PDF _ RL34003 - Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa
10-Mar-2008; Lauren Ploch ; 42 p.

Update: Previous Releases:
May 16, 2007

Abstract: On February 6, 2007, the Bush Administration announced its intention to create a new unified combatant command, U.S. Africa Command or AFRICOM, to promote U.S. national security objectives in Africa and its surrounding waters. U.S. military involvement on the continent has been divided among three commands: U.S. European Command (EUCOM), U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). The new command’s area of responsibility (AOR) will include all African countries except Egypt. AFRICOM was officially launched as a sub-unified command under EUCOM on October 1, 2007, and is expected to become a stand-alone command by September 30, 2008.

In recent years, analysts and U.S. policymakers have noted Africa’s growing strategic importance to U.S. interests. Among those interests are Africa’s role in the Global War on Terror and potential threats posed by uncontrolled spaces; the growing importance of Africa’s natural resources, particularly energy resources; and ongoing concern for Africa’s many humanitarian crises, armed conflicts, and more general challenges, such as the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS. In 2006, Congress authorized a feasibility study on the creation of a new command for Africa to consolidate current operations and activities on the continent under one commander.

As envisioned by the Department of Defense (DOD), AFRICOM will promote U.S. strategic objectives by working with African states and regional organizations to help strengthen regional stability and security through improved security capability and military professionalization. If directed by national command authorities, its military operations would aim to deter aggression and respond to crises.

DOD signaled its intention to locate AFRICOM’s headquarters on the continent early in the planning process, but such a move is unlikely to take place for several years, if at all. U.S officials are consulting with strategic partners in the region to determine what type of presence on the continent would be most appropriate, and what location, or locations, are most suitable. The new command will operate from Stuttgart, Germany for the foreseeable future. DOD has stressed that there are no plans to have a significant troop presence on the continent.

The 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa highlighted the threat of terrorism to U.S. interests on the continent. Political instability and civil wars have created vast ungoverned spaces, areas in which some experts allege that terrorist groups may train and operate. Instability also heightens human suffering and retards economic development, which may in turn threaten U.S. economic interests. Africa’s exports of crude oil to the United States are now roughly equal to those of the Middle East, further emphasizing the continent’s strategic importance. This report provides a broad overview of U.S. strategic interests in Africa and the role of U.S. military efforts on the continent as they pertain to the creation of AFRICOM. Although the command is still in the early stages of its development, a discussion of AFRICOM’s mission, its coordination with other government agencies, and its basing and manpower requirements is included. This report will be updated as events warrant.

 [read report]

Topics: International, Government

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