Academic journal article Military Review


Academic journal article Military Review


Article excerpt

United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) advances American interests in Africa by deploying elements of U.S. national power in a persistent manner. It seeks to prevent problems from growing to direct-threat proportions by enhancing the ability of states and regional or international organizations to promote security, stability, and prosperity. USAFRICOM (also known as AFRICOM) needs cost-effective and nontraditional naval platforms--auxiliary cruisers--to project U.S. Army and civilian interagency assets (supplemented by nongovernmental organizations, when appropriate) around the African continent for peacetime engagement and crisis response.

In a June 2015 article for Signal Magazine, former U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis makes a case for increased use of the Navy's afloat forward staging bases (AFSBs), which he says could fulfill the need for offshore bases to support missions in USAFRICOM. He suggests commercial options for creating more of this type of asset: "Given the uses for the concept, it is worth considering any commercial version that could be purchased for even less than the military's AFSBs. While they would have somewhat less capability, their numbers would provide far more flexibility in distributing them among the regional combatant commanders." (1)

Similarly, modularized auxiliary cruisers using civilian container ships taken into government service under contract, using primarily military crews and equipped with an array of weapon and support systems housed in commercial shipping containers, could function as mobile platforms for projecting and supporting Army military missions and civilian developmental and humanitarian initiatives around Africa. In a tight budget environment, when the Navy prioritizes battle fleet assets for U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), which has more sophisticated naval challenges, and to U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), which is carrying out ongoing military campaigns, modularized auxiliary cruisers are the asset USAFRICOM needs.

The Challenges of AFRICOM

To cope with a full range of missions across a large, diverse continent, USAFRICOM sets forth a succinct mission: "United States Africa Command, in concert with interagency and international partners, builds defense capabilities, responds to crisis, and deters and defeats transnational threats in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity." (2) The establishment of USAFRICOM reflects America's need to engage Africa in a sustained shaping fashion rather than in a reactive crisis mode.

In a report for the Institute of Land Warfare's National Security Watch, analyst Milady Ortiz describes the security situation that led to the creation of USAFRICOM: "The post-9/11 environment and prioritization of counterterrorism for U.S. national security, in addition to the traditional security issues on the continent--humanitarian crises, ethnic conflict, and health epidemics-have raised Africa's geopolitical profile." (3) Weak African states with poor internal cohesion have limited capacity to effectively resist foreign aggression, and they are vulnerable to terrorist groups that further destabilize the state, potentially creating sanctuaries for planning terrorism abroad. (4)

Terrorism is just one aspect of the African continent's new importance to security. According to Kofi Nsia-Pepra, writing in a 2014 Military Review article, "Contrary to Africa's strategic insignificance to the United States in the post-immediate Cold War era, [Africa] gained primacy in post-9/11 due to terrorism, energy sources, and China's creeping influence into Africa." (5) We need to bolster the continent's governments and security forces so they can resist violent extremist organizations trying to establish themselves in sanctuaries. We need to reduce the conditions that can make Africa more vulnerable to these influences, and we need to use our resources to leverage individual government and regional initiatives to defeat threats to stability and progress. …

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