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AFRICOM, The US State Dept Army, Military or Humanitarian

July 18, 2008

Relief group criticizes new U.S. Africa command

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The new U.S. military command for Africa is unlikely to foster the security required to bring badly needed development to the impoverished continent, according to a study released on Thursday.

A report by the Washington-based relief agency Refugees International said U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, lacks the funding necessary to address the continent’s need for competent policing and criminal justice operations.

“AFRICOM’s current meager budget for bilateral security cooperation falls far short of what is needed to have true credibility and impact,” the 48-page report said.

But Africa Command spokesman Vince Crawley said the command would play only a supportive role in helping countries upgrade police and other law enforcement agencies, and that most of the effort would be funded and led by the State Department.

“People are right to be apprehensive, but we do believe there’s been a lot of misunderstanding about what we’re trying to accomplish,” Crawley said.

AFRICOM is unique among U.S. combatant commands because its includes State Department and USAID officials and its strategy for containing Islamist militancy involves humanitarian and development activities, such as the development of law enforcement and civil institutions, defense officials said.

One of two deputy commanders is a State Department official.

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jul 18, 2008 — During a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform July 15, 2008, U.S. Africa Command officials and other witnesses testified on AFRICOM’s progress, roles, and its intention to partner with African nations and the international community. Excerpt from the testimony:

… what is AFRICOM? One might think that should be a fairly simple, straightforward question, but as it turns out, it’s not necessarily so. The General (sic) Accountability Office’s testimony includes an interesting passage, and I quote: “State Department officials said that they had difficulty responding to African concerns about AFRICOM because of their own confusion over AFRICOM’s intended mission and goals.” Today’s hearing attempts for policymakers, for the American public and even for our own government representatives throughout Africa to try to bring some clarity here or at least to ask the right questions.

What is clear is that AFRICOM will bring three existing military commands with responsibilities for parts of Africa into one Africa-centric command. AFRICOM’s geographic jurisdiction has been carved from CENTCOM, which focused on the Horn of Africa and other eastern regions of the continent; the U.S. Pacific Command, which focused on Madagascar; and the U.S.-European Command, EUCOM, which focused on Western and Southern Africa. As a result, AFRICOM will oversee U.S. military relationships, activities and interests throughout Africa with the sole exception of Egypt, which will remain under the auspices of CENTCOM.

Significant government initiatives such as the establishment of a new combatant command raise important congressional oversight questions –for example, about the continuity of operations, the “right-sizing” necessary infrastructure and personnel and the sound stewardship of taxpayer funds, and we’ll explore these issues at today’s hearing. But AFRICOM represents additional questions during a post-Cold War, post-9/11 environment in which we continue to grapple with the asymmetric threats of terrorism and potential breeding grounds in ungoverned spaces.

We also have a continent that too often has been wracked by poverty, disease and war. In fact, Africa includes more than two-thirds of all the world’s HIV-positive population including some militaries with rates as high as an estimated 50 percent. Last November, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a remarkable lecture in which he recognized that, and I quote: “These new threats require our government to operate as a whole differently, to act with unity, agility and creativity, and they will require considerably more resources devoted to America’s non-military instruments of power.”

Excerpt from THERESA WHELAN‘s testimony, “… recognizing that USAFRICOM’s focus is on war prevention rather than war fighting, following Sun Tzu’s timeless advice, the inner workings of the command have been organized to best position it for theater security cooperation activities and the flexibility needed to prevent problems from becoming crises and crises from becoming catastrophes.

“… there are fears that USAFRICOM represents a militarization of U.S. foreign policy in Africa and that USAFRICOM will somehow become the lead U.S. government interlocutor with Africa. This fear is unfounded. USAFRICOM will support, not shape, U.S. foreign policy on the continent. The secretary of State remains the chief foreign policy adviser to the president, and the secretary of Defense remains the chief adviser on defense matters. Chiefs of mission authorities will remain as they are, as will authorities pertaining to combatant commanders.”

