AFRICOM hits a snag: Africans

The Post reports how the U.S. military’s Africa Command has had to scale back its ambitions for the continent:

The trouble was, no one consulted the Africans. “Very little was really known by the majority of people or countries in Africa who were supposed to know before such a move was made,” said retired Kenyan army Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande. Worry swept the continent that the United States planned major new military installations in Africa.

“If you know the politics of Africa,” said Opande, who has headed U.N. peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone and Liberia, “you know there are certain very powerful countries who said, no, we are not interested in having a headquarters here.” South Africa and Nigeria were among them, and their resistance helped persuade others.

Over the past seven years, the administration has more than tripled U.S. assistance to Africa, to about $9 billion annually, nearly half of which is spent on prevention and treatment for HIV-AIDS. U.S. military training for African forces has steadily expanded, and U.S. troops have undertaken humanitarian missions in several countries — digging wells, building schools and providing medical care. Africom’s budget request for 2009 is about $400 million.

But despite the promise of new development and security partnerships, many Africans concluded that Africom was primarily an extension of U.S. counterterrorism policy, intended to keep an eye on Africa’s large Muslim population.

“I think everyone thought it would be widely greeted as something positive,” the Africom officer said. “But you suddenly have wide publics that have no idea what we’re talking about. . . . It was seen as a massive infusion of military might onto a continent that was quite proud of having removed foreign powers from its soil.”

Can we imagine the U.S. opening an Asia command without consulting the Chinese or Indians? Not me.