General defends Africa command, says aim is consolidation
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.
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.