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Originally Published: 7/18/2007


By The Issue Wonk


The Bush administration, shortly after coming to power in 2001, began a push into Africa. Since the attacks of 9/11, the administration has said that this infiltration is necessary to stop international terrorist groups from getting a foothold on the continent.1 However, according to the Congressional Research Service, “While terrorism is cited as the primary reason for U.S. military operations in Africa, access to Africa’s oil – which presently accounts for 15% of the U.S. oil supply and could reach 25% by 2015 – is also considered a primary factor for growing U.S. military involvement in the region.”2



African Regions of Interest


[NOTE:  For a full understanding of the issues, please view the map of Africa.]


The Horn of Africa.  Just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a U.S. counter-terrorism warship, the USS Mt. Whitney, dropped off “command personnel and equipment at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, already home to some 1,800 U.S. troops, sailors, fliers, and civilian personnel.”3 (Some sources say it houses 2,000 troops.) Since that time it has become the home, too, of Special Operations Forces3 and employs about 700 Djiboutians, who are managed by U.S. civilian contractors.4 The base comes under naval leadership, with close cooperation from the Marines, the Army, and the Air Force.4 Djibouti, “where Africa meets the Persian Gulf,”5 is the headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) whose mission is “to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorism in conjunction with coalition partners across the Horn of Africa region.”3


The Sahel and Maghreb Regions.  The Sahel region is a band of land that runs about 2,400 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Horn of Africa. The countries that are included in this region are: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea. (Wikipedia) The northwestern area of Africa is referred to as the Maghreb region. It encompasses the countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. (Wikipedia) Africa’s Maghreb and Sahel regions recently exploded into world view with allegations that the Madrid bombers were tied to those areas’ al Qaeda groups.”6 In Chad, U.S. soldiers are training basic counter-terrorism techniques. Niger, Mauritania, and Mali have received similar training. And, as part of the new Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism initiative, troops in Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco will get U.S. training and hardware – at a cost to the U.S. of up to $125 million.“The initiative, with proposed funding of $500 million over 7 years, covers Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco, and Tunisia – with the U.S. military eager to add Libya if relations improve.”1


African Command


The U.S. military divides the globe into regions of responsibility known as “commands.” Currently military oversight of Africa is held jointly among European Command (EUCOM), Central Command (CENTCOM), and Pacific Command (PACOM). How-ever, in February 2007 President George W. Bush announced the creation a new Africa Command (AFRICOM) to “coordinate all U.S. military and security interests throughout the continent.”7 It is to be created by September 30, 2008. Bush said, “Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”7


AFRICOM will eventually encompass the entire continent of Africa except Egypt, which will continue to fall under CENTCOM.  AFRICOM also will include the islands belonging to Equatorial Guinea, as well as the islands of Cape Verde, Sao Tome, and Principe, and the Indian Ocean islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles.7 The United States is working closely with African allies to choose a location for the new command in Africa.8 AFRICOM “promises to be everything” that CENTCOM “has failed to become. It will be interagency from the ground up. It will be based on interactions with locals first and leaders second. It will engage in preemptive nation-building instead of preemptive regime change. . . It’ll be Iraq done right.”5


The Oil Connection


That Africa’s oil has been a major target for the Bush administration shouldn’t surprise anyone. In 2001 Vice President Dick Cheney’s report and recommendations for U.S. National Energy Policy declared, at page 8-11:


West Africa is expected to be one of [the] fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market. African oil tends to be of high quality and low in sulfur, making it suitable for stringent refined product requirements, and giving it a growing market share for refining centers on the East Coast of the United States.


. . .


The NEPD Group recommends that the President direct the Secretaries of State, Energy, and Commerce to reinvigorate the U.S.-Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum and the U.S.-African Energy Ministerial process; deepen bilateral and multilateral engagement to promote a more receptive environment for U.S. oil and gas trade, investment, and operations; and promote geographic diversification of energy supplies, addressing such issues as transparency, sanctity of contracts, and security.


