bush
administration endlessly beats the drums for its "global war on
terror," the rise of AFRICOM underscores that the real interests of
neoconservatives has less to do with al-Qaeda than with more access
and control of extractive industries, particularly oil.
Responsibility for operations on the African continent is currently
divided among three distinct Commands: U.S. European Command, which
has responsibility for nearly 43 African countries; 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
countries off the coast of the Indian Ocean. Until December 2006
when the United States began to assist Ethiopia in its invasion of
Somalia, all three existing Commands have maintained a relatively
low-key presence, often using elite special operations forces to
train, equip, and work alongside national militaries.
A new Africa Command, based potentially in or near oil-rich West
Africa would consolidate these existing operations while also
bringing international engagement, from development to diplomacy,
even more in line with U.S. military objectives.
AFRICOM in Liberia?
AFRICOM's first public links with the West African country of
Liberia was through a Washington Post op-ed written by the AfricanAmerican
businessman Robert L. Johnson, "Liberia's Moment of
Opportunity." Forcefully endorsing AFRICOM, Johnson urged that it
be based in Liberia. Then came an unprecedented allAfrica.com guest
column from Liberia's president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, "AFRICOM Can
Help Governments Willing To Help Themselves," touting AFRICOM's
potential to "help" Africa "develop a stable environment in which
civil society can flourish and the quality of life for Africans can
Despite these high-profile endorsements, the consolidation and
expansion of U.S. military power on the African continent is
misguided and could lead to disastrous outcomes.
Liberia's 26-year descent into chaos started when the Reagan
administration prioritized military engagement and funneled
military hardware, training, and financing to the regime of the
ruthless dictator Samuel K. Doe. This military "aid," seen as "soft
power" at that time, built the machinery of repression that led to
the deaths of an estimated 250,000 Liberians.
Basing AFRICOM in Liberia will put Liberians at risk now and into
the future. Liberia's national threat level will dramatically
increase as the country becomes a target of those interested in
attacking U.S. assets. This will severely jeopardize Liberia's
national security interests while creating new problems for the
country's fragile peace and its nascent democracy.
Liberia has already given the Bush administration the exclusive
role of restructuring its armed forces. The private U.S. military
contractor DYNCORP has been carrying out this function. After more
than two years in Liberia and an estimated $800,000 budget
allocated, DYNCORP has not only failed to train the 2,000 men it
was contracted to train, it has also not engaged Liberia's
Legislature or its civil society in defining the nature, content,
or character of the new army. DYNCORP allotted itself the
prerogative to determine the number of men/women to be trained and
the kind of training it would conduct, exclusively infantry
training, even though Liberia had not elaborated a national
security plan or developed a comprehensive military doctrine. In
fact, the creation of Liberia's new army has been the
responsibility of another sovereign state, the United States, in
total disregard to Liberia's constitution, which empowers the
legislature to raise the national army.
This pattern of abuse and incompetence with the U.S. military and
its surrogate contractors suggests that if AFRICOM is based in
Liberia, the Bush administration will have an unacceptable amount
of power to dictate Liberia's security interests and orchestrate
how the country manages those interests. By placing a military base
in Liberia, the United States could systematically interfere in
Liberian politics in order to ensure that those who succeed in
obtaining power are subservient to U.S. national security and other
interests. If this is not neo-colonialism, then what is?
Perhaps the South Africans will be the loudest voices on the
continent in opposition to AFRICOM. Recent media reports spotlight
growing tensions in U.S.-South Africa relations over AFRICOM. The
U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Eric Bost, complained that South
Africa's defense minister Mosiuoa Lekota, was not responding to
embassy requests to meet General Kip Ward, the recently nominated
first commander of AFRICOM.
The Bush administration's new obsession with AFRICOM and its
militaristic approach has many malign consequences. It increases
U.S. interference in the affairs of Africa. It brings more military
hardware to a continent that already has too much. By helping to
build machineries of repression, these policies reinforce
undemocratic practices and reward leaders responsive not to the
interests or needs of their people but to the demands and dictates
of U.S. military agents. Making military force a higher priority
than development and diplomacy creates an imbalance that can
encourage irresponsible regimes to use U.S. sourced military might
to oppress their own people, now or potentially in the future.
These fatally flawed policies create instability, foment tensions,
and lead to a less secure world.
