Printer Friendly

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM): building partnership or neo-colonialism of U.S.-Africa relations?


The end of the Cold War and the attacks of September 11th have drastically changed the United States' geo-strategic interests and perceptions. Africa had long been on the periphery of U.S. interest, but this is quickly changing. The War on Terror, Africa's vast natural resources and the still existing widespread instability across the continent are all factors that play a role for the new foreign policy of the United States. According to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, the new U.S. African Command is "part of a broader vision of U.S. policy" intended to adapt to the new developments after the end of the Cold War. (1) While previously, Africa was seen as only of humanitarian interest, it is now increasingly becoming of national security interest for the United States.

According to Thomas-Greenfield, the new "conceptual framework" of the Bush administration is focused on developing new strategic partnerships with key players within Africa, such as International Organizations, state and non-state actors, to help increase peace and security within the continent. (2) However, the central goal is to help African countries, international organizations and non-state actors help themselves, and not force foreign ideas and security paradigms on these actors. According to Ryan Henry, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for policy, AFRICOM is meant to support the "indigenous leadership efforts that are currently going on ... and to complement rather than compete with any leadership efforts currently going on." (3) In essence, the United States strives to support conflict resolution, African peace missions and the fight against terror.

The Pentagon's Unified Command Plan divides the world into zones, called "Unified Commands," on the basis of geo-strategic military purposes. (4) These commands administrate and coordinate all Defense Department personnel, equipment and operations in the specific area. Previously, Africa was divided between three unified commands, the European Command (EUCOM), the Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Pacific Command (PACOM). EUCOM has responsibility over most of the countries in the African mainland, CENTCOM over Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya and PACOM over Madagascar, the Seychelles and Indian Ocean region of the African coast. AFRICOM, now, is intended to cover all African countries except Egypt, which, because of its close relationship with the Middle East, remains under CENTCOM. (5) The previous division of Africa under three commands caused a few complications and proved fairly inefficient. According to Sean McFate, Africa was never a primary priority for any of the three commands, due to the placement of their main headquarters elsewhere and the division violated the "principle of unity of command." (6) Further, he claims the Department of Defense lacked an appropriate number of African experts and centering the general focus of AFRICOM now solely on mediating between Africa and the United States will help implement effective policies that target the essence of the problems the continent faces.

Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, stated that the creation of AFRICOM will improve the United States' approach towards African policy and make it more effective and integrated. (7) Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Robert Gates stated that the new command was intended to build partnerships and security cooperation, and support non-military and military missions on the continent. (8) Apart from the long-standing humanitarian interest in the region, the U.S. is now expanding its foreign policy scope and giving the African continent a place of greater importance in its national security calculations.


The African Command (AFRICOM) is structured differently from the other commands, such as EUCOM and CENTCOM, which were established to fight wars. In a White House press release that announced the establishment of the African Command, President Bush described its purpose to be to "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." (9) As Sean McFate stated, military missions usually do not incorporate development, health and education. (10) This stands in stark contrast, to the usual military approach of "hard power," which uses military force and coercion to advance U.S. interests.


To adapt to the current global geopolitical climate, the U.S. seems to place more emphasis on what Joseph Nye termed "soft power." (11) Soft power is defined as a means of achieving national goals by employing the attractiveness of a nation's foreign policy, values and culture to obtain desired outcomes. (12) He writes that while the military might of the U.S. remains unquestioned in the world, that sort of power often fails to achieve U.S. interests. Hard power is the "power to coerce" and can lead to resentment, while soft power is the "power to attract" which can prove more valuable in certain situations.

In his article "The Decline of American Soft Power," Nye contemplates the rising sentiment of Anti-Americanism in the world and comes to the conclusion that the U.S. will not be able to fight terrorism without the help of other nations. (13) Thus, foreign nations are less likely to value cooperation with the United States, if public unpopularity of the U.S. is high. In essence, Nye advocates something which he terms "smart power, a combination of hard power and soft power, as was done during the Cold War." (14) While Nye's article uses these ideas in reference to the Muslim world, they can also be transplanted onto the Unites States' relations to countries in Africa.

Thus, the plan for AFRICOM may be part of a greater U.S. foreign policy strategy of "smart power" in the developing world. Placing increasing emphasis on "development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa" could be an attempt at U.S. image building in order to win the trust of the nations of the continent. (15) Plain hard power, a solely military presence, is likely to be rejected as a neocolonialism attempt by most governments of the region. However, placing the primary focus not on the military, but on other government agencies active in the field of development, economics growth, and education that are willing to coordinate programs and coordinate operations with local and international NGOs will likely win more approval.


