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Gates in Africa
Issue 307
Front Page
Index
Headlines

"The Government of Wales Has Selected Somaliland & Lesotho For its
African Link Development"
Harris Nyatsanza, Welsh NGO Officer

U.S. Debating Shift of Support in Somali Conflict

Targeting Of Human Rights Organizations Network And Threats Against Its Director Mubarik Ibrahim Aar

Somaliland Marks World Disability Awareness Day

Somaliland Expels 24 Journalists

Somaliland Foreign Minister Welcomes US State Department’s Fact-Sheet on Somaliland

Recognise Somaliland, analysts tell US

Shifting Policy or a Face-saving Gimmick

US To Reassess Somalia Policy?

Written answers: UK Parliament

Ethiopia says world disinterest dampening Somalia peace hopes

Ethiopia: Situation improving in Somalia- PM

Somalian President’s Illness Raises Fears on Stability

US Urges Somalia To Broaden Political Representation

Regional Affairs

Somali Pastoralists Say Peace Their Priority

Ethiopia, Sudan inaugurate a highway linking to two countries

Editorial
Special Report

International News

Eritrea: Frazer Refutes Bolton's Remarks On Border Issue

World AIDS Day Marks Day of Both Sadness and Hope, Says Bush

Canada Citizen Files lawsuit against Ethiopian government

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

Technology is the Root of All Evil

The Horrific Tale of Sonkorey: the tip of the iceberg on the attrocities committed by Ethiopians in Somalia

"Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic

UN: Atrocities Fuel Worsening Crisis in Horn of Africa

USG Visits newly Displaced Somalis from Mogadishu on mission to Afgooye

FACTBOX - Key facts on Somali President Yusuf

Food for thought

Opinions

Somaliland Private Enterprises Deserve To Become A Role Model For All!

The Forgotten Route

Education in Somaliland

Mohamed Hashi Has The Fame, Rayale Lives In Shame

Kosovo and Somaliland: US Double Standards

My Visit to Hargeisa:

Somalia's crisis made in USA

Puntland Oil and Mineral Development: Benefits and Risks from Socio-economic and Environmental Perspectives


Early Warning

By William M. Arkin

December 3, 2007

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates landed in Djibouti today to visit Combined Task Force-Horn of Africa, the only U.S. military base in Africa, comprising a permanent headquarters and some 1,800 rotating combat Marines. I suspect that topping Gates's agenda is AFRICOM, the new U.S. command on the continent. Formally activated Oct. 1, AFRICOM is gearing up to be declared fully operational in 2008. But it's still hunting for a place to call home -- and trying to justify its existence.

AFRICOM is for now operating out of Stuttgart, Germany headquarters of the U.S. European Command, which previously had responsibility for Africa south of the Sahara. Djibouti and Liberia had offered to host a new headquarters, which would mean about 1,000 military and civilian staffers, as well as all the security and support elements, and hundreds of American families.

But there is growing skepticism on the continent. A number of other nations -- including Libya, Nigeria and South Africa -- have expressed reservations about AFRICOM's mission and presence. The African press has been writing about it as an effort to thwart Chinese encroachment on the continent. Others have speculated about American designs on African oil.

The Pentagon insists that AFRICOM is not about China and not about oil, and not even about war. It will be different from the other regional combatant commands, the Pentagon says: a 21st century demonstration of "soft power" rather than a war-fighting formation. The military points out that the command has a civilian deputy commander from the State Department and says it will lean heavily on the "soft power" nation-building and civil affairs contingents of both State and the military. But, then, why a military command at all?

After Sept. 11, the notion of a new command gained traction because of concerns about al Qaeda's spread into the Horn of Africa and Bin Laden's links with North African groups. But it turned out that local counter-terrorism efforts were fairly adequate, particularly if the Pentagon stepped up some of the special operations training it had been helping with for years. By then, though, the AFRICOM train had left the station. A directorate in Germany turned into a task force, which then became an interim command, which was then formally activated and is now staffing up.

Certainly Gates has a lot to do with AFRICOM's new direction. The new secretary has accepted the proposition that what's needed in Africa is more attention and resources, not more guns. And, of late, Gates has been calling for a general shift in the war on terrorism, with greater application of civilian and economic resources. The U.S. must "focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military," he said in a speech in Kansas last week.

But then why not a regional State Department effort? Maybe the military should just assign a support command to help State do more in Africa. It's the Pentagon, though, that has the people, the resources and the know-how to activate a command. The State Department's not in that business.

So, despite Gates's good intentions, I suspect this command won't be that different from the others. Its head is a four-star general. He's not an ambassador or an envoy. He's in charge of a military command, plain and simple. And the core mission will be preparing for military contingencies and looking for wars to fight.

Source: Washington Post


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