The NEPD Group recommends that the President direct the Secretaries of State, Energy, and Commerce to recast the Joint Economic Partnership Committee with Nigeria to improve the climate for U.S. oil and gas trade, investment, and operations and to advance our shared energy interests.9 [Emphasis added.]


In 2002, now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s old firm, Chevron Texaco, of which she was a director, said that while it had invested $5 billion in Africa over the previous six years, it would invest $20 billion over the next five.”10,11


Michael Klare, a “noted U.S. security analyst” and author of Resource Wars, in a fall 2003 interview with Asia Times Online, warned of America’s potential African involvement. “When queried as to where the next oil flash point might be after Iraq, Klare replied: ‘I’ve been looking at Africa. It’s heating up over there.’”11


Where is African oil? It’s not hard to figure out. Just look at the military interests stated above. “The U.S. now gets about 15% of its oil from Africa. In a decade that could rise to 25%. Oil-producing nations like Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Equatorial Guinea are strategic hot spots.”6 Nigeria, Angola, Congo, Cabon, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea are the major oil producers in West Africa. U.S. companies have gained by far the largest share of concessions to exploit them. “The Gulf of Guinea, which runs along the coast, is believed to hold as much as 30 billion barrels of reserves.”3


The federal government doesn’t seem to be concerned about citizens figuring out their military strategy for obtaining African oil. The State Department’s Congressional Budget Justification for its Fiscal Year 2005 foreign operations clearly sets out the administration’s goals in Africa. With regard to Sao Tome and Principe: “In the coming decade, U.S. companies are expected to participate in the development of petroleum resources in Sao Tome’s territorial waters.” Nigeria is cited for its “large oil and gas reserves.” And the justification for Angola stresses the need to “help ensure U.S. private sector oil access to a source of 7% of U.S. petroleum imports, a figure likely to rise in the coming years.”10


More recently, Ryan Henry, the Defense Department’s principal deputy undersecretary for defense policy, said the Bush administration believes it’s time for the United States to give Africa the attention it deserves.  He pointed to the continent’s wealth of natural resources. “Those resources include oil; Nigeria has one of the world’s largest reserves of petroleum.”12


Protecting the Oil


Clearly, the Bush administration is making major moves to protect, and gain access to, the extensive oil reserves and other key natural resources in Africa. Since the reserves are considerable, it’s going to take a great effort. Thus, they are creating AFRICOM and rapidly expanding U.S. military involvement throughout the continent.13


“The tiny West African island-state of Sao Tome has been rumored since 2002 as the site for a potential U.S. naval base. Sao Tome’s strategic position in the Gulf of Guinea, where recent deep-water oil finds have been made, led to a meeting between Bush and Sao Tome’s then-president Fradique de Menezes in 2002. The U.S. allies in the area have virtually no blue-water navy, and Sao Tome holds jointly with Nigeria an area with a reported potential of 11 billion barrels of oil. Many of the other newly discovered African reserves are located offshore as well.”11 Even the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Walter Kansteiner, had admitted this. In October 2002 he said, “there was no question of building a military base there.”14


NATO Supreme Commander U.S. General James Jones said that “Washington plans to boost its troop presence in West Africa, a troubled but oil-rich region that government estimates indicate may be the source of as much as 25% of U.S. petroleum imports by 2015, up from 15% in 2000.3


It must be acknowledged that the stated goal of protecting the oil-rich regions from international terrorism isn’t bogus. However, the underlying purpose is to protect the resources – not the people, not the countries. “The U.S. wants to help countries such as Nigeria, its 5th largest supplier of oil, improve its military’s ability to thwart the kind of attacks by militants who in the past year halted production by about 600,000 barrels a day. ‘You look at West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, it becomes more focused because of the energy situation,’ U.S. Army General Bantz Craddock, head of the European Command, told reporters in Washington. Safeguarding energy ‘obviously is out in front.’”15


Continuing unrest in the Middle East puts a premium on U.S. security alliances and energy resources in Africa. The Energy Department said that Africa supplied 24% of U.S. daily crude oil imports in February, 2007, more than the Middle East’s 8.6%.15


What Do African Countries Think of This?


