The United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM, U.S. AFRICOM, and AFRICOM), is one of the eleven unified combatant commands of the United States Department of Defense, headquartered at Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. It is responsible for U.S. military operations, including fighting regional conflicts and maintaining military relations with 53 African nations. Its area of responsibility covers all of Africa except Egypt, which is within the area of responsibility of the United States Central Command. U.S. AFRICOM headquarters operating budget was $276 million in fiscal year 2012.
The Commander of U.S. AFRICOM reports to the Secretary of Defense. The current Commander of the U.S. Africa Command stated that the purpose of the command is to work alongside African military personnel to support their military operations. In individual countries, U.S. ambassadors continue to be the primary diplomatic representative for relations with host nations.
Prior to the creation of AFRICOM, responsibility for U.S. military operations in Africa was divided across three unified commands: United States European Command (EUCOM) for West Africa, United States Central Command (CENTCOM) for East Africa, and United States Pacific Command (PACOM) for Indian Ocean waters and islands off the east coast of Africa.
A U.S. military officer wrote the first public article calling for the formation of a separate African command in November 2000. Following a 2004 global posture review, the United States Department of Defense began establishing a number of Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Sites (FOSs) across the African continent, through the auspices of EUCOM which had nominal command of West Africa at that time. These locations, along with Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, would form the basis of AFRICOM facilities on the continent. Areas of military interest to the United States in Africa include the Sahara/Sahel region, over which Joint Task Force Aztec Silence is conducting anti-terrorist operations (Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara), Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, where Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa is located (overseeing Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa), and the Gulf of Guinea.
The website Magharebia.com was launched by USEUCOM in 2004 to provide news about North Africa in English, French and Arabic. When AFRICOM was created, it took over operation of the website. Information operations of the United States Department of Defense was criticized by the Senate Armed Forces Committee and defunded by Congress in 2011. The site was closed down in February 2015.
In 2007, the United States Congress approved $500 million for the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI) over six years to support countries involved in counterterrorism against threats of Al Qaeda operating in African countries, primarily Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, and Morocco. This program builds upon the former Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), which concluded in December 2004 and focused on weapon and drug trafficking, as well as counterterrorism. Previous U.S. military activities in Sub-Saharan Africa have included Special Forces associated Joint Combined Exchange Training. Letitia Lawson, writing in 2007 for a Center for Contemporary Conflict journal at the Naval Postgraduate School, noted that U.S. policy towards Africa, at least in the medium-term, looks to be largely defined by international terrorism, the increasing importance of African oil to American energy needs, and the dramatic expansion and improvement of Sino-African relations since 2000.
Creation of the command (2006–2008)
In mid-2006, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld formed a planning team to advise on requirements for establishing a new Unified Command for the African continent. In early December, he made his recommendations to President George W. Bush.
On 6 February 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced to the Senate Armed Services Committee that President George W. Bush had given authority to create the new African Command. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, the director of the AFRICOM transition team, arrived in Stuttgart, Germany to begin creating the logistical framework for the command. The creation of the command was introduced to African military leaders by General William E. "Kip" Ward who traveled to various African countries. On 28 September, the U.S. Senate confirmed General William E. "Kip" Ward as AFRICOM's first commander and AFRICOM officially became operational as a sub-unified command of EUCOM with a separate headquarters. On 1 October 2008 became a fully operational command and incorporated pre-existing entities, including the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa that was created in 2002. At this time, the command also separated from USEUCOM and began operating on its own as a full-fledged combatant command.
In 2007, the White House announced that Africa Command "will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa."
The U.S. Africa Command is currently operating along five lines of effort:
- Neutralize al-Shabaab and transition the security responsibilities of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS)
- Degrade violent extremist organizations in the Sahel Maghreb and contain instability in Libya
- Contain and degrade Boko Haram
- Interdict illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea and Central Africa with willing and capable African partners
- Build peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster response capacity of African partners
Neutralizing al-Shabaab and transition the security responsibilities of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS)
On March 18, 2019, AFRICOM conducted an airstrike over Mogadishu, Somalia with the stated aimed at “the terrorist network and its recruiting efforts in the region,” specifically referencing al-Shabab. AFRICOM reported that the number of terrorists killed by this airstrike was 3, but this fact, as well as how many civilian casualties there were is still under dispute.
