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AFRICOM Is Historic Step in U.S.-Africa Relationship
The U.S. military's Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, is "history in the making" and, like the creation of the Africa Bureau at the U.S. Department of State 50 years ago, it is a vital step in an ever closer relationship between the
The U.S. military's Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, is "history in the making" and, like the creation of the Africa Bureau at the U.S. Department of State 50 years ago, it is a vital step in an ever closer relationship between the United States and Africa. Claudia Anyaso, director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for Africa at the State Department, made that point April 22 in an address to the Women in International Security Program at the U.S. Army War College. "This year, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Africa Bureau -- 50 years of enhancing relations with the nations of Africa and developing Africa policy," Anyaso said. "Based on a 1957 report from his vice president, President Dwight Eisenhower established the Africa Bureau on September 2, 1958. The creation of the bureau signaled the importance that the U.S. placed on its relations with the growing number of independent African countries and that the United States would have direct relations with Africa, no longer dealing with Africa through European allies. The establishment of embassies in these new nations followed and now number 44, with four consulates." "Fifty years later," she said, "the Department of Defense is acknowledging the strategic importance of Africa by establishing a military command devoted solely to African security needs and will no longer have to deal with Africa through three military commands -- the European Command, the Central Command and the Pacific Command." Anyaso, a career public diplomacy official who served as a member of the AFRICOM planning and implementation team, said she and her fellow team members all believe that AFRICOM is "history in the making." Additionally, she emphasized that the State Department "strongly supports" U.S. Africa Command. The Africa Command will support U.S. government efforts to work with African nations to achieve common goals through partnership and collaboration, she said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's policy of transformational diplomacy stresses partnership and the treatment of African partners as equals. "Thus, AFRICOM's mission will support the secretary's diplomatic policies," Anyaso said. "We also believe that AFRICOM complements the desires of African countries, as expressed by the African Union," she said. Second, she said, AFRICOM will improve the Department of Defense's ability to support other U.S. government programs in Africa. "No longer will U.S. government agencies and African partners have to deal with three separate commands, and coordination will be easier." Third, an expanded interagency role in AFRICOM presents opportunities for all U.S. government agencies working in Africa, she said. "The interagency component of AFRICOM will provide an opportunity for continuous dialogue so that there will be a greater understanding of upcoming issues and ... an opportunity for better planning." Fourth, the Africa Command will foster security, stability and safety, all of which promote economic prosperity and stability on the African continent. "If done right," Anyaso said, "AFRICOM can prevent problems from turning into crises and crises from turning into conflicts." NONMILITARY OFFICIALS HAVE VITAL ROLE Anyaso praised AFRICOM for integrating a large number of staff members from other U.S. government agencies into its command structure. For example, one of the command's two deputies is Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, a senior State Department Official and former ambassador to Ghana, who is the civilian deputy to the commander for civil-military activities. Yates, who is also a State department public diplomacy officer, directs the commander's civil-military planning and programs, with emphasis on aligning the Africa Command's activity with that of other U.S. government entities. Yates is responsible for policy development and resource and program assessment and directs all the command's plans and programs associated with health care, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian mine removal action, disaster response and security sector reform, Anyaso said. Improved coordination of the numerous U.S. government programs in Africa, Anyaso said, will allow the U.S. government and its African partners to make the best use of U.S. government resources in achieving their mutual goals of peace, prosperity and stability on the continent. Anyaso stressed that in 50 years the State Department's Africa Bureau has managed U.S. relations with Africa, engaged in public diplomacy activities across the region and learned a few things that can benefit AFRICOM: that personal relationships are crucial in Africa and that listening leads to mutual understanding. The United States wants an even closer relationship with Africa, Anyaso said, adding, "We are talking about long-term commitment." "Nothing happens quickly in Africa. Commitment and perseverance are essential," she said. The United States, she added, understands that actions speak louder than words. The image of America in much of Africa is of a 20-year-old Peace Corps volunteer who lives among Africans, learns their language, earns little and is eager to learn, she said. Another image is of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) worker, or a Fulbright program professor or a missionary. "General William E. Ward, the AFRICOM commander," she said, "wants to emphasize programs and deeds." A good example of that, she said, is the Africa Partnership Station project, in which the USS Fort McHenry toured the coast of West Africa, working with nongovernmental organizations and African partners, who were involved in the planning, on health and other community projects. "These are new images of America being created," Anyaso said, "all of which demonstrate American good will and concern."