Thursday, August 02, 2007

AFRICOM: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Refugees International was invited to testify before the Subcommittee on African Affairs, Committee on Foreign Relations. They have posted the complete testimony entitled AFRICOM: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing here. Have cut a few clips from the presentation, Mark Malan doesn't waste many words on niceties and gives a comprehensive view of how AFRICOM risks undermining US (and more globally, NGO) interests in Africa:

'In some parts of the world, like Iraq and Afghanistan, the face of US foreign policy is clearly a military one. In Africa, the DoD appears to be putting a civilian mask on the face of a combatant command, with its marketing pitch for AFRICOM. This disingenuous strategy is not working. The veneer of the mask is simply too thin, and attempts to patch the holes that have emerged—by telling us “what AFRICOM is not about” and re-emphasizing a humanitarian and developmental role for the US military in Africa—simply make the face of US foreign policy much shadier....

There is much sense in the argument for inter-agency cooperation; what does not make sense is linking this to a combatant command. According to one of Africa’s leading security analysts, AFRICOM should be orientated to an appropriate and clearly delineated role, with non-military issues kept outside of its grasp: “The much-vaunted inter-agency staff to be included in AFRICOM should be seen for what it is—the further co-option and subjugation of US foreign and development policy to a neocolonial agenda which is inimical to Africa and ironically, to the US itself.”

...The main concern of operational NGOs is that AFRICOM will increase the trend towards the militarization of humanitarian action, which raises fundamental concerns about the purpose of such assistance. Security objectives envisioned in the short term can run at cross purposes to the longer-term vision of creating stable and sustainable institutions that are accountable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of all segments of the population. Such concerns are amplified by the way AFRICOM is being presented as a tool for integrating US military, political, and humanitarian objectives under a unified military command.'

Malan's conclusions are good ones: he proposes that AFRICOM limit its purely extra-miliary role fo defence sector reform and support to the building o African peacekeeping and Standby Force capacity- already a significant workload.