The U.S. Government has decided to scale back its once-ambitious plans to establish a military headquarters, presence and influence in Africa. Concerns about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy on the African continent created significant grief among African countries believing that U.S. oil interests, and the U.S. wariness toward China (see this article by the Washington Post) were the real reasons. This article refers to the “controlling oil ministry”, and this one sums up the oil angle pretty well. Oh yeah, the oil.
AFRICOM is actually a spinoff of the Carter Doctrine in which the U.S. made a policy shift toward protecting its vital interests via military intervention, if necessary, which included energy reserves.
Containing the unrest in Nigeria was one of the first objectives. “To prevent such a disruption, the Department of Defense is providing Nigerian military and internal security forces with substantial arms and equipment intended to quell unrest in the Delta region; the Pentagon is also collaborating with Nigerian forces in a number of regional patrol and surveillance efforts aimed at improving security in the Gulf of Guinea, where most of West Africa’s offshore oil and gas fields are located”
The same article makes reference to the U.S. (and world’s) branding of the word “terrorist” to include anyone who might be getting in the way of their own progress, just to draw the U.S. into supporting them. “Simply put, the situation in the Niger Delta is that of ethnic-nationalist movements fighting by any means necessary for the “political objective of advancing the cause of self-determination and equitable sharing of oil-receipts.” It has nothing to do with international terror networks or jihadists.”
And then there’s the U.S. attempt to tame China, which is aggressively pursuing economic agreements with Africa, who it sees as a strategic trading partner and the U.S. sees as the start of a new Cold War.
But U.S. foreign policy has been wrapped around militarism for some time now, and that policy does not sit well on a continent where Western colonialism is still a fresh memory. Hence our government’s turnabout in less than 12 months. AFRICOM will be diluted by adding a civilian facet to it, but the military will still be in charge. Headquarters, however, will likely be somewhere on the U.S. East Coast and not anywhere in Africa.
Our country’s seemingly endless use of the military to shape global policy reminds me of the oft-quoted line: “To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. Africa, I think, is telling us to either come up with a different policy, or to stay the hell out.