Wednesday, November 15, 2006

African Command: Funky Pentagon Visions

Apparently, the visions working their way around the Pentagon for the expected new African Command are far more colorful than one would have imagined just a few months ago. According to the Voice of America:
The U.S. Defense Department established a working group Monday to develop a detailed plan by early next year for a possible new Africa Command in the U.S. military structure. But an official familiar with the process says such a command could look very different from the five existing U.S. regional commands. The Pentagon has established an Implementation Planning Team, and it takes the effort to create an Africa Command to a new level of intensity. The issue has been under discussion by the staff of the top U.S. military commanders for about two months.

Now, according to a Pentagon official who requested anonymity, the effort is being expanded to involve a couple of dozen people working full time. (...) The spokesman says the Pentagon is seeking more effective ways to improve counter-terrorism cooperation, prevent and respond to humanitarian crises, and promote stability in Africa. He says the U.S. government is consulting what he calls "key foreign security partners" as the Africa Command plan is being developed. (...)

This official says, if Africa Command is created, it could look quite different from the other U.S. regional commands. Those commands are organized first and foremost to fight wars, although they are also involved in a variety of non-combat operations, such as humanitarian relief and training. The official says the planning group is considering flipping that model for Africa Command, organizing it primarily, or perhaps even exclusively, for non-combat operations designed to prevent wars.

The official also says the team working on the Africa Command issue recognizes that the continent's problems are not primarily military. He says that is why representatives of other U.S. government agencies have been brought into the process, and may also have more substantial representation in the structure of the command itself than they do in other U.S. regional commands.

Basically, then, the new African Command would deal with foreign policy: economic development and political stabilization. It will be interesting to see whether Pentagon really means it -- and will be willing to integrate and coordinate with (even on some choices subordinate itself to) e.g. USAID. The sensible international version would essentially include the already existing multilateral universe, from foreign development partners such as IMF, WB, UNDP ... and the EU, whose civil crisis management capabilities are growing and are being considered deployed to Afghanistan to support the NATO operation there.

Even merely partially played out this way would be akin to the intention of the QDR Long War conceptualization. The narrower we-didn't-mean-it-that-much version would keep African Command focussed on security issues (but as said not warfighting), meaning that it would do PKO coordination and training (like the African PKO training programmes) plus different kinds of internal assistance ranging from (military) security sector reform to foreign internal defense operations and operational assistance with counterinsurgency.

This latter model is the minimum -- but it would be interesting to see elements of the former included, at least in terms of organs for operative coordination (the inter-agency problem revisited). The challenge here is to find a way of organizing coordination without hierarchy -- between only partially aligned mission definitions and especially self-conceptions from civil multilateral to military national perspectives.

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