17th AF TO BE REVIVED FOR AFRICA COMMAND DUTY
By Scott Schonauer
Stars and Stripes
December 11, 2007
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The Air Force plans to resurrect its historic 17th Air Force to become the assigned unit for airmen serving in the Pentagon’s new Africa Command.
U.S. Air Forces Europe headquarters, based at Ramstein, formed a transition team to develop its newest numbered command, Capt. Greg Hignite said Monday. The team had its first meeting less than two months ago.
The history of the 17th dates to the 1950s when it was based in Morocco.
Africa Command is a new regional command that will eventually oversee U.S. military operations on the continent.
While some of the details on the 17th’s command are still being worked out, it will be led by a two-star general and a one-star vice commander, Hignite said. Both officers have not been named.
The new command is estimated to include 300 airmen. Half of the airmen will serve on the headquarters staff, while the rest will make up an air operations center.
The transition team, which includes about a dozen people from USAFE headquarters, has set a goal of establishing initial operations by October next year. The 17th won’t reach “full operational capability” until October 2009.
In addition, the Air Force has shuffled some general officers to new positions throughout Europe.
Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass, the director of USAFE Plans, Programs and Analyses, has been reassigned to be chief of staff of U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart. Snodgrass arrived at USAFE in May 2005.
Brig. Gen. Richard Johnston, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing and Kaiserslautern Military Community, has been reassigned to be USAFE’s director of plans and programs. Col. William J. Bender, executive officer to the deputy commander, U.S. European Command, will take his place at a change-of-command ceremony Dec. 19.
NIGERIA REJECTS HOSTING OF NEW U.S. MILITARY COMMAND
By Bashir Adigun
December 11, 2007
ABUJA, Nigeria -- Nigeria won’t host the U.S. military’s new Africa-wide military command, taking Africa’s most-populous nation and a top source of American oil imports out of contention.
Nigerian leaders have been vocal critics of the new U.S. military command for Africa. The government made its position official recently as President Umaru Yar’Adua met with state governors and federal lawmakers.
Nigeria is also against the U.S. command basing its headquarters elsewhere in West Africa, where the country of 140 million is a major military and diplomatic heavyweight, said Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki, who announced the government’s position after the meeting.
U.S. military officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The U.S. has said it aims to better protect America’s strategic interest in Africa and assist African countries with military training and conflict prevention. But a number of African countries -- including Libya and South Africa -- have expressed reservations about a move that could signal an expansion of U.S. influence on the continent and may focus primarily on protecting oil interests.
Africom currently operates out of existing U.S. bases on the continent with a headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. War-wrecked Liberia, settled by freed American slaves in the 1800s, is the only African nation that has publicly offered to host a headquarters.
U.S. AFRICA COMMAND ON CHARM MISSION TO NIGERIA
November 29, 2007
ABUJA -- The U.S. military's new Africa Command, AFRICOM, is working to assuage Nigerian fears that it means to meddle in internal security or control oil resources, two senior command officials said on Thursday.
Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, most populous nation, and a key contributor to peacekeeping missions, has shown hostility towards AFRICOM, which was established on October 1 and is based in Stuttgart, Germany.
Earlier this month, the Nigerian government formally declared that it would not welcome a U.S. military base in Nigeria or elsewhere in West Africa -- echoing similar sentiment from South Africa, another major power in sub-Saharan Africa.
AFRICOM officials have long said that they had no intention of establishing a military base in Africa anytime soon and the new command was designed to offer aid and training to African countries and foster security and development.
"I know in my heart that Africans want security and stability on their own continent," Mary Carlin Yates, deputy to the AFRICOM commander for civil-military activities, told a news conference at the U.S. embassy in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
She and the deputy for military operations, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, have met the Nigerian chief of defense staff and other top brass, the foreign affairs minister and the national security adviser to get their message across.
"What we have learnt from listening to the Nigerian authorities is that we probably should have been consulting earlier," said Yates. She said there had been "misunderstandings" about what AFRICOM meant.
The U.S. says it spends about $9 billion a year in Africa on health, development, and governance projects. Security-related programs such as joint training exercises with African armies and navies receive about $250 million a year.
Many Africans see the creation of AFRICOM as a sign of Washington's determination to control oil and mineral resources. Nigeria, the fifth-largest supplier of crude to the United States, has been particularly wary of this.
"The purpose of establishing AFRICOM has nothing to do with oil the in the Gulf of Guinea," Yates said.
Moeller said AFRICOM, which is gradually taking over control of existing U.S. military activities on the continent that were previously run by other commands, would not mean a build-up of U.S. troops on the continent.
"AFRICOM does not intend to station large operational units in Africa," said Moeller, adding that if invited by African countries, small forces could come in for specific tasks and then leave.
