The US military's African command cannot find an African nation willing to host it, and will stay in Germany for the forseeable future. This story is flying under everyone's radar and yet I think it's one of the most clearcut examples yet of the damage the Bush presidency has done to America on the world stage.
A year after President George W. Bush approved its creation, the new U.S. military command for Africa is finding its feet but has quietly dropped talk of basing itself on the African continent.African nations have more reason than most to be sceptical of major powers' intentions, to be sure, but what does it say that they're more afraid of American hegemony than of the terrorist menace?
Largely carved out of U.S. European Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, the new Africa Command (Africom) will stay there for now as its leaders try to switch the debate away from the controversial headquarters issue and on to the "added value" it aims to bring to Africa.
"In the near to mid-term, and for the foreseeable future, we're going to be here and from here we can do all the activities that we need to do with our African partners," Africom's deputy commander, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, said in an interview on Monday in Stuttgart.
Where U.S. officials once spoke confidently of plans to base the command in Africa, shared between several countries, they now stress the multiple conditions that would need to be fulfilled.
"If it's in the desire and the interests of our African partners in that regard then we'll look for an opportunity to do that where it makes sense to do so, but only obviously where we're invited," Moeller said.
The caution stems from the unwelcoming reaction of several African nations, including regional powers South Africa and Nigeria, to the notion of Africom setting up on their patch.
Africom found itself having to justify its ambitious mission -- in Bush's words, to promote peace, security and "our common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa" -- in the face of widespread opposition and scepticism.
Critics have suggested its real motives are thirst for oil -- West African producers are expected to supply a quarter of U.S. consumption by 2015 -- and the desire to counter growing Chinese influence on the continent.