AFRICOM PR Campaign
Defense News, a publication covering the global defense industry, reports on a previously unnoticed development regarding AFRICOM in an article entitled, Whelan: AFRICOM ‘Needs Brainpower, Not Hardware.' In September, government officials met with representatives from a number of African countries in an effort to facilitate discussion on the creation of AFRICOM.
In late September, Pentagon officials and American diplomats met with officials from nearly 40 African nations in a little-publicized weekend session aimed at easing concerns about Washington’s plan to establish a new U.S. military command there, defense sources said at the time.
Held at Airlie House in Warrenton, Va., about 50 miles west of Washington, the meeting featured panel discussions and presentations by officials from DoD, State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — as well as cocktail receptions and dinners.
“We had two good days there,” Whelan said, in which U.S. officials attempted to “put AFRICOM back into context” after several months of negative press reports and criticism from the continent. They also discussed civilian control of the military, AFRICOM’s nonmilitary tasks, and U.S. plans to provide training and other assistance.
The American delegation also spent a good deal of time “listening to where [African leaders] see the security challenges there.”African officials view them differently, in many cases, depending on the region from which they hail, Whelan said. But “they do tend to agree that additional capacity is needed to deal with those challenges.”
Combined with General Ward’s recent trip to Addis Ababa , the occurrence of this meeting serves as good evidence that US policymakers are actively trying to assuage African fears regarding the more nefarious reasons proffered for AFRICOM’s creation. These efforts appear to be having an effect as:
Whelan said such efforts are beginning to thaw some of the skepticism about the new command. She cited recent, less ominous comments from officials in Nigeria and South Africa, countries that had been leading the opposition to AFRICOM.