“What we’re changing is how we do business, not what we do. And it is true, in Africa our focus has been basically around three issues…the first is civil control of the military and defense reform, which we see as sort of two sides of the same coin. The second is military professionalization, and the third is capacity building. And those three things are the things that DOD has been focused on in Africa for the probably about the last 10 years. And those three things will continue to be DOD’s focus in the context of capacity building and the mission of the command,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whelan, discussing the creation of AFRICOM, the U.S. military’s new Africa Command, with a group of foreign policy and security bloggers.
One issue Whelan expects AFRICOM to focus greater attention on is maritime security. She explained that several illicit maritime activities are hurting African economies and environments, including trafficking in people, weapons, and drugs; piracy, which has been on the rise recently; and illegal fishing—which can also damage coral reefs. “I think the World Bank did a study not too long ago—a couple of years ago—in which they found that…countries like Mozambique were losing in excess of a billion dollars a year in lost revenue from illegal fishing and also the destruction to their reefs—reef structures and also the depletion of their fishing resources,” said Whelan. A full transcript of the October 24, 2007, discussion is available online.