The United States has had military ties to Africa since the beginnings of its national sovereignty. Under Thomas Jefferson, the Navy was employed to fight piracy in North Africa and in and after the 1830s to combat the trans-Atlantic slave trade. (16) In World War II, the U.S. was involved in the Allied operations in North Africa (Operation Torch), and Linda Thomas Greenfield even goes as far as to say, "Africa ... proved to be the strategic underbelly of Europe." However, the military priorities of the United States remained not in Africa, but elsewhere throughout the previous centuries.

AFRICOM, which became fully operational on October 1st, 2008, administers the implementation of a series of military and security operations in Africa that are sponsored by the State Department and the Defense Department. (17) Among these operations are bilateral and multilateral military training programs and exercises such as the "Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Programme" (ACOTA), the "International Military Education and Training Programme" (IMET), the "Foreign Military Sales Programme" (FMS), the "African Coastal and Boarder Security Programme" and the "Excess Defense Articles Programme." (18) The Combined Joint Task Force--Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), initiated in 2002, supports security patrols in African coastal waters around the Horn of Africa. The "Joint Task Force Aztec Silence" (JTFAS) carries out counter-terrorism operations in North and West Africa in coordination with the local countries. In 2007, naval operations were extended into the Gulf of Guinea and base access agreements were negotiated between the Bush administration and the governments of Gabon, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia, opening local military bases to U.S. troops. (19)

The United States also has diplomatic and humanitarian relations with African nations. Under the Bush administration, development assistance more than tripled after 2001. (20) The United States supports and considers the African Union, sub-regional communities like the Economic Community of West-African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union's New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) as important actors to promote conflict resolution, economic development and cooperation between the African states. Of rising importance are also non-state actors, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are able to be a stable force even in countries where the state authority is eroding due to conflict. Other non-state actors, such as drug and money trafficking organizations are seen as threats for the entire region, because they facilitate illegal trans-boarder activity and are a factor in the spread of terrorism. (21)

A series of development assistance programs have also evolved over the last few years. According to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President George W. Bush's Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR) was the "largest international health initiative in history ever dedicated to one disease" mainly for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. (22) Recognizing that the primary cause of death among children in many African countries is malaria, the administration appropriated a sum of $1.2.billion to be distributed over the next five years for bed nets, spraying and medication. The United States also invested in education with the Africa Education Initiative in which $600 million was used to provide textbooks, teacher training and scholarships to African students. Also, the Bush administration's Millennium Change Corporation sponsored projects in countries that "govern justly, fight corruption, invest in education and the health of their people, and promote economic freedom." (23)

Through exchange program conduct by NGOs, religious organizations, businesses, and local and state government public diplomacy also enhanced U.S.-African relations. On his visit in February 2008 to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia, President Bush intentionally chose to visit nations that were successful in the past years. (24) While this visit served to shine a spotlight on nations that have made progress with United States' financial development assistance, it was also meant to highlight President Bush's image as a "compassionate conservative" for both the African and American people, according to Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times. (25)

Thus, the United States has developed military, diplomatic and humanitarian relations to the African continent and tried to extend them especially after the end of the Cold War and then again after September 11th. The threat that poverty and turmoil poses for the stability of African nations and for igniting terrorist motivation is taken very seriously by the U.S. government.


AFRICOM structured differently from the other command centers. The other commands are primarily combatant commands that were organized exclusively for military purposes and to fight wars. (26) Since the new African Command will be trying to address the problems of the African continent first, apart from military personnel, a large portion of the personnel will come from non-military government agencies, in an attempt to consolidate and coordinate those operations and programs of the U.S. military and government, international and nongovernmental relief agencies that are working on improving African nations' health systems. (27) Once a permanent location for the headquarters is found (currently, they are still in Stuttgart, Germany with those of EUCOM), they will receive State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) employees.

