Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England (2nd from right) escorts Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf through an honor cordon and into the Pentagon for discussions on a broad range of bilateral security issues on Oct. 24, 2007. DoD photo by R. D. Ward
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been visiting the US this past week. She received several much deserved awards, including the 2007 Freedom Award. And she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush. He promised debt relief for Liberia and to assist with getting Liberia qualified for Millenium Challenge Accout funding.

I do wonder what they discussed at the Pentagon, especially regarding AFRICOM.

I suspect the US would like to have its headquarters in a country with more developed infrastructure, and a somewhat longer history of stability than Liberia has at present. And there is news today that President Johnson-Sirleaf announced that the AFRICOM headquarters will not be coming to Liberia, she gave lack of infrastructure given as the main reason.

President Johnson-Sirleaf is the only African leader who has welcomed US AFRICOM, and even invited the US to create its headquarters in Liberia. I generally admire President Johnson-Sirleaf for her toughness and committment. She needs investment in order to keep Liberia moving forward on the right track. I don’t think she will get anything from the Bush administration that is not essentially exploitive. She probably knows that, but understands that sometimes it is possible to exploit exploitation. Of course for that you have to be very lucky, as well as smart and quick on your feet. I doubt that AFRICOM will bring much assistance or prosperity to Liberia, mostly for the reasons mentioned in this article, which also states:

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 Africa.

. . .
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.

I would not trust anything Bush says about debt relief. All programs designed by the Bush administration to date, are designed to financially advantage Bush cronies. Whatever program Bush puts in place, crony capitalism will be its primary result.