Recognizing the growing strategic importance of the African continent, President George Bush authorized the formation of a single military command unit, the U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM to address African security concerns. Prior to the creation of AFRICOM, three Unified Commands had divided responsibility for U.S. military programs. The new unit, which is to be fully established October 1st of this year, will be responsible for all military relations with the African continent with the exception of Egypt.
AFRICOM is the first military command to incorporate representatives from other U.S. civilian government agencies for the purpose of strengthening U.S. government coordination. Although its main mission is to conduct sustained military training programs that promote a more secure and stable Africa, AFRICOM will support the efforts of U.S. and African partners to conduct community and humanitarian projects where appropriate. Its activities will be implemented in coordination with our embassies in Africa and consistent with U.S. foreign policy.
One of the elements that will soon be transferred to AFRICOM’s responsibility is the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, an expeditionary force which is located in Djibouti. The Horn of Africa Task Force works to improve regional security and stability both working with African armed forces and by directly improving the lives of the people in the region. They build schools, improve roads and medical facilities, and provide clean water.
Among their more successful endeavors is the Veterinary Civil Action Program, or VETCAP. Teams of U.S. and local veterinarians travel to villages in Djibouti, in Ethiopia, in Kenya, all over the Horn of Africa. They treat cattle, goats, chickens, even dogs against worms and other parasites and administer vitamin shots for general health improvement. They teach about disease prevention. "For [the farmers] to let us treat their animals - their livelihood - shows great trust," says one of the military veterinarians. "If we can continue to gain their trust and continue to improve their lives, we can make a difference."