Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Background on the largest U.S. military programs in Africa:

AFRICOM: Begun Oct. 1, it is expected to be fully operational within a year. Oversees U.S. military operations in 53 African nations — all the continent except Egypt. Previously, Africa was split among three U.S. commands. Staff of 200 due to grow to around 800. Expected to focus on training African militaries and providing logistic support to peacekeeping missions.

HORN OF AFRICA: Since 2002, about 1,800 U.S. military personnel have been at former French Foreign Legion base in eastern African nation of Djibouti. Mission has evolved from capturing and killing terrorists to training local military forces, providing aid to the needy and gathering intelligence. Program covers Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Yemen, Seychelles and Somalia, where al-Qaida-liked terrorists are believed active. U.S. Navy intervened in waters off Somalia twice last week to help ships seized by pirates.

TRANS-SAHARA INITIATIVE: U.S. troops training armies in northern and western Africa in this $100 million-a-year program. Covers Algeria, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia and Senegal, with focus on training local security forces to control borders and combat potential terror threats.

GULF OF GUINEA: Navy ships from Naples, Italy-based 6th Fleet patrol Gulf of Guinea, region on Africa's western coast that accounts for 17 percent of U.S. oil imports. Area stretches from Ivory Coast to Angola. U.S. naval presence rose from just a handful of days in 2004 to daily beginning this year. The U.S. naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea — measured by "ship days" — has increased more than 50 percent since last year, said Lt. Brian Badura, a spokesman for the 6th Fleet
A Navy cruiser, the USS Fort McHenry, self-sustaining, helicopter-equipped warship , arrived in Senegal's capital on Monday to begin a half-year training exercise for African naval forces around the Gulf of Guinea.
Africom's creation has provoked much skepticism on the continent that one of the most basic questions — where it will be located — remains unresolved. So far, only Liberia has publicly stated a willingness to host Africom . For now, Africom has just over 200 staff members, and is based in Stuttgart, Germany. Theresa Whelan, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, estimates 80 percent of the command's eventual staff of around 800 will be based outside Africa.
"Africans have a feeling Africom represents something more than what is being sold to them," said Wafula Okumu, an analyst at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies.
It is meant to protect America's competitive stake in African oil and other resources increasingly sought by rising powers like China and India. The continent has surpassed the Persian Gulf as the leading supplier of oil to the United States. U.S. officials concede America's strategic interests come first. Moeller said increasing security in the gulf is partly an issue of open markets. The U.S. wants to work with "African partners to make sure the resources that emanate from the continent are available to the global community," he said.
The U.S. military is already well-entrenched in Africa, spending around $250 million a year on military assistance programs, said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Proponents of Africom talk about its possible humanitarian role , that provides for a a deputy commander who is a civilian responsible for overseeing civil-military affairs and coordinating with other U.S. government agencies. Yet observers such as Okumu at the Institute for Security Studies point out "Why should they be using the military to promote development when they already have institutions within the U.S. government that are better capable and more acceptable?"
Some officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development worry their humanitarian programs could be "stigmatized" by direct links with the military, which has melded aid programs with combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — wars unpopular in most of Africa.
The strategic importance of Africa and its natural resources means that Africa will now remain on the radar screen of the United States .

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