Pentagon scales back AFRICOM ambitions
Opposition in Africa means the new command's headquarters will more likely be in US or Europe.
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Officials have had to make other adjustments. Initially billed as a "whole of government" approach to solving the region's problems, the new, hybrid command had sought to marry military and civilian expertise.Skip to next paragraph
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"To make it more effective, we want to incorporate other nonmilitary US players working in Africa so the security piece is optimized," says Col. Pat Mackin, a spokesman for US Africa Command. But, he adds, "There is no government mechanism to create a true interagency headquarters."
The command of about 1,300 people will still be half civilian and half military, and agencies such as the US State Department will be given senior positions.
But the military will likely remain in the driver's seat. "They are significantly walking back from interagency," says Kathleen Hicks, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "What they're now saying is that they will more efficiently and effectively deliver military programs."
At the same time, officials now recognize that one entity can't do it all. Gen. William "Kip" Ward, AFRICOM's commander, has tried to soften a typically aggressive military approach and instead take a more deliberative tack.
General Ward has also sought to lower the command's public profile, notes Ms. Hicks, to focus on showing what it can do and move it away from controversy.
For example, Navy officials recently completed the first deployment of a program called the Africa Partnership Station, conducting training programs in more than a dozen nations. Capt. John Nowell Jr., commodore of the naval ships in the program, says the project is about "the maritime safety and security piece. And we think we do generate a lot of goodwill and in many cases come up with projects where we can combine the two, but we're not just out there for goodwill."
The command has also begun taking a different approach to public relations.
Its website hosts a chat room where people can post their views, a stark contrast to the stodgy sites of most military commands. One man, identified as Kuol Mangar, wrote in: "It is clear to me that General Ward would be seen as acting like those ancient Africa chiefs who sold the continent to the white man."
But several others countered his views. Stephanie, who identified herself as Kenyan by birth, wrote, "We always complained the US government did not pay Africa any attention, now they are listening and responding we still hear complaints from a few ignorant [people] that don't take the time to research and learn what the organization like AFRICOM is trying to do for the continent."