“We’re going to focus more on the threats to national security,” Navy Capt. Edward Bradfield, AFRICOM’s regional chief for western and central Africa told the media after the US Defense announced deep cuts in spending, due to US budget constraints.
The cuts will not only impact several AFRICOM programs initiated under the concept of “soft power” military strategy, but also may eliminate most of the social programs especially in the areas of healthcare provided to African countries. One of those programs at risk is the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment for armed troops in some 31 African countries.
Among the countries to be impacted by the cuts are Rwanda and Uganda. Rwanda and Uganda have among the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the World among their military. AFRICOM has been footing most of the healthcare bill for the Rwandan military units, especially those involved in peace keeping operations in Sudan and Haiti.
On Monday August 15, 2011, David Knack, AFRICOM strategy specialist, told African health care workers invited on a five-day conference in Stuttgart, Germany where AFRICOM is headquartered, that AFRICOM will most certainly focus on protecting the US homeland and preventing terrorist safe havens on African continent than on the controversial social programs.
AFRICOM officials made clear that if and when the US Defense funds HIV/AIDS programs, these will have to be linked directly to U.S. national security interests.
David Knack insisted that AFRICOM is first and foremost a branch of the US military and that their job will be just that: “We’re the American military. That’s our job.”
The emphasis will hence be put on “building the capacity of African militaries to deal with threats such as al-Shabab in Somalia, al-Qaida-affiliated groups across the Maghreb region, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa” and on situations such as Libya where rebels supported by AFRICOM and NATO are about to topple the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
AFRICOM will continues to support operations keeping missions such as MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and peacekeepers in Somalia, Haiti, Sudan, and elsewhere, because, according to David Knack, “HIV/ AIDS is a big problem because militaries that are highly infected can’t do peacekeeping.”
Already, top officials in some African countries, such as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Ethiopia whose military health budgets relied heavily on AFRICOM have started to worry. These are the countries where HIV/AIDS prevalence among the military and their families remains very high, with at least one out of 10 troops being infected.
©2011. AfroAmerica Network.