STUTTGART, Germany, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, wants more U.S. National Guard partnerships with Africa.
"The State Partnership Program is one of the most important tools that we have in our collective kit bag," Ham said in Botswana. "And we see that certainly here between North Carolina and Botswana, where it is hugely powerful.
"I would like to get two more (additional partnerships) this year and maybe two more next year and then see how that might unfold."
Ham added that he has asked National Guard Bureau chief, U.S. Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, to consider developing additional partnerships with interested African nations, U.S. Department of Defense United States Africa Command reported.
Earlier this year Ham told the Senate Armed Services Committee Libya could be a good candidate for the partnership program.
After World War II, the U.S. military divided the world into a series of Unified Combatant Commands. These included include U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Central Command, covering most of Eurasia.
In 2008 they were joined by a fifth UCC when the U.S. Africa Command became operational.
Except for Egypt, which remains under CENTCOM administration, AFRICOM is responsible for overseeing U.S. military operations and relations across Africa and the island nations of Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Prior to the establishment of AFRICOM, responsibility for continental Africa was divided between EUCOM and CENTCOM, while PACOM had responsibility for Madagascar, the Comoros and Mauritius.
AFRICOM's stated intention was to strengthen "security cooperation with Africa and creating opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa."
In March the Libya conflict marked AFRICOM's inaugural military combat operation, with the AFRICOM Libyan deployment joining CENTCOM military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as the third major U.S. combat operation in the Muslim world since 2001.
The North Carolina Guard has worked with Botswana under AFRICOM's State Partnership Program since 2008. Besides Botswana, AFRICOM has a number of National Guard partnerships with African states. The California National Guard is working with Nigeria, the New York Guard with South Africa, the North Dakota National Guard with Ghana, the Michigan National Guard with Liberia, the Vermont National Guard with Senegal, the Utah National Guard with Morocco and the Wyoming National Guard with Tunisia.
The AFRICOM program isn't without its African detractors, however. African critics remain skeptical about AFRICOM 's true intentions, arguing that furthering access to Africa's vast natural resources, particularly oil in the west of the continent as well as countering China's massive investment in the continent over the last decade are the U.S. primary strategic interests there.