AFRICOM and the U.S. Security Policy in Africa

The analysis of Africom U.S. military policies in Africa

The United States Africa Command known as AFRICOM is a unified U.S. Armed Forces combatant command headquartered at Kelley Barracks in Germany, Stuttgary. The U.S. Africa Command is responsible for American military operations and resolution of local regional conflicts on the territory of Africa. THe essay provides a deep analysis of organization’s functioning.


This paper focuses on the research of the U.S. security policy in Africa. Without any doubts, this problem seems to be extremely important nowadays in the aspect of the international relations between the countries of the global community (Rosati, 2-14). Thus, the positive result of the U.S. interaction with the governments of various African countries is a part of the strategic plan of the national security. Obviously, various current threats for the international community, such as Ebola or pirates from Somali are only the small part of the entire number of countless issues. Furthermore, various globalization trends, especially in the military sphere, influence the behavior of the international military organizations and the governments of different countries. For instance, it is hard to make some prognoses for the behavior of rioting groups in some districts of Africa. Without any doubts, it is essential for the National Security Affair to analyze the current situation in order to prevent some possible threats to the security of the United States.

Analysis of the current issues in security relations between America and the countries of Africa

The main aim of the current research is to analyze the current situation in the sphere of the security relations between the U.S. and the countries of Africa. Undoubtedly, this project is extremely important nowadays, in conditions of constant globalization changes. The data yielded by this study provides convincing evidence that the current international security system has many disadvantages due to the unpredictable character of various state and non-state actors, who ignore the trends of demilitarization. Thus, the conflict in the Easter Europe shows the high risks, which the system of international security regularly faces. It means that the current situation in Africa could change very fast due to some external influence or inner conflicts. Undoubtedly, it could bring danger to the U.S. national security (Francis, 37). Therefore, it is essential for the leaders of the U.S. National Security Affair to expand the cooperation with the African countries in order to provide greater influence on their domestic and foreign politics. Evidently, it must be the part of the strategic plan of the national security because the influence of the African actors is rising with every decade (Cooke, 87). The novelty of the research lies in the understanding of the fact that the security policy of the U.S. in Africa should seriously consider not only some military actions or interactions with rioting regions, but also the financial security of bank operations. It means that Africa could become the region of hackers and computer pirates, which could also bring serious difficulties for the global security. Furthermore, it is crucial to realize the influence of various countries on the African politics. Undoubtedly, without the necessary researches and further activities, the future of the African security and Africa-U.S. relations could be very doubtful.


It is important to mention that the U.S. policy in Africa since the events of the World War II has generally been absolutely non-interventionist. It means that in the sense that the U.S. troops have seldom engaged in quasi-military or military activities on the African continent. However, exceptions exist, most notable among them being a significantly limited commitment, of both covert operatives and troops. For instance, it happened during the Congo civil war in the 1960s, the humanitarian mission to Somalia and the bombing of Libya in 1986. Evidently, more often, the U.S. has provided assistance to various African movements, such as anticommunist guerrillas in the territory of Angola during the 1980s (Cooke, 24-25). Furthermore, America has also used economic and diplomatic pressure, both against cruel South African apartheid and criminal activities in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the situation could change in any moment of the twenty-first century due to the peculiarities of the current globalization process. Furthermore, after the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania nad Kenya, the U.S. military troops conducted bombing raids over both Sudan and Afghanistan, attempting to neutralize the well-known terrorist Osama bin Laden and his powerful al-Qaeda terror network. The fact that Al Qaeda terrorist group later caused bombings in Washington, D.C. and New York City in 2001, serves to illustrate the situation that events in Africa also impact American security and policy. Later, in 2003, the U.S. made a troop commitment to secure stability in rioting Liberia and considered a more extensive involvement. Therefore, it is essential to analyze current events in order to make conclusions about the future of the American security policy in Africa.

