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STUTTGART, Germany — With all due respect, AFRICOM is not needed whatsoever in Nigeria or anywhere else in the West African sub-Sahara.

That is according to “Olaopin in Unspecified,” and it says so on the recently launched blog on the U.S. Africa Command’s Web site.

The blog began Dec. 21 with a posting by Gen. William E. Ward, the AFRICOM commander. As of Friday afternoon, “African Dialogue” had received just 15 postings.

But like AFRICOM, it’s a work in progress, according to command spokesman Vince Crawley.

“We’re consulting with people at the diplomatic level and at the military-to-military level, and this is a way to hear from the public level,” Crawley said.

AFRICOM was announced in February as a way to consolidate U.S. military activities on the continent under one command.

Ward himself initiated the idea for a blog, according to Crawley, who said it reinforces Ward’s goal for AFRICOM to be a “listening organization.”

“It’s interesting to see the international voices in this,” Crawley said. “It’s not just a bunch of soldiers saying, ‘Way to go.’”

But there are a few.

Heidelberg-based Chief Warrant Officer 3 Valerie Brooks, for example, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan, called the 11-month-old command a “great and much needed move to help assist with making the lives of the people of Africa better and safer.”

Michael Noonan, managing director of the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute’s national security program, said the blog likely represents an effort by AFRICOM to be “quasi-transparent.”

He added that the blog also could serve as a clearinghouse for innovative, outside thinking.

“Perhaps they’re trying to establish more open lines of communications, especially with some African states wary of what kind of command it is going to be,” Noonan said.

Government agencies have been slower than private companies to adopt blogs, according to Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based technology think tank.

“But they (governments) are catching on, partly as a way to help government leaders get their messages across,” Atkinson said in an e-mailed response.

“One advantage of blogs is that they provide a way for organizations to get their message out quickly — often in response to some other information that is being presented or some event that is happening — and in an easy to use, informal way.”


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