Before coming to Abuja, Yates and Moeller went to Burkina Faso to meet President Blaise Compaore who is the current president of the West African bloc ECOWAS. They were due to travel from Nigeria to Djibouti, where the U.S. has garrisoned 1,800 troops since 2002.
NEW MILITARY COMMAND FOR AFRICA REFINES PLANS
By Stephanie Heinatz
** Africom spent five days in Suffolk aiming to keep crises from turning into wars. **
Daily Press (Newport News, VA)
December 10, 2007
SUFFOLK -- It's 2013 in the west African nation of Guinea. There's a new government in power, and rumors of the deadly avian flu in neighboring countries have sent a massive number of refugees over the border.
Villagers are making demands on the government for basic human services, and terrorist groups are taking advantage of the problems and working their way across the border.
Looking for help, government officials in Guinea reach out to the international community, including the United States. U.S. officials turn to the Defense Department's new Africa Command.
That was the scenario last week at the Lockheed Martin facility in Suffolk, where the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command served as host to a five-day "war game" to see how the Africa Command could respond before the crisis turned to conflagration.
Africa Command -- Africom in military jargon -- is the Pentagon's newest unified command, an equal to both Joint Forces Command and Central Command, which coordinates the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Africom was officially established in October to oversee military work on the continent. Before then, three separate military commands -- Central, European, and Pacific -- all had a hand in operations there.
The looming question in the war game was how could Africom, which is organized differently than traditional military commands, "apply ourselves to this scenario," said Dick McCrillis, a retired Navy pilot now working as a civilian for Joint Forces Command.
"There's long been in military circles a belief that the military bit of the equation and the civilian bit of the equation have not been aligned. We certainly got burned by this in 2003 after the shooting stopped in Iraq," he said.
That's partly why Africom has a traditional four-star military commander and two deputies, including an ambassador in charge of civilian-military affairs. Representatives from organizations like the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department are also spread throughout the organization.
Figuring out how a command that's organized so differently should respond to the fictional crisis in Guinea drove a majority of the conversations at the war game.
Based on the scenario, the ambassador would direct the response, including whether U.S. troops should be sent in to help. But because the civilian cannot direct troops, the deputy military commander would have to officially order any military actions.
Using uniformed military troops might send the wrong message, some of the war gamers said, because perception is important in Africa. It might be better to have civilians respond, perhaps from the State Department.
They also discussed how much civilian-military integration is really necessary, how Africom could shape the choices of countries at strategic crossroads, enable host countries to provide good governance, prevent hostile states from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and build long-term relationships and trust -- all in an attempt to stop a war while it is still just a game.
NIGERIA: OUR STAND ON AFRICAN COMMAND -- U.S.
By Adekunle Aliyu
Vanguard (Lagos, Nigeria)
December 10, 2007
The first Commander of the U.S. African Command, General William "KIP" Ward says the purpose of setting up the U.S. Military Command Centre for Africa, Africa Command (AFRICOM), is to establish good governance across the continent and not to undermine the sovereignty of any country in the continent.
The United States Africa Command, also known as AFRICOM, is a new U.S. Military headquarters devoted solely to Africa. It is the result of an internal reorganization of the U.S. military command structure, creating one administrative headquarters that is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for U.S. military relations with 53 African countries.
Addressing journalists in Abuja with the Deputy Commander for Civil-Military Activities United States Africa Command, Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, on the misconceptions surrounding the setting up of AFRICOM by the U.S. command, Gen. Ward said effort to establish the command was to consolidate the activities of the three combatant commands under U.S. Defense Department (European Command, Pacific Command, and Central Command) into one headquarters organization in order to serve African Partners better.
According to him, unifying the three commands will enable U.S. to be more effective and proactive in helping African Countries, adding that the primary purpose of AFRICOM as a command was to help in building Africa nation partnership and strengthen existing bilateral relationship and activities.
His words: "Like the peace keeping, supporting training, military education, IMF training, HIV/AIDS awareness, and treating programs as well as finding new way of continuing to work with regional organizations here in Africa like ECOWAS etc.
"The focus of AFRICOM is not on military operations. It is on capacity building of the priorities of the military and security operations and organizations in Africa.
"USAFRICOM does not intend to station operational units across the African continents. It is not necessary to do because it may hinder partnerships in governments.
"The activities going on today with U.S. and African partners is under the auspices of the three U.S. commands, more number of countries come up to the continent to do some activities and then depart. That will be same with the establishment of U.S. African command.