The data yielded by this study provides convincing evidence that it is important to understand the background of the relations between the U.S. and African countries in the aspect of security. It is necessary to highlight that with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia, every nation in Africa was at one time a European colony (Francis, 24-25). Obviously, this is true even in North Africa, whose native people are culturally and linguistically distinct from their neighbors to the south. Thus, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain held southern and eastern Africa and the parts of West Africa, France much of west and central Africa; Belgium possessed the territories of the modern Congo, and Portugal had a few notable colonies, among them Mozambique and Angola. Germany and Italy, which were latecomers to African colonialism, had control over some of the territories less rich in natural resources. Later, in the period between 1950s and 1980s, virtually every nation in Africa gained independence. The Portuguese, who were first Europeans to colonize in Black Continent, became the last to relinquish colonies. Undoubtedly, the countries in Africa had high hopes connected with independence, but with few exceptions, the history of modern Africa became an unrelieved tale of corruption, mismanagement, cruelty, and rampant disease and poverty. Thus, funds given to help the African people have usually ended up in the Swiss bank accounts of various dictators, and money intended to feed children and build schools disappeared from budget in order to fund civil wars.

As a result, in choosing their policy and security priorities for Africa, the U.S. leaders managed a line between appearing imperialist or interventionist on the one hand, and morally insensitive to Africans’ misery on the other. Actually, there are few factors, which influence the U.S. policy in Africa, such as the strategic importance of a given nation, its non-alignment or alignment with the U.S. interests, and the level of stability of its government.

A close look at the data indicates that the first problems in Africa the U.S. politicians experienced in Congo. Belgium granted its colony independence in 1960, but this proved only the new beginning of different troubles. Civil war started, and initially the U.S. as a participant in the UN peacekeeping force, tried to influence Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. However, as Lumumba drifted increasingly into the Soviet Union orbit, the Central Intelligence Agency considered means of annihilating him and his region in order to avoid another Cuba. Therefore, the United Stated provided assistance to military troops of the officer Joseph Désiré Mobutu. As a result, these troops captured and killed Lumumba.

It is important to note that although conditions in the Congo were extremely difficult under Lumumba, they became even bad under Mobutu, who became an absolute leader of the nation in 1966. First, he renamed the country Zaire and stated that he is the only leader of the nation. Second, for the next three decades, this new leader, supported by the U.S. and the World Bank, looted his country, building vast and rich palaces for himself and fattening the pockets of his close allies while the majority of his nation lived without running water, electricity, or basic medical care (Cooke, 67).

Finally, Laurent Kabila overthrown Mobutu in 1997, but he proved just as corrupt as his predecessor did, and his bodyguards killed him in 2001. As a result, the Congo had become embroiled in violent events described collectively as First World War in Africa. Evidently, the opening event of that significant conflict, which involved Congo and various other nations, was the infamous genocide in Rwanda in 1994. It is essential to analyze this conflict in order to understand the possible influence of the events in Africa on the international and especially United States security.

A close look at the data indicates that the conflict involved age-old tribal disputes between the Tutsi and Hutu peoples, who together constitute the population in Burundi, Rwanda, and neighboring states. The conflict started after Rwanda’s Hutu dictator died in a plane crash. His supporters blamed the Tutsi-controlled Patriotic Front of Rwanda, and launched a campaign of genocide, which resulted in more than eight hundred thousand deaths over a period of a few weeks. The U.S. participated in this conflict with peace-making activities, but there were many critics of these actions both at home and abroad due to the absence of the military activities. It means that some members of the global community wanted the U.S. military troops to intervene in Rwanda. However, the actions of the U.S. government seem to be right because their intervention could show that they are breaking the other nations’ internal affairs. It is important to protect the democracy and the rights of common people in the world, but it is essential to make it in a peaceful way. A good example of this principle was in Somali, when the U.S. military attempts to provide humanitarian assistance inflamed resentment. Obviously, even after the terrorist attacks of 2001, Muslim critics of the U.S. policy would cite the example of Somalia as an example of American imperialism.

