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Sustained Focus Would Make U.S.-Africa Partnerships ‘More Reliable’

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2009 – The United States can be a more reliable partner with African nations if U.S. Africa Command devotes constant attention to the continent, a top Africom official said today.

“Up until now, we were episodic in our military and civilian engagements on the continent. We were not there in a constant form,” Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, AfriCom’s deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, told reporters at the Foreign Press Center here.

“If we concentrate on Africa 24/7,” she continued, “we hope that we will be able to garner enough resources to be able to be a more reliable partner with the African nations.”

Invoking the “mantra” of Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, the commander of Africom, Yates said the partnership requires sustained security engagement. The four main goals of the newest U.S. combatant command, she said, are reducing conflict, improving security, defeating violent extremism and supporting crisis response.

In congressional testimony in March, Ward outlined the conditions for U.S. involvement on the continent, saying America will intervene in conflicts only after warring countries have shown a political will to reconcile.

“The actions that we take come on the heels of a policy decision having been taken by the nations themselves,” Ward told the House Armed Services Committee on March 18.

Africom stood up on Oct. 1, 2007, and its headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany. It is responsible for all U.S. military activity in Africa, with the exception of Egypt, which falls under U.S. Central Command. It became an independent unified command Oct. 1, 2008.

What sets Africom apart from other combatant commands is its integrated staff structure, which brings together the U.S. military with the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other U.S. government agencies involved in Africa.

Asked today about criticism that Africom is emblematic of an increasing militarization of U.S. foreign policy, Yates demurred, noting that Africom’s “whole of government” approach could serve as a model.

“Having lived and worked this for the last two years, I would say this is the exact opposite [of militarization],” she said.

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Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates

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U.S. Africa Command

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