United States Africa Command

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United States Africa Command

The Emblem of the United States Africa Command.
Active Authorized: February 6, 2007
Established October 1, 2007
Activated: October 1, 2008
Country United States
Type Unified Combatant Command
Size 3,600+ [1][2]
Headquarters Kelley Barracks, in Stuttgart, Germany
Combatant Commander General William E. Ward, USA
Deputy for
Military Operations
Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller, USN
Deputy for
Civil-Military Activities
Mary Carlin Yates, State Department

The United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM or AFRICOM) is a Unified Combatant Command of the United States Department of Defense that is responsible for U.S. military operations in and military relations with 53 African nations – an area of responsibility covering all of Africa except Egypt. Africa Command was established October 1, 2007 as a temporary sub-unified command of U.S. European Command, but became fully autonomous and operational on October 1, 2008, when it officially took command of U.S. military operations within the aforementioned area of responsibility.
In June 2007 the latest plans envisioned a distributed command that would be networked across several countries rather than a single combatant command headquarters. In February 2008 a spokesman for AFRICOM stated that its headquarters will be located in Stuttgart for the foreseeable future.[3]


Geopolitical background (2000-2006)

Prior to the creation of AFRICOM, three Unified Commands had divided responsibility for U.S. military operations in Africa. The United States Navy´s Naval Postgraduate School noted in January 2007 that U.S. policy towards Africa, at least in the medium-term, looks to be largely defined by international terrorism, the increasing importance of African oil to American energy needs, and the dramatic expansion and improvement of Sino-African relations since the turn of the century.[4]
A U.S. military officer wrote the first public article calling for the formation of an African Command published in November 2000.[5] A January 2002 report from the African Oil Policy Initiative Group played a role in getting discussions about such a command started within the U.S. national security community, though their specific recommendation was to create a subcommand for the Gulf of Guinea.[6] The AOPIG report emphasised that the U.S. intelligence community has estimated that the United States will buy 25 percent of its oil from Africa by 2015. In general, areas of increasing interest to the United States in Africa include the Sahara/Sahel region,[7] over which Joint Task Force Aztec Silence is conducting anti-terrorist operations (known as Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara), the Horn of Africa, where Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa is located in Djibouti (conducting operations which have been called Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa), and the Gulf of Guinea, whose oil resources are expected to gain in importance.
The U.S. Congress has approved US$500 million for the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI) over six years to support countries involved in counterterrorism against alleged threats of Al Qaeda operating in African countries, primarily Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, and Morocco.[8] This program builds upon the former Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), which concluded in December 2004[9] and focused on weapon and drug trafficking, as well as counterterrorism.[10] Previous U.S. military activities in sub-Saharan Africa have included Special Forces associated Joint Combined Exchange Training.
As a result of the 2004 global posture review, the Pentagon began implementing a number of Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Sites (FOSs) across the African continent, through USEUCOM. These locations, along with Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, would form the basis of AFRICOM facilities on the continent.

Creation of AFRICOM (2006-2008)


In mid 2006, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld formed a planning team to advise on requirements for establishing a new Unified Command for the African continent. In early December, he made his recommendations to President George W. Bush.[11][12]
On February 6, 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced to the Senate Armed Services Committee that President George W. Bush had given authority to create the new African Command and [13]U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, the director of the AFRICOM transition team, arrived in Stuttgart Germany to begin creating the logistical framework for the command.[14][15] On September 28th the U.S. Senate confirmed General William E. “Kip” Ward as AFRICOM’s first commander and AFRICOM officially became operational as a sub-unified command of EUCOM with a separate headquarters.[16] On October 1, 2008, the command separated from USEUCOM and began operating on its own as a full fledged Command.

