December 21, 2012 · 0 Comments
Over the past few months, the United States has attracted attention by its announcement to increase military activities in Asia, particularly around the South China Sea, which is claimed by different bordering countries. However, the United States do also have a growing interest in the African continent. According to estimations of an American think-tank, the United States will obtain one quarter of their oil demand from the African country. The resource-gathering rivalry between the western superpower and its eastern counterpart, China, on the continent is an open secret.
However, AFRICOM’s focus has somewhat shifted; it was reported that US forces have been increasingly focusing on the rising danger of terrorism on the continent, especially in Mali, where Islamic extremists close to the Al-Qaeda terror group have seized northern key cities. Many have warned that the area might develop into a new international hub for terrorist activity. Together with West African nations, the USA and France plan to start a military operation to drive out the radical Islamist forces. The United States have announced that they would back such an intervention with aerial support. Even though a formal resolution of the United Nations Security Council is still due, military and civil authorities have reportedly started with the planning of an African-led international troop in the deserted North of the country.
One of AFRICOM’s main operation areas is the Horn of Africa in the east of the continent. The coast of Somalia, which has been described as a failed state by the US, is partly under the control of pirates, who make money by kidnapping foreign ships in the waters around Somalia and demanding ransoms. As part of the “Operation Enduring Freedom,” the United States, together with other nations of the international community, patrol the regions’ waters and try to enable shipping traffic on the highly important route, which also leads to the Suez Canal.
The United States’ influence on the African continent seems rather low when compared to their power in other areas of the world. In the wake of the deadly attacks against the American embassy in Libya, AFRICOM’s commander General Carter Ham announced on 18 December that the African Command would receive a rapid reaction force in the future. Until then, AFRICOM had relied on an “arrangement with what’s called the Commander’s in-Extremis Force with European Command.” The new special force will allow the United States army to react faster on potential threats on the African continent. It is not clear where the team will be situated, but considering the low American military presence in Africa, it seems possible that the newly created force will rotate its location.
The attack on the embassy in Benghazi has, in general, shaken up the United States of America. Many people asked themselves how the American ambassador was able to be killed, and pointed to the lack of American military presence in the region. In combination with the increasing Islamist influence, especially in the northern half and in the east, it is not unlikely that the United States might increase their engagement in the future.