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Vol 42 No 21

Published 26th October 2001

Washington's new pragmatism

Forget the broad principles, Bush's people prefer trade, practical details and anti-terrorism

Africa will see little of the billions of dollars being pumped into the United States' military, diplomatic and intelligence services since the 11 September attacks. However, already there is a new shift in Washington's Africa policy. The idea - current in Republican circles after George W. Bush's disputed election win last December - that Washington doesn't need an Africa policy because the USA has no strategic interests on the continent has been quickly junked (AC Vol 41 No 25). From the killing fields of Algeria and the El Gama'a el Islamiya bases in Egypt to the hosts of Usama bin Laden and Al Qaida in Sudan and Somalia, Washington has rapidly identified a range of strategic interests in Africa. Meeting journalists in London on 17 October, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Walter H. Kansteiner III, called the counter-terrorism campaign 'the topic I deal with most'. Washington's new internationalism will be pragmatic. Money, arms and diplomatic muscle will be available to undermine Islamist and terrorist groups across Africa, especially in the north, and there will be a more constructive attitude to the United Nations. Washington's interest in conflicts, however (such as those of Congo-Kinshasa or Sierra Leone-Liberia), is seen as less strategic and may wane further. States regarded as at risk from Islamist subversion such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya will move to the top of Washington's watch-list, along with Algeria, Morocco and Egypt. The National Islamic Front regime in Sudan, (former) hosts to Al Qaida and headquarters of the Islamist International, is in another category.

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