Containing and degrading Boko Haram
Interdicting illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea and Central Africa with willing and capable African partners
Building peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster response capacity of African partners
Area of responsibility
The territory of the command consists of all of the African continent except for Egypt, which remains under the responsibility of Central Command, as it closely relates to the Middle East. USAFRICOM also covers island countries commonly associated with Africa:
The U.S. military areas of responsibility involved were transferred from three separate U.S. unified combatant commands. Most of Africa was transferred from the United States European Command with the Horn of Africa and Sudan transferred from the United States Central Command. Responsibility for U.S. military operations in the islands of Madagascar, the Comoros, the Seychelles and Mauritius was transferred from the United States Pacific Command.
Headquarters and facilities
The AFRICOM headquarters is located at Kelley Barracks, a small urban facility near Stuttgart, Germany, and is staffed by 1,500 personnel. In addition, the command has military and civilian personnel assigned at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti; RAF Molesworth, United Kingdom; MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; and in Offices of Security Cooperation and Defense Attaché Offices in about 38 African countries.
Selection of the headquarters
It was reported in June 2007 that African countries were competing to host the headquarters because it would bring money for the recipient country. However, of all the African nations, only Liberia has publicly expressed a willingness to host AFRICOM's headquarters. The U.S. declared in February 2008 that AFRICOM would be headquartered in Stuttgart for the "foreseeable future". In August 2007, Dr. Wafula Okumu, a research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, testified before the United States Congress about the growing resistance and hostility on the African continent. Nigeria announced it will not allow its country to host a base and opposed the creation of a base on the continent. South Africa and Libya also expressed reservations of the establishment of a headquarters in Africa.
The Sudan Tribune considered it likely that Ethiopia, a strong U.S. ally in the region, will house USAFRICOM's headquarters due to the collocation of AFRICOM with the African Union's developing peace and security apparatus. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated in early November that Ethiopia would be willing to work together closely with USAFRICOM. This was further reinforced when a U.S. Air Force official said on 5 December 2007, that Addis Ababa was likely to be the headquarters.
On 18 February 2008, General Ward told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute in London that some portion of that staff headquarters being on the continent at some point in time would be "a positive factor in helping us better deliver programs." General Ward also told the BBC the same day in an interview that there are no definite plans to take the headquarters or a portion of it to any particular location on the continent.
President Bush denied that the United States was contemplating the construction of new bases on the African continent. U.S. plans include no large installations such as Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, but rather a network of "cooperative security locations" at which temporary activities will be conducted. There is one U.S. base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, with approximately 2,300 troops stationed there having been inherited from USCENTCOM upon standup of the command.
In general, U.S. Unified Combatant Commands have an HQ of their own in one location, subordinate service component HQs, sometimes one or two co-located with the main HQ or sometimes spread widely, and a wide range of operating locations, main bases, forward detachments, etc. USAFRICOM initially appears to be considering something slightly different; spreading the actually COCOM HQ over several locations, rather than having the COCOM HQ in one place and the putative "U.S. Army Forces, Africa", its air component, and "U.S. Naval Forces, Africa" in one to four separate locations. AFRICOM will not have the traditional J-type staff divisions,[clarification needed] instead having outreach, plans and programs, knowledge development, operations and logistics, and resources branches. AFRICOM went back to a traditional J-Staff in early 2011 after General Carter Ham took command.
U.S. Africa Command completed fiscal year 2010 with approximately 2,000 assigned personnel, which includes military, civilian, contractor, and host nation employees. About 1,500 work at the command's main headquarters in Stuttgart. Others are assigned to the command's units in England and Florida, along with security cooperation officers posted at U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions in Africa to coordinate Defense Department programs within the host nation.
As of December 2010, the command has five Senior Foreign Service officers in key positions as well as more than 30 personnel from 13 U.S. Government Departments and Agencies serving in leadership, management, and staff positions. Some of the agencies represented are the United States Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce, United States Agency for International Development, and the United States Coast Guard.
U.S. Africa Command has limited assigned forces and relies on the Department of Defense for resources necessary to support its missions.
