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USA/Africa: Questioning AFRICOM, 2

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Aug 1, 2007 (070801)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Like its predecessor, anti-communism, the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) is a timeless, borderless geopolitical strategy whose presumptions lead to defining all conflicts, insurrections and civil wars as terrorist threats, regardless of the facts on the ground." Lubeck, Watts, and Lipschutz in report from Center for International Policy

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from an extensive critique of AFRICOM from the Center for International Policy, with particular emphasis on U.S.-Nigerian relations. The analysis, by Nigeria specialists Paul Lubeck and Michael Watts, and security specialist Ronnie Lipschutz, analyzes the background of the AFRICOM initiative, in terms of shifts in both energy and military strategies.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains critique of AFRICOM by Emira Woods and Ezekiel Pajibo for Foreign Policy in Focus, countering earlier positive comments by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It also contains a press release on General Ward's nomination and excerpts from an analysis written for the Brenthurst Foundation in South Africa.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on African security and U.S. involvement, see

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Convergent Interests: U.S. Energy Security and the "Securing" of Nigerian Democracy

By Paul M. Lubeck, Michael J. Watts and Ronnie Lipschutz

A Publication of the Center for International Policy

February 2007

[excerpts only. For full report visit]

Over the past 15 years, amidst a deepening crisis in the Middle East and tightening petroleum markets, the U.S. has quietly institutionalized a West African-based oil supply strategy. Nigeria, currently providing 10-12 percent of U.S. imports, serves as the cornerstone of this Gulf of Guinea strategy. But since the end of 2005, the on- and off-shore oilfields of the Niger Delta the major source of Nigerian oil and gas have essentially become ungovernable. Political instability and violent conflict have deepened to the point that some of the oil and oil-service companies working there, including Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon-Mobil, and Julius Berger, feel that their "social license to operate" is rapidly eroding. In 2003 and 2004, armed insurgencies and attacks on oil installations cut national oil output by forty percent.

More recently, the emergence of a shadowy group of insurgents in the western Delta in late 2005 the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) marked a major escalation of insurgent activity. In the first three months of 2006, $1 billion in oil revenues were lost and national output was cut by one third. The escalating political crisis in the Delta threatens American energy security, the security of Nigeria's fledgling democracy and, indeed, the entire West African region as a source of reliable energy.


Not long after the attacks of September 11, 2001, citing energy security and terrorist concerns, the U.S. military radically revised its strategic vision for the West African region; strategy shifted primarily from training for peacekeeping missions in Africa to training for counter terrorism and energy security. Nigeria has been a particular target of this shift in energy security policy, not only as a strategic ally in the region but also as a "front line" state in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). Like its predecessor, anti-communism, the GWOT is a timeless, borderless geopolitical strategy whose presumptions lead to defining all conflicts, insurrections and civil wars as terrorist threats, regardless of the facts on the ground.

Today, American energy security concerns and the GWOT have spearheaded a Department of Defense campaign to create a unified and separate African Command AFRICOM a long time objective of neoconservative lobbyists. In August 2006, Time magazine published an exclusive story saying then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was close to announcing the formation of AFRICOM and that a four star general, William "Kip" Ward, currently second in command at EUCOM and the highest ranking African-American officer, was to be appointed head of AFRICOM. By 2 December, Secretary Rumsfeld announced that AFRICOM "should happen in a matter of a month or two but it's important that we do that, and that this department recognizes the importance of Africa."3 In a Reuters interview Ward "acknowledged a U.S. interest in safeguarding oil supplies" and stated, "The protection of critical infrastructure and energy infrastructure is a concern all sovereign nations have. We clearly have a concern about that."

In this policy brief, we lay out the developing situation in the "African Oil Triangle" centered on the Gulf of Guinea ... We begin with an overview of the United States' "petroleum problem" and its relentless search for new sources of oil. We then address oil and turmoil, as the two have intertwined in Nigeria to generate both corruption and political instability. In the third section, we discuss U.S. security strategy in the West African region and why it is misguided in the northern states and severely constrained in the Niger Delta.


