Africa is a region of renewed interest for American foreign-policy elites, both in and out of government. The purpose of this paper is twofold: to explore American foreign-policy elites' assessments of Africa before and after 11 September 2001, and to analyze how these assessments have been translated into American foreign policy toward Africa. The analysis is based on a review of government, think-tank, and other publications and transcripts associated with American foreign-policy elites, including the journal Foreign Affairs. Special focus is given to the strategic ranking and assessment of foreign countries within a global geopolitical code, or mental map of priority areas for U.S. military, economic, and diplomatic resources and engagement. American foreign-policy elites' assessments of Africa have shifted substantially since the 1990s, when the continent was largely regarded as quite marginal to American interests. Since late 2001, concerns about failed and failing states have emerged as a central theme in American foreign-policy elites' assessment of Africa and other parts of the developing world. Concerns about the nexus of transnational Islamist terrorism and failing states have prompted many such elites to call for a grand American geopolitical program of nation-building and military decentralization. To date, the United States has taken only small steps to align its foreign policy toward Africa. Significant tensions and contradictions limiting the execution of a new grand strategy remain.