Appointment of an old Africa hand as commandant of the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey seems to reflect the emerging importance of that continent to U.S. military thinkers and planners.
Army Col. Sue Ann Sandusky took command of the language school in October, the same month that the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) — a unified combatant command of the Defense Department headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and responsible for U.S. military operations in, and military relations with, 53 African nations — was established.
The command is responsible for all of Africa, except Egypt.
Sandusky, 55, has served as a defense and Army attaché in U.S. embassies in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. She completed the French language course at DLI in 1992, and her first assignment to Africa was as a student at the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Staff College.
Prior to her appointment as commandant of the language school, she was director of African studies at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
AFRICOM will provide “a single focus on the continent of Africa” and be dedicated full time to the military aspect of U.S. policy there, she said.
She also emphasizes the idea of “stabilizing” what they call “failed states”.
One of the elements that has triggered military interest in the continent, she said, has been an effort to prevent parts of Africa from becoming “failed” or “fragile” states — “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists can organize and operate freely.
That interest has been reflected in publication of a new Army field manual “that has elevated stability operations to the level of combat operations” in importance, operations that apply to failing states and nation-building, Sandusky said.
“You don’t have to have an active, hot conflict to apply them,” she said, adding that AFRICOM sees its mission as more related to stabilization than combat.
“It’s clear that a large component of stabilization has to do with understanding the culture you’re operating in. That is directly related to what we’re doing at DLI,” she said.
The field manual “has institutionalized negotiations, understanding of culture and language” as valuable miliary skills, she said.
Sandusky took command of DLI with a student body that has grown by 38 percent since 2001, to about 3,500. The number of faculty at the school has grown to 2,800, including 1,700 accredited faculty members.
Based on information to date, “stabilizing” in Pentagon speak means preserving the ability of the US to extract resources comfortably without paying a fair price. And a “failed state” is one that resists or is hostile to the US extracting its natural resources, especially oil. Africa is rich in resources, and many countries and corporations are lusting after them.