U.S. Energy Security and the Petroleum Problem

[not included here: see full report]

The Niger Delta: Oil and Turmoil in Nigeria

[not included here: see full report]

U.S.-Nigerian Security Interests: Searching for Solutions

The growing insecurity of U.S. oil supplies reflects what Michael Klare has called the "economization of security," an important strand of U.S. foreign policy since the 1930s, which has focused on global oil acquisition policy.51 After 9/11, American energy security was overtaken by and slowly merged with the amorphous, borderless GWOT. Active counter terrorism displaced earlier emphasis on training for peacekeeping and human rights. Fears that China is gaining control over African energy resources, e.g. Angola, are important to the new emphasis on securitization of energy policy, as well as bureaucratic competition for control over resources among the regional commands of the U.S. military.52

Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's strategic doctrine Force Transformation which emphasized mobile, lean, flexible forces rotating through a network of "lillypads" located close to conflict centers (e.g. Sao Tome and Principe), rather than the large, static bases like Stuttgart (Germany) so typical of Cold War strategy, also reinforced the strategic shift to counter-terrorism in Africa. With the end of the Cold War, the European Command's (EUCOM) strategic worth withered dramatically and troop strengths declined by roughly two-thirds. Because promotions depend overwhelmingly on combat experience, it is not surprising that ambitious EUCOM officers searched for a new mission. The GWOT offered EUCOM strategists an attractive opportunity to reclaim lost relevance and resources by looking southward to North and West Africa, where they repositioned some of their forces to the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea.53 To fund this shift, the Pentagon has marketed several West African initiatives to Congress: the Gulf of Guinea Guard, the Pan- Sahel Initiative, the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) and the Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy (GGESS). Finally, as documented in the "tool kit" box (text box 3 [in full report]), the strategic shift was nurtured by an unlikely coalition of neoconservative "fixers," energy lobbyists, politicians, former diplomats and Africanist humanitarians committed to raising the strategic profile of West Africa in American foreign policy, all embracing the GWOT discourse of counter-terrorism as they and climbed on the energy security bandwagon.


Building on the foundation laid by neoconservative promoters and opportunistic Washington players like Wihbey and Congressman Jefferson, strategists at the Pentagon have invented a new security threat to increase funding for EUCOM's footprint in West Africa. Recently, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whelan announced the discovery of a "new threat paradigm" the threat of "ungoverned spaces" in Northwest and West Africa (figure 7). ...


Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2005, EUCOM's then-commander, General James Jones, emphasized that his command's "objective in Africa should be to eliminate ungoverned areas, to counter extremism, and to end conflict and reduce the chronic instability" because of Africa's "potential to become the next front in the Global War on Terrorism." Viewed more realistically, however, the fact is that decades of multilateral neglect, devastating poverty, endemic famine and institutional decay in the Sahelian states render EUCOM's mission to eliminate ungoverned spaces a very tall order indeed, if not a dangerous delusion.


Despite these doubts and debates, U.S. military involvement in West Africa has only mushroomed since 2001, focusing on three broad goals: (i) getting U.S. forces on the ground in order to advise and upgrade the region's militaries in support of the GWOT; (ii) establishing maritime dominance in the Gulf in order to secure offshore oil installations and, if necessary, unilaterally defending American energy assets; and (iii) building or subcontracting access to new air and naval bases, to provide both forward supplies, surveillance and air cover capacities. As EUCOM's General Jones recently told the Wall Street Journal, "Africa plays an increased strategic role militarily, economically and politically " for his command, which now spends "70 percent of its time and energy on Africa up from nearly none when he took it over three-plus years ago."

Despite the ambitions of EUCOM, it is only fair to say that countervailing forces among American policy makers are limiting the aggressive plans of strong advocates like General Wald. Scarce funding has limited ground American troops in the region to fewer than 10,000 at any one time. Overstretched and burned out by the deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, many professional officers resist deeper American involvement. And local hostility to U.S. bases in countries like Nigeria has, thus far, prevented EUCOM from establishing a "Forward Operating Base" in West Africa as 16 they have established in Djibouti. Given these constraints, EUCOM has pursued intervention through training, equipping and actively advising West African militaries, all in the name of the GWOT. This also allows the command to put private contractors, Special Forces operatives, intelligence agents and support troops on the ground, ostensibly for training, but also for gathering human intelligence, building "interoperability" with local army units as well as for providing cover for clandestine missions.


How does EUCOM's support of the GWOT in the Sahel relate to democratizing Nigeria's internal security regime, and sustaining American energy security? General Jones's appeal to Congress for funding of EUCOM's initiatives in West Africa constantly invokes the security and stability of Nigeria. He presents Nigeria as threatened from the north by jihadists hiding in the "ungoverned spaces" of the Sahel, allegedly supported by transnational Islamist networks extending into Nigeria. Overall, while recent oil discoveries in the Sahelian states matter, (e.g. one off-shore field in Mauritania produces 225,000 bbl per day), EUCOM's main strategic objective focuses on securing Nigerian and Gulf energy supplies.