What Africa needs least is U.S. military expansion on the continent
(and elsewhere in the world). What Africa needs most is its own
mechanism to respond to peacemaking priorities. Fifty years ago,
Kwame Nkrumah sounded the clarion call for a "United States of
Africa." One central feature of his call was for an Africa Military
High Command. Today, as the African Union deliberates continental
governance, there couldn't be a better time to reject U.S. military
expansion and push forward African responses to Africa's
Long suffering the effects of militaristic "assistance" from the
United States, Liberia would be the worst possible base for
AFRICOM. But there are no good locations for such a poorly
conceived project. Africa does not need AFRICOM.
Africom Chief Nominated for Unique New Command
United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
12 July 2007
Washington, DC - General William E. Ward, an Army officer, is
President Bush's choice to be the first chief of the new U.S.
Africa Command (AFRICOM), which will coordinate U.S. government
support for nations across the continent.
Ward is currently deputy chief of the U.S. European Command, where
he oversees day-to-day operations of American forces and military
interests in 92 countries, including a majority of the African
nations. Bush made the nomination July 10.
Bush announced in February the creation of AFRICOM. Instead of
being a traditional military command, the new headquarters will
coordinate existing security cooperation with African nations while
consolidating U.S. government support for partner nations.
Humanitarian, health and development efforts are intended to be
important parts of AFRICOM's mission. The headquarters is expected
to have two deputy commanders: a State Department ambassador will
serve as deputy for civil-military activities and a three-star
military officer will serve as deputy for military operations. As
currently envisioned, the headquarters will include staff
specialists from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) and other federal agencies
currently working with African partners.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Ward's nomination must be confirmed by
the U.S. Senate. Ward's nomination hearing and annual public
hearings on the status of AFRICOM are expected to create more
visibility for African issues within the U.S. government. Until
now, the U.S. European Command has coordinated U.S. military
interests in much of Africa.
The new AFRICOM headquarters is scheduled to begin initial
operations in October and to be fully established by October 2008.
The AFRICOM transition team currently is based in Stuttgart,
Germany, home of the U.S. European Command. But U.S. officials have
said they want to move part or all of the headquarters' offices to
one or more African countries. Pentagon officials have said they
would like the new AFRICOM chief to establish a personal presence
on the continent soon after being confirmed by the Senate.
"The goal of U.S. Africa Command is to help build the capacity of
African nations and African organizations," the Defense Department
said in a July 10 news release.
Ward has been a U.S. Army officer since 1971. From March to
December 2005, he was designated by the secretary of state as U.S.
security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He
also has commanded the NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and
commanded an infantry brigade in Somalia in the early 1990s. In
addition, he has served at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and, early in
his career, commanded an infantry company in the Republic of Korea.
AFRICOM and African Security
Greg Mills, Terence McNamee, Mauro De Lorenzo, and Matthew Uttley
Brenthurst Discussion Paper 4/2007
[Note: brief excerpts only. For full report, including footnotes,
see http://www.aei.org/publications The paper is based on
discussions at a dialogue on 'What Does AFRICOM Mean for Africa?'
staged jointly by the Brenthurst Foundation and the African Center
for Strategic Studies at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa,
13-15 July 2007.]
In October 2008, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) will be
'stood up' as a unified combatant command. In Africa this
announcement has been met with trepidation and controversy.
Resistance to the idea is fuelled primarily by fears that it could
lead to the militarisation of American foreign policy towards
Africa. Of its numerous critics, South Africa has been especially
vocal. Yet in other parts of Africa there is a cautious optimism
based on the hope that Washington is finally taking the
relationship between African security and development seriously.
However, there appears to be agreement on two key points. The first
is that AFRICOM is still an enigma. No one is sure what it will do
or how, and what it means for Africa. The second is that AFRICOM's
success will ultimately depend on how well the U.S. understands and
responds to the security priorities of Africans.
