In 2007, President George W. Bush announced the establishment of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), a unified combatant command covering the entire African continent except for Egypt. Before the creation of AFRICOM, responsibility for Africa was divided among three commands. The establishment of the command caught many African leaders by surprise and was generally met with skepticism and negative reactions.
In the first decade after the end of the Cold War, Africa was generally viewed as a lower U.S. security priority. This perception seems to have changed in recent years, reflected in an increasing U.S. interest and engagement in Africa.
This thesis looks into how the creation of AFRICOM can say something about the drivers of U.S. policy toward Africa since the end of the Cold War. More specifically, it sets out to identify and explore the reasons for creating AFRICOM. Together the desire to undertake a bureaucratic reorganization of the U.S. command structure; the aim of defeating terrorism globally; the desire to secure U.S. access to African oil resources; U.S. power balancing toward China; and the desire to promote idealistic motives appear to explain the establishment of AFRICOM. However, the relative significance of the effective reasons seems to differ from one another.
The central argument of the thesis is that U.S. national security interests appear to have motivated the creation of AFRICOM, which is anchored in political realism’s general theory of international politics and foreign policy-making. Political realism will be used as the theoretical framework for the thesis.