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Is Africa next Middle East?

By Zachary Hubbard
  • Published: February 15, 2008 01:43 pm

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 AFRICOM CrestOn February 6, 2007, President Bush directed the creation of U.S. Africa Command.... AFRICOM will be headquartered at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, for the foreseeable future. AFRICOM began initial operations in October 2007.
Read at:

The command’s Web site ( 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. 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.

Bush open to Liberia hosting US military command

"If there is going to be a physical presence on the continent of Africa in the forms of a headquarters ... obviously we would seriously consider Liberia," Bush said in an interview with foreign media on Thursday and released on Friday Feb 15, 2008 .. Source: Reuters..


Mon 18 Feb 2008,

Many Africans feel "nervous and insecure" about a U.S. presence they fear will lead to an increase in terrorist attacks, said Ebenezer Asiedu, a research fellow at King's College, London.

Others are concerned Africom will be used to militarise U.S. foreign policy or prop up friendly dictators. "The United States has done that time and time again across Africa," said David Francis, head of the Africa Centre at Bradford University.

Sawirkan waxaa faafisay Reuters oo qoraal ka qortay AFRICOM, Feb 18, 2008

Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs at the Pentagon, rejected two other common charges -- that Washington is seeking to gain control of African oil and counter growing Chinese influence.

"I'm not going to stand here and tell you we have no interest in oil, sure we do, but it is in a larger context of simply being able as a nation to get access and to buy that oil on the free market, not to be able to control it," she said.

West African producers are expected to supply a quarter of U.S. consumption by 2015.

Whelan said Washington was "fine" with Chinese economic competition, adding both countries were interested in a stable Africa and may be able to work together in the future to promote security on the continent.

"There may be at some point in the future a point of intersection between our interest and the Chinese interest on specific security issues where we might find it convenient to cooperate. I would certainly not rule it out," she said.


Oil, China to top Bush agenda

15/02/2008 18:57  - (SA)  

Lagos - Oil, a heightened US military presence on the continent with AFRICOM and ever-tougher competition from China are all issues that will not be far from the surface during George W. Bush's latest Africa tour.

Beyond bilateral issues with the individual countries visited - Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia - Bush wants to "demonstrate America's commitment ... to Africa as a whole," White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said in a preview of the visit on Thursday.

The visit, which could be delayed to allow for the passing in the US of a controversial wire-tapping bill, is likely to be Bush's last to Africa before he leaves office in January 2009.

His first port of call, Benin, does get US support, notably in the shape of money to fight malaria, but the economy of the tiny cotton-producing country has been ruined by the US policy of subsidising its domestic cotton growers.

Alongside Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, Benin has been lobbying the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since 2003 to oblige industrialised cotton producers, and the US in particular, to do away with export subsidies and to reduce direct aid to their own cotton growers.

Subsidies for cotton growers

On the eve of Bush's visit, the US appealed a WTO decision, handed down in response to a request from Brazil, condemning US subsidies to cotton growers.

"If George Bush comes here without something concrete to say about our everyday livelihood, he needn't bother. ... US cotton growers get subsidies and so they make a better living than us. What does Mr. Bush make of that?" questioned Beninese cotton grower Ali Assi Mabdou.

Washington also hopes to better its image by highlighting its Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which has since 2000 enabled some 40 countries to have access to the US market until 2015 without paying customs duties.

However in 2007, more than 90% of exports from sub-Saharan Africa to the US were petroleum products.

"We hope that this visit will enable us to attract more US companies who could export the products they manufacture here into the US thanks to AGOA," Ghana's Trade Minister Joe Baidoo-Ansah said.


The US taking an interest in Africa can also be explained by the fact that in 2015 Washington expects that 25% of the oil it imports will come from Africa, essentially from the Gulf of Guinea.

Oil could also also have something to do with US insistence on selling the idea of a US military high command for Africa - AFRICOM, currently based in Germany.

Confronted by a lack of enthusiasm for the project, Washington has been doing its best to sound reassuring. At the end of January, a US diplomat, Geoffrey Martineau told the Nigerian parliament that the US did not intend either to put military bases in Africa or to invade the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Nigeria is currently the world's eighth exporter of crude oil and the fifth-biggest supplier to the US.

Nigeria has already refused to host AFRICOM and has made known its unwillingness to have it based "anywhere on African soil".

"The subject of AFRICOM will come up but there won't be any announcement. There's still a lot of work to be done," Hadley said at his briefing.

China: Partner or predator?

Last but not least is China, which, eager to acquire oil and other raw materials, has established itself on the African continent over the past several years.

Variously seen as a partner or a predator, Beijing is a serious rival to the US and to Europe.

"Foreign countries need to act in a responsible way when it comes to investing in or acquiring resources in Africa," Hadley said in response to a question on China's increasingly important role on the continent.


Houcine Akkari, a retired man in Tunis told Reuters: "The U.S. says it wants to help Africa to boost democracy, reduce poverty and improve governance. But the truth is so different. Bush wants to exploit Africa which is rich in natural resources, without giving anything to Africa." Reuters... Feb 18, 2008

TFG spokesman Abdirahman Dinari has dangled a carrot before foreign investors: “Somalia has a lot of oil, and our ministers have just approved a key exploration law to regulate how concessions are given out…. But what we need now is international support to restore security and build our nation, and we will be noting who helps us and who doesn’t when these decisions are taken.”... Read Here...

Currently, Ethiopia and Uganda are the U.S.’s primarily client states in Africa; Uganda and Ethiopia are fighting a proxy war in Somalia on behalf of the United States, committing crimes against humanity in the process. Yet, even these two U.S. puppet states could not have survived the public relations disaster, had they stationed the U.S. command.... Read here....

Aiming Bush’s Africa Command against Nkrumah’s African High Command

.....even if hosting Africom on the continent is desirable how do we reconcile it with our own desire to set up an African High Command as envisioned by Nkrumah and others in decades past? Can we accommodate the Americans without compromising on the future common agenda project of the AU? There should be a common African Union position on this, beyond sentiments occasionally expressed by individuals in leadership positions or positions taken by individual nations. Liberia should not be neglected to negotiate on its own with the Bush administration on this without the small West African country having the comfort or backup of a continental framework or position on the parameters of accommodating a foreign military base like America on any part of the continent covered by the Constitutive Act. Having a common AU understanding of what is at stake and whether or not hosting would not frustrate our own attempts towards integration should inform discussions. In Qanawu’s view, that is where you can find the gravamen of stealth proportions. Read more....




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