Selecting a headquarters

The 1,300 person command will be headquartered at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany for the foreseeable future and a further administrative presence on the continent will only occur via “full diplomatic consultation and agreement with potential host nations”.[17][18]
It was reported in June 2007 that African countries were competing to host the headquarters because it would bring money for the recipient country.[19][20] However, Of all the African nations, only Liberia has publicly expressed a willingness to host AFRICOM’s headquarters. The U.S. declared in February 2008 that Africa Command would be headquartered in Stuttgart for the “foreseeable future”. In August 2007, Dr. Wafula Okumu, a research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, testified before congress about the growing resistance and hostility on the African continent[21] Nigeria, has announced it will not allow his country to host a base and opposed the creation of a base on the continent. South Africa and Libya have also expressed reservations of the establishment of a headquarters in Africa. [22]
The Sudan Tribune considers it likely that Ethiopia, considered to be one of the US’ strongest allies in the region, will house USAFRICOM’s headquarters due to the collocation of AFRICOM with the African Union‘s developing peace and security apparatus[23]. Prime Minister Menes Zelawi stated in early November that Ethiopia would be willing to work together closely with USAFRICOM.[24] This was further reinforced when a U.S. Air Force official said on December 5, 2007, that Addis Ababa was likely to be the headquarters.[25]
On February 18, 2008 General Ward told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute in London that some portion of that staff headquarters being on the continent at some point in time would be “a positive factor in helping us better deliver programs.” [26] General Ward also told the BBC the same day in an interview that there are no definite plans to take the headquarters or a portion of it to any particular location on the continent.[27]
President Bush has denied that the United States was contemplating the construction of new bases on the African continent.[28] US plans include no large installations such as Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, but rather a network of facilities – the so-called ‘cooperative security locations,’ etc, mentioned above, at which temporary activities will be conducted. There is one permanent, large US base on the continent, Camp Lemonier in Djibouti with over 2300 troops stationed there that was inherited from USCENTCOM upon standup of the command.[29]
In general, U.S. Unified Combatant Commands have an HQ of their own in one location, subordinate service component HQs, sometimes one or two co-located with the main HQ or sometimes spread widely, and a wide range of operating locations, main bases, forward detachments, etc. USAFRICOM initially appears to be considering something slightly different; spreading the actually COCOM HQ over several locations, rather than having the COCOM HQ in one place and the putative ‘U.S. Army Forces, Africa’, its air component, and ‘U.S. Naval Forces, Africa’ in one to four separate locations. AFRICOM will not have the traditional J-type staff divisions, instead having outreach, plans and programs, knowledge development, operations and logistics, and resources branches.[30]
On October 1st, 2008 the Seventeenth Air Force was established at Sembach Air Base, Germany as the United States Air Force component of the Africa Command.[31] Brig. Gen. Tracey Garrett was named as commander of the new USMC component, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF), in November 2008.[32] MARFORAF is a dual-hatting arrangement for United States Marine Corps Forces, Europe.
On December 3, 2008 the US announced that US Army and Navy headquarters units of AFRICOM would be hosted in Italy. The AFRICOM section of the Army’s Southern European Task Force would be located in Vicenza and Naval Forces Europe in Naples would expand to include the Navy’s AFRICOM component.[33]

Scope of proposed operations

Military of the United States portal

The focus of USAFRICOM’s missions will be diplomatic, economic and humanitarian aid, aimed at prevention of conflict, rather than at military intervention, according to Theresa Whelan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs.[34] This is, to an extent, a misnomer. All United States combatant commands have the same responsibilities in general: to plan, direct and execute U.S. military operations in their assigned area of responsibility. AFRICOM is only different in that the situation on the continent, U.S. officials believe, would be better served by the military, in many cases, playing a secondary role to other efforts. Steven Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees that the new command holds potential well beyond military oversight. Rather, its mission could be defined by an interagency mix, focusing the efforts of intelligence, diplomatic, health and aid experts.[11]

Official goals

U.S. Africa Command’s formal mission statement, approved in May 2008, says:

“United States Africa Command, in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners, conducts sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign policy.”[35]

The White House stated that:

“[AFRICOM] will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”[36]

The U.S. Department of State stated of AFRICOM that:

“The U.S. military’s new command center for Africa, Africa Command (AFRICOM), will play a supportive role as Africans continue to build democratic institutions and establish good governance across the continent. AFRICOM’S foremost mission is to help Africans achieve their own security, and to support African leadership efforts.”[37]

Proposed geographic scope

February 2007 Draft Map of the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) showing its creation from parts of USEUCOM, USCENTCOM and USPACOM. (Click to see enlarged image). An updated definitive map from the Unified Command Plan 2008, signed by the President on December 17, 2008 can be found at

The territory of the command would consist of all of the African continent except for Egypt, which would remain under the direct responsibility of USCENTCOM, as it so closely relates to the Middle East.[34] USAFRICOM will also consist of the following island groups;

Most of Africa will be transferred from USEUCOM with the Horn of Africa and Sudan transferred from USCENTCOM and the islands of Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mauritius transferred from USPACOM.