“… The establishment of USAFRICOM and the participation of State, USAID and other U.S. agencies demonstrates the importance the U.S. government places on strengthening ties with Africa. With USAFRICOM, the United States will be working in partnership with Africans to foster an environment of security and peace, an environment that will enable Africans themselves to further strengthen their democracies, institutionalize respect for human rights, pursue economic prosperity and build effective regional institutions. A more stable Africa serves the goal of helping to foster a more stable global environment.”



Report: U.S. Africa Aid Is Increasingly Military

The Pentagon, which controlled about 3 percent of official aid money a decade ago, now controls 22 percent, while the U.S. Agency for International Development‘s share has declined from 65 percent to 40 percent, according to the 56-page report.

AFRICA: USA must improve aid balance – Refugees International

No humanitarian role for AFRICOM

However, Malan said AFRICOM does appear to have backed off from a previous and controversial assertion that AFRICOM would involve itself in humanitarian as well as developmental work.

“There was some confusing language before,” Malan said. “The new mission statement is focused on security with no mention of humanitarian or development assistance.”

“[AFRICOM Commander] General Ward spent a lot of time with aid organisations and the humanitarian community. I think he listened and responded to what he heard, and AFRICOM has been narrowing its reach as it comes closer to full command,” Refugees International President Bacon said.

Africa Command has trouble filling key civilian slots

“Early administration rhetoric envisioned Africom as a transformational experiment providing a whole-of-government interagency approach to U.S. national security strategy,” said Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. “It appears that ambitions for Africom have been scaled back.”

Africa Command’s creation represents a shift in Defense Department thinking, said Lauren Ploch, an African affairs analyst at the Congressional Research Service. The command is expected to focus its energy and resources on training and assistance to local militaries so they can better ensure stability and security. “One DoD official suggested that the U.S. government could consider the command a success ‘if it keeps American troops out of Africa for the next 50 years,'” Ploch said.

But not everyone shares the Defense Department’s enthusiasm for the new whole-of-government command.

This is little discussed development that deserves more attention. Africa is a globally sought prize for its resources. It is tumbling toward becoming the new “Middle East”. Along with the US, China and India have vested interests in African oil, mineral and agricultural products.

The 2008 US elections give little attention to the dynamic maneuvers happening on the African Continent. Attention is focused on Northern Africa, Darfur, Somalia and the humanitarian disasters in many regions. Under the umbrella of “Humanitarian Aid” America downplays its growing dependence on Nigerian Oil … while the continent Africa: suffers from the fragile global economy.

The Nation, Danny Glover & Nicole C. Lee, point out: With little scrutiny from Democrats in Congress and nary a whimper of protest from the liberal establishment, the United States will soon establish permanent military bases in sub-Saharan Africa. An alarming step forward in the militarization of the African continent, the US Africa Command (Africom) will oversee all US military and security interests throughout the region, excluding Egypt. Africom is set to launch by September 2008 and the Senate recently confirmed Gen. William “Kip” Ward as its first commander.

Policy-makers seem to have forgotten the legacy of US intervention in Africa. During the cold war, African nations were used as pawns in postcolonial proxy wars, an experience that had a devastating impact on African democracy, peace and development. In the past Washington has aided reactionary African factions that have carried out atrocities against civilians. An increased US military presence in Africa will likely follow this pattern of extracting resources while aiding factions in some of their bloodiest conflicts, thus further destabilizing the region.

Misguided unilateral US military policy to “bring peace and security to the people of Africa” has, in fact, led to inflamed local conflicts, destabilization of entire regions, billions of wasted dollars and the unnecessary deaths of US soldiers. The US bombing of Somalia in January–an attempt to eradicate alleged Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa–resulted in the mass killing of civilians and the forced exodus of refugees into neighboring nations. What evidence suggests Africom will be an exception?

Africa is the new, last hope for resources to sustain human consumption. The sad history of exploitation has created an angry population that cannot condone more colonial occupation, but cannot move forward on its own. Mistrust is valid. Africans have been manipulated by outside interests for as long as written history. This is just the most recent chapter. America is quietly positioning itself into a role of “overseer” …

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