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Moeller and Yates Stump for AFRICOM in Nigeria

Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, AFRICOM’s Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations, and Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, the Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities, toured Nigeria’s capital of Abuja in an effort to garner support for AFRICOM’s establishment among Nigerian government officials. Moeller and Yates, General William Ward’s two deputies in the AFRICOM command structure, visited with the chief of defense staff, the foreign affairs minister, and the national security adviser. Nigeria is a crucial state to get on the AFRICOM bandwagon due to its status as a major power in West Africa. At a press conference held in the US embassy in Abuja, Vice Admiral Moeller, with whom I previously spoke via a Department of Defense Blogger’s Roundtable, offered a quote addressing some of the concerns surrounding basing on the continent:

“AFRICOM does not intend to station large operational units in Africa,” said Moeller, adding that if invited by African countries, small forces could come in for specific tasks and then leave.
Speaking on the question of energy, Moeller also had this to say about AFRICOM:

“It has nothing to do [with] oil resources in the Gulf of Guinea. The resources there are Nigerian. They belong to Nigeria and to the countries of the region. What we do is work with partner nations to make sure that the resources are available for the global community, and for what they are intended for.”

Prior to arriving in Nigeria, the duo stopped in Burkina Faso and will now travel to Djibouti, the small nation in the Horn of Africa where a contingent of American forces is based. Though the larger campaign of establishing support for AFRICOM is vital for its effective operation, bringing Nigeria into the fold is especially crucial due to its special position in the region. Nigeria has come out in opposition to the command in recent days. As reported by the BBC:

The Nigerian government has said it would not allow its country to be used as a base for the US-African military command, Africom. At a meeting of the National Council of State, President Umaru Yar'Adua said that Nigeria was also opposed to any such bases in West Africa.

Though no word is yet forthcoming on the Nigerian reception to the visit of Yates and Moeller, the mere occurrence of such a meeting is encouraging. The United States and Nigeria may find themselves forced into cooperation out of necessity, especially concerning operations of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, an insurgent organization in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region. This organization presents a significant threat to Nigeria’s control of its own resources and the availability of these resources for the global community.