As The U.S. Defense Department,
the Pentagon continues the task of exploring, organizing
and integrating its response to a myriad of global threats,
terrorism and islamic radicalism, Africa remains a clear
challenge of confusion, inclusion and responsibility.
Currently, the U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM,
is composed of specialized entities of the U.S. military
including the the Special Operations Command, Marine Corps,
Army and Navy became operational in early 1983 as a direct
offshoot of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force. CENTCOM
which is based in the southeastern United States is charged
with securing the U.S. interests in about 25 countries
around the world from the Gulf to Asia and the Horn of
International terror organizations and criminal enterprises
including Al Qaida and major drug cartels pose numerous
challenges to American ideals, security interests and
its allies including cultivating and establishing footholds
in some weak and corrupt nations including Africa. Much
concern has also been expressed about free lance "jihadists"
cropping up and expanding their network in weak African
states including Liberia.
A stark reminder of the reach of global insecurity and
terror was the August, 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in the
East African nations of Kenya and Tanzania in which over
200 fatalities were reported. Al Qaida claimed responsibility
for the attacks then and vowed to continue.
The reality is that although CENTCOM has responsibility
for parts of Africa including the region where the attacks
occurred, intelligence, for whatever reason, miserably
failed to detect and foil the bombings.
Former Liberian President and war crime indictee Charles
Taylor is reported was to have played host and done "lucrative
diamond business deals" with well known international
terror suspects and gun runners who found it safe to operate
under his protection.
The West African sub-region became a fertile ground for
such international saboteurs to trade in blood diamonds,
maintain a destabilized status quo and create launch pads
for global attacks against the U.S and its allies - all
to the detriment of civilians and meager national resources
of some of these countries in the region.
In August, 2003, as part of its mission to secure its
own interest but also under heavy international pressure
the U.S. deployed several war vessels from CENTCOM stationed
in the Mediterranean to Liberian waters for humanitarian
reasons, as a show of force, security for its own nationals
and support for ending the bloodshed.
Under the mission known as Operation Shining Express the
the war ships arrived a few days after the deployment
order was signed by President George Bush. rior to the
arrival of these military assets, iberians, upon hearing
the news of the deployment, went to the beaches daily
to await the arrival of the ships and acknowledged that
this was a surety of an end to the conflict.
Of course, it goes without saying that the U.S. military
has the capacity to deploy materiel and resources anywhere
in the world to combat any threat to its security and
the Liberian mission is a case in point. The mission was
considered a success. Charles Taylor stepped down and
left the country, the marines landed and secured the ground
for the advent of U.N forces and the fighting ended..
In February, 2004 the U S. and Liberia, the world's No.
2 shipping registry signed an accord which would legally
allow the USA to conduct interdictions on the high seas
against terror networks and drug syndicates that may want
to use ships for attacks by taking advantage of comparatively
lax security on the water.
There is a sustained debate now at the Pentagon as to
where to position and maintain a robust presence in potential
problem spots in Africa short of a token CENTCOM presence
in the Horn of Africa. Hotspots like Rwanda, Congo, Somalia,
Dafur, Zimbabwe and possibly Nigeria are of concern.
It appears that until Africa can develop, train, equip
and maintain a professional Rapid Deployment Force that
enjoys international credibility, the task of protecting
its own people and African ideals, sadly, will rest on
The case can be made that while the US debates its role
and collaboration with African allies, Liberia and other
sub-regional countries can provide an attractive theater
for all levels of development that will lead to mutual
For example, The Atlantic seacoast provides strategic
access to CENTCOM and its allies for operational maneuvers
to deal with threats. A pro-American Liberian populace
and government remain indispensable to maintaining, fostering
and achieving shared goals as co-equals. English as the
official language offers is also an asset for Liberians
and Sierra Leonens. The agreement allowing US security
interdiction of ships in the Liberian maritime registry
serves a useful purpose as well for countries in the region.
As a matter of precedence and historical context, Liberia
has hosted one of several U.S. government owned OMEGA
Navigational Satellite Earth Stations in Wehn Town and
the Voice of America (VOA) Relay Station were considered
strategic to the interests of the U.S. and heavily utilized
in years prior to the civil strife. The VOA operation
folded just prior to the war and relocated to Sao Tome.
Botswana, considered a relatively stable country has hosted
a VOA Relay Station for over 25 years.
In December, 1941, following arrangements made in secret
between U.S. President Roosevelt and Liberian President
Barclay, the The Roberts International Airport in Robertsfield
was built by PANAIR. The base served the U.S. and its
allies including the Royal Air Force of the UK as a strategic
refueling stop station for troops and supplies en route
to North Africa during World War II. The historical partnership
and cooperation exist and can and must be revisited. The
goal here is to fully exploit such strategic bilateral
and multilateral alliances.
Liberia and Sierra Leone's attempt at the rebirth of democracy
provide an immense opportunity for developing strong governments
and self sustaining economies like those of Ghana or Senegal
who represent themselves as competitive candidates for
U.S. strategic interests including CENTCOM and the benefits
that come along with such partnerships.
is an exiled Liberian journalist, media and human rights activist. He is the former Acting President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). Mr. Abalo presently resides and works in Pennsylvania, USA.
2007 by The Perspective
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