On 1 October 2008, the Seventeenth Air Force was established at Ramstein Air Base, Germany as the United States Air Force component of the Africa Command. Brig. Gen. Tracey Garrett was named as commander of the new USMC component, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF), in November 2008. MARFORAF is a dual-mission arrangement for United States Marine Corps Forces, Europe.
On 3 December 2008, the U.S. announced that Army and Navy headquarters units of AFRICOM would be hosted in Italy. The AFRICOM section of the Army's Southern European Task Force would be located in Vicenza and Naval Forces Europe in Naples would expand to include the Navy's AFRICOM component. Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA) is also established, gaining control over Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara (JSOTF-TS) and Special Operations Command and Control Element – Horn of Africa (SOCCE-HOA).
The U.S. Army has allocated a brigade to the Africa Command.
U.S. Army Africa (USARAF)
Headquartered on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, U.S. Army Africa, in concert with national and international partners, conducts sustained security engagement with African land forces to promote peace, stability, and security in Africa. As directed, it can deploy as a contingency headquarters in support of crisis response.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe - Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) area of responsibility (AOR) covers approximately half of the Atlantic Ocean, from the North Pole to Antarctica; as well as the Adriatic, Baltic, Barents, Black, Caspian, Mediterranean and North Seas. NAVEUR-NAVAF covers all of Russia, Europe and nearly the entire continent of Africa. It encompasses 105 countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and includes a landmass extending more than 14 million square miles.
The area of responsibility covers more than 20 million square nautical miles of ocean, touches three continents and encompasses more than 67 percent of the Earth's coastline, 30 percent of its landmass, and nearly 40 percent of the world's population.
Task Force 60 will normally be the commander of Naval Task Force Europe and Africa. Any naval unit within the USEUCOM or USAFRICOM AOR may be assigned to Task Force 60 as required upon by the Commander of the Sixth Fleet.
U.S. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA)
Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA) is located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and serves as the air and space component to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) located at Stuttgart, Germany. Air Forces Africa shares a headquarters and units with United States Air Forces in Europe, and its component Air Force, 3AF (AFAFRICA) conducts sustained security engagement and operations as directed to promote air safety, security and development on the African continent. Through its Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) events, Air Forces Africa carries out AFRICOM's policy of seeking long-term partnership with the African Union and regional organizations as well as individual nations on the continent.
Air Forces Africa works with other U.S. Government agencies, to include the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to assist African partners in developing national and regional security institution capabilities that promote security and stability and facilitate development.
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Africa (MARFORAF)
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Africa conducts operations, exercises, training, and security cooperation activities throughout the AOR. In 2009, MARFORAF participated in 15 ACOTA missions aimed at improving partners’ capabilities to provide logistical support, employ military police, and exercise command and control over deployed forces.
MARFORAF conducted military to military events in 2009 designed to familiarize African partners with nearly every facet of military operations and procedures, including use of unmanned aerial vehicles, tactics, and medical skills. MARFORAF, as the lead component, continues to conduct Exercise AFRICAN LION in Morocco—the largest annual Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) exercise on the African continent—as well as Exercise SHARED ACCORD 10, which was the first CJCS exercise conducted in Mozambique.
In 2013, the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Africa was formed to provide quick response to American interests in North Africa by flying marines in Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft from bases in Europe.
U.S. Special Operations Command, Africa
Special Operations Command Africa was activated on 1 October 2008 and became fully operationally capable on 1 October 2009. SOCAFRICA is a Subordinate-Unified Command of United States Special Operations Command, operationally controlled by U.S. Africa Command, collocated with USAFRICOM at Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart-Möhringen, Germany. Also on 1 October 2008, SOCAFRICA assumed responsibility for the Special Operations Command and Control Element – Horn of Africa, and on 15 May 2009, SOCAFRICA assumed responsibility for (JSOTF-TS) – the SOF component of Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara.
SOCAFRICA's objectives are to build operational capacity, strengthen regional security and capacity initiatives, implement effective communication strategies in support of strategic objectives, and eradicate violent extremist organizations and their supporting networks. SOCAFRICA forces work closely with both U.S. Embassy country teams and African partners, maintaining a small but sustained presence throughout Africa, predominantly in the OEF-TS and CJTF-HOA regions. SOCAFRICA's persistent SOF presence provides an invaluable resource that furthers USG efforts to combat violent extremist groups and builds partner nation CT capacity.
