Roots of AFRICOM

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In October 2003, James Jay Carafano, Ph. D. and Nile Gardiner, both from the Conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation, proposed to the Bush administration the creation of a centralized Africa command for the U.S. military. With this proposal as the basis for the command and adamant support from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, just four years later AFRICOM became operational.

Carafano and Gardiner’s original reasons for creating a military command reinforce concerns that AFRICOM is just an expansion of the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) and its greed for oil.

In their article, “U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution,” Carafano and Gardiner argue that, “creating an Africa Command would go a long way toward turning the Bush Administration’s well-aimed strategic priorities for Africa into a reality. If the Administration could further refine its regional objectives for Africa in a formal national military strategy, so much the better.” Carafano and Gardiner based their recommendations on the fact that by 2015 twenty-five percent of U.S. oil imports will come from West Africa, surpassing imports from the Persian Gulf.

Furthermore, they were weary of the role that “enabler” and “slacker” states play in terrorism and how it affects U.S. security. Enabler states directly support transnational terrorist groups, as Libya has done in the past. Slacker states are countries with a weak government and lax law enforcement that make it easy for terrorist groups to operate in those countries, for example Somalia.

Carafano and Gardiner specifically recommended that the U.S. should “place a priority on fighting global terrorism in Africa.” However, according to AFRICOM’s official website, the goal of AFRICOM is not to fight terrorism, but to promote stability through humanitarian aid and increasing security capacity of African militaries. Also, in the FAQ section of the official AFRICOM website, the question of whether the goals of AFRICOM are to protect oil interests, fight terrorism, and compete with China is posed. The answer according to the website is “no;” however, it goes on to include “conducting security cooperation to build partnership capacities in areas such as… counterterrorism.”

We see this dichotomy again and again. General William E. “Kip” Ward, the first commander of AFRICOM, always begins talking about AFRICOM by saying that it’s not for oil, not for fighting terrorism, not for competing with China, but that is exactly what it’s for. 

As Carafano and Gardiner outlined in their proposal, AFRICOM’s goals are to fight terrorism and secure oil as an extension of the Bush administration’s strategies. African leaders recognize the U.S.’s self-interested policy and are increasingly raising concerns about it.

The South African Development Community (SADC) has refused to host the command’s base in any of their member countries. If a development organization in Africa, which has the same goals like security and capacity building that the government says AFRICOM has, does not want it on their soil, the U.S. needs to realize that the command is not right for Africa. Nigeria, Libya, and South Africa have all expressed deep concern about the consequences of an increased U.S. military presence in Africa.

The administration’s “well-aimed” strategy is disastrous for the African continent because it holds the priorities of the U.S. interest in resource extraction and homeland security far above and to the detriment of the priorities of the countries of Africa. AFJN urges you to protest the expansion of Bush’s GWOT to Africa and its continued exploitation of Africa’s resources by signing our petition to stop AFRICOM.