As if the U.S. military weren't busy enough in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's now got another project looming: building an entirely new Africa Command from the ground up. For years, the Department of Defense split the continent between three existing commands - Central, European, and Pacific. But on February 6, 2007, the George W. Bush administration announced that Africa was finally going to get individual attention.
If the move was meant as demonstration of Africa's crucial importance to the United States, however, it was received as more of an insult. From the moment that U.S. Africa Command (Africom) was even mentioned, rumors began to fly. The command was surely looking for a permanent home on the African continent, critics said, and the new military organization would lead to a burgeoning U.S. military presence in the region. Some, including most of the governments in Sub-Saharan Africa, feared a sort of neocolonial U.S. engagement. Meanwhile, Africom failed (and still fails) to clearly explain its mission, adding credibility to the rampant doubts.
Two years later, fevers have cooled, but Africom remains a contentious issue. Here's a look at what the command really is (and isn't), and why it fits in quite nicely with the world of counterinsurgency traditionally left to commanders in the Middle East and Central Asia.