Leadership: AFRICON Rejected By Africans


November 5,2008: The new U.S. AFRICOM (Africa Command) could not find a home in Africa. AFRICOM is similar in organization to other commands (Central, for the Middle East, and South, for Latin America, etc). AFRICOM will coordinate all American military operations in Africa. Before, those operations were coordinated between two commands (the one covering Europe and the one covering Latin America). The establishment of AFRICOM means more money for counter-terror operations in Africa, and more long range projects. But the U.S. could not find a country with the combination of infrastructure, and willingness, to host a base for the AFRICOM headquarters.

One thing most African nations do want from AFRICOM are military and counter-terrorism trainers. The problem with this is that, the people so trained are often then employed as enforcers for the local dictator. Even providing training for peacekeepers can backfire, for those peacekeeping skills can also be used to pacify your own people.

This lack of cooperation in hosting AFRICOM is troublesome, although not unexpected. Many of the requests for basing rights come with large financial incentives (rent payments, jobs for locals). The United States is the major provider of foreign aid to Africa, and has been for some time. The mass media has been painting the U.S. as Mr Evil for a long time, especially in nations with large Moslem populations. But eventually, reality trumps propaganda. However, the reality of Africa is that the place is poorly governed, poorly policed and poorly served by its elected, or self-appointed, leaders. Corruption and crime are abundant, and terrorists have no trouble operating there. The main reason the terrorists  don't do more dirt there is that even terrorists like a more predictable, and less chaotic, environment.

The U.S. is spending $92 million to build office and support facilities for the AFRICOM near SOUTHCOM headquarters, outside Miami, Florida. Construction will be complete next year. AFRICOM headquarters are currently located outside Stuttgart, Germany, where it will remain until a home can be found in an African country. Many African nations are leery about getting involved. There is fear of terrorist attacks on any AFRICOM facilities in their territory, and some African nations, at least those run by dictators, don't want more Americans, and their democratic ideas, upsetting the status quo. The current thinking is that AFRICOM headquarters will remain in Germany for a long time.

AFRICOM is one of six "unified commands" that have regional responsibility for all U.S. military operations in their area. The other five are Central Command (CENTCOM covers the Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia), whose headquarters is in Tampa, Florida. European Command (EUCOM, covers Europe and Russia) is in Stuttgart, Germany. Pacific Command (PACOM covers the Pacific, China, and India and its neighbors) is in Honolulu, Hawaii. Northern Command (NORTHCOM covers North America) is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM covers South America) is in Miami, Florida. SOUTHCOM used to be headquartered in Panama, but given the situation in South America, moving it back to the United States seemed a prudent idea. Same thing with CENTCOM, although they do have a "tactical headquarters" in the Persian Gulf.




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