There has been much controversy over where the headquarters of the new African Command should be located. So far only Liberia has officially offered to host them, while most of the other countries on the continent have given the United States a negative response. (28) Yet, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is currently trying to obstruct Liberia's offer. Most African states harbor extensive fears that hosting the AFRICOM headquarters will increase militarization, terrorism, the "scramble" for natural resources and decrease regional influence. (29)

According to senior defense officials, plans had to be altered in recent months. Currently, there is talk of either leaving the headquarters in Germany, or relocating them to the East Coast of the United States. (30) While there are still plans of making AFRICOM a hybrid command, whose 1,300 employees consist of military and non-military members, the military will still most likely ultimately remain in charge. (31)

The commander of the United States African Command is four-star General William E. "Kip" Ward of the U.S. Army. General Ward is the fifth African American four star general in U.S. history, who was previously assigned as Deputy Commander to EUCOM, where he oversaw military operations in 43 African nations. (32) He has recently tried to lower the new command's profile in the public to focus on preparing the command for October when it becomes fully operational and to steer clear of more public controversy. General Ward also aims to moderate the military's usual aggressive approach to tasks and ensure smooth cooperation with the civilian section of the command. (33)


There are numerous factors that influenced the decision to create a new command solely for Africa. As already noted, the end of the Cold War and demise of the Soviet Union changed the geopolitical landscape of the world, and many African countries, that were previously in the sphere of influence of one of the two superpowers, declined in immediate importance. Then, after the bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam in 1998 and the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001, the United States realized that Africa posed a grave security threat. (34) The National Security Strategy of the United States published in 2002 stated, that:

"weak states ... can pose a great danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders ... In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the United States--preserving human dignity--and our strategic priority--combating terror. American interests and American principles, therefore, lead in the same direction: we will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace, and growing prosperity." (35)

However, U.S. strategic interests in Africa are more elaborate than this explanation may imply. There are many other motivational factors that have led to the organization of AFRICOM. First, many sources claim, that the United States is greatly interested in the natural resources of African states. (36) The volatile region of the Middle East and steadily rising oil prices have forced the U.S. to look in other places for opportunities to satisfy its energy security. The U.S. National Energy Policy report of May 2001 highlighted the fact that Africa was gaining strategic importance. Oil from Sub-Saharan African states already supplies approximately 20% of U.S. demand. (37) The Central Intelligence estimates claimed that Africa will supply up to 25% by 2015. (38) Nigeria is currently the largest supplier of oil in Africa and the fifth largest to the U.S. (39) Thus, the political instability in the Niger Delta has frequently caused reduced exports and a rise in the world oil price. Sean McFate suggested that AFRICOM may help combat this volatility by improving the security in the Gulf of Guinea where "the potential for deep water drilling is high." (40)

Another factor of importance was international terrorism. As previously stated, the U.S. perceives weak states as great a threat as strong states for providing safe havens for terrorists. Dr. Wafula Okumu, head of the African Security Analysis Program at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, pointed out that weak and insecure African states pose potential opportunities "that terrorists may exploit. (41) He identified possible targets as sources of Western interest, such as natural resources and oil reserves, as well as trade and supply routes. In helping to improve the government reach and state security, Western interests would be significantly protected and the threat of terrorism largely reduced. (42)

In his testimony before the United States House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, J. Peter Pham cited Abu Azzam al-Ansari of the Global Islamic Media Front who highlighted the importance of Africa for al Quaeda:

"There is no doubt that al-Quaeda and the holy warriors appreciate the significance of the African regions for the military campaign against the Crusaders. Many people sense that this continent has not yet found its proper and expected role and the next stages of the conflict will see Africa as the battlefield ... In general, this continent has an immense significance. Whoever looks at Africa can see that it does not enjoy the interest, efforts, and activity it deserves in the war against the Crusaders. This is a continent with many potential advantages and exploiting this potential will greatly advance the jihad. It will promote achieving the expected targets of the jihad. Africa is a fertile soil for the advance of jihad and the jihadi cause." (43)

Recognizing the rising importance of Africa in the context of international terrorism, AFRICOM intends to promote security and spur development. General Ward has emphasized that AFRICOM will strategically enforce "active security" on the continent. (44) This implies actively helping African nations improve their ability to provide for their own security. U.S. troops will help African countries "increase their military professionalism, their proficiency, and their capability" to provide for their own security, according to General Ward. (45) African nations will be well equipped to battle terrorist threats and improve security and stability with their own troops on their own soil. This military cooperation will also help strengthen political and economic partnerships between the U.S. and target countries. (46)

Creating widespread stability was one of the most important motivations for the African Command, especially the support of peace missions on the continent. (47) In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health on August 2, 2007, Dr. Wafula Okumu also stated that many of the African Union peacekeeping missions have experienced difficulties so far, due to lack of professional training and equipment and would greatly profit from U.S. help. He points out that the advanced medical supplies of AFRICOM troops could also help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in African troops. (48)

In his testimony before the House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, United States Agency for International Development employee Michael E. Hess introduced the "Three D Concept." (49) He stated that USAID hopes AFRICOM will help develop further the coordination of "defense, diplomacy and development." He highlighted the past experiences that the agency has had collaborating with the United States military and saw both actors as mutually reinforcing in distributing development aid and humanitarian relief while using military logistical potential (50). Hess was optimistic about the collaboration of the State Department, USAID and the military in order to increase the efficiency of AFRICOM, but expressed concern about misconceptions about the work of the Department of Defense in Africa. He thought it important to not present the work of USAID as directly contributing to military objectives on the African continent.

