Gen­eral de­fends Africa com­mand, says aim is con­sol­i­da­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Sara A. Carter

The head of U.S. Africa Com­mand as­sured con­gres­sional lead­ers Nov. 14 that a new mil­i­tar y com­mand str uc­ture in Africa is nec­es­sary to con­sol­i­date the De­par tment of De­fense’s work on the con­ti­nent, which had been pre­vi­ously dis­trib­uted among three dif­fer­ent com­mands.

Gen. William “Kip” Ward said be­fore the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that a mil­i­tary com­mand pres­ence would not disr upt on­go­ing peace pro­cesses or lead to mil­i­ta­riza­tion in the re­gion.

“We will do ev­ery­thing in our power not to dis­rupt or con­fuse cur­rent se­cu­rity and sta­bi­liz­ing ef­forts in Africa,” Gen. Ward said. “As you are aware, cur­rently, U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand do ac­tiv­i­ties on the con­ti­nent.”

The Afr ica Com­mand, dubbed Africom, op­er­ates from Ger­many and will be fully op­er­a­tional by Oc­to­ber 2008. Gen. Ward said that a per­ma­nent lo- cation for the com­mand staff on the African con­ti­nent has not been se­lected.

Nearly 1,500 Amer ican troops — mainly fo­cused on anti-ter­ror ef­forts — op­er­ate on the con­ti­nent.

Ryan Henry, a se­nior De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cial, said mis­con­cep­tions about AFRICOM are based on “myths” and that the de­par tment is work­ing closely with its African part­ners to al­le­vi­ate any wor­ries re­gard­ing the com­mand’s role.

“There are no new bases en­vi­sioned in Africom, and there are no new com­bat troops,” Mr. Henry said. “The sec­ond set of myths swirl around the claim that Africom is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of a mil­i­ta­riza­tion of for­eign pol­icy, the Pen­tagon’s ef­fort to make in­roads in the area of for­eign pol­icy. This is also false. Africom will not change the State De­part­ment’s role as the lead in for­eign pol­icy.”

Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and rank­ing mem­ber of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said that sta­bil­ity in Africa has “sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the in­ter­na­tional secu- r ity en­vi­ron­ment, and es­pe­cially the global war on ter­ror.”

In Fe­bru­ary, the Pen­tagon an­nounced its es­tab­lish­ment of a sep­a­rate U.S. Africa Com­mand be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said in con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony that the new com­mand is to over­see mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Africa and that the pres­i­dent “has de­cided to stand-up a new uni­fied, com­bat­ant com­mand.”

Op­er­a­tions in African cur­rently are “di­vided among three com­bat­ant com­mands: U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, which has re­spon­si­bil­ity for most of the na­tions in the African main­land ex­cept in the Horn of Africa; U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, which has re­spon­si­bil­ity for Egypt, Su­dan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Dji­bouti, So­ma­lia and Kenya; and U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, which has re­spon­si­bil­ity for Mada­gas­car, the Sey­chelles and the In­dian Ocean area off the African coast,” ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of De­fense.

Mr. Gates said this was an “out­dated ar­range­ment” left over from the Cold War.

Katie Falkenberg / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward, head of the Pen­tagon’s new U.S. Africa Com­mand, as­sured Congress Nov. 14 that Africom would stream­line mil­i­tary af­fairs, not mil­i­ta­rize for­eign pol­icy.

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