For your information: The U.S. Africa Command (Africom)

By TONY SEED

Second of four articles on Canada, the NATO Fleet and Africa

HALIFAX (August 1, 2007) – THE NATO fleet deployment to Africa, including the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Toronto from Maritime Command, comes hard on the heels of the creation by the Bush Administration in February 2007 of a new unified command, Africa Command (Africom) to promote U.S. imperialist objectives in Africa.

Like Roman emperors of old, Washington’s centurions already arbitrarily divide much of the world into Middle Eastern, European and Pacific domains. [1] Hitherto, U.S. military efforts on the continent had been divided among three commands: European Command (Eucom, along with Europe, Israel, and Russia), based in Germany; Central Command (Centcom), based in Florida; and Pacific Command (Pacom), based in Hawaii. Africom will have 42 African countries in its sphere, with the exception of Egypt, which would remain under Centcom. Africom will be headquartered in, of all places, Stuttgart, Germany.

US foreign military financing to Africa alone increased by 800 per cent between 2000 and 2006. Africom’s advent follows a pattern of unparalleled military expansion under President George Bush. The American military-industrial complex has morphed into a boom business with truly global reach. The Pentagon’s total budget requests for fiscal year ending September 2008 have swollen to $716.5bn (£365bn). That is more than double Clinton-era spending. [2]

In May 2001 the National Energy Report, authored by US Vice President Dick Cheney, outlined three areas subject to oil interventions – the Western Hemisphere, the Caspian, and Africa. Moreover, US strategy “in each of these high-priority regions” should focus on institutionalising capitalist social relations and opening up these regions to the penetration of foreign capital so as to improve “the investment climate.” [3]

In May 2003 carrier battle groups assigned to the European Command (which controls the South Atlantic) were to shorten their future visits to the Mediterranean “and spend half the time going down the west coast of Africa,” the command’s top officer, General James Jones, announced in May 2003.

Gen Jones, in a briefing to defence industry journalists in Washington, further predicted: “The carrier battle groups of the future and the expeditionary strike groups of the future may not spend six months in the Mediterranean Sea, but I’ll bet they’ll spend half the time going down the West Coast of Africa.”

The American military presence in oil-producing areas of Africa, though less conspicuous, is growing rapidly.

The Pentagon has stepped up its arms deliveries to military forces in Angola and Nigeria, and is training their officers and enlisted personnel; meanwhile, Pentagon officials have begun to look for permanent U.S. bases in the area, focusing on Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Uganda, and Kenya. Although these officials tend to talk only about terrorism when explaining the need for such facilities, one officer told Greg Jaffe of theWall Street Journal in June 2003 that “a key mission for U.S. forces [in Africa] would be to ensure that Nigeria’s oil fields, which in the future could account for as much as 25 percent of all U.S. oil imports, are secure.”

In 2003, Iraq-bound US warships docked and refuelled in Durban. South Africa. This year Namibia sent representatives to the UNITAS maneouvres of the U.S. Navy off the coast of Argentina.

In 2004, General Charles Wald, deputy commander of EUCOM, completed a tour of several West African states, including Nigeria. In outlining US interests in Africa, Wald argued that the US has a “huge interest in Africa from a security standpoint, from a strategic standpoint and from the standpoint of protecting our security interests and investment interests.” When discussing joint military operations between the US and Nigeria and whether military action would extend to the protection of Nigerian oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta zone, Wald stated that “Wherever there’s evil, we want to get there and fight it.”

In September 2005, the Pentagon secured agreements with eight to 10 African nations to allow the U.S. military to utilize air fields and other suitable sites to establish “cooperative security locations,” from which it can launch military strikes.

The Africom commander is Gen. William E. Ward, the African-American deputy commander of U.S. European Command, a commander of the Somalia invasion in the 1990s, and U.S. Security coordinator for the Palestine Authority for most of 2005.

Rear Adm. Robert T. Moeller has been chosen to lead military operations which include “humanitarian relief actions, noncombatant evacuations, counterterrorism operations, military-to-military training and security assistance and, if necessary, warfare,” the Stars and Stripes military newspaper reported on July 26.

Africom, says the US military newspaper, is scheduled to activate on October 1, when it would start directing at least some of the U.S. military’s activity in Africa, such as the NATO naval fleet’s “historic” deployment.

“For one year, AFRICOM is expected to remain a subordinate command under the European Command. The African command is scheduled to become fully operational in October 2008, at which time it would become its own combatant command and break away from the European Command, with Ward reporting directly to the secretary of Defense.”

Washington did not consult with Africa and will find that, while it may be one thing to sell arms, extract mineral concessions and establish “cooperative security locations,” it will be quite another to secure a neo-colonial, permanent military base and headquarters on the continent.

Endnotes

1. Simon Tisdall, “Pentagon sets its sights on Africa,” February 8, 2007, London Guardian.

2. Ibid. In contrast, Russia will spend $31bn on defence this year and China, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an estimated $87bn.

3. National Energy Policy Development Group, National Energy Policy, May 21, 2001. p. 133.

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