This expansion of U.S. military operations in Africa is cause for serious alarm. The Bush administration has clearly given priority to defense above diplomacy – a power imbalance that is likely to result in further destabilization of the African continent. AFRICOM is a command designed to fulfill a short-sighted and ultimately self-destructive vision of U.S. global interests to expand the War on Terror and to satisfy America’s hunger for oil and other resources. Such self-interested goals will be to the detriment of African civilians whose needs and concerns will be overshadowed by special interest groups like oil companies and private military contractors.
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. . . the military bias will, as in the past, contribute to human rights abuses and ongoing conflict rather than promoting security based on African needs.
The record of U.S. bilateral military engagement, whether in Africa or elsewhere in the world, provides little evidence to support the view that the effects will be positive. Those who support AFRICOM should have the burden of proof to the contrary. If anyone can cite an example of successful U.S. bilateral military engagement in terms of promoting peace and reconstruction, in the period since the post-World War II reconstruction of Germany and Japan, AfricaFocus would welcome referrals to evidence of such cases.
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Militarizing Africa (Again)
Real Reasons for AFRICOM
Professional military officers have made it clear that the new Africa Command has three main purposes. First and foremost, the new command’s main mission is to protect American access to Africa’s oil and other resources, preferably by enhancing the ability of African allies to guard these resources themselves on behalf of the United States. But, to prepare for the day that Washington decides to try to use American troops in a desperate bid to keep them flowing, the United States is also acquiring access to local African military bases and dramatically expanding its naval presence off Africa’s coastline, especially in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea region. Imports from Africa are expected to reach 25% by 2015, making Africa one of the largest future suppliers of U.S. oil – larger even than the Persian Gulf.
The new command will also expand and intensify counter-terrorism operations in Africa and will make the continent a central battlefield in the Global War on Terror. Through AFRICOM, the Pentagon will intensify and extend U.S. counter-terrorism operations in Africa as well as its involvement in counter-insurgency warfare and other internal security operations in African countries. American troops are already engaged in combat operations in Somalia where air and naval strikes aimed at alleged al-Qaeda members instead killed dozens of Somali civilians in January and June 2007 and U.S. troops were engaged in combat-support operations in Mali in September 2007.
Finally, the new command is designed to counter China’s efforts to increase its influence and its access to African oil and other raw materials. The creation of AFRICOM is one element of a broad effort to develop a “grand strategy” on the part of the United States to compete with, and eventually restrain China’s activities. It is also intended to demonstrate to Beijing that Washington will match China’s actions, thus serving as a warning to Chinese leaders that they should restrain themselves or face possible consequences to their relationship with America as well as to their interests in Africa.