Due to a less than enthusiastic response from numerous African countries, the year-old United States military command for Africa (AFRICOM) has recently decided to forgo the attempt to base its headquarters on the African continent. Confusion and conspiracy rumors have developed in response to AFRICOM’s creation, including the idea that the command’s “real motives are thirst for oil and the desire to counter growing Chinese influence on the continent,” according to the article, “US Defers Sensitive Africa HQ Decision for Now.”
These conspiracy ideas are all misunderstandings though. The current Administration has been vague and open-ended in its description of the command’s mission, leading to anti-American sentiment and the failure of African countries to welcome the command to the continent. If any progress is to be made, then the Administration needs to clarify AFRICOM’s purpose, which “is to diffuse and prevent crises on the continent by increasing regional capabilities, thereby reducing the need for U.S. or multilateral military intervention,” according to Heritage Fellow Brett Schaefer and Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Mackenzie Eaglen in their article “Clarifying the Future of AFRICOM.” Currently, establishing clear goals for AFRICOM is far more important than establishing the headquarters. Regional integration teams can help address this priority in the region, while command headquarters remains a secondary issue.
AFRICOM needs to invest its scare resources in programs, rather than trying to build a brick and mortar headquarters on the continent. CENTCOM, PACOM, and SOUTHCOM all have headquarters on U.S. soil, and if it is good enough for them, then it should be good enough for AFRICOM, at least for now. Schaefer and Eaglen contend, “It is far better to take a crawl, walk, run approach to establishing a headquarters if it will assist the process in building up trust and confidence in African countries on the roll of AFRICOM.”