If there's one corner of the world that the Pentagon has ignored, it has to be Africa. Not North Africa so much. Places like Libya and Egypt have had plenty of attention from America's military. A little further south though, in "deepest, darkest" (read: blackest) Africa, not so much.
Barely a decade ago the Pentagon dismissed Africa in a one-liner: “Ultimately we see very little traditional strategic interest in Africa.” What a difference a decade makes. Today the Pentagon has its very own branch, AFRICOM or Africa Command, that's now seeking to establish fully two dozen permanent bases throughout the continent. That's a heap of "strategic interest." So what happened to make the Pentagon change its outlook on Africa. China. China happened.
Africa has, let's call them for the sake of argument "resources." Natural resources and pretty reasonable quantities of them to boot. While America ignored Africa, taking its access to African resources for granted, China saw its opportunity to fill the vacuum. In it went.
A week after Chinese President Hu Jintao began a high-profile, eight-country African tour, during which he signed more than 50 cooperation agreements and pledged to double China’s assistance to Africa by 2009, Bush announced the creation of AFRICOM.
The Chinese moves have Bush's neo-con faithful doing it in their pants. The neo-con Heritage Foundation issued this warning: “The United States must be alert to the potential long-term disruption of American access to important raw materials and energy sources as these resources are ‘locked up’ by Chinese firms.”
The US projects that African petroleum could make up 25% of America's oil imports by 2015. That is unless China gets that oil that it too desperately wants locked up before then.
Now, as for AFRICOM, US officials have said it "..isn’t about chasing terrorists around Africa”; “AFRICOM isn’t going to be used to protect natural resources”. Strangely enough, they haven't actually said what AFRICOM is about. Go figure.