chapter  2
12 Pages

Africa: A new strategic perspective

ByTHERESA WHELAN

Bush’s 2007 decision to direct the reorganization of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) unified command structure in order to add a new stand-alone unified command for Africa, AFRICOM, was a direct recognition of Africa’s importance, as well as a clear signal that the United States understands the need to work more regularly and consistently on developing, building and expanding security partnerships with African states in order to help promote a more secure and stable global environment. U.S. military engagement on the continent is not new. For many years the U.S. military has undertaken joint military exercises and training programs to assist African nations in the professional development of their military forces. The DoD has also had a long history of working in support of other U.S. government agencies and international relief organizations in delivering humanitarian assistance and medical care and coordinating disaster relief. However, despite this long history of engagement on the continent, the DoD has never focused on Africa with the same level of consistency with which it has focused on the other regions of the world. The intent of this new unified geographic command is to enable greater consistency of focus in a way that reflects post-Cold War and post-9/11 lessons learned. Those lessons learned highlighted the changing nature of the twenty-first-century threat environment, the consequent value of building security partnerships with like-minded nations throughout the world, and the importance of a holistic approach to security and stability issues.