On 8 April 2011, Naval Special Warfare Unit 10, operationally assigned and specifically dedicated for SOCAFRICA missions, was commissioned at Panzer Kaserne, near Stuttgart, Germany. It is administratively assigned to on the U.S. East Coast.
Organizations included in SOCAFRICA include:
- Special Operations Command Forward—East (Special Operations Command and Control Element—Horn of Africa)
- Special Operations Command Forward—Central (AFRICOM Counter—Lord's Resistance Army Control Element)
- Special Operations Command Forward—West (Joint Special Operations Task Force—Trans Sahara)
- Naval Special Warfare Unit 10, Joint Special Operations Air Component Africa, and SOCAFRICA Signal Detachment
- Commander SOCAFRICA serves as the Special Operations Adviser to Commander, USAFRICOM.
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) conducts operations in the East Africa region to build partner nation capacity in order to promote regional security and stability, prevent conflict, and protect U.S. and coalition interests. CJTF-HOA's efforts, as part of a comprehensive whole-of-government approach, are aimed at increasing African partner nations' capacity to maintain a stable environment, with an effective government that provides a degree of economic and social advancement for its citizens.
Programs and operations
The programs conducted by AFRICOM, in conjunction with African military forces focus on reconnaissance and direct action. However, AFRICOM’s directives are to keep American military forces out of direct combat as best as possible. Despite this, the United States has admitted to American troops being involved in direct action during missions with African military partners, namely in classified 127e programs. As of 2019, there have been at least 139 confirmed drone strikes from AFRICOM operations in Somalia. Estimates place the total number of deaths at at least 965, with at least 10 civilians killed.Each AFRICOM operations has a specific mission. Some of the operations in North and West Africa target ISIS, and Boko Haram. In East Africa, missions focus on targeting terrorist group Al-Shabaab and piracy.
- African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance
- Africa Partnership Station is the U.S. Africa Command's primary maritime security engagement program which strengthens maritime security through maritime training with various nations.
- State Partnership Program connects a U.S. state's National Guard to an African nation for military training and relationship-building.
- Diplomatic Engagement
- Military-to-Military Engagement
- National Guard State Partnership Program
- African Partnership Flight
- Africa Partnership Station
- African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership
- Non-Commissioned Officer Development
- Logistics Engagement
- Military Intelligence
- Chaplain Engagement
- Women, Peace, and Security
Joint Exercise Programs
Training exercises sponsored by the United States through AFRICOM and Morocco. Participants of this program came from Europe and Africa to undergo training in various military exercises and skills. Exercises conducted during African Lion included “command-and-control techniques, combat tactics, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance operations”. Reported by AFRICOM to have improved the quality of operations conducted between the North African and United States military.
Training exercises sponsored by AFRICOM, European, and Western African countries for the first time in 2014. The goal of this exercise was to improve African forces’ skills in conducting peace support operations. An ebola epidemic occurring from 2014 to 2015 resulted in the exercises being hosted by the Netherlands. During this exercise the mission command for the “United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission” in Mali was replicated. Name of exercise changed to United Accord some time later.
Training exercises conducted with the goal of increasing both the military knowledge and efficacy of collaborative interactions of the participating groups. Emphasis placed on crisis response tactics and fostering strong partnerships between participating groups. Forces came from Africa, the United States, and Europe. The Lake Chad Basin is an example of a regional mission conducted by The Multi-National Joint Task Force.
Series of training exercises originally began in 1998 with a series of exercises titled “Natural Fire”. The Justified Accord was a further continuation of the large group of exercises conducted under the name Eastern Accord. Participating forces came from the United States and various African allies. Conducted with the goal of improving coordinated operations in East Africa. Notable aspects of the training included discussion-based modules focused on peace-keeping endeavors.
Annual training exercise sponsored by AFRICOM in conjunction with allied African forces over several years. In 2014 partners also included the United Nation Integrated Training Service and U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. Exercises focused around the goal of peacekeeping. In 2017, Southern Accord was renamed as United Accord.