Another way to combat the threat of terrorism on the African continent is to help spur development. Stability is one of the fast steps toward economic development, thus such government agencies as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that help sponsor and carry out humanitarian relief missions are to be part of AFRICOM. The organization of the new African Command thus demonstrates the understanding of "security and development as inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing." (51) Scan McFate brings this to the point by stating that AFRICOM's mission should be primarily to reduce the gap between security and development. (52)

An additional motivation for the creation of AFRICOM was the increasing spread and influence of Chinese competition for U.S. investment and resources. China's development assistance to Africa is still far lower than that of the United States, according to the State Department. (53) Estimates are that annual Chinese assistance totals between $1-2 billion, while the United States contributes $5 billion and the European Union around $18 billion annually. However, China's economic and commercial investments in Africa have risen drastically within the last few years from $10 billion in 2000 to $70 billion in 2007 and it is now Africa's second largest trading partner after the U.S. (54) Africa is becoming an important export market for Chinese consumer goods and private Chinese entrepreneurs are investing millions of dollars in African economies in the textile, light manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors, according to Christensen and Swan. (55)

China's rapid economic and industrial development, with a steady average of 9% annual growth in the last two decades, has increased its need for oil and other natural resources tremendously. Currently, China receives approximately 30% of its oil from African countries, such as Sudan, Angola, and the Congo (Brazzaville). (56) To further its means, the People's Republic of China entertains diplomatic relations with 47 African nations and distributes development assistance for diplomatic backing. Currently, China's relations to the government of Sudan are seen as very controversial. In exchange for half of Sudan's oil, China arms the government that supports the militia which has displaced millions of citizens in the Darfur conflict, thus violating the United Nations arms embargo on the region. (57)

In essence, the presence of U.S. troops as part of the new African Command could also help increase U.S. presence in the areas, which are increasingly being influenced by the People's Republic of China. Some U.S. positions go as far as to say that recent Chinese economic activities in Africa are part of a "grand strategy" of China that jeopardizes U.S. national security and ultimately intends to weaken Western presence on the continent. (58)



There are also further security interests that play a role in the implementation of AFRICOM. Authorities fear that there is a link between drug trafficking and terrorism. Nigeria is known to be a hub through which one third of the heroin seized by U.S. authorities and half of the cocaine seized by South African law enforcement HIV flows. (59) Additionally, piracy on the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea, pose a grave concern for the security of maritime traffic. Joint operations of African troops and U.S. navy ships patrolling these areas could help reestablish maritime security. Lastly, there are also expectations that the new African Command will be able to combat one of the major causes of death on the continent: HIV/AIDS. The majority of people infected with the virus worldwide can be found in Africa, which amounts to 68% in 2007, according to the United Nations. (60) Damming the spread of the disease remains a major concern for the United States. (61)


I. U.S. Concerns

Officials, institutions and the public in the U.S. and Africa did not homogenously receive the new U.S. African Command. While many African countries harbor doubts and concerns about the new command, there are also voices in the United States that express criticism. Donald M. Payne, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, expressed serious concerns about the Bush administration's reasons for establishing the command. (62) He saw the government's information as incoherent, once saying that the Department of Defense will not engage in new activities in Africa and then contradicting that with plans for new collaborative programs as part of AFRICOM's mission. Further, the government did not inform Congress, and especially Payne's subcommittee, of these plans in advance and he viewed this as inappropriate. Thirdly, Payne expressed concerns about the Defense Department's involvement in "foreign aid and foreign assistance" in Africa because previous coordination between the Department of Defense and the State Department had not been very good. (63) As noted previously, Michael E. Hess of the US Agency expressed further related concern for International Development. He feared the blurring of the lines between the "Three D's" (diplomacy, defense and development) in cases where the Department of Defense took over humanitarian missions and how this could be perceived as a complete militarization of U.S. policy to Africans. (64)

In his interview with the New York Times, General Ward tried to explain that a militarization of U.S. policy will not take place. (65) He assured that the military would collaborate with the other government agencies and also tried to remove fears of African countries about the command. Yet, he said, ultimately, the only way these governments could be persuaded would be through the way that the U.S. command works with them. (66) He added:

"If anything, what we've done is reinforce that we are here to add value to the ongoing programs. We reinforced the notion that we are here to listen to you and only do those things that you are asking of our assistance in doing and obviously making sure that those things that you are asking us to do are keeping with our state and foreign policy objectives as well." (67)

Thus, the military attempted to counteract some of the fears African governments and parts of the African public were harboring and at the same time reassure the American public that they would do their best to collaborate with the other agencies at the command headquarters.

