Jan 5, 2007

Pentagon To Create Africa Command

The Pentagon will soon be fielding a new military command covering a continent that is usually last on the list of priorities of international types in the U.S. government -- Africa.

The creation of the new command will be more than an exercise in shuffling bureaucratic boxes, experts say. The US government's motives include countering Al Qaeda's known presence in Africa, safeguarding future oil supplies, and competing with China, which has been courting African governments in its own quest for petroleum, they suggest. ...

The US gets about 10 percent of its oil from Africa ... Some experts say it may need to rely on the continent for as much as 25 percent by 2010. "With all the instability in the Middle East, there's some thought that we had better build partnerships in Africa," he says.

A senior Pentagon official, who requested anonymity because announcing the decision is the president's prerogative, said current events have less to do with the move than does Africa's instability. "Africa's a place with a lot of crises," this official says. Bush is "on record saying he doesn't want another genocide on his watch. This is a way of ensuring that there's a military command, a four-star, paying attention."

Currently, responsibility for Africa is divided among three of the Pentagon's five regional "unified commands," each headed by a four-star general or admiral who reports to the president.

The European Command, responsible for Europe and Russia, oversees US defense activities for most of continental Africa. The Central Command covers largely Arab northeast Africa as part of its oversight of the Middle East and sections of Central and Southwest Asia. The Pacific Command is responsible for Madagascar and the waters off southeast Africa. ...

The Pentagon official who requested anonymity says the new command will exclude Egypt, a major player in Middle East politics. And Central Command will retain responsibility for the Horn of Africa for about 18 months while the Africa Command gets set up, the official says.

After the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon created a Horn of Africa joint task force under Central Command that is headquartered in Djibouti, but the senior official said the Africa Command's headquarters will be in Stuttgart, Germany, where the European Command is based, for the time being.

No comments: