Robert Kaplan explores the strategic possibilities that the recently announced US African military command offers at The Atlantic (HT: RCP)
"Africa Command, or AFRICOM, will consolidate under one bureaucracy what European Command has been doing on most of the continent, what Central Command has been doing in the Horn of Africa, and what Pacific Command has been doing on some Indian Ocean islands.
The hub of U.S. military activity has been Dakar, Senegal, the westernmost point on the African continent, where European imperialists first began moving into the interior in the mid-19th century and creating the structure of weak West African states that the U.S. military is now trying to shore up. Without seeking to conquer or govern anything, the American military is pursuing a strategy of security linkages similar to those of the French 150 years ago."
Small teams of US Special Forces and Marines are scattered throughout the continent, training indigenous forces and conducting humanitarian missions. A number of quiet and efficient operations have been conducted in the war against terror in the area, including the Ethiopian operation that moved against radical Islamists in Somalia.
Strategically, it also allows the US to quietly deploy a counter-weight to Chinese initiatives on the continent, such as their involvement with the dictatorships in the Sudan and Zimbabwe. The US will couple this aid with developmental assistance to allow African nations to hopefully develop into liberal democracies, utilzing military and diplomatic personnel along with non-governmental organizations and civilian relief agencies.
The establishment of this command might be a bigger factor in shaping the future of our planet than anyone ever realizes today.