January 12, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In a feature commentary published today in the online edition of the foreign policy journal The National Interest, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, comments on the announcement yesterday by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates of President George W. Bush’s decision to establish a new unified combatant command for Africa.

Dr. Pham writes, that “having long advocated both a robust U.S. security engagement in Africa in general and the creation of the a unified combatant command for the continent in particular—I weighed the issues at some length several years ago in American Foreign Policy Interests and discuss the evolving strategic framework in the forthcoming issue of Comparative Strategy—I am more than pleased by the defense chief’s announcement,” noting that “the move represents the administration’s single most purposeful step towards assigning Africa its due priority. And if properly executed, the Africa Command would represent a significant long-term engagement that would anchor the continent firmly in America’s orbit—before terrorists as well as state competitors make it the next front in their strategic challenges to our interests and those of Africa’s peoples.”

However, Dr. Pham cautions, before that happens, the administration needs to work with Congress to ensure that the new structure gets the manpower, equipment, and other resources it needs. Furthermore, the Africa Command’s establishment “will also ignite an ideological contest about the role of the military and, to be effective, will require a major break with conventional doctrinal mentalities, both within the armed services themselves and between government agencies.”

The text of Dr. Pham’s essay, “The Africa Command Rises—Finally,” can be accessed online by clicking here.