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New U.S. Command To Take Broad, Inclusive Approach to Africa

12 October 2007

Enhancing security and stability will foster conditions for economic growth

Washington -- The new U.S. regional military command for Africa, an integrated defense, diplomatic and economic organization, will enhance U.S. efforts to advance security and prosperity in Africa, U.S. officials say.

In contrast to traditional military commands, the U.S. 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 U.S. and international programs.

But he and other U.S. 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 an October 9-10 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 U.S. 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 U.S. attention, and thereby helps boost the U.S. 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 U.S. to help them develop to meet their stated needs.”

The AFRICOM structure integrates staff members from civilian U.S. agencies, primarily the Department of State and the U.S. 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 U.S. engagement with the rest of the world that combines different aspects of U.S. policies.

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

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