The US military will assign a US Army combat brigade to the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) next year in a pilot program that will send small teams of soldiers to countries around the African continent to do training and participate in military exercises.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the US Army’s chief of staff, says the plan is part of a new effort to provide US commanders around the globe with troops on a rotational basis to meet the military needs of their regions.
This pilot program sends troops to an area that has become a greater priority for the Obama administration since it includes several nations where terrorist groups are an increasing threat to the US and the region.
Odierno says a brigade from the regular 10th Mountain Division will take on the new task. Three of the division’s four brigades are based at Fort Drum, New York, with the divisional headquarters and the fourth is at Fort Polk in Louisiana. There are no indications in the AP report that the new mission will affect location.
AFRICOM was established in October 2008 amid considerable controversy on the continent to coordinate US military assistance across the continent, a task previously shared between its European, Central (Horn of Africa) and Pacific Commands (Indian Ocean Islands). Critics insisted it amounted to the “militarisation” of US foreign policy in Africa. The US insisted otherwise.
The command is currently headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany following a campaign by some African countries, including South Africa, to prevent its establishment in Africa. Liberia had publicly offered to host some part of the command. Then-US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Theresa Whalen told the US Congress in 2008 there were no plans to establish large, permanent military bases in Africa. At the time there were some 1500 military and contractor personnel are based in Djibouti, where they “have been well received”, Whelan said. There are now also US Air Force personnel in Ethiopia and US Special Forces in Uganda.