AFRICOM: what is it for and what will it do? DANIeL vOLMAN
On 6 February 2007, President Bush announced that the United States would create a new military command for Africa, to be known as Africa Command, or AFRICOM. Throughout the Cold War and for more than a decade afterwards, the United States did not have a military command for Africa; instead, US military activities on the African continent were conducted by three separate military commands: European Command (EUCOM), which had responsibility for most of the continent; Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversaw Egypt and the Horn of Africa region, along with the Middle East and Central Asia; and Pacific Command (PACOM), which administered military ties with Madagascar and other islands in the Indian Ocean. Until the creation of AFRICOM, the administration of US-African military relations was conducted through these three different commands. All three were primarily concerned with other regions of the world that were of great importance to the United States on their own, and had only a few middle-rank staff members dedicated to Africa. This reflected the fact that Africa was chiefly viewed as a regional theater in the global Cold War, or as an adjunct to USEuropean relations, or – as in the immediate post-Cold War period – as a region of little concern to the United States. But when the Bush administration declared that access to Africa’s oil supplies would henceforth be defined as a “strategic national interest” of the United States and proclaimed that America was engaged in a Global War on Terror (GWOT) following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Africa’s status in US national security policy and military affairs rose dramatically. According to Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs – the highest ranking Defense Department official with principal responsibility for Africa at the Pentagon, who has supervised US military policy toward Africa for the Bush administration – AFRICOM attained the status of a sub-unified command under EUCOM on 1 October 2007, and is scheduled to be fully operational as a separate unified command no later than 1 October 2008. The process of creating the new command will be conducted by a special transition team – which will include officers from both the State Department and the Department of Defense (DoD) – that will carry out its work in Stuttgart, Germany in coordination with EUCOM.