Peacekeeping: Liberia Lures AFRICOM

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November 7, 2007: Liberia has expressed an interest in hosting the headquarters for new U.S. "Africa Command" (AFRICOM). Previously, all African nations had refused to allow AFRICOM headquarters to be located on their territory. Many African nations are leery about getting too involved with AFRICOM. 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. And then there is China, which is hostile to AFRICOM on general principles, because China is making major economic and diplomatic investments 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 split 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.

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 is troublesome, although not unexpected. Many of the requests for basing rights come with large financial incentives (rent payments, jobs for locals), and this is something that has attracted Liberia. 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 the last five years, especially in nations with large Moslem populations. But eventually, reality trumps propaganda.

Liberia is recovering from over a decade of civil war. The country is broke and its infrastructure is in ruins. Several hundred, or even thousand, well paid American soldiers and civilians, would do wonders for the economy. But another unspoken reason to welcome AFRICOM is that it would give pause to any future rebel group, or military commanders contemplating a coup. With AFRICOM would come an American airbase, that could quickly bring in additional troops to protect U.S. citizens, and a democratically elected government threatened by local thugs. Moreover, AFRICOM personnel would be most familiar with the situation in Liberia, and would give the elected government another source of information about local threats.

 


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