2. African Concerns

While some African leaders welcomed the announcement of the new United States African Command (AFRICOM), others expressed some skepticism regarding its overall objectives. Skepticism regarding the utility of "another U.S. base" has not only political implications but also moral and ethical as well. According to Michelle Ruiters, a senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue, "African does not need another US base aimed at promoting peace and development. AFRICOM would destabilize an already fragile continent and region, which would be forced to engage with US interests on military matters." (68) Although AFRICOM has been presented as the panacea for Africa's internal and external problems, how African leaders and citizens on the continent perceive its whole sale is important. As Wafula Okumu has succinctly stated, "for a long time, the strategic thinking has been that the U.S. has no competing interests in Africa and do not want anybody else to have any, either." (69) With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy towards the African continent has been one of "benign neglect" or "manifest destiny." During the Cold War when Africa was important from a geopolitical stance, the U.S. was more than willing to intervene either directly or by proxy in the continent to fulfill its "manifest destiny" as a beacon of light to spread democracy in countries that were in dangerous of becoming a satellite of the Soviet Union, as in the conflicts of Angola and Mozambique. In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has taken the position that the African continent matters but only it deems important or affects its national security interests. This "benign neglect" attitude can be seeing in the conflict in Rwanda and Burundi with the Clinton's administration reluctance to intervene and to call the acts of aggression against innocent civilians an "act of genocide." Most recently, we are witnessing once again the reluctance of the U.S. to take a strong stance against the Sudanese government in its campaign of mass destruction in the Darfur region.

Wafula Okumu, Head of the African Security Analysis Program, Institute for Security Studies, in his testimony given to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, August 2, 2007, highlighted several reasons why Africans were reluctant to embrace AFRICOM:

1. Any country hosting the command will be criticized for violating Africa' s common positions on African defense and security, which discourages the hosting of foreign troops on the African soil;

2. The memories of colonialism are still vividly in many African countries;

3. When African reflect on their relationship with the U.S., they see ambiguity, neglect, and selective engagement;

4. Africans are not comfortable dealing with the military in matters related to their development and sovereignty;

5. The launching and the aggressive promotion of are taking place at the same time that Africa is debating the "Union Government" proposal;

6. Africans were never consulted during the conceptualization of AFRICOM. Rather, AFRICOM was announced and has been presented as a fait accompli;

7. There is also a concern that AFRICOM will suffer from mission creep by being transformed from engagement in humanitarian missions to an interventionist force, as was the case with Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992;

8. Militarization of U.S.-African relations--African are wary of the U.S. record in Iraq and concerned that the Pentagon is taking the role in the promotion of U.S. interests. (70)

In addition to the concerns raised by Wafula Okumu, African leaders and citizens alike have several misconceptions about what AFRICOM will look like and what it will accomplish. During her testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, Theresa Welan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, highlighted three such misconceptions:

1. Some people believe that the establishment of AFRICOM is solely to fight terrorism, or to secure oil resources, or to discourage China;

2. Some have raised the concern that AFRICOM will take control of security issues on the continent;

3. There are some fears that AFRICOM represents a militarization of U.S. foreign policy in African and the AFRICOM will somehow become the lead U.S. Government interlocutor with Africa. (71)

In spite of the fact that scholars and practitioners of international affairs often forget small states in their assessment of global politics, small states matter and they constitute "the bulk of the world's territories, about 129 ... have populations of below 10 million, a reasonable upper limit for a small state given that the top states of the world have more than 1 billion people." (72) As J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, has pointed out, "correct or incorrectly, small countries will tend to view the new command as a potential hedge against the aspirations of their larger neighbors to regional hegemony, while larger nations may conversely come to view AFRICOM as a potential obstacle to those ambitions." (73)

One final criticism for the establishment of the AFRICOM and its potential benefits is the religious criticism. As Michelle Ruiters has pointed out, "military bases in Asia and South American have produced a culture and economy that are focused on servicing and serving that base. Local women and men become militarized as they seek ways and means to survive and thrive in the presence of the military base." (74) Since many of those military bases are located in underdeveloped or developing countries where underemployment as well as unemployment is rampant and most of the unemployed are women, the development of a commercial sex work industry becomes a necessity when women need to feed their families. (75)