The data yielded by this research provides evidence that another economic and political battleground of the U.S. and African interests was is Nigeria. Evidently, Nigeria is one of the leading nations in Africa in aspects of size and potential wealth. However, with its oil riches, Nigeria is only partly more stable than its neighbors are. Unfortunately, criminal activity in Nigeria is rampant, which brings various threats for the entire western part of the continent. Furthermore, the country is particularly notorious for its business frauds and counterfeiting operations. It is an extremely crucial point of our analysis because the U.S. security politics in Africa must consider the aspects of financial and networking security. For instance, Nigerian counterfeiting involves consumer and industrial goods, including electronics, personal products, and even soft drinks. The reason is that intellectual property owners are frustrated with the national bureaucracy. Thus, they have done little to put a stop to the processes of counterfeiting efforts there. Moreover, owners of rights to these products are usually unaware of counterfeiting activities in Nigeria. Obviously, the Nigerian government has tried to pursue a policy against these crimes, but it was largely ineffective in these activities. Therefore, it is an excellent example of various challenges, which African security faces. It is possible to conclude that the African governments are often incapable to cope with their problems, and they need a help from their western partners. Thus, the U.S. showed a good example of such diplomacy activities, when years of military rule in Nigeria ended in 1999. Evidently, the U.S. officials took advantage of this opportunity in order to strengthen law enforcement efforts there. Thus, the two countries signed the diplomatic agreement for increased law enforcement cooperation in July 2002. Part of the agreement was a money grant of $3.5 million from the people of the U.S., intended to help Nigeria to modernize its police force and provide some additional resources to the country’s special fraud unit.

Evidently, Sierra Leone and Chad could offer positive examples of what the world community and the U.S. influence can do to affect policy in Africa in terms of economic intervention. Thus, in 2000, the UN in the cooperation with the United States imposed a ban on the purchase of precious stones from Sierra Leone. It happened because various state actors used these in large part to funding the nation’s civil war. As a result, two years later, the eleven-year war ended in a ceasefire. This example shows that the U.S. influence on the African countries could be friendly, without some specific hidden interest. The example of Chad proves this thesis. A close look at the data indicates that in 2000, construction began on a big pipeline through Chad, which was an extremely poor country. Thus, rather than permit a repeat of various mistakes, a consortium of companies, such as America’s Exxon and Mobil, together with the World Bank, devised a specific strategy to prevent the nation’s rulers from irrational misusing funds. These agreements included stipulations that eighty percent of all oil revenues the companies would spend on improving education, health, and welfare for the populace. Furthermore, another ten percent would go into deposit accounts for future generations, five percent would finance the needs of population in the area of the oil fields, while the government would receive only five percent in order to do with as it pleased.

Taking everything into account, it is important to highlight that the U.S. National Security Affair department faces various threats deriving start in Africa. The background review of the history of relations between the United States and the countries of Africa shows that the situation is quite unstable and could become threatening at any time. Therefore, it is essential to understand the peculiarities of the current system of African security, named AFRICOM.

Methods of research and assumptions

To begin with, it is important to state that the methodology of the current research bases on the dialectical analysis of the relations between the U.S. and African countries in the sphere of the international security (Francis, 76-77). Evidently, the first thesis of the current research describes the history of these relations in the first part of the background review. The second thesis should show the current attempts of both sides to provide the security at both continents and worldwide. The research shows that this second thesis must show the peculiarities of the AFRICOM system, which now coordinates the U.S. humanitarian aid missions, peacekeeping activities, and military partnership operations with various African countries, as well as providing defense support in different non-military operations such the Africa Education Initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account, the Water for the Poor Act, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Thus, AFRICOM coordinates the U.S. military support by bringing the humanitarian and peacemaking work of the U.S. government agencies engaged with Africa. The synthesis of these two research should summarize the issues of the current security system and provide some conclusions in order to stabilize it.

