Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa Page: 5 of 40
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Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa
Issues for Congress
President George W. Bush formally announced the creation of a new Unified Combatant
Command (COCOM) for the African continent on February 6, 2007, reflecting Africa's
increasing strategic importance to the United States.' The Department of Defense (DOD)
organizes its command structure by dividing its activities among joint military commands based
either on a geographic or functional area of responsibility (AOR).2 With the creation of the new
command, DOD now has six geographic commands and four functional commands. Previously,
U.S. military involvement in Africa was divided among three geographic commands: European
Command (EUCOM), Central Command (CENTCOM), and Pacific Command (PACOM). The
new command's area of responsibility (AOR) includes all African countries except Egypt, which
remains in the AOR of CENTCOM. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was launched with initial
operating capability (IOC) as a sub-unified command under EUCOM on October 1, 2007 and
reached full operating capability (FOC) as a stand-alone unified command on October 1, 2008.
AFRICOM's first commander, Army General William E. "Kip" Ward, former Deputy
Commander of EUCOM, was confirmed by the Senate on September 28, 2007.
Although the precise wording of AFRICOM's mission statement has evolved since the command
was first announced, DOD officials have broadly suggested that the command's mission is to
promote U.S. strategic objectives by working with African partners to help strengthen stability
and security in the region through improved security capability and military professionalization.3
A key aspect of the command's mission is its supporting role to other agencies' and departments'
efforts on the continent. But like other combatant commands, AFRICOM will also be expected to
oversee military operations, when directed, to deter aggression and respond to crises.
The Administration's motivation for the creation of a new unified command for Africa evolved in
part out of concerns about DOD's division of responsibility for Africa among three geographic
commands, which reportedly posed coordination challenges. Although some military officials
1 The White House Office of the Press Secretary, "President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant
Command for Africa," February 6, 2007. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the command's creation to
Congress in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the same day. Formal efforts to establish an
Africa Command, or AFRICOM, began in mid-2006, under former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. DOD
announced that it was considering AFRICOM in August 2006, and President Bush reportedly approved the proposal on
December 15, 2006. "Africa Command Plans Approved by Bush, DOD Officials Confirm," Stars and Stripes,
December 30, 2006.
2 A unified combatant command is defined as "a command with a broad continuing mission under a single commander
and composed of significant assigned components of two or more Military Departments that is established and so
designated by the President, through the Secretary of Defense with the advice and assistance of the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff," according to DOD's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.
3 When first announced, the draft mission statement was: "U.S. Africa Command promotes U.S. National Security
objectives by working with African states and regional organizations to help strengthen stability and security in the
AOR. U.S. Africa Command leads the in-theater DOD response to support other USG agencies in implementing USG
security policies and strategies. In concert with other U.S. government agencies and other international partners, U.S.
Africa Command conducts theater security cooperation activities to assist in building security capacity and improve
accountable governance. As directed, U.S. Africa Command conducts military operations to deter aggression and
respond to crises." Its current mission statement, approved by General Ward and Secretary Gates, is "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."
Congressional Research Service
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Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa, report, January 5, 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc817873/m1/5/: accessed November 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.