After examining the AFRICOM's organization, mission, and motivation, a final verdict regarding its overall objectives is still pending and questionable. While some African leaders have welcomed the creation of the AFRICOM and see its mission of promoting peace, security, and prosperity as something worthwhile, others are less sanguine and see the AFRICOM as a hegemonic attempt by the U.S. to balance China's influence on the continent since U.S. foreign policy toward the continent has been one of 'benign neglect" or "manifest destiny." With the end of the Cold War one would expect that U.S. foreign policy toward the continent of Africa to shift priorities from a foreign policy based on geopolitics interests to one based on geo-economics interests as the African continent's oil resources and geostrategic regions such as the Horn of Africa and the Middle East dominate U.S. foreign policy decisions. The AFRICOM is a political reality that can not be ignored by African leaders. Now that the command is in full operation there are still issues of great relevance to the continent that should involve a continuing discussion between political leaders and their constituencies. One issue of great implicatios to the success or failure of the AFRICOM Command Center has to do with location. There has been considerable debate over where to ultimately base AFRICOM. In November 2008, the Secretary of Defense announced that the decision on whether to move the command out of Germany would be postponed until 2012 to allow the command to gain greater understanding of its long-term operations requirements. (76) The decision as to where to locate the AFRICOM Command Center will have serious political implications. For example, South Africa and Algeria have expressed reluctance to host the new command, possibly out of concern over a permanent foreign military presence within their borders. Also, in North Africa there are some concerns that an American military presence could vitalize domestic terrorist groups. Finally, some African governments considered regional hegemons may perceive a permanent American military presence, whether staffed by civilians or troops, to be a rival for political or military power in their sphere of influence. (77) Another important issue regarding the future of the AFRICOM Command Center has to do with the Status-of-Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the status of bilateral non-surrender agreement, commonly known as an Article 98 Agreement. (78) SOFA is a legal document negotiated by the State Department to define the legal status of U.S. personnel and property while in a sovereign country. Article 98 Agreement protects U.S. servicemen and women from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. (79) In addition to the aforementioned issues regarding the future of the AFRICOM Command Center, African leaders must also look at the AFRICOM Command Center in light of five factors that have increased U.S. interest in Africa in the past decade, namely, oil; global trade; armed conflicts; the war on terror; and the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and its devastating social, economic, and political impact on the command. (80)

In spite of the enthusiastic endorsement of AFRICOM by General William E. Ward, commander of AFRICOM, and its long-term commitment to strengthening ties with Africa, there are still many perceptions or misperceptions of AFRICOM lingering among African leaders and citizens concerning the true intentions of the U.S. toward the continent. As Fred Mbugua has written on the pages of the East African Standard, "looking at U.S. alliances with authoritarian governments in Africa, one can see that what plays best to the media is not always what works best in the world of realpolitik." (81)


(1.) Linda Thomas-Greenfield. "Remarks on AFRICOM". Army National Guard Directorate, Arlington, VA. December, 5, 2007. Source available at Accessed January 30, 2008.

(2.) Ibid.

(3.) Ryan Henry. Department of Defense Press Briefing, April 23, 2007. Source available at cript.aspx? transcriptid=3942 Accessed June 27, 2008.

(4.) Pat Paterson. "Taking Africa Seriously." U.S. Naval Insitute Proceedings, vol. 133, issue 10 (October 2007). Pg.36-41.; McFate, Sean. "Briefing: US Africa Command: Next Step or Next Stumble?" African Affairs 107/426, pp. 111-120.

(5.) Sean McFate. "U.S. Africa Command: A New Strategic Paradigm?" Military Review, January-February 2008. pp. 10-21.

(6.) Ibid.

(7.) Robert M. Gates. Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. April 15, 2008. Source available at http://armedservices. Accessed June 27, 2008.

(8.) Robert M. Gates. Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 6, 2007.

(9.) White House Press Release. "President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa." February 6, 2007. Source available at 2007/02/20070206-3.html. Accessed June 29, 2008.

(10.) Sean McFate. "Briefing: US Africa Command: Next Step or Next Stumble?" African Affairs 107/426, pp. 111-120.

(11.) Joseph A. Nye, Jr. "The Decline of American Soft Power: Why Washington Should Worry." Foreign Affairs, 83.3, May/June 2004. pp. 16-20.

