Pentagon Will Establish AFRICOM


Photo: Participants in the U.S. military’s Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa “Host Nation Conference” at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Jan. 9.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Pentagon plans to establish an Africa Command, or AFRICOM.

WPR contributor Richard Weitz wrote about the need for such a command back in November. Here’s what Weitz said:

The escalating war in Somalia, coming on top of the conflicts in Sudan and the Congo, underscores the need for the United States to develop an improved means for managing African security issues. For many years, American strategists have argued that the continent’s vulnerability to terrorism and other transnational security problems warrants creating a dedicated military structure for the continent — such as an African Command (AFCOM). Such a step would represent a major improvement in how the United States integrates Africa into its global war against terrorism. Opponents of creating an AFCOM fear it could divert U.S. defense resources from higher priority areas and excessively militarize the American response to the continent’s multidimensional security problems. Proponents maintain it would both enhance Washington’s attention to the continent’s security challenges and make U.S. policies in Africa more proactive and effective.

A BBC report on the new command is here. President Bush’s statement on the new command is here. And here is the State Department’s take.