John Campbell, a former United States (US) Ambassador to Nigeria, gave reasons at the weekend why President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria should not be expectant that AFRICOM would be relocated to Nigeria as a sure way of boosting security in the region.
Campbell said that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent is very huge. The former Ambassador also lamented that the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years. Campbell made his views known in an email interview with The Punch.
Campbell, who is the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, said, “From an American perspective, moving AFRICOM’s headquarters after 14 years in Stuttgart would be a major undertaking.
“However, should the AFRICOM headquarters move, it is unlikely – if not impossible – that it would be to Africa, with its logistical challenges. Some in the US Congress support moving AFRICOM’s headquarters to the United States as a cost-effective alternative. For example, South Carolina’s senators, both Republican, have advocated moving it to Charleston, the site of large US military installations.
“It is mostly a matter of money. Moving AFRICOM to Africa would require the construction of a sophisticated installation in areas where the basic infrastructure may not yet have been developed. Moving it to the United States would mean making use of already existing but underused installation (e.g., perhaps Charleston) that could be quickly and more cheaply expanded, if necessary.”
The ex-envoy, however, said Buhari’s request marked a reversal of Nigeria’s official opposition to AFRICOM plans to move it to the continent 14 years ago.
“The shift likely reflects the conclusion that the security situation in West Africa and Nigeria is out of control, spurring a willingness to consider options hitherto unacceptable. Buhari argued that AFRICOM’s headquarters should be closer to the theatre of operations. He also seemed to imply greater US involvement in West African security, including a kinetic dimension in the context of greater Western support for West Africa’s response to its security threats.”
He recalled that when President George W Bush established AFRICOM in 2007, a military-civilian hybrid command in support of Africa, African official reaction was largely hostile, seeing the effort as “neo-colonialist.”
Campbell said, “The Nigerian government took the lead in persuading or strong-arming other African states against accepting the AFRICOM headquarters, which was thereupon established at Stuttgart, Germany, already the headquarters of the European Command. “In addition to opposing AFRICOM in the first place, the Nigerian military authorities have been largely uncooperative with the US military. Hence, the US military involvement in Nigeria, beyond limited training operations, is minimal, and the country does not host any American defence installations.
“Successive Nigerian governments have wanted to purchase sophisticated American military equipment but have rejected US oversight. In fact, Nigerian purchases of US military materials have been rare, despite their high-profile, ultimately successful purchase of 12 A-29 Super Tucanos – sophisticated aircraft.”