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U.S. Africa Command Fulfills Requests Made by African Leaders
African leaders see the intrinsic connection between security and development, and they have been telling the new commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) that they want help building strong institutions that will promote growth on the
African leaders see the intrinsic connection between security and development, and they have been telling the new commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) that they want help building strong institutions that will promote growth on the continent.

U.S. Africa Command officially has been in business as the newest U.S. unified military command for only a few weeks, but its commander, Army General William "Kip" Ward, said the United States wants to be "a friend to the continent of Africa, its nations and its institutions." To that end, he has been traveling broadly to the 53 nations covered by his geographic command, listening to the needs of Africans and conveying the message that the United States is committed to strengthening and maintaining its security ties with Africa.

Ward told the annual meeting in Washington of the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) October 27 that he has been receiving requests to pursue traditional joint military activities, such as training and mentoring, as well as combined exercises and professional development. Ward said African leaders are concerned about a myriad of threats including illegal fishing, drug and human trafficking, terrorism and illicit weapons proliferation.

There is no cookie-cutter approach, the general said, so a different model is applied according to the perspective of each African nation. The idea is to help African countries increase capabilities to carry out peacekeeping, counterterrorism and coastal and border security missions and to offer support as Africans tackle poverty, disease, piracy, conflicts, natural disasters and territorial disputes.

The command's mission is to work with U.S. government agencies and international partners to conduct "sustained security engagement 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 U.S. foreign policy." The focus is on what is often called the "3 Ds" defense, development and diplomacy.

As an example, Africa Command is helping the African Union achieve its goal of developing additional peacekeepers with the 21-nation African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program sponsored by the State Department. ACOTA has trained 45,000 African soldiers and added 3,200 African trainers.

Ward frequently quotes South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who once said: "We strive for an Africa where Africans provide for their own security, but with the help of our friends." He said the establishment of AFRICOM signals the U.S. intention to be a reliable partner with Africa and one that is consistently, rather than episodically, involved.


Council on Foreign Relations fellow Stewart Patrick told Voice of America that U.S. Africa Command will serve to integrate U.S. policy engagement with the continent and ensure that "there will be more sustained attention by senior U.S. policymakers to security challenges" in Africa.

The U.S. response should be better tailored to Africa since the new regional command is staffed permanently not only with military officers but senior civilian experts from the departments of State, Treasury, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Such a unique staffing structure allows officers to learn from each other and make informed decisions about the most effective approaches.

Ward told students at Boston University October 22 that it is all about teamwork. Together, these experts can help Africans address their need for good governance, the rule of law, democratization and anti-corruption initiatives.

The general said there are no plans "for the foreseeable future" to move staff headquarters from Germany to Africa. Security assistance programs will be conducted from Stuttgart with elements of the eventual civil-military staff of 1,300 traveling as needed to ensure implementation. Ward said fears that the United States may seek to colonize Africa are unfounded: "We won't be putting large numbers of troops on the continent in the form of permanent garrisons or stationing large numbers [of troops]."
Several panelists at the IPOA summit on "Engaging AFRICOM" urged patience both in terms of what can be accomplished in Africa, where poverty, famine and conflict are widespread, and with respect to the pace of the command's recruitment of appropriate specialists. Paul Saxton, U.S. Africa Command's director of outreach, partnering and strategic communications, told the 250 specialists that Rome was not built in a day. He said the interagency effort is off to a strong start and the command is keen to work with the business community.

Saxton said 50 percent of the command will be civilians drawn from organizations as diverse as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Agriculture Department. This percentage is much higher than in the other military commands, where civilian slots might account for as much as 20 percent of the structure. He also said discussions are under way on future programs with allies including Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Army Major Shannon Beebe, an Africa analyst, told the group success will come through synergy as departments, governments, nonprofit groups and businesses join with Africans to meet persistent challenges, including how to foster greater stability.
Summit speaker Sean McFate said security-sector reform is very important in Africa because security is a precondition to successful economic development. More nonmilitary police are needed to provide prison, border and immigration security, the consultant added.