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Analysis: The New 'African Command'

Council on Foreign Relations

February 9, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

For years, a debate has raged within the U.S. military about the need to reorganize its "Unified Combatant Command" system, the uniquely American prism through which the Defense Department views—and subdivides—the planet. This week, the Pentagon announced it would correct an oversight dating back to when U.S. forces pulled out of North Africa after World War II and split military jurisdiction of the African continent between U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and the Mideast-centric U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

President Bush said the move to create a unified command "will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa." It quickly won praise from military analysts and Africa hands, who long complained that EUCOM and CENTCOM had other priorities, leaving African issues to fester. "Long overdue" writes Brett D. Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation.

With the exception of Egypt and some islands off the African coastline, AFRICOM, scheduled to be operational in 2008, will be responsible for any U.S. military activities on the continent. Though some 1,700 U.S. counterterrorism troops already are based on a former French foreign legion base in Djibouti, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Ryan Henry says there are no plans for any permanent bases on the continent, a point noted with a hint of relief in South Africa's Mail & Guardian.

While many African nations may welcome the new attention, others have expressed concern about recent U.S. military activities in Somalia, including a strike at a village last month described as an al-Qaeda haven by the military, and a sense Ethiopia's intervention received Washington's tacit approval.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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