Africa is currently part of the area of responsibility (AOR) of
three U.S. combatant commands: European Command (EUCOM), Central
Command (CENTCOM), and Pacific Command (PACOM). No other continent
is similarly divided. For the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the
creation of a single combatant command for Africa is primarily an
internal bureaucratic shift, a more efficient and sensible way of
organizing the U.S. military's relations with Africa. In other
words, with AFRICOM the U.S. will do the same kinds of things it
has always done in Africa, but with more consistency, coherence,
AFRICOM also represents a transformation in the way the military
instrument is used to advance security and stability in
conflict-prone or post-conflict societies. The Pentagon sees
AFRICOM as a test-run for new forms of collaboration with other
U.S. government agencies. Indeed, for the first time in a U.S.
unified command, a State Department official will occupy a senior
leadership position as the deputy to the commander for civil
military activities. Officials from USAID and half a dozen other
agencies will also be detailed to the command, bringing their
knowledge and expertise to bear on the execution of the AFRICOM's
That AFRICOM will have such a significant civilian component does
not impress many African observers, for whom even the word
'command' suggests malign intentions. In Africa the view is
widespread that AFRICOM is a tool to secure better access to
Africa's natural resources, erode China's growing influence on the
continent, and establish forward bases to hunt and destroy networks
linked to Al-Qaeda.
Moreover, by emphasising AFRICOM's role in development and
humanitarian tasks, U.S. officials may have actually amplified
African concerns. The fear is that, henceforth, the main lens
through which development efforts in Africa are perceived will be
Washington has underestimated how deep-rooted and ideological
African assumptions about U.S. aims can be. To many, AFRICOM is,
along with Iraq and Afghanistan, another sign that the U.S. is
seeking to re-assert American power and hegemony globally.
In the words of Virginia Tilley at South Africa's Human Sciences
Research Council, the "Bush administration's agenda offers little
but mounting expense and new dangers for African security. The
urgent question for South Africa is not how to join that war, but
how to help protect Africa from it."
Or as Charles Cobb argues, "in the thinking of Pentagon and White
House officials, the world today is too dangerous a place not to be
policed by Washington." For Cobb "the establishment of AFRICOM is
being driven by two main strategic concerns: first, the growing
demand for African oil and gas and second, the perceived danger of
Islamic radicals." Cobb suggests that Washington's excessive focus
on "security tends to erode, if not crush, civil liberties, and
those governments on the continent that already show little
inclination to support democratic freedoms will almost certainly
use 'security' as an excuse to clamp down on things they don't
But not all African perceptions of AFRICOM are negative. President
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia spoke for those who feel
well-disposed to the initiative when she wrote in June 2007:
"AFRICOM should be seen for what it is: recognition of the growing
importance of Africa to U.S. national security interests, as well
as recognition that long-term African security lies in empowering
African partners to develop a healthy security environment through
embracing good governance, building security capacity, and
developing good civil-military relations. ... AFRICOM is undeniably
about the projection of American interests but this does not mean
that it is to the exclusion of African ones."
Washington hopes all African leaders will eventually share that
perspective. But convincing them that AFRICOM is 'military lite'
will not be easy. It cannot be denied that, in terms of its
structure and declared intent, AFRICOM embodies a fresh attempt to
create a joined-up inter-agency strategy that weaves diplomacy,
defence, and development into a coherent mechanism.
A 'Steady-State' of U.S.-Africa Security Engagement
Much debate has focused on where AFRICOM will be based and how it
will be structured. Currently the United States military presence
centres on its 2,000-strong East African base in Djibouti Command
Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) which falls under
CENTCOM. In current thinking, the AFRICOM headquarters will be
based initially in Stuttgart, Germany but will eventually move to
the continent. U.S. officials have indicated that, based on their
consultations with African countries, they will not have a large
single headquarters in Africa but rather smaller regionally-based
staff presences in order to work more effectively with the regional
economic communities. The U.S. presence in Djibouti will likely be
maintained. Other small regional bases will probably be established
in each of North, Western and Southern Africa. ...
much of what AFRICOM does will be about re-packaging and adding to
what the U.S. Department's of Defense and State already do with
African partners in the area of building security capacity. These
programmes have taken a number of forms and already involve an
annual financial commitment of over a quarter of a billion dollars
(excluding the costs of CJTF-HOA):
[current initiatives listed in full report]
Not only could AFRICOM assist in streamlining and
institutionalising the initiatives outlined above, its added value
over previous structures of U.S. security engagement comes from its
institutional expression of a long-term commitment to Africa that
is joined to and, critically, framed by an inter-agency approach.
Ultimately, however, AFRICOM will only be accepted if it is
postured in a manner that is focused not on addressing the U.S.'s
insecurities, but Africa's.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
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