Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Africa and America: The future of AFRICOM

New Vision ( Uganda ) reports

Pentagon to keep Africa Command headquarters in Europe

                                           General Carter F. Ham, commander of the U.S. militarys Africa Command

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided against moving the U.S. military's headquarters overseeing Africa from Germany to the United States, concluding the benefits of staying in Europe - closer to African hot spots - are worth the extra cost, officials say.

The Pentagon notified Congress of its decision this week. Some lawmakers had been pushing for Africa Command to move stateside, with South Carolina and Georgia promoted as possible locations.




Moving AFRICOM to the States is probably one of the stupidest ideas I have herd for quite some time. I am guessing the " lawmakers " behind this particular stroke of genius are from South Carolina or Georgia. I don't think Stuttgart is the greatest site for it either but from the point of view of closer to where you operate and time zones it is hell of a lot better than Continental USA. From Africom 


" U.S. Africa Command has approximately 2,000 assigned personnel, including military, U.S. federal civilian employees, and U.S. contractor employees. About 1,500 work at the command's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Others are assigned to AFRICOM units at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and RAF Molesworth, England. The command's programs in Africa are coordinated through Offices of Security Cooperation and Defense Attache Offices in approximately 38 nations. The command also has liaison officers at key African posts, including the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre in Ghana.

AFRICOM is part of a diverse interagency team that reflects the talents, expertise, and capabilities within the entire U.S. government. The command has four Senior Foreign Service (SFS) officers in key positions as well as more than 30 personnel from more than 10 U.S. government departments and agencies, including the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The most senior is a career State Department official who serves as the deputy to the commander for civil-military activities. Our interagency partners bring invaluable expertise to help the command ensure its plans and activities complement those of other U.S. government programs and fit within the context of U.S. foreign policy."

"The decision was based on the operational needs of the commander," a U.S. defense official told Reuters, referring to General Carter Ham, the outgoing head of Africa Command.

Well not sure what to make of that but given the choice of Atlanta or Columbia I think I would be oping for a German base as well. Africom should be in Africa if America is serious about engaging with the the continent meaningfully. As it stands Africom is little more than an American agency tasked with promoting American interests on the African continent recruited mainly from the military that gets to wear US military uniforms.  

Africa has become much more important for the U.S. military in the last decade. American forces played a prominent role in NATO operations during the uprising in Libya, and is assisting the French mission in Mali.

So an ongoing action in Mali  and an uprising in Libya that in no small way contributed to the current Mali situation represents a decade long increased commitment to Africa on the part of the US. Africa should be becoming more important to America but I can see scant evidence of that.
The decision about the location of AFRICOM, as it is known in the military, was shared with Congress the same week that news emerged of a deal with Niger that could pave the way for a U.S. drone base there.

AFRICOM is the only U.S. regional combatant command that is neither in the United States nor in its area of responsibility.

"...nor in its area of responsibility."  Not quite sure what they mean ? Most commands seem to be outside of there area of responsibility. I am sure the Asian situation will change and I wouldn't be surprised to see part of that command end up in Australia.

Central Command, which oversees the Middle East and Afghanistan, is headquartered in Florida. Pacific Command, which monitors Asia, is in Hawaii.


Benefits of overlap

The scope of the Pentagon study informing Panetta's decision focused exclusively on moving AFRICOM to the United States.

The Pentagon discarded the idea of locating it in Africa before AFRICOM was established five years ago, partly because of sensitivities among potential host nations. 

That was a mistake.

Logistics and overlapping of resources with the military's European Command also made it logical to locate both in Stuttgart, Germany.

That overlap persists with U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine assets dedicated to AFRICOM located in places like Vicenza, Italy, and Ramstein, Germany.

Ham had recommended against moving the headquarters back to the United States. There are about 1,500 personnel at the command's base in Stuttgart, Germany, according to AFRICOM's website.

"The Secretary, informed by the judgment of the AFRICOM commander and a study of locations, decided the current location serves the operational needs of AFRICOM better than a (continental U.S.) location," the official said.

Among the benefits of staying put in Europe is the ability to better respond in a crisis, with shorter travel times for commanders to hot spots, one official said.

Certainly it makes more sense than being in the States.

There are already some 2,000 military personnel assigned to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, according to AFRICOM's website.

AFRICOM gained its own rapid-reaction force last year, no longer relying on one hosted by the European command. For example, such a force could be mobilized if U.S. personnel in Mali needed to be evacuated.

The African diaspora inevitably will end up being " headquartered " in the United States in much the same way the Irish diaspora has. America has an opportunity to become a major power in Africa for the good. To in effect learn from its mistakes in Asia. 


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