(12.) Joseph S. Nye, Jr. "The Benefits of Soft Power." Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, August 2, 2004. Source available at Accessed July 1, 2008.

(13.) Joseph S. Nye, Jr. "The Decline of American Soft Power: Why Washington Should Worry."

(14.) Joseph S. Nye, Jr. "A Smarter Superpower." Foreign Policy, May/June 2007. pp. 46-47. See also, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. The Powers to Lead. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

(15.) White House Press Release. "President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa." February 6, 2007. Source available at 2007/02/20070206-3.html. Accessed June 29, 2008.

(16.) Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Remarks on AFRICOM. Army National Guard Directorate, Arlington, VA. December, 5, 2007.

(17.) Daniel Volman. "Why America Wants Military HQ in Africa." New African, January 2008, pp. 36-40.

(18.) Ibid.

(19.) Ibid.

(20.) Linda Thomas-Greenfield. "Africa: Partnership With Africa through Public Diplomacy and Development Assistance." National Council of International Visitors. Washington, D.C. February 14, 2008.

(21.) Ibid.

(22.) Ibid.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) Ray Suarez. "Bush's Visit Renews Focus on State of U.S.-Africa Relations." PBS Online News Hour, February 21, 2008. Source available at RLINK" africa_02-21.html." bb/africa/jan-june08/africa 02-21.html. Accessed June 27, 2008. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Bush in Africa, Emphasizes Successes Over Conflicts." New York Times, February 17, 2008. Source available at ttp://www.nytimes.corn/2008/02/17/world/africa/17prexy.html?_r= 1&scp=5&sq=President+Bush+Africa+&st=nyt&oref=slogin Accessed June 27, 2008.

(25.) Sheryl Gay Stolberg. "Bush in Africa, Emphasizes Successes Over Conflicts." New York Times, February 17, 2008.

(26.) Otto Kreischer. "New African Comman to Rely on Non-Defense Agencies." CongreeDaily, May 5, 2007.

(27.) Pat Paterson. "Taking Africa Seriously."

(28.) Valerie Reed. "Prospects for African AFRICOM Headquarters." Center for Defense Information.

(29.) Ibid.

(30.) Gordon Lubold. "Pentagon Scales Back AFRICOM Ambitions." Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2008. Source available at Accessed June 16, 2008.

(31.) Ibid.

(32.) Pat Paterson. "Taking Africa Seriously;" Daniel Volman, "Why America Wants Military HQ in Africa." New African, January 2008, pp.36-40.

(33.) Gordon Lubold. "Pentagon Scales Back AFRICOM Ambitions." Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2008. Source available at Accessed June 16, 2008.

(34.) J. Peter Pham. "Next Front? Evolving U.S.-African Strategic Relations in the 'War on Terrorism' and Beyond." Comparative Strategy, 26 (2007). pp. 39-54.

(35.) National Security Strategy of the United. States of America (September 2002). Source available at nsc/nss.pdf. Accessed June 28, 2008.

(36.) Daniel Volman. "Why America Wants Military HQ in Africa; Sean McFate, "U.S. Africa Command: A New Strategic Paradigm?" Military Review, January-February 2008. pp. 10-21.; Lansana Gberie. "Liberia Going Against the Grain." New African, December 2007. pp.40-41.

(37.) Lansana Gberie. "Liberia Going Against the Grain."

(38.) Central Intelligence Agency, Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with Non-government Experts, December 2000. Source available at Accessed June 28, 2008.

(39.) Wafula Okumu. "Africa Command: Opportunity for Enhanced Engagement or the Militarization of U.S.-Africa Relations?" Testimony given to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, August 2, 2007. Source available at bttp:// Accessed June 28, 2008; Scan McFate. "U.S. Africa Command: A New Strategic Paradigm?"

(40.) Ibid.

(41.) Wafula Okumu. "Africa Command: Opportunity for Enhanced Engagement or the Militarization of U.S.-Africa Relations?" Testimony given to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, August 2, 2007. Source available at Accessed June 28, 2008.

(42.) Ibid.

(43.) J. Peter Pham. "Africa Command: A Historic Opportunity for Enhanced Engagement--If Done Right." Testimony before the United States House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. August 2, 2007. Source available at: 110/pha080207.htm. Accessed June 28, 2008.

(44.) William Ward, William and Stephanie Hanson. "Interview: Africom Seeks Military-to-Military Relationships." New York Times, May 22, 2008. Source available at 20080522.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=AFRICOM&st=cse&oref=-slogin. Accessed June 16, 2008.

(45.) Ibid.