It is essential to highlight that the creation of AFRICOM had an aim to support Africans in building greater capacity in order to deliver the U.S. security. Evidently, the creators of the AFRICOM system thought that it would be situated physically in Africa. However, this idea did not realize because of resistance from various African states. Undoubtedly, the resistance stemmed partly from the serious fear that locating the U.S. military troops in an African country could heighten American advantage, alter the local balance of power, and be destabilizing and divisive. It could undermine the sovereignty of the country, which hosts the military forces, the influence, and the status of the regional power, and the African unity and collective decision-making of the local organizations. Furthermore, the resistance to locating AFRICOM in the countries of Africa was also due to various fears that this could give the U.S. a huge military platform from which the country could over-throw African governments or launch attacks on organizations or countries situated in Africa. Therefore, the headquarter of the AFRICOM is in Germany.

It is essential to mention that many experts argue that the AFRICOM military-centered strategy very narrowly filters the realities of various security challenges across the continent. The initiative assumes that counter-terrorism and safeguarding the U.S. supplies of minerals, fossil fuels, and other natural resources are among the main challenges and priorities confronting Africa. This situation has evidences in the aspects of the level of the U.S. military sales and training and financing expenditure devoted to eight African countries, which participated in the war on terror. Undoubtedly, such range of activities is not enough, especially in the aspect of the increasing Chinese presence in Africa. It means that it is important to allocate the main shortcomings of the AFRICOM system in the current research.

First, AFRICOM seems to consolidate under a single command of American military activities in Africa. It means that their aims influence the entire system of the international security. Evidently, in the beginning it had three commands as the main controllers of the organization. However, this serious organizational restructuring of the U.S Defense Department is the least contentious dimension of the AFRICOM system.

Second, various countries conceive AFRICOM as a combatant command based in Africa. This controversial and blurred idea has been dismissed extremely emphatically in different African countries. Some of the leaders argue that it is important to abandon or even postpone this idea. For instance, the heads of state of the SADC, whose members include Botswana, Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, discussed the AFRICOM system and concluded dryly that it could better if the United States participated in international politics with Africa from a significant distance rather than be present on their continent. Furthermore, the majority of African regional organizations preferred to choose a similar position. Thus, the desire of some state actors to get rid of American influence on the continent also demonstrates the seriousness of the situation.

Third, the aim of AFRICOM is to administer a range of civilian and military programs on security cooperation, strengthening democratic institutions, building African capacity, and in support of peace and security. However, the crucial question is whether the governments of African countries have confidence in this support. Thus, there exists the opinion that the U.S. has failed to use non-military instruments of influence effectively because the American government does not understand the rest of the world.

Finally, the claim by the U.S. officials that AFRICOM has an intention to further Africa’s development and security has no credibility on the continent. Undoubtedly, it is hard for common people to believe that some other country makes good deeds without hidden interest. Therefore, few people in Africa doubt that America has its own motivation and interests on the continent, especially in AFRICOM case. Obviously, this opinion is partly true, because the U.S. government regularly tries to ensure a stable supply of oil from the continent; maintain access to Africa’s natural resources; control China’s growing political and economic engagement in Africa; eliminate Islamic terrorist groups that make their military bases in weak and failed states. The crucial point of this discussion is not that the U.S. government wants to advance its interests but that all these interests do not coincide with those of African countries and, more importantly, that the American lobby has the means and disposition to implement its interests at the expense of African interests.


Taking everything into account, it is important to conclude that the security situation in Africa is quite explosive. The imaginary peace could possibly change to war in any moment of time. The revolution in Egypt is an example of these words. Despite the fact that many people consider this revolution as pro-American, it is possible to assume that there was a big threat for the U.S. influence during the conflict. Many countries suffer from the inhuman or lazy government, sicknesses, or international interventions. The last cases of the Ebola show that it is extremely difficult for the entire world to cope with such a threat. It means that the global society, especially the U.S. government pays little attention to those aspects of security, which could not bring profit. As a result, some potential changes could cause an international crisis or influence the life of common American as it happened in 2001. Furthermore, the current system of military defense seems to be partly effective (Frencis, 189). It faces much discontent and has a small range of possibilities to implement its politics. Finally, the image of the U.S. in Africa seems to be negative. It could be naive to imagine that better planning, consultation, and marketing could substantially improve AFRICOM’s reception in Africa. Evidently, no consultation and communication could alter the essence and improve the image of an American superpower whose foreign policy bases on the principles of militarism and participation in various international conflicts. Undoubtedly, the formation of a specific U.S. military command for Africa is an important component of this foreign policy. Thus, people associate it with its features and consider AFRICOM to be a significant threat to the independence and security of African countries. Therefore, the national strategy for security policy has to face some serious changes.


