October 5, 2007
On October 1, the United States launches the U.S. Africa Command, an historic step in meeting steeply rising U.S. stakes in Africa. We recently traveled to Stuttgart, Germany to meet with General “Kip” Ward, nominated to be the first AFRICOM Combatant Commander, and his staff. The trip reinforced the high risks this command faces in its first year. In Africa, inept outreach has both hardened opposition to the command and raised unrealistic expectations among supporters. At home, State-Defense cooperation has been largely absent, and Congress is concerned that the command’s high start-up costs will produce little return. Within Defense, Africa expertise is thin, and the command will be vulnerable early on to unforeseen, quick breaking crises. Despite these cautions, our trip underscored the fundamental soundness of the command’s strategic rationale. We remain convinced that AFRICOM will improve America’s strategic approach to Africa and advance the necessary evolution of its national security apparatus.