(46.) Daniel Volman. "Why America Wants Military HQ in Africa."

(47.) Wafula Okumu. "Africa Command: Opportunity for Enhanced Engagement or the Militarization of U.S.-Africa Relations?"

(48.) Ibid.

(49.) Michael E. Hess. Africa: Testimony of Michael E. Hess-U.S. House of Representatives Africom Hearing. August 3, 2007. Source available at Accessed June 26, 2008.

(50.) Ibid.

(51.) Scan McFate. "U.S. Africa Command: A New Strategic Paradigm?"

(52.) Ibid.

(53.) Thomas J. Christensen and James Swan. "China in Africa: Implications for U.S. Policy." Statement Before the Subcommittee on African Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 5, 2008. Source available at 105556.htm. Accessed June 29, 2008.

(54.) Ibid.

(55.) Ibid.

(56.) Seam McFate. "U.S. Africa Command: A New Strategic Paradigm?"

(57.) Ibid.

(58.) Daniel Volman. "Why America Wants Military HQ in Africa."

(59.) J. Peter Pham. "Next Front? Evolving U.S.-African Strategic Relations in the 'War on Terrorism' and Beyond." Comparative Strategy, 26 (2007). pp. 39-54.; Scan McFate. "U.S. Africa Command: A New Strategic Paradigm?"

(60.) UNAIDS Press Release. November 20, 2007. Source available at e_en.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2008.

(61.) Scan McFate. "U.S. Africa Command: A New Strategic Paradigm?"

(62.) Donal M. Payne. "Africa Command" Opportunity for Engagement of the Militarization of the U.S. Africa Relationship?" august 2, 2007. Opening Statement. Source available at http://www.foreignaffairs. Accessed June 26, 2008.

(63.) Ibid.

(64.) Michael E. Hess. Africa: Testimony of Michael E. Hess-U.S. House of Representatives Africom Hearing. August 3, 2007.

(65.) William Ward and Stephanie Hanson. "Interview: Africom Seeks Military-to-Military Relationships." New York Times, May 22,2008. Source available at 80522.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq =AFRICOM&st=-cse&oref=slogin . Accessed June 16, 2008.

(66.) Ibid.

(67.) Ibid.

(68.) Michelle Ruiters. "Why U.S.'s Africom Will Hurt Africa," available at Accessed 6/16/2008

(69.) Wafula Okumu. "Africa Command: Opportunity for Enhanced Engagement or the Militarization of U.S.-Africa Relations?"

(70.) Ibid.

(71.) Theresa Whelan. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, "Africa Command: Opportunity for Enhanced Engagement or the Militarization of U.S.-Africa Relations?" Available at Accessed 6/16/2008

(72.) Jacquelina Anne Braveboy-Wagner. Small States in Global Affairs: The Foreign Policies of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008.

(73.) J. Peter Pham, "Africa Command: Opportunity for Engagement or the Militarization of the U.S.-Africa Subcommittee on Relationship,"

(74.) Michelle Ruiters, "Why U.S.'s Africom Will Hurt Africa," available at Accessed 6/16/2008.

(75.) Ibid.

(76.) Lauren Plock, "Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa," Congressional Research Service RL34003, July 28, 2009.

(77.) Ibid.

(78.) Ibid.

(79.) Ibid.

(80.) Ibid.

(81.) Stephanie Hanson, "Backgrounder: The Pentagon's New Africa Command," available at ttp:// 70503.html?_r=1&scp=7&sq=stephanie%20hanson&st=cse&oref= slogin. Accessed 9/23/2008.

By Jose de Arimateia da Cruz and Laura K. Stephens *

* Jose de Arimateia da Cruz is an Associate Professor International Relations and Comparative Politics at Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia. He received his Ph. D. from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in Latin American and African polities as well as international relations. He is on the Board of Directors of the Savannah Council on World Affairs, former Commissioner Mayor's Commission on Human Rights, City of Springfield, Missouri, and a former Assistance Ombudsman (Joint Office of Citizens Complaints) Dayton, Ohio. Laura K. Stephens is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. She received her B.A. in law and society from Armstrong Atlantic State University.
COPYRIGHT 2010 Association of Third World Studies, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:OTHER PAPERS
Author:da Cruz, Jose de Arimateia; Stephens, Laura K.
Publication:Journal of Third World Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Sep 22, 2010
Previous Article:Elite composition and socio-political correlations: age, foreign travel and writings of the Jewish political elite during the British mandate over...
Next Article:The judiciary in governance in the Gambia: the quest for autonomy under the second republic.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |