I wrote this for the African Loft in January 2008. It is no longer available there so I am republishing it here. It contains links to documents key to the creation of AFRICOM. Since 2008 AFRICOM has morphed and expanded both size and mission. There has been a mission surge rather than a mission creep. I’ve included links to some crucial documents. For more information on the origins of AFRICOM please read the superb essay: Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command part I , part II and part III, or the full version in PDF.
The Origins of AFRICOM
Early in 2007 Nigeria surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest supplier of oil to the United States. By 2015 the US expects to import more oil from Africa, than from the entire Persian Gulf. In February 2007 President Bush announced the creation of the US Africa Command, AFRICOM. This combination of events is hardly a coincidence, but the thinking behind AFRICOM began back in the early 1990s.
In 1992 Paul Wolfowitz, on instructions of his boss, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, prepared the Defense Planning Guidance, DPG ( excerpts ) that set forth a plan for US world dominance and military superiority. It was widely criticized and condemned. But the people who wrote it kept it in reserve.
In 2000, the Project for a New American Century, PNAC , called for total global domination by the US military in order to prevent rivals from emerging, and to deter potential rivals from even thinking about competition with the US. Members of PNAC include Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and other leading neo-conservatives who occupy key positions in the Bush administration. When Bush was running in 2000 he gave a speech calling for military buildup to “project our power” into distant combat zones, reflecting the thinking of the earlier DPG, and PNAC. Subsequently, many of PNAC’s conclusions and recommendations were written into the White House’s National Security Strategy.
In 2001, Cheney produced the National Energy Policy, the Cheney report.
Complete PDF version: PDF Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group .
The Cheney report predicts increasing demand for oil, in the US and around the world, for the next several decades. To meet this demand, the US needs to increase oil production capacity, and secure oil flow, all around the world. The report is not interested in conservation, or reducing consumption, only in meeting its projections of increased consumption, and increasing production.
[The Cheney] report makes thirty-five foreign-policy recommendations — one-third of its total proposals — on how to facilitate America’s acquisition of imported oil. . . . the overall thrust of the report is on removing the economic and political obstacles to overseas procurement. Indeed, the Cheney report can be read as a sort of grand blueprint for American foreign policy, calling as it does for a vigorous effort, led by the president himself, to bolster our ties with oil-rich countries and expand our presence in key producing areas.
(Klare, Blood and Oil, p. 62, ISBN 978-0805073133)
The overall plan is to control oil producing areas for maximum extraction of oil.
Then came the 9/11 attacks in 2001. These became a catalyst for the combination of three Bush/Cheney policies, 1 – military force projection to secure US hegemony and resources, 2 – increasing the production and supply of oil by controlling oil producing regions, and 3 – the fight against terrorism. “Terrorists” are now those who interfere with the production and flow of oil. These three policy priorities are increasingly one and the same policy.
This set the stage for AFRICOM. The Heritage Foundation published a document in 2003 calling for the creation of an Africa Command: U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution. Donald Rumsfeld took particular interest in the Heritage Foundation arguments. It was Rumsfeld who created of the Africa Command, though he resigned before it was announced.
Vijay Prashad has done the best job of summarizing the Heritage Foundation document:
. . . the Heritage Foundation argued, “Creating an African Command would go a long way toward turning the Bush Administration’s well-aimed strategic priorities for Africa into a reality.” Rather than engage Africa diplomatically, it is better to be diplomatic through the barrel of a gun. “America must not be afraid to employ its forces decisively when vital national interests are threatened.” Nevertheless, the U.S. will not need to always send its own soldiers. “A sub-unified command for Africa would give the U.S. military an instrument with which to engage effectively in the continent and reduce the potential that America might have to intervene directly.” The AFRICOM would analyze intelligence, work “closely with civil-military leaders” and coordinate training and conduct joint-exercises. In other words, the U.S. would make the friendly African military forces “inter-operatable” not only with U.S. hardware but also with U.S. interests.
In 2007 the Heritage Foundation published Africa’s Oil and Gas Sector: Implications for U.S. Policy . This describes Africa as an ideal source of oil for the US market, and suggests that the continent can also be used as a biofuel plantation for US fuel consumption.
Projecting American force across the globe, stepping up production and acquisition of oil, and fighting “terrorism” have all become one policy. This is why diplomatic and development assistance are being subsumed under AFRICOM. Military interaction and assistance creates the friendly atmosphere designed to make African militaries interoperable with US interests. African national armies act as a praetorian guards for large corporations, particularly oil corporations. It is already fairly easy to observe this in Nigeria. Also, rather than use American forces, the US government plans expanded use of mercenaries in Africa, which I have written about here.
I have tried to provide some of the initial documentation and planning behind AFRICOM. For more depth and background I recommend: Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command part I , part II and part III.
Since this was written a great deal more has been published. I strongly recommend reading:
US Military and Africom: Between the rocks and the crusaders
by Horace Campbell
Libya: behind the politics of humanitarian intervention
by Mahmood Mamdani
Address to The All-Africa Students Union (AASU) by Selorm Kofi Dake, who asks:
Whose war are we fighting, what price are we to pay and for how long?