"U.S. Africa Command can only be established in a country that invites us and through consultations. USAFRICOM has no intention whatsoever of undermining African sovereignty nor cause instability anywhere on the continent," he said, stressing: "USAFRICOM is at the development stage, but we recognize that we have unique opportunities to perform beyond traditional military command structure to better meet our mission and desires and interest of our African partners.
"This is the first time [a] U.S. agency as a civilian government is taking a position like this, in recognition to achieve the goal of better economic prosperity for the peoples of Africa. We are ready to stand beside you and help you in your security need, and that is the purpose of establishment of AFRICOM," he added.
NIGERIA: NO TO U.S. ARMY BASE
By Ochereome Nnanna
Vanguard (Lagos, Nigeria)
November 21, 2007
LAGOS -- I am normally a fan of the United States of America. In fact, just this time a year ago, I was invited by the State Department, among nine other journalists, to tour the U.S., understand its system and processes better, and to observe the mid-term elections that renewed the mandates of members Congress and some state officials.
But over this matter of plans by the United States to establish what it calls the Africa Command or Africom in the Gulf of Guinea, it is time to call for deep caution and to agree with Nigerian officials that we should take the American initiative with a pinch of salt. On the surface of it, Africom appears like a good idea, at least going by the words of its deputy military operations officer, Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller.
According to him: "The command will allow the United States to do more with our African partners when it makes sense to do so and when it's in their interest to do so."
Conceding that the scheme is viewed in several concerned quarters as a ploy to militarize Africa, Moeller declared: "that is definitely not the case." One would wonder aloud when the U.S. suddenly became interested in partnering with African regimes to defend interests of African countries. Throughout the fourteen years that the Liberian civil war lasted, America stood aloof, while Nigeria, gravely concerned for the stability of the region, spent huge amounts of human and material resources to end the war and restore peace. Liberia, regarded as America's unofficial 51st state, did not seem important enough for the U.S. to go beyond its cosmetic posturing over the crisis.
Now, the world's number one superpower has suddenly become an enthusiastic African military partner. And what is responsible for this new mood? Good old oil, that's what.
The Gulf of Guinea has emerged as the second largest pool of commercial petroleum resources in the world, next only to the Gulf of Persia and its territorial environs. In fact, it has recently surpassed the Persian Gulf as America's highest supplier of crude oil. Right now, three major countries share the resources of this zone, viz: Nigeria, São Tomé and Principe, as well as Equatorial Guinea, because of the contiguity of their marine boundaries.
Perhaps understandably, the President of São Tomé, Fradique de Menezes, has displayed open fear of insecurity. Having suddenly come into great oil wealth with great prospects for future prosperity, São Tomé first approached Nigeria for friendship (or at least, it was enthusiastic when an overture for friendship was offered by Nigeria, with which it now shares a joint economic zone). Nigeria, under its former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, actually sent troops to flush out the leaders of the July 16, 2003, coup d'état in that country, an event that took place while de Menezes was on an official tour to Nigeria. This apparently increased de Menezes' sense of insecurity.
Perhaps he had reasoned that Nigeria's ability to so easily do away with military interventionists in his country was an open demonstration of what our country can do if it decides to have a bigger bite of the oil resources beyond its current fair share. Months later in November 2004, de Menezes took a trip to the United States and asked for America's protection. In an instant, a pact was agreed to allow American military presence in the small archipelago.
Not satisfied with only a small piece of the new oil destination of the world, America stepped up its formation of the Africom, making open moves to extend the kind of cohabitation it enjoys with São Tomé and Principe to Nigeria. However, Nigeria does not have São Tomé's security fears. We are the dominant force in West Africa. We do not need America's Africom.
We are not under threat by any of our neighbors. We are also great neighbors because we are not only a peaceable country, we are actually protective of smaller sister countries, a favor that is often goes unreciprocated or even appreciated.
Unlike America, Nigeria helps other African countries without counting the cost or calculating the economic gains. We don't even need the Africom for our engagement with the Niger Delta militants because it is essentially a protest rebellion. But if we should need help, it is up to us to design modalities for acquiring it and where we want to get it from.
The kind of "partnership" a U.S. military base will offer in the Gulf of Guinea will not be different from the well-known American traditional do-gooding which eventually sparks off instability, radical regimes, wars, revolutions, and attritional violence.
Those who have discovered the writings of John Perkins, the bestselling author of The Economic Hitman [sic -- the volume is actually entitled Confessions of an Economic Hit Man] and The Secret History of the American Empire will agree with us when we observe that primary interests of American corporatocracy usually drives these military "partnerships" that eventually end up causing instability.
The story is the same -- from Panama to Iran, from the Philippines to Iraq, American corporate colonialism, which has been thoroughly laid bare by Perkins, has left a long trail of gunsmoke and blood.
Let us watch it. This "partnership" is a Greek gift!