To achieve this strategic goal, American military planners have launched a two pronged pincer movement (figure 11) whose main objective is "Ring-Fencing Nigeria," from the north and south. To the south, the Navy is rapidly increasing their patrols in the oil fields of the Gulf of Guinea, bolstered by U.S. funding of an $800,000 port and airfield feasibility study of STP. To the north, American troops funded by the TSCTI are being deployed in training and advising missions designed to monitor and, if necessary, seal Nigeria's northern border. An intensive search is on for any evidence linking northern Nigerians with international Islamist terrorism. A Reuters story describing the TSCTI as a "ring fencing" strategy reports that "privately, some (American) officials acknowledge that the main concern in the region is protecting Nigeria, the continent's biggest oil producer "

This pincer strategy is, of course, extremely troubling to many Nigerians. Most offended are the 50 to 60 million northern Muslims who, as nationalists, view the GWOT as a provocative threat to their country's sovereignty, a misguided perception of the rule of law in Muslim political life and, even worse, a pretext for American military intervention in the event of domestic instability. Unfortunately for American energy security interests in Nigeria, the fears of northern Muslims that they are being inaccurately represented by the planners of the GWOT are validated by maps published by EUCOM on the Internet. Examine figure 12, a map published on the Internet as part of a 2005 Powerpoint authored by a EUCOM Special Forces intelligence officer. Not only does this map display an appalling ignorance of the political and security situation in Muslim northern Nigeria, it confirms the worst suspicions of northern Muslims that, in practice, the GWOT is really a "War Against Islam."

This map raises serious doubts whether EUCOM has the competence to assess energy security issues in northern Nigeria. First, it represents most of the Sahelian states as an ungoverned, terrorist region; second, it tarbrushes a broad swath of Muslim northern Nigeria as a "Terrorist Area," including Nigeria's federal capital territory of Abuja ; and most importantly for future American relations with Nigerian leaders, by including Katsina State within this alleged "Terrorist Area," it suggests that Umaru Yar 'Adua, the presiding governor, who has just been nominated by the ruling Peoples Party of Nigeria to succeed President Obasanjo in the 2007 election, has been administering a "Terrorist Area" for the past eight years. Intelligence representations like this map not only misinform American security officials, but they undermine Nigerian confidence in American intentions and intelligence capacity. This representation is incorrect since, as any international visitor or State Department security officer knows, the Muslim north is one of the best governed and most secure areas of Nigeria.


To be fair, one or two maps in a EUCOM intelligence presentation published on the Internet by an uninformed intelligence officer do not define American foreign policy toward Nigeria. Yet, a blunder of this magnitude does confirm the danger posed by misinformed interventionists at EUCOM and the potential negative impact their misguided perceptions of Muslim northern Nigeria will have on American energy security. In terms of policy, representations like figure 12 underscore the need for Congress to conduct investigations in order to correct intelligence errors and contain military adventurism while, at the same time, vigorously supporting State Department programs that defend democratic institutions and civil society groups in northern Nigeria. It is important to recognize that when the American ambassador to Nigeria and other State Department officials publicly affirmed America's democratic principles by rejecting Obasanjo's scheme for a third term in 2006, the U.S. gained far more in terms of "soft" security and goodwill than a score of EUCOM-sponsored "Operation Flintlocks" will ever achieve in the region. Given the appalling poverty in this region, and the dearth of development funding, spending $500 million on the TSCTI constitutes a misappropriation of funds that will only reduce American energy security in the long run. To be sure, northern Nigeria has its fair share of crime, extremists and insurrections but, when its large population size is taken into account, the proportional incidence of radical Islamist violence in northern Nigeria is very low. With the exception of a youthful, 2004 jihadist rebellion in Yobe and Borno states, modeled rhetorically on the Taliban, northern Muslims have not posed any threat to securing American energy supplies, which are mostly in the south. Ironically, as most State Department professionals acknowledge, the implementation of Shari'a criminal law in the twelve northern states has made the north safer and more secure, especially when compared to southern Nigeria. Most of the northern bloodshed has involved violence between Christians and Muslims, between rival Muslim sects or between ethnic groups struggling over indigenous land rights. None of this has anything to do with terrorism or Islamic extremism. Accordingly, American and Nigerian security interests do converge, not through the implementation of the TSCTI in the northern states, but in the need to institutionalize democracy in the Niger Delta by working cooperatively to eliminate ethnic conflict, local insurrections, criminal syndicates, kidnapping, environmental pollution, and oil piracy.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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