- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Global defense spending has just gone over the $1 trillion mark — half of it by the United States. Yet America’s growing strategic interests in Africa — 17 percent of U.S. oil imports, heading up to 21 percent and then 40 percent by 2020 — are being shortchanged with a puny $52 million per annum, the equivalent of five hours of fighting in Iraq.

U.S. petroleum giants have already invested $60 billion in Africa. By 2010, it will top $100 billion.

Gen. James L. Jones, known as SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) also wears a second hat as commander of all U.S. forces in Europe (EUCOM). His command encompasses 91 countries, including most of Africa minus the Horn of the continent, which comes under CENTCOM’s Gen. John Abizaid.

EUCOM’s area of responsibility (AOR) includes 60 percent of the planet’s coastline (132,000 miles), 35 percent of its landmass, 23 percent of world population (1.4 billion people); 20 percent of its waters.

Africa is also a treasure trove of strategic raw materials, much coveted by Chinese trade missions — 90 percent of the world’s cobalt, 64 percent of its manganese, 50 percent of gold, 40 percent of platinum, 30 percent of uranium, and 20 percent of the total petroleum currently traded. The continent also holds 70 percent of the world’s cocoa, 60 percent of its coffee, and 50 percent of palm oil. Forty percent of the world’s potential hydroelectric power lies unharnessed in sub-Sahara Africa.

The U.S. is still Africa’s principal trading partner ($44.4 billion in two-way trade), but China is close behind. Its access to natural resources and consumer markets is growing rapidly. China is also building roads, railroads, housing, government offices, electrical grids and telecom networks. China’s investment in Africa has increased 48 percent since 2002 and 674 companies are now engaged in Chinese trade with Africa.

Gen. Jones recommended to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) that EUCOM change its name to EURAFRICOM, or a separate command for Africa, AFRICOM. This would seem to be a no-brainer.

With no enemies or even threats to the East since the end of the Cold War, Gen. Jones feels Africa should be America’s new strategic focus. The 6-foot-4 Gen. Jones, a former Marine Corps commandant, speaks flawless French (formative years in France after World War II) and his deputy for Africa, two-star Gen. Scott Gration, flawless Swahili (a missionary’s son, he spent his first 19 years in sub-Sahara Africa). Gen. Gration also has the all-time Air Force record for combat missions: 247 for almost 1,000 hours of combat flying over Iraq.

Between them, Gens. Jones and Gration have left an impressive U.S. footprint wherever they travel. On his third recent trip to Africa, Gen. Jones invited this reporter to accompany him.

We sat in on meetings with presidents, foreign and defense ministers, and chiefs of staff in five countries in six days. Gen. Jones leaves a strong impression of America wherever he goes in Africa. He has learned how to make peanuts go a long way.

With the Pentagon’s quixotically penny-wise-pound-foolish budget for EUCOM’s outreach in Africa, Gen. Jones has managed to stretch $52 million into two FOLs (Forward Operating Locations) for refueling and a training range at Cap Dra in Morocco )to replace the politically sensitive one evacuated in Puerto Rico), and five CSLs (Cooperative Security Locations) now operational: Entebbe, Uganda; Libreville, Gabon; Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal; Lusaka, Zambia.

A joint U.S.-Ugandan intelligence fusion center also operates in a nondescript red-brick house in a rundown Kampala suburb. This is where five U.S. Army intelligence specialists, headed by Maj. Rick Danner, 32, help the Ugandan Army cope with Africa’s longest-running terrorist insurgency.

The “Lord’s Resistance Army,” also known as the “Peoples Redemption Army,” is headed by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet whose creed are the “Ten Commandments.” It’s pure voodoo. Over the last two decades, Kony and his goons kidnapped some 20,000 young boys and forced them to become bloodthirsty terrorists.

Young girls are supplied as slave wives for terrorist commanders. Ears, lips and female breasts are hacked off as punishment for resisting. International aid workers report cases in which abducted children are forced to ax or bludgeon their own parents to death.

Kony conned his supporters about his mystical powers that warded off bullets, warned him of government attacks and informed him about critics he would then target for execution. The LRA terrorists roam the countryside in small numbers, suddenly burst out of the bush to torch villages, kill and kidnap, then vanish again. The war on terrorism has displaced almost 2 million Ugandans, now refugees in their own country.

In each capital, Gen. Jones heard pleas for “night vision equipment” and modern communications for command and control. Gen. Jones promises to relay their requests to the Pentagon, otherwise too busy running the war on terrorism.

The supreme commander’s main preoccupation is getting eight African battalions airlifted into Darfur Province where they could begin to carry out the African Union’s resolutions.

The Bush administration allocated $95 million to set up camps for AU forces in Darfur and another $60 million for logistical assistance in getting 7,700 troops into the terror-stricken Sudanese province — three Rwandan battalions; three Senegalese, one Nigerian, two South African.

The first Rwandan battalion is now in Darfur but the two Antonov transports that flew them there have since crashed. Rwandan soldiers have already encountered serious morale problems as the horrible scenes they have witnessed remind them of what they saw at home a decade ago. They were young boys 9 or 10 years old when a million of their compatriots were slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide.

Gen. Jones was visibly annoyed that NATO and EU are still squabbling over who’s in charge of the airlift. The U.S. and Canada want NATO to coordinate the operation. France said it must be the now battered and tattered European Union.

Meanwhile, almost 200,000 have died in Darfur and just under 2 million are homeless. Darfur has been in agony at the hands of militias for two years. Gen. Gration said he saw cable traffic about Darfur four years ago.


Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.


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