Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa



As envisioned by the Department of Defense (DOD), AFRICOM aims to promote U.S. strategic objectives and protect U.S. interests in the region by working with African states and regional organizations to help strengthen their defense capabilities so that they are better able to contribute to regional stability and security.  AFRICOM also has a mandate to conduct military operations, if so directed by national command authorities.  In March 2011, for example, AFRICOM commenced Operation Odyssey Dawn to protect civilians in Libya as part of multinational military operations authorized by the U.N. Security Council under Resolution 1973. . . .  AFRICOM’s first major military operation was Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. contribution to a multilateral military effort to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians in Libya, in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.4  Initial U.S. military operations, launched on March 19, 2011, included Tomahawk cruise missile attacks targeting Libyan command and control and air defense facilities.  [AFRICOM commander] General [Carter F.] Ham served as theater commander for the operation, with tactical operations coordinated by a Joint Task Force under Admiral Sam Locklear.  Locklear serves jointly as Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, and as Commander of Allied Joint Force Command, Naples, which has operational responsibility for NATO missions in the Mediterranean.  The Commander of U.S. Air Forces Africa served as Joint Force Air Component Commander for Operation Odyssey Dawn.  AFRICOM also supported the U.S. humanitarian response that commenced on March 4, through the delivery of relief supplies and the evacuation of foreign nationals fleeing the violence.  NATO assumed the lead for military operations in Libya on April 1 under Operation Unified Protector. . . .  The report states that during Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya, AFRICOM headquarters was augmented by 90 personnel, and additional personnel would have been required to maintain continuous operations if Odyssey Dawn had continued longer than it did.105

4  For more information on U.S. policy toward Libya and related military operations, see CRS Report RL33142, Libya: Unrest and U.S. Policy, by Christopher M. Blanchard and CRS Report R41725, Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya): Background and Issues for Congress, coordinated by Jeremiah Gertler.

105  Department of Defense, Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 944 of the Ike Skepton National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011 (P.L. 111-383), June 2011.

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Lauren Ploch is an analyst in African Affairs.  This document was published by the Congressional Research Service on 22 July 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.


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