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American Forces Press Service

AFRICOM Helps Partners Confront Stability Challenges

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2007 – The U.S. military’s unified command responsible for operations across Africa will help nations there confront poverty, disease, terrorism and other challenges that affect regional security and stability, U.S. officials said here yesterday.

However, U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiatives will “support, not supplant, African leadership,” Christopher R. Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told U.S. House Armed Services Committee members at a Capitol Hill hearing.

“The Department of Defense recognizes and applauds the leadership role that Africans, both on a regional and individual basis, and also the African Union, are taking to promote security and stability,” Henry said. “We seek to complement these efforts in a supporting role, not to compete with them in a leadership role.”

AFRICOM marked the startup of its initial operations Oct. 1. For now, the command is collocated with U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Plans are for AFRICOM to be fully established as a separate unified command by Sept. 30. Plans are to eventually base the command’s headquarters somewhere in Africa.

The new command was created “to consolidate and focus the work of the Department of Defense and to enable us to better support United States policy in Africa,” said Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, AFRICOM’s commander.

AFRICOM “will add value to America’s security cooperation projects and the delivery of American security assistance programs in Africa, thus making them more efficient as (well as) responsive,” Ward said.

Twenty-three separate African ambassadors to the African Union have voiced overwhelming support for AFRICOM’s objectives, he said.

AFRICOM officials wants relationships with the command’s partners to be based on mutual trust, respect and confidence, Ward said. The command, he added, will continue to support medical- and disaster-preparedness exercises and communications interoperability efforts.

“It is in our national interests to build an enduring organization designed to enhance our government’s capacity to help Africans care for their stability, development and prosperity,” Ward said.

AFRICOM also will support the U.S. State Department in the training of African peacekeepers as part of the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program, Ward said.

Africa is a place of promise and opportunity that’s linked to the United States through culture, history and commerce, said Stephen Mull, acting assistant secretary of state, bureau of political-military affairs, who also testified at the House hearing.

Yet, the African continent also is “a place of severe challenges, such as poverty, disease terrorism and instability, that all pose critical risks for U.S. interests,” Mull pointed out.

The U.S. State Department will partner with AFRICOM in assisting Africans to realize improved regional security through employment of more efficient methods to provide emergency humanitarian assistance and in responding to other potential crises, Mull said.

AFRICOM will not, however, “take the place of the Department of State and of U.S. embassies in the field as the voice of American foreign policy in our relationships with African states and organizations,” Mull emphasized.

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