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Backgrounder: The Pentagon's New Africa Command

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Stephanie Hanson, Copy Editor
May 3, 2007


In February 2007, President Bush announced the creation of a unified military command for Africa. This puts the continent on par, in the Pentagon’s eyes and command structure, with the Pacific Rim (Pacific Command), Europe (European Command), Latin America (Southern Command), the Middle East (Central Command), and North America (Northern Command). The Pentagon and many military analysts argue the continent’s growing strategic importance necessitates a dedicated regional command. But some experts suggest the command’s creation was motivated by more specific concerns: China and oil. With Soviet influence gone and France’s traditional presence much diminished, China has poured money into the continent in recent years as it jockeys for access to natural resources. And the United States is projected to import at least 25 percent of its oil from Africa by 2015, according to the National Intelligence Council.

Africom’s Genesis

Three U.S. regional commands currently share responsibility for American security issues in Africa. The Europe Command is responsible for the largest swath of the continent: North Africa, West Africa (including the Gulf of Guinea), and central and southern Africa. The Central Command covers the Horn of Africa—including Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Sudan—as well as Egypt. The Pacific Command is responsible for Madagascar, the Seychelles, and the Indian Ocean area off the African coast.

Because Africa has been subsumed under other regional commands, the continent has never been a priority for the U.S. military. “Africa has been divided up and been the poor stepchild in each of these different commands and not gotten the full attention it deserves,” Susan Rice, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Clinton administration’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told NPR.

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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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