This is an analysis on the article Taking Africa Seriously. It was was written by Lieutenant Commander Patrick J. Paterson and is a copyright from the U.S. Naval Institute proceedings of 2007. Lt. Commander Patrick J. Paterson is a Navy Foreign Area Officer who recently completed an assignment with Special Operations Command Europe. “He was a strategic planner for Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) and coordinated U.S. Special Operations Forces employment in 43 countries.” He is a prolific writer who has written many articles pertaining to security especially in Europe and Africa. He obtained his B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1989 and his Mater of Arts in National Security Affairs in June 1997.
Setting the Stage: Paterson focuses his attention on the creation of African Command (AFRICOM) which was established in 2002, the changing foreign policy of the United States toward the massive African continent in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the growing threat of terrorists in Africa. He explores the myriads of problems sprouting in Africa and the role the United States could play to bring about sustainable peace and stability before the continent becomes a breeding ground for terrorists. The writer elucidates how, “according to the Pentagon’s Unified Command Plan, the world’s regions are divided into zones”. He further explains how, for strategic military purposes, 43 of the 53 African nations was overseen by the European Command (EUCOM) based in Stuttgart while the Central Command (CENTCOM) located in Tampa oversaw the operations of eight African nations in the Horn of Africa, including Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen while the islands of the Pacific Coast which include Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, and Mauritius fell to the Pacific Command in what Robert Gates, the U.S. Secretary of Defense berated as “an outdated arrangement left over from the Cold War.”
Thesis: Because of the enormous size of the African continent where “the region encompasses 25 percent of the world’s landmass and 20 percent of its coastline”, Africa’s diverse culture, its hundreds of ethnic tribes, and its
existing dissimilar religious composition will remain a daunting task for AFRICOM. The writer argues that “transferring all the various African programs from three COCOMs to a new headquarter was deemed problematic and unnecessary.”
Since the closure of the Wheelus Airbase near Tripoli, Libya, in 1970, the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) currently headquartered in Djibouti and established after 9/11will serve as the first permanent U.S. military base for the entire continent with the exception of Egypt.
Searching for a Home: Up to now no one precisely knows where the future AFRICOM command headquarters will be in Africa. Former President Bush has been quoted to have said “we will work closely with our African partners to determine an appropriate location for the new command in Africa.” The writer is of the view that many African nations are reluctant to host the new command headquarters. Much of African nations’ hesitancy to host the command headquarters emanates from the U.S. invasion of Iraq and other suspicions related to U.S. objectives in Africa. Whatever suspicions African states may have about U.S. presence in the continent, Theresa Whelan, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense has a different opinion. She has been quoted as saying: “Some people believe that we are establishing AFRICOM solely to fight terrorism or to secure oil resources or to discourage China. That is not true. AFRICOM is about helping Africans build greater capacity to assure their own security.”
A New Model for Regional Military Commands: AFRICOM will be totally different in perspective from EUCOM and CENTCOM in the manner it operates. It will serve as a base for humanitarian operations. Despite the size of the continent sounding massive and challenging to other forces, the U.S. military has the means and logistics to penetrate every corner of the continent without any huddles as it did in previous adventures in other parts of the world. “AFRICOM will attempt to coordinate and focus the efforts of myriad government, international, and nongovernmental relief agencies dedicated to improving Africa’s deplorable public-health problems.”
Current Military Missions: The presence of the U.S. military in Africa has already been felt in Djibouti where CJTF-HOA, under the command of CENTCOM’s Navy Rear Admiral James Hart, oversees 1,800personnel that include engineers, veterinarians, an doctors who meticulously provide benevolent services to nomadic and urban communities so as to deter radicalism and extremism caused by destitution. Since 81% of the 54,000 peacekeeping troops serving Africa come from the continent itself, AFRICOM’s primary mission will be training the peacekeepers.
U.S. Strategic Objectives: The African continent is experiencing population explosion which could lead to “youth bulge”. It is estimated that the current 800 million population of the continent will grow to 2 billion by 2050. So, in order to deter the youth from exploitation, “military civil affairs units and AFRICOM-supported charity organizations will have the dual assignments of winning the hearts and minds of Africans while improving their desperate conditions.” Thus, our military’s role of curtailing poverty, providing health care services, and sustaining animal husbandry through veterinary services will in the long run usher in the long-awaited democracy which will drastically reduce if not eliminate the menace of radicalism and extremism much feared in Africa. In my own opinion, this is what many Africans would want the U.S. to undertake for the betterment of their continent.
Can We Do It? “But regardless of perceptions, the best hopes of preventing an African apocalypse ride on the shoulders of the new African command”, concludes the writer. Given the right resources, Africa’s suspicions will finally dissolve despite the United States’ invasion of two Muslim countries.
Lieutenant Commander Patrick J. Patterson’s arguments on Taking Africa Seriously describe Liberalism.