Moon of Alabama has a series of articles providing some history and some of the thinking behind the formation of Africom. Part I, part II and part III. A PDF version of the complete series is available here.
The U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) will replace the AOR (Area Of Responsibility) for each of three other geographic combatant commands (there are now a total of six) currently tasked with portions of the second-largest continent, with the small exception of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) retaining AOR for Egypt. Further details on operations have not been made public apart from the usual basic press briefings and the formation of a transition team, though it not a mystery to identify what role AFRICOM will play in both the U.S. and Africa’s future.
. . .
That context is centered on strategic energy supplies and, explicitly, that of oil. In the petroleum age, these energy stores – along with the territories concealing them — have taken on great significance in the foreign policies of the industrialized nations, fueled by an insatiable fever for black gold and the seemingly instant wealth and power it delivers to its possessor.
. . .
Oil is the lifeblood of contemporary, militarized western civilization.
. . .
Paradoxically, as the military reach grew, so too did the need for more oil. The Pentagon is currently “the single largest oil consumer in the world.”
The article is scholarly and well documented, complete with footnotes. I am just looking at Part I in this post, but will return to these articles. The Bush administration is very secretive. And there have been movements around the globe to block or limit the reach of US military bases. So what they are doing in Ghana is not clear. What I suspect is that the US embassy, like many around the globe is becoming more militarized. The US Secretary of State is weak, and seems unable to make deals. The Pentagon has the money and the clout under Bush. There have been publicized visits from important military figures to Ghana. In terms of what is happening, or may happen, with the US military in Ghana, I suspect that they are setting up lily pads.
In its efforts to secure other basing options, the United States has negotiated agreements granting it access to airfields and other facilities in several African nations. These facilities are often referred to as “lily pad” facilities, because American forces can hop in and out of them in times of crisis while avoiding the impression of establishing a permanent – and potentially provocative – presence. They include Entebbe Airport in Uganda, where the United States has built two “K-Span” steel buildings to house troops and equipment; an airfield near Bamako, the capital of Mali; an airfield at Dakar, Senegal; an airfield in Gabon; and airfields and port facilities in Morocco and Tunisia.
The article does not cite Ghana specifically in this regard. But I doubt either the Bush administration or the Kufuor government are eager or likely to provide details to their citizens as to what exactly they may be discussing. Africom is just beginning. It would be well to watch the direction it takes. Ghana, and other African governments will need to be extremely clever and nimble in their dealings with it. As I mentioned, the articles are well worth reading to understand a more complete picture.