Focus on Africa
U.S. Navy to be key tool as new command defines its role on the continent
By ROXANA TIRON, Seapower Correspondent
Building on its increased presence in African
waters, the U.S. Navy will play a critical role
as the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)
cements its mission on the continent.
Army Gen. William E. Ward became the first commander of AFRICOM Oct. 1 in Stuttgart, Germany. The
selection of Vice Adm. Robert Moeller to be Ward’s deputy
to the commander for military operations speaks “
volumes” about the future role of the Navy in Africa, said Vice
Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, the Sixth Fleet commander, with
responsibility over Europe and Africa.
Indeed, maritime security will be a top priority for
the new command, according to Pentagon officials.
President George W. Bush in February directed the
Pentagon to establish a unified combatant command for
Africa. The United States is not going to build new bases
or deploy operational forces on the continent. Instead,
the U.S. presence will be in the form of staff personnel
tasked to manage the relationship with African countries
more effectively, according to Theresa Whelan, deputy
assistant secretary of defense for African affairs.
Ryan Henry, the Pentagon’s principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said AFRICOM will be
unlike any other command around
the world in its scope, because it
encompasses a blend of diplomacy,
humanitarian aid and counterter-rorism operations. In fact, a former
ambassador to Ghana and Burundi,
Mary Carlin Yates, was named as
deputy to the commander for civil-military activities.
AFRICOM is expected to reach
full operating capability, and possibly have a new African headquarters, by next fall.
While the Pentagon and State
Department continue to discuss
with African nations the kind of
footprint the command will have on
the continent, the Navy has launched a new mission
there, called the Africa Partnership Station (APS). APS is
one in a series of activities designed to build maritime
safety and security in Africa in a comprehensive, collaborative manner, focusing first on the Gulf of Guinea.
APS is inspired by the belief that effective maritime
safety and security will contribute to development,
economic prosperity and security ashore, according to
a Navy white paper.
“We have been emphasizing building maritime partnerships in West Africa and the timing of the first APS
is coincidental with AFRICOM,” Winnefeld said. “As
AFRICOM grows into its initial and [then] final operating capability, an operation like APS would come into
Defense Department officials and analysts see the
U.S. naval forces as one of the most attractive tools for
AFRICOM, especially when it comes to thousands of
miles of coastal waters plagued by illegal fishing, oil
theft, piracy, and narcotics and human trafficking.
There already have been some discussions as to
whether the Navy should play a greater role as an executive agency in the new command, said a Pentagon official.
Many international efforts to promote good governance, economic development, stability and security in Africa have been affected by illegal activities at sea.
■ The U.S. Navy has launched a new mission called the Africa
■ Effective maritime safety and security will contribute to development, economic prosperity and security ashore, according to a
Navy white paper.
■ The service has sharpened its focus on West and Central
Africa, and this year had a continuous presence there.