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American Forces Press Service

Africa Integral to U.S. European Command, General Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2005 Maybe his command shouldn’t be called U.S. European Command, but rather U.S. European and African Command, Marine Gen. James L. Jones said in an interview here March 8.

Jones, who is the commander of U.S. European Command and is NATO’s supreme allied Europe, suggested that given the importance of Africa, the command may have to amend its name in the future.

“Africa is an important part of our theater, and has been neglected for too long,” Jones said. “Africa is everybody’s problem and everybody’s responsibility.”

Jones said Africa “will figure in our national interests in the foreseeable future.” And it is a continent beset by problems ranging from an HIV/AIDS epidemic, to charges of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur, tribal fighting in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi and vast areas – especially in the Sahel region, south of the Sahara desert – under no effective governmental controls.

The United States and its allies must engage Africa and help the nations of the continent rise out of the mess the region finds itself in, Jones said. “We’re trying to become more proactive and less reactive,” he said. “By proactive, I mean help the Africans help themselves.”

European Command must help struggling democracies in Africa develop their armed forces to protect their borders. This is important, because fundamentalists want to recruit in Africa. These fanatics go to areas where there is not much hope and economic prospects are dismal, Jones said.

“We need to do things to offset that,” he said. “We need to help our African friends and allies not only develop from a security standpoint, but also develop from an economic standpoint. It should never be about exploitation. It should be about partnerships and cooperation and it should have a consistency to the relationship, not just the question of being reactive.”

The general said the proactive costs are certainly much cheaper than reactive costs. “If we can do this and bring like-minded nations with us, then we can begin to turn things around (on the continent),” he said.

Jones used the U.S. experience in Liberia as an example of reactive and proactive policies. “We’ve had repeated crises in the country that we have had to respond to,” he said. Essentially, each time, the United States must rush Marines to the country to impose security on the area. “Then we declare success, leave – only to come back a few years later,” he said.

Far better if the United States with a modest investment of people and resources helps Liberians to help themselves. He suggests the United States help the government organize, train and equip the armed forces to support democracy. The United States must be more consistent with Liberia, and this would require “a longer term commitment of our special operators, our Marines and our soldiers.”

The United States must give the Liberians the perception that “we’re not walking away from them, that we want to help them achieve a secure and stable nation,” Jones said. “That can be done there, and in many other places.”

Jones said NATO needs to focus more attention on Africa. “NATO will have to quit being such an eastward-focused alliance and will have to react to some of the compelling realities of the southern flank,” he said.


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