The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) will be fully operational by September 2008, a senior AFRICOM official has revealed. AFRICOM is a new Africa Command headquarters set to coordinate all U.S. military and security interests throughout the continent. AFRICOM Director of Public Affairs, Colonel Patrick Mackin, told VOA that this new command will strengthen U.S. security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of U.S. partners in Africa.
He said the United States has a variety of programs based on the requests and the needs of African nations. “We have requests for training and equipment. We had programs that provide that assistance throughout Africa. In the Department of Defense, we had three different regional command headquarters that managed that security assistance. So, Africa command (AFRICOM) is a reorganization to put all these security assistance programs under one command.”
Col. Mackin said that now there is a senior commander and staff focused on African security issues and having a relationship with African militaries on a full time basis. “Now we have a staff,” he said, “that has a better understanding of the security needs of Africa and can better articulate those requirements inside the U. S. government and try getting resources that we feel can give Africa stability and security so that development can happen.”
He said the African command will tailor its support to the various regions of Africa so that the security assistance that is provided by the US military makes sense. “With the African command we have better expertise and a better depth of understanding about the regional needs for security throughout Africa.”
Mackin explained that AFRICOM is not about large forces, or large military bases. “It’s not about troops. Its really about headquarter staff, military and civilians; people who oversee programs, they do planning and coordinate security assistance programs.”
He described AFRICOM as unique and said the Defense Department will be able to coordinate better its own activities in Africa as well as help coordinate the work of other U.S. government agencies, particularly the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Our intent is to make sure US military assistance fully supports the other developmental efforts by the US in Africa. There is a relationship between security and development.”
The director said that African governments with which the US has relations understand the value of security assistance the US provides, and have been receptive to the formation of AFRICOM. “This is assistance they have asked for, and that they need, and they have come to rely upon,” he said. “They are receptive to the idea that AFRICOM will be able to provide this assistance in a more effective way.”
He said there have been several high level delegations to Africa to explain the motives and operations of AFRICOM.