Series of training exercises held at sea off the coast of East Africa. The Cutlass Express series was conducted by the United States Naval Forces Africa, a group within AFRICOM. Exercises performed at this time focused on maritime security, piracy countermeasures and interception of prohibited cargo. Express series included operations Obangame Express, Saharan Express, and Phoenix Express.
- Armada Sweep - U.S. Navy electronic surveillance from ships off the coast of East Africa to support drone operations in the region
- Echo Casemate - Support of French and African peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic.
- Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa
- Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara
- Exile Hunter - Training of Ethiopian forces for operations in Somalia
- Jukebox Lotus - Operations in Libya after attack on Benghazi Consulate.
- Junction Rain - Maritime security operations in the Gulf of Guinea.
- Junction Serpent - Surveillance operations of ISIS forces near Sirte, Libya
- Juniper Micron - Airlift of French forces to combat Islamic extremists in Mali
- Juniper Nimbus - Support for Nigerian Forces against Boko Haram
- Juniper Shield - Counterterrorism operations in northwest Africa
- Jupiter Garrett – Joint Special Operations Command operation against high value targets in Somalia.
- Justified Seamount - Counter piracy operation off east African coast
- Kodiak Hunter - Training of Kenyan forces for operations in Somalia
- * Mongoose Hunter - Training of Somali forces for operations against Al Shabab
- New Normal - Development of rapid response capability in Africa
- Nimble Shield - Operation against Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa.
- Oaken Sonnet I - 2013 rescue of Unites States personnel from South Sudan during its civil war
- Oaken Sonnet II - 2014 operation in South Sudan
- Oaken Sonnet III – 2016 operation in South Sudan
- Oaken Steel - July 2016 to January 2017 deployment to Uganda and reinforcement of security forces at US embassy in South Sudan
- Objective Voice - Information operations and psychological warfare in Africa
- Oblique Pillar - Contracted helicopter support for Somali National Army forces.
- Operation Observant Compass.
- Obsidian Lotus - Training Libyan special operations units
- Obsidian Mosaic - Operation in Mali
- Obsidian Nomad I - Counterterrorism operation in Diffa, Niger
- Obsidian Nomad II - Counterterrorism operation in Arlit, Niger
- Octave Anchor - Psychological warfare operations focused on Somalia.
- Octave Shield - Operation by Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
- Octave Soundstage- Psychological warfare operations focused on Somalia.
- Octave Stingray - Psychological warfare operations focused on Somalia.
- Octave Summit - Psychological warfare operations focused on Somalia.
- Operation Odyssey Dawn - Libya, was the first major combat deployment directed by Africa Command.
- Operation Odyssey Lightning - Libya
- Odyssey Resolve - Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operations in area of Sirte, Libya.
- - Liberia
- Paladin Hunter - Counterterrorism operation in Puntland.
- RAINMAKER: A highly sensitive classified signals intelligence effort. Bases used: Chebelley, Djibouti; Baidoa, Baledogle, Kismayo and Mogadishu, Somalia
- Ultimate Hunter - Counterterorism operation by US trained Kenyan force in Somalia
- Operation Unified Protector - Libya
- Operation Odyssey Dawn
- Operation Juniper Micron
- Protection of U.S. Personnel and Facilities
- Operation United Assistance
- Operation Odyssey Lightning
Security Cooperation Operations
Support to Peacekeeping Operations
African Union Mission in Somalia
Operation Observant Compass
Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance
Africa Deployment Assistance Partnership Team
Foreign Military Sales
International Military Education and Training
Pandemic Response Program
African Partner Outbreak Alliance
West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative
Veterinary Civil Action Program
List of commanders
|Portrait||Name||Took office||Left office||Term length|
William E. Ward
|1 October 2007||9 March 2011||3 years, 159 days|
Carter F. Ham
|9 March 2011||5 April 2013||2 years, 27 days|
David M. Rodriguez
|5 April 2013||18 July 2016||3 years, 104 days|
Thomas D. Waldhauser
|18 July 2016||26 July 2019||3 years, 8 days|
U.S. Marine Corps
Stephen J. Townsend
|26 July 2019||Incumbent||1 year, 18 days|
Commanders of U.S. Africa Command by branch of service
- Army: 4
- Marine Corps: 1
- Air Force: none
- Navy: none
- Space Force: none
- Coast Guard: none
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