The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), launched in February 2007 becomes fully operational today (Wednesday) as it takes over all U.S military operations in Africa. The unified command has administrative responsibility for U.S. military support to U.S. government policy in Africa, to include military-to-military relationships with 53 African nations.
Todd Pittman for AP writes: "Resistance to Africom among African governments has been so strong that commanders abandoned initial ambitions to install a headquarters on the continent. It is based in Stuttgart instead, with about two dozen Africom liaison officers posted at embassies."
The report quoted AFRICOM's deputy for military operations, Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller as saying that counterterrorism is a priority, but that it is not the only one. "Our primary responsibility ... is working with our African partners to help them build their security capacity" — mainly by training armies and peacekeepers.
Pittman writes that "from the beginning, AFRICOM was cast as a different kind of command, one that would focus American military might not on fighting wars, but on preventing them through "soft power." And that as part of the new approach, a civilian deputy equal to Moeller was appointed to coordinate humanitarian operations with other U.S. agencies. AFRICOM's "interagency" makeup was trumpeted as a better way to meet the continent's development needs."
The civilian deputy equivalent to Moeller has the official title, "Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities," and that is Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates. She will reportedly direct the command's plans and programs associated with health, humanitarian assistance and de-mining action, disaster response, security sector reform, and Peace Support Operations. She also directs Outreach, Strategic Communication and AFRICOM's partner-building functions, as well as assuring that policy development and implementation are consistent with U.S. Foreign Policy.
That makes me feel better. I guess I should say, congratulations for coming into being. But now this is getting me a tad confused. I thought State has the "soft power" while Defense has the "hard" part. Hmmn....that must have changed during the commercial. I hate it when they do that, don't you?
Militarization of our foreign policy? Now don't you believe what you read. In individual countries, U.S. Ambassadors will continue to be the President's personal representatives in diplomatic relations with host nations. State will continue to be the primary foreign policy arm; USAID will continue to be the development arm. Yup! Yup! Except that State is counting pennies and paper clips (don't know about AID, too many stubbed toes under one confusing roof right now) and DOD has the money.
But hey - why quibble over a minor thing?ONLINE MATERIALS: Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report: updated 08/22/08 Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa (PDF file)
AFRICOM Activation Ceremony Speech Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Wednesday, 10/01/08