Without any doubts, it is quite hard for the U.S. foreign policy to change the opinion of the global community towards the AFRICOM system and the entire security system. Obviously, there seems no possible ways of the conflict resolution due to the truthful character of these charges. However, it is important to reorganize the activities of this program in order to smooth the overall impression about the organization. For instance, the AFRICOM system could expand its activities on the sphere of IT security, where its reputation could possibly change for the better. It is essential to show for the global community that the main of the AFRICOM system is to not only protect the U.S. national interests but also really participate in the changes of the world. However, such politics must be the part of the global strategic plan of the American development. It means that the security plan is a small and dependent part of this plan, ant it is extremely hard to change something without global changes. Thus, the example of AFRICOM demonstrates the relation of the global community towards the image of the whole country.

Needless to say that every country must protect its interests. Undoubtedly, such position meets criticism from other countries, but they also conduct the same politics. Therefore, it is even much more important for American National Defense Affairs department to think about the entire process of the AFRICOM functioning. The current research shows that it needs some changes in the structure and management because it tries to prevent only few threats for American security. Obviously, the changes must influence the number of countries, which cooperate with AFRICOM and the principles on which AFRICOM gives military support to various countries. However, these changes are only the part of the necessary activities in the sphere of security in the changing and globalizing world.

Obviously, the changes in the AFRICOM system are only the small part of the important process of fundamental changes in American security relations with Africa. Thus, it is essential to consider all factors of the globalizing world in order to prevent some qualitatively new threats, which could be very complicated to solve. The implication for the U.S. policymakers is to identify various opportunities for a more effective Africa-U.S. policy which allows Africa to demonstrate political assertiveness on the international stage without visible compromising either Africa’s or its strategic interests.

For instance, the influence of various Muslim organizations could possibly bring to power some new extremist force. It is crucial to remember about the Internet and its impact on the beliefs of the African people. An example of the Twitter revolution shows how the network could change the situation in the entire region. Undoubtedly, China’s significant presence in Africa represents a complicated and unprecedented challenge for both African and American strategic interests, albeit in different ways. Thus, Africa may wish to explore how to conduct a more competitive politics with China in order to prevent commodity dependence. Additionally, the U.S. could wish to examine how it is possible to coherently complement China’s activities and minimize the risk of serious tensions with an emerging global power because there exists the risk to receive marginal image across the African continent. The China’s penetration in African economy could also play a big role in taking decisions about security. Obviously, it is also important for the U.S. policymakers to respond to food insecurity in the Middle East of the Eurasian continent by achieving food security in Africa due to the agriculture-led industrialization. This situation implies that the U.S. policymakers might consider various ways in which a transformation in the economic and financial base of African economies could help the U.S. to better pursue its own strategic interests in Africa. Finally, it is important to state that there exists an undeclared struggle between the continents for the primacy in influencing the African countries. The huge amount of natural resources, such as oil and diamantes exacerbate the situation, especially in a capitalistic world. Therefore, it is essential to pay much attention to every trend in the African life in order to be ready for the potential challenges.

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Works Cited

Cooke, Jennifer, Morrison, Stephen. 2009. U.S. Africa Policy Beyond the Bush Years: Critical Challenges for the Obama Administration. CSIS Publishing. Print.

Francis, David. 2010. The US Strategy in Africa: AFRICOM, Terrorism, and Security Challenges. Routledge Global Security Studies: Routledge Publishing. Print.

Rosati, J., Scott, J. 2014. The Politics of United States Foreign Policy. Cengage Learning. Print.