  1. ^ “U.S Africa Command Stands Up” , U.S. Africa Command, October 9, 2008
  2. ^ “U.S. AFRICOM Commander Praises Commitment of Service Members During Visit to Djibouti” , U.S. Africa Command, September 24, 2008
  3. ^US AFRICOM headquarters to remain in Germany for “foreseeable future”“, International Herald Tribune (200802-19).
  4. ^ Lawson, Letitia (January 2007). “U.S. Africa Policy Since the Cold War” (in English). Strategic Insights VI (1). Retrieved on 10 March 2007.
  5. ^ PARAMETERS, US Army War College Quarterly – Winter 2000-01
  6. ^With Mideast uncertainty, US turns to Africa for oil“, Christian Science Monitor (200205-23). Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  7. ^US targets Sahara ‘terrorist haven’“, BBC (200508-08). Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  8. ^Africa to Get Its Own US Military Command“, (200702-01). Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  9. ^EUCOM: Operations and Initiatives“. EUCOM. Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
  10. ^Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI)“. Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
  11. ^ a bPentagon Creates Military Command for Africa“, NPR, Morning Edition (200702-07). Retrieved on 7 February 2007.
  12. ^Africa Command plans approved by Bush, DOD officials confirm“, Stars and Stripes, Mideast edition (200612-30). Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  13. ^DoD Establishing U.S. Africa Command“, US Department of Defense (200702-06). Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  14. ^ a bU.S. Creating New Africa Command To Coordinate Military Efforts“, US Department of State (200702-07). Retrieved on 8 February 2007.
  15. ^Africa Command Transition Team leader arrives in Stuttgart“, USAFRICOM (200702-27). Retrieved on 27 February 2007.
  16. ^ AFRICOM, U.S. Africa Command Reaches Initial Operating Capability, Press Release 08-001, October 1, 2007
  17. ^ “AFRICOM FAQS” , U.S. Africa Command, April 9, 2008
  18. ^ “U.S Africa Command Stands Up” , U.S. Africa Command, October 9, 2008
  19. ^ The Economist, ‘Policing the undergoverned spaces, June 16-22 issue, p.46
  20. ^ ibid., Economist, 16-22 June 2007
  21. ^ Article: Africa: Testimony of Dr. Wafula Okumu – U.S. House Africom Hearing
  22. ^ “US AFRICOM headquarters to remain in Germany for “foreseeable future”, International Herald Tribune, February 19, 2008 and “US drops Africa military HQ plan”, BBC News, February 18, 2008
  23. ^ SudanTribune article : US army boss for Africa says no garrisons planned
  24. ^ SudanTribune article : Ethiopia ready to cooperate with US Africa Command – Zenawi
  25. ^ Erik Holmes, Official: AFRICOM Will Need Air Force Aircraft, Air Force Times, December 5, 2007
  26. ^ “TRANSCRIPT: General Ward Outlines Vision for U.S. Africa Command”, February 18, 2008
  27. ^ “TRANSCRIPT: AFRICOM’s General Ward Interviewed by the BBC’s Nick Childs”, February 18, 2008
  28. ^ “Bush Says No New U.S. Bases in Africa”
  29. ^ “U.S. AFRICOM Commander Praises Commitment of Service Members During Visit to Djibouti” , U.S. Africa Command, September 24, 2008
  30. ^ Stars and Stripes, AFRICOM to depart from J-code structure, August 12, 2007
  31. ^ – U.S. AFRICOM Faces African Concerns – 10/01/07 17:39
  32. ^ and
  33. ^ Novak, Lisa M., “Italy To Host AFRICOM Headquarters”, Stars and Stripes, December 5, 2008.
  34. ^ a bUS Creates Military Command for Africa“, Voice of America (200702-06). Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  35. ^
  36. ^ President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa
  37. ^ U.S. Department of State
  38. ^Pentagon setting up new U.S. command to oversee African missions“, Associated Press (200702-06). Retrieved on 6 February 2007.

External links

Military history of Africa portal


United States Africa Command

Flag of the United States


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