By Zachary Hubbard
February 15, 20
This month, a year after President Bush’s so-called “surge” plan for Iraq began, even some of the surge’s greatest skeptics have had to admit it is succeeding.
The plan called for introducing an additional 20,000 American troops into troubled areas of Baghdad and al Anbar Province to improve security.
Security incidents in those areas have decreased significantly since the surge began.
During his recent State of the Union address, Bush declared, “Some may deny the surge is working, but among terrorists there is no doubt.” As the television cameras panned the audience, many rose to applaud the president’s statement, including Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Sen. John McCain, who supported the surge despite criticism from many in his own party, was also standing. Sen. Barack Obama remained seated.
With Mitt Romney’s recent suspension of his presidential campaign, most pundits agree McCain has sealed the Republican nomination, making it a three-way race among McCain, Clinton and Obama. Regardless of how each feels about the war, one of these three will almost certainly inherit the fighting in the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters of war.
The next president is unlikely to see peace in either theater before the end of his or her first term.
What else will stand out in the next president’s national security agenda? Here’s a clue:
About the same time the surge in Iraq was beginning, another significant national security event occurred, yet it hardly garnered coverage in the media. In February 2007, the Department of Defense established the U.S. Africa Command.
AFRICOM is currently a subordinate command of the U.S. European Command, which has its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The Defense Department is seeking a suitable location on the African continent for AFRICOM’s headquarters.
Establishing AFRICOM is an acknowledgement of the important role Africa will play in the future security of the United States.
The command’s Web site (www.africom.mil) calls AFRICOM a “different kind of command” that is focused on “security, development, diplomacy and prosperity in Africa.”
The AFRICOM commander, an African-American, is four-star Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, a well-respected leader with whom I served in the 10th Mountain Division.
Ward is the perfect choice for AFRICOM, but he surely has a rocky road ahead.
In the National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United States of America, the executive branch describes present and future security concerns and how the administration plans to deal with them. The current version contains numerous references to Africa. But one has to search the document carefully to discover the real security significance of the continent.
Buried on page 24 of the NSS is a reference to Africa’s energy potential. Yes, folks, AFRICOM is about oil! Just ask the Chinese.
As I noted in an August 2007 column, China signed an oil exploration agreement with Nigeria, one of the largest oil exporters to America, in 2006.
The Chinese are willing to deal with unsavory governments from which the United States will not import oil, such as Libya and Sudan.
Forbes.com reported in October 2006 that China now imports 30 percent of its oil from Africa and has three state-operated oil companies invested in oil in nearly 20 African countries.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Web site reveals that much of our nation’s oil imports come from unstable and, in some cases, downright dangerous parts of Africa, including Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Congo, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania and Gabon.
Don’t forget Somalia either. While the United States doesn’t import oil from there, we are currently engaged with al-Qaida supported Islamic terrorists in Somalia and elsewhere across the Horn of Africa. The Horn currently falls under the military responsibility of the U.S. Central Command, but will likely shift to AFRICOM as the command grows and matures.
As happened in the Middle East, America’s foreign oil dependency will force us to become increasingly involved in African security issues as our dependency on African oil grows. As our military becomes more engaged in Africa, it and we will become increasingly exposed to potential Islamic terrorism.
America’s involvement in Somalia taught us that trying to exert influence on the Dark Continent is a tough, risky business. Global powers clashed for African resources during both world wars in the 20th century.
The last of the exhausted, European colonial powers eventually retreated from Africa following World War II, defeated as much by Africa as by Africans.
Our next commander in chief must be prepared for clashes in Africa in the years ahead and must stay keenly focused on Chinese involvement on the continent. Like the U.S. Central Command in Iraq and Afghanistan, AFRICOM faces a tumultuous future.
Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer residing in Upper Yoder Township. He is a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.
Source: The Tribune Democrat