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Is U.S. Africom good or bad for Africa?

October 1, 2008

Residents of Tizimizi greet members of the US Forces upon their arrival in their area in November 2006The new U.S. command for Africa began independent operations on Wednesday, after being carved out of three other Pentagon units previously responsible for the continent. President George W. Bush originally wanted Africom to be based in Africa, and Liberia has offered to host it. But the plan met with considerable hostility on the continent, especially from big powers South Africa and Nigeria and oil giants Algeria and Libya. Many ordinary Africans were also cynical, believing Africom would be a cover for Washington to counter growing Chinese influence and control vital oil supplies from West Africa — expected to provide 25 percent of U.S. needs by 2015.

The hostility forced Washington to rethink its plans and Africom, expected to reach its full complement of 1,300 by the end of next year, began work from Stuttgart, home of the existing European command, although officials clearly expect to open a base in Africa sometime in the future. It also pushed U.S. officials to emphasise that there was no hidden agenda, that Africom would not threaten the sovereignty of any nations and that a base would not be built in Africa without the full agreement of potential host nations. They also said half of Africom’s leadership would be composed of civilian agencies including the State Department. Africom’s stated aim is to help African countries face everything from natural disasters to terrorism and its targets will including drug trafficking, arms smuggling and the kind of piracy now plaguing the waters off Somalia. Experts say U.S. forces have been cooperating quietly for years with African armies, particularly in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel where rebel and al Qaeda-affiliated groups operate. They say Africom got a bad press initially because it was associated with heavy-handed U.S. policy in Somalia and as part of the U.S.-led ”War on Terror”, but now Pentagon officials are treading more carefully, realising how sensitive Africans are about suggestions Washington is trying to dominate.

Do you believe U.S. assurances about Africom or is it the thin end of the wedge, a precursor to a boosted American military presence on the continent that could attract rather than deter terrorist attacks and infringe on the sovereignty and independence of African nations?

Comments

I have read the press releases by Africom and by those that hate the US, the local news articles, the blogs. The Chinese and Russian reaction, even the UN.
All are dsiturbed, but no one offers real solutions on how to direct American policy in Africa.

Assuming that America’s presence in Africa is as Inevitbal as the presence of Russia, China, or Arab Imperialist activity,

What would helps is a real, useful list of recommendations you can give American foreigh policy for African countries.

“don’t come” is as short of helpful as “tax the remitances from western countries to Africa with a export tax”

…We know neither of those things are going to happen.

So, if everyone is through “venting”, lets get on with real solutions….

 

The African continent was the battleground for the superpowers proxy-wars during the Cold War. Each side was trying to place their dominance on the continent in order to cause second and third order effects elsewhere in the world. As the world changed to bring about the end of the Cold War, so did Africa. With the leaving of the superpowers militarily, that left a vacuum of power to be filled by autocratic leaders, transnational criminal organizations; that deal with drugs and human trafficking, and transnational corporations to influence fragile African democracies.

Now, America is trying to pay greater attention towards Africa than ever before with the establishment of AFRICOM. In the past, it has been strictly either a military or diplomatic focus. Now, with the establishment of AFRICOM, there is the fusion of both elements to assist in such areas as: conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance/aid, and military education and training.

For example, the US Army has sent soldiers to assist Sahel nations in the War on Terror by training the host nation’s forces in identifying and combating individuals who do not attack purely military targets, but of innocent civilians. In Sub-Saharan Africa, US Army was also present in Uganda training Ugandan soldiers in counterterrorism techniques. (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ agency/dod/acri.htm). At the invite of the host nation, the US Army tries to mentor the soldiers far beyond the tactics, but also in the importance of respecting civil authority and the importance of human rights. Like any other US force conducting training with a host nation, a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) can accompany the detachment to provide medical aid to the surrounding communities. (http://newsblaze.com/story/200602151918 30tsop.nb/topstory.html)

The U.S. Army is currently supervising the training of the new Liberian Army, by private companies, making sure that it meets the standards and supports the Liberian government’s goals of protecting the nation and preventing Liberia in becoming a catalyst to regional destabilization.
(http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/ 2008-04/2008-04-14-voa40.cfm).

These are just a few positive examples of the joint partnership being established by AFRICOM with African nations. AFRICOM is not purely a “combat command”, but a command to prevent conflict and expand peaceful relations with African nations. Only the regional hegemonies, who are satisfied with the current situation, will continue to obstruct such a productive partnership. AFRICOM is a new command to conduct new missions focusing on a joint venture with Africa to establish a safe, stable, and productive setting for people, governments and nations to thrive.

William Brown
30D

Posted by William Brown | Report as abusive
 

While I think having a unified command dedicated to Africa is a good idea, I feel that AFRICOM in its current configuration (being based in Germany instead of Africa) is a terrible idea. The reason for this is that 99% of the people currently working for AFRICOM are there solely for the reason for being in Germany. If you asked anyone up there working for AFRICOM to name more than 10 countries in Africa most would fail. I have worked there for more than 3 years and I’ve never such a concentration of mediorce people like there. They spend more time backstabbing each other up there so they can kiss up to their bosses so they can stay in Germany longer. There is no loyalty amount the Africom team, no one has your back up there. No wonder why the people of Africa are suspicious of AFRICOM. If you want AFRICOM to work I say move it to Africa. The problem is if you do move it to Africa the command would immediately lose 99% of its workforce. I say do it so you can get some better people up there. One thing I can say about AFRICOM that would mirrior Africa would the working conditions. I’ve never worked in such rat infested offices like during my time at AFRICOM. You can’t have 10-15 people sitting in an office designed for 5.

Posted by Paler | Report as abusive
 

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