African countries don’t appear to be too happy with the U.S. plans. Nii Akuetteh, the executive director of Africa Action, a Washington based, non-profit group, said advocacy groups are concerned that “this has nothing to do with African interests and programs; it’s access to oil and the war on terror.”15 Lauren Ploch, an analyst for the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, said, “there is considerable apprehension over U.S. motivations” as “some Africans worry that the move represents a neo-colonial effort to dominate the region militarily.”16


In June 2007 a U.S. delegation, led by Ryan Henry, met with senior defense and foreign ministry officials from Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Djibouti, and the African Union (AU).  It didn’t go well. The Libyan and Algerian governments reportedly told Henry that they would play no part in hosting AFRICOM. Both said they would urge their neighbors not to do so either, due to fears of future American intervention. Even Morocco, considered Washington’s closest north African ally, indicated it did not welcome a permanent military presence on its soil.17


“To old hands in the State Department and USAID, the Pentagon’s growing incursion into long-neglected Africa arouses ancient bureaucratic impulses toward territoriality. They can’t help but feel like their turf’s being invaded by the gun-toting crowd, hell-bent on opening a new front in a new war.”5




1  Tyson, Ann Scott. U.S. Pushes Anti-Terrorism in Africa: Under Long-Term Program, Pentagon to Train Soldiers of 9 Nations. The Washington Post, July 26, 2005, A01.


2  Feickert, Andrew. U.S. Military Operations in the Global War on Terrorism: Afghanistan, Africa, the Philippines, and Colombia. Congressional Research Service, August 26, 2005.


3  Lobe, Jim. U.S. Military “Footprint” Extends to Africa. Published by OneWorld.net May 9, 2003 and preserved on Common Dreams.


4  Hill, Ginny. Military Focuses on Development in Africa. The Christian Science Monitor, June 22, 2007.


5  Barnett, Thomas P.M. The Americans Have Landed. Esquire, June 27, 2007.


6  McLaughlin, Abraham. US Engages Africa in Terror Fight: The US is Rolling Out a Nine-Country, $125 Million Military Training Program. The Christian Science Monitor, September 17, 2004.


7  Crawley, Vince. U.S. Creating New Africa Command To Coordinate Military Efforts. U.S. Department of State, February 6, 2007.


8  US to Have Africa Military Command. Aljazeera, February 7, 2007.


9  National Energy Policy Development Group. National Energy Policy:  Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America’s Future. May, 2001. The people involved in developing this report were the subject of litigation, since the White House refused to release their names. However, on June 18, 2007, The Washington Post released “a confidential list” of the key players. There were about “300 groups and individuals,” among them: James J. Rouse, then VP of Exxon Mobile; Kenneth I. Lay, then head of Enron Corp.; representatives of Duke Energy, Constellation Energy, and British Petroleum. “[A]bout 20 oil and drilling companies . . .”


10 U.S. Department of State. Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations for Fiscal Year 2005.


11 Goldstein, Ritt. Africa, Oil, & US Military. Asia Times Online, April 2, 2004, preserved at CounterCurrents.org.


12 Tully, Andrew. U.S. Military Creates Separate ‘Africa Command.’ Radio Free Europe, February 8, 2007.


13  Hartung, William D. & Berrigan, Frida. Militarization of U.S. Africa Policy: 2000 to 2005. Common Dreams, March 15, 2005.


14 Doyle, Mark. US Eyes African Oil. BBC News, October 9, 2002.


15 Igbikiowubo, Hector. West Africa:  Securing African Oil, Major Role for New US Command. . . MEND Dismisses Move. AllAfrica.com, May 22, 2007.


16 Ploch, Lauren. Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa. Congressional Research Service, May 16, 2007.


17 Tisdall, Simon. African States Oppose US presence. Guardian Unlimited, June 25, 2007.



© The Issue Wonk, 2007




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