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Vol. 71/No. 41      November 5, 2007

Pentagon launches U.S. Africa Command
(front page)
The Pentagon announced October 1 that its new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), whose purpose is to oversee operations by Washington’s armed forces in Africa, has reached its “initial operating capability.”

President George Bush announced the creation of AFRICOM in February. This was soon after a U.S.-orchestrated invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian troops, backed by U.S. Special Forces, routed government forces from Mogadishu.

Besides boosting its presence in the Horn of Africa, another area of concern for Washington is the oil-rich Niger Delta. One country in that West African region, Nigeria, is now the third-largest supplier of U.S. oil. Today 10 percent of all U.S. oil supplies come from Africa.

Actions by the opposition Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have cut oil output in Nigeria by one-third, according to Stratfor, a U.S. intelligence consulting company.

Equatorial Guinea has oil reserves of 12 million barrels and substantial investments by U.S. oil giants.

In the Horn of Africa, U.S. counterterrorism operations are based in Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. In the Sahel region, Washington launched the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative in 2005. TSCI coordinates joint military actions between U.S. forces and governments bordering the Sahara Desert.

On September 28 the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Gen. William Ward as AFRICOM’s first commander. Ward previously served as deputy commander of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM). In 2006 Ward became the fifth Black U.S. army officer to be promoted to four-star general.

The AFRICOM staff, currently at 120 members, is to grow to 800 over the next year, according to Pentagon officials. For its first year AFRICOM will operate under EUCOM, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and eventually it will be based in Africa.

Only one African government, Liberia, has publicly offered to host the command. Several governments have criticized it.

“The command coming here will mean a lot for both countries,” Liberian information minister Lawrence Bropleh told the Reuters news agency. Ugandan defense minister Ruth Nankabirwa said, “AFRICOM will be a very good idea to enhance stability and fight terrorism on the continent.”

On the other hand, Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, who heads the Southern African Development Community (SADC), declared, “There will be no military base in Zambia or the SADC region.” Zambian chief government spokesman Mike Mulongoti said, “It is like allowing a giant to settle in your home.”

In August, South African defense minister Mosiuoa Lekota told the Mail and Guardian, “[T]he AFRICOM initiative has raised a lot of interest and attracted a lot of attention, because at some point, there is a certain sense that Africa has to avoid the presence of foreign forces on her soil.”
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