President Sirleaf ‘Liberia’s US African Command Headquarters Initiative’, Full Speed Ahead


By Momolu V.O. Sirleaf

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 25, 2007


President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently expressed Liberia’s interest in hosting the United States Africa Command military operations, known as AFRICOM. US President George Bush created the new military command this year for Africa. AFRICOM is one of the long-standing hangovers from the cold war era-- and would be added as the sixth region to the existing five US geographic combat commands.

AFRICOM will be the first independent operation headquarters that will focus on anti terrorist operations and humanitarian aid in continental Africa. The US Africa Command, would also oversee strategic developments and military operations across the entire continent, where a combination of problems - natural disasters, civil wars, chronic disease, and the growing presence of Islamic radicals - has destabilized some countries and created an increasing threat to global security.

This is a very courageous initiative by the Liberian leader to host AFRICOM and an ambitious foreign policy push that deserves all the support needed to make the case. Now it is time that the President moves with full speed ahead and pushes the case for Liberia to host AFRICOM.

The US has strategic interests in Africa. Africa has huge oil and gas reserves and the continent is expected to be supplying 25% of US hydrocarbon imports by 2015. The vulnerabilities of those supplies are in some of the most unstable countries in Africa.

The US dependence on Middle East oil is taking a strategic shift as Islamic fundamentalists operate deep in the region causing instability and the United States cannot particularly continue to rely on Saudi and/or Middle East oil.

Iraq is in a mess because of a preventive doctrine by the Bush administration while Americans cannot depend on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s theocratic Iran for its strategic oil interest.

Surely, the US cannot ignore the vast oil and gas reserves in the Middle East, but Uncle Sam is changing gear and putting Africa back into focus.

Cold War in slow motion?
The stance of the United States has changed radically under conservative President George Bush. The United States cannot afford to concede Africa to the People’s Republic of China.

The Chinese leader Hu Jintao has been making the rounds in Africa and establishing business and oil ties with many African countries including Sudan.

By conceding Africa to the People’s Republic of China, the US chances losing a major influence in Africa. China has a gigantic economy together with a mammoth military that puts them in a super power status.

The Bush administration now intends to pursue its strategic objectives in Africa.

Pluses for Liberia hosting AFRICOM
With the country in a gradual transition from brutal hostilities to a democratic rule, the presence of AFRICOM will give an added advantage to national security and defense, open up investment opportunities for economic development, and fight extreme poverty.

The fact is that poverty remains as one of the major threats to democratic reforms and development, and AFRICOM can help in President Sirleaf’s government Poverty Reduction Strategy Program. This will give investors a sense of security with the presence of AFRICOM.

AFRICOM will definitely prevent Liberia from being a failed, gun-running, rogue state as well as a money-laundering transit point as witnessed under the tyrannical regime of Charles Taylor, now facing charges of war crimes. These factors give rise to global insecurity. A stable and self-sustaining Liberia will be in the US strategic interests as it spreads freedom and leads in the Global War On Terrorism (GWOT).

However, no one can dismiss the threats of hostilities both from outside and especially within the country, but AFRICOM presence will make any troublemaker to think twice. No doubt, hosting AFRICOM will have its own drawbacks.

Al Qaeda and jihadists are still determined to strike the US and its interests around the world. Hosting such command could make the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks. However, the benefits of hosting AFRICOM outweigh the costs.

Hosting AFRICOM will therefore be part of Liberia’s national security strategy.

Strategic Approach to host AFRICOM
President Sirleaf’s extensive agenda of foreign policy objectives and credentials make Liberia a strong candidate for US AFRICOM. The President has the name ID and an earned credibility with world leaders.

She has demonstrated potential signs of democratic transformation and for the first time Liberia has balanced its budget.

To get the ball rolling, the President should assemble all her Principals on national security, national defense and foreign policy advisers to put forward strategies to make a compelling and convincing case for her Initiative.

Liberia: ‘Been there, done that’
Liberia has done it all before. The country therefore stands prepared as a user-friendly nation for the US Africa Command. As an ally of the US during WWII, Liberia hosted one of the largest military operations for the United States. Liberia can boast of having an experience in such operations.

Fast forward to 2007 and Liberia could again be at the threshold of hosting the United States military.

The country is very accepting of an American leadership and this makes President Sirleaf ‘Liberia’s US African Command Headquarters Initiative’ (LUSACHI) a worthwhile venture. We can simply tell the US ‘buy one and get one free’ for this Initiative, so to speak.

Tactful approach and lessons learned by the US
The Bush administration will be very sensitive in establishing its AFRICOM command structure in Africa.

The United States will draw lessons from its Iraqi invasion and its Saudi Arabia occupation, which resulted in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia by terrorists in June 1996 in an attempt to remove the U.S. military from Saudi Arabia’s soil; the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis and the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, among other major attacks on US interests.

While some African Sunni Muslim countries have oil and gas, the US won’t want to be seen as an occupational force in another Muslim country as it happened in Saudi Arabia and now Iraq.

A re-engagement policy by the US
The US adopted a hand off approach when the Berlin wall went tumbling. However, disengagement was a disaster for U.S. national security and national interests. For example, when Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the US helped Mujahadeen fighters to combat the Soviets who supported Afghanistan’s Marxist People Democratic Party in the context of the Cold War.

However, when the last Soviets’ armored tank rolled out of Kabul after nine years, the US disengaged. But a couple of years later in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on US soil, the United States was forced to return to Afghanistan to chase out the Taliban, and Osama Ban Laden and his fellow radicals, who had received support from the United States in its fight against the Former Soviet Union (FSU).

Chaos, poverty and extremism plaguing failed and rogue states are closely connected to the security and national interests of the US.

In all, the US learned lessons from its disengagement policy following the end of the Cold War.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Momolu Sirleaf holds a master’s degree in international relations/foreign policy from the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in management from the National American University. He participated in former President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council (NSC) staff member, Steve Andreasen’s ‘Crisis Management in Foreign Affairs’ and National Security Policy seminars and simulations. In addition, Momolu is a former Liberian journalist. He can be contacted at or 612-964-4271.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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