New US Command to take broad, inclusive approach to Africa

Oct 15, 2007
Author: P&S

Washington, 12 October 2007 - The new US regional military command for Africa, an integrated defence, diplomatic and economic organization, will enhance US efforts to advance security and prosperity in Africa, US officials say.

In contrast to traditional military commands, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is designed to provide support to Africans as they continue to build democratic institutions and establish good governance. It will focus on tasks such as peacekeeping, security, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, according to the officials.

AFRICOM’s commander, General William E. “Kip” Ward, said that the new command will help African nations provide for their own security by enhancing existing US and international programs.

But he and other US officials said AFRICOM’s strategic objectives go beyond military matters.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, said that the United States hopes its support for defense reform and military capacity-building not only will help African nations to manage conflicts and mitigate violent extremism but also create conditions conducive to further economic growth.

Thomas-Greenfield spoke at a 9-10 October conference on infrastructure investment in Africa. Its private-sector participants viewed stability as the critical precondition for investing in telecommunication, transportation, power-generation and other infrastructure projects.

Underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure has hampered efforts by many African countries to sustain fast economic growth and engage more fully in international trade.

Thomas-Greenfield said only private capital markets can bridge the gap between what is required to fund costly infrastructure projects and the scarce resources available to most African governments.

Despite significant improvements in the security and business climates in Africa, many US investors still consider long-term infrastructure projects on the continent too risky because of what they perceive as a lack of stability.

Thomas-Greenfield said that the formation of AFRICOM is an acknowledgment that Africa warrants special US attention, and thereby helps boost the US private sector’s confidence in the continent.

Security and stability not only make it possible to maintain existing infrastructure, she said, but they also create the right environment for the private sector to contribute to its expansion.

“The creation of this new command is going to make a difference,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Another speaker, retired general Anthony Zinni, said early successes will be a key to winning the trust of African partners. Combined with an approach of consulting and building relationships with key leaders and groups, such successes can help overcome skepticism and doubts Africans may have about the AFRICOM mission and achieve common understanding of mutual interests, he added. Zinni is the executive vice president of DynCorp International, a company that provides support to military and civilian government operations.

“We need to engage African nations on an equal playing field,” he said.
Ward told a Senate committee in September that AFRICOM will give careful consideration to “what our partners need from the US to help them develop to meet their stated needs.”

The AFRICOM structure integrates staff members from civilian US agencies, primarily the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development. One of AFRICOM's two deputies will be Mary Carlin Yates, a senior State Department official and former ambassador to Ghana.

Zinni called AFRICOM an excellent opportunity and a noble experiment. He said that if it succeeds, it can serve as a new model, an integrated, interagency approach to US engagement with the rest of the world that combines different aspects of US policies.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, US Department of State. Web site:



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