What anthropologists should know about AFRICOM

Our discipline is facing a demand for research on behalf of military and security agencies on a scale not seen since WWII. However, the new Minerva research programme does not involve fully independent peer review at arm’s length from the Pentagon, rendering any invitation to anthropologists to offer truly independent critical approaches moot. One of anthropology’s strengths is independent regional expertise, including command of languages and close familiarity with peoples from all over the world.

If the Pentagon wants anthropologists, it needs to convince them that it has a positive influence in the regions anthropologists know so well. In this respect, as North Africa specialists Jeremy Keenan and Catherine Besteman argue, the US military has a long way to go. US pursuit of the ‘global war on terror’, and its linking of a narrow military idea of security to develop-ment, have had an adverse impact and already destabilized many African countries.