from Africa in Transition

The U.S. Military Presence in Africa: Myth and Reality

July 3, 2012

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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On June 26, in public remarks at a training seminar, current US Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander Gen. Carter F. Ham provided a detailed review of his command’s activities in Africa. While I do not necessarily share all of his conclusions, he has done a service by providing a comprehensive overview that should be an Africa watcher must-read.

Of particular importance is his reaffirmation that the United States does not seek “a large, permanent military presence in the continent of Africa.” He confirmed that the largest U.S. military presence is at a base in Djibouti where about two thousand U.S. military personnel support AFRICOM and the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), which is focused on the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. Otherwise, the U.S. military presence in sub-Saharan Africa consists of the attaches and the offices of security cooperation that are attached to U.S. embassies. In addition, there are small, temporary deployments for purposes assisting African military exercises and the provision of other training opportunities.

Subsequent to the 2008 standup of AFRICOM, Africans often presume that the United States has a large military presence in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, as Gen. Ham usefully reminds, it is small and mostly transient.

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