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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Pentagon eyes Liberia in Africa rethink
Nick Childs
By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

US assessment forces arrive in Liberia
Many Liberians want the US military to intervene

The United States military may be looking somewhat warily at a peacekeeping role in Liberia.

But more broadly, there is a new Pentagon focus on Africa after years of neglect.

The Pentagon was scarred by the peacekeeping debacle in Somalia in the early 1990s.

For years, Africa was also seen as something of a strategic ghetto with few vital security interests to worry Washington.

Initially, the Bush administration looked as if it would be even cooler towards the region.

But since the 11 September attacks on the US, it has been much more concerned about unstable parts of the continent as potential breeding grounds for terrorism.

For months now, the top US commander in Europe, Marine Corps General James Jones - Nato's top operational commander - has been hinting that both the US and the alliance could focus more on Africa.

He suggested, for example, US aircraft carriers spending more time in the waters off Africa.

Accessing Africa

As part of a wider Pentagon re-think of what it calls its 'global footprint', other US officials have talked of seeking more base access and pursuing more training exercises in the region.

At the same time, the Americans insist they are not seeking permanent bases there; and it is all very modest compared to US commitments in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Also, a greater US security interest clearly would not be universally welcomed in the region.

And for Washington, there is the caution that its most overt new commitment there - a presence in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa - so far seems to have yielded little in terms of tangible results in the Americans' so-called "war on terrorism."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"Africa's been seen as a weak link in the war on terror"



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