AFRICOM: The US Military’s Growing Role in Africa

Few people are aware of the existence of AFRICOM, at least not in the United States. AFRICOM stand for United States Africa Command, and it is part of the foreign policy legacy of former US President George W. Bush. The neocon ideology of global US empire, prevalent during the Bush era, was at play in the creation of AFRICOM. But AFRICOM is still going strong today, illustrating that the same philosophy prevails under the Obama administration.

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AFRICOM’s official mission

On February 6, 2007, George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the creation of US Africa Command. According to the Department of Defense, the decision to create AFRICOM was “the culmination of a 10-year thought process within the DOD acknowledging the emerging strategic importance of Africa, and recognizing that peace and stability on the continent impact not only Africans, but the interests of the US and the international community as well.”

The statement above, from AFRICOM’s web site, reflects a cornerstone of the neocon ideology, which advocates an expansion of the American empire under the pretense of  promoting peace and stability. Under the Obama administration, AFRICOM still tries to present itself almost as a humanitarian organization.

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“The designer of US Africa Command clearly understood the relationship between security, development, diplomacy and prosperity in Africa. As a result, AFRICOM reflects a much more integrated staff structure, one that includes significant management and staff representation of the State Department, USAID, and other government agencies involved in Africa.”

In May 2008, Robert Gates approved the following mission statement for AFRICOM:

“US Africa Command, in concert with other US government agencies and international partners conducts sustained security engagements through military-to-military programs, military sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of US foreign policy.”

What is the US military really doing in Africa?

The last phrase in  AFRICOM’s mission statement, approved by Secretary of Defense Gates, gives us a clue about AFRICOM’s real mission: promoting “peace and stability” for Africans is a pretext to justify the real mission, which is to defend US interests on the African continent and advance the US’ global foreign policy goals.

With the creation of AFRICOM, the Pentagon has set out to increase its access to Africa’s oil and other valuable mineral resources and to open a new front on the so-called global war on terror, without much regard for the needs and desires of African people. AFRICOM is nothing less than the latest frontier of US global military expansionism.

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The three main real goals of AFRICOM are quite obvious: 1. To counter resource nationalism on African soil as part of the so-called global war on terror, 2. To take over the protection of oil resources, recognizing that the US currently purchases 24 percent of its oil from Africa, 3. To counter China’s growing influence in Africa.

Africans are expressing grave concerns over the political and economic interests behind a US military presence on the continent. An African action resource provides many examples of statements from African leaders who stand opposed to AFRICOM.

 

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4 Responses to AFRICOM: The US Military’s Growing Role in Africa

  1. Stephen Dufrechou March 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Gilbert, you nailed it with this article…. The US’s “Grand Area” policy, indeed, tragically continues onward.

  2. Vince Crawley March 26, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Mr. Mercier,

    I’m not certain you’ve made a convincing case that African stability is not in the national interest of the United States.

    You should take a few minutes to read the “commander’s intent” of my boss, General Kip Ward. He says, “our national interests lie in a stable continent of Africa. This means that Africans live in the relative peace of a stable environment, are governed effectively, and enjoy a degree of economic and social advancement. An Africa, whereby African populations are able to provide for themselves, contribute to global economic development and allow access to markets in free, fair, and competitive ways, is good for America and the world. President Barack Obama stated in Accra, Ghana in July 2009, that ‘Africa’s future isup to Africans,’ and specified five priority areas where the U.S. can contribute to a brighter future for Africa. They are: democracy, opportunity, health, the peaceful resolution of conflict, and addressing transnational challenges.”

    You can read the rest at our Website: http://www.africom.mil

    Respectfully,
    Vince Crawley
    U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs

    • Gilbert Mercier
      Gilbert Mercier March 27, 2010 at 12:48 am

      Dear Vince,

      Thank you for your comment. I did read the letter from your commander General Ward. The criticisms of AFRICOM’s role in Africa, as I am sure you know, come from many sources within Africa, both from elected officials and the media.

      While I am not putting in question the dedication and integrity of the men and women serving in AFRICOM, what can be contested is the validity of the overall policy.

      We should keep in mind that most of Sub-Saharan Africa is celebrating its 50-year independence anniversary from the colonial powers of France in West Africa and Britain in East Africa. Don’t you think the African people have the right to be a bit sensitive about colonial or neo-colonial power?

  3. Vince Crawley March 26, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Here’s a link to War’d “Commander’s Intent” letter for 2010. It’s a PDF file.

    http://www.africom.mil/pdfFiles/Commander's%20Intent%20January%202010.pdf

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