Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Pentagon's New Africa Command

The Council of Foreign Relations has an excellent backgrounder on the New African Command (AFRICOM) announced by President Bush in February.

The article highlights some of the differences between the future AFRICOM and existing Commands:

- 'The Pentagon stresses that Africom’s primary mission will be preventing “problems from becoming crises, and crises from becoming conflicts.”'

- 'It resembles the mission statement of other regional commands, but “the difference is that building partnerships is first and foremost of the strategies which is not necessarily the case with other commands,” says Ambassador Loftis.'
An interesting statement, as the authors frame it, AFRICOM will be more of a diplomacy-development Command, with focus being heavy on cooperation activities with national armed forces, and only a limited capacity for 'kinetic' military operations.

- 'Though Africom will be led by a top-ranking four-star military general, unlike other regional commands, its deputy commander will be a State Department official... Some defense officials say that Africom could function like the interagency task force within Southern Command; in that structure, interagency members have the authority to make decisions without consulting Washington.'
This mixing up of military and civilian staff and agendas is an experiment at a scale not yet attempted by others. Will be curious to see how this aspect is fleshed out over the coming months.