US Military Leaders Give Details of New Africa Command

The U.S. military released more details Friday about its plans for a new Africa Command center or AFRICOM. The center is going to coordinate U.S. military activities for almost all of the African continent. VOA's Marissa Melton reports.

Rear Admiral Robert Moeller told members of the foreign press in Washington Friday that the new African command center will pull together responsibilities for Africa that had formerly been divided up among U.S. Central Command in the U.S. state of Florida, U.S. Pacific Command in the Pacific island state of Hawaii, and U.S. European Command, located in Germany.

"Three geographic combatant commands have responsibility for the continent, with the European command having the largest number of countries with whom they work. When we get to a full operational capability, AFRICOM will be responsible for the entire continent, less Egypt."

Moeller said U.S. Central Command will continue to handle Egypt, along with the Middle Eastern countries, as it has in the past.

The command center is meant to coordinate military activities as well as help with humanitarian aid operations conducted by U.S. government agencies such as the State Department and USAID. Officials say AFRICOM troops will also train African peacekeeping troops and help establish stability in troubled areas.

Moeller is transition team leader for the new project. He said a location for the new center has not been decided yet, but discussions on that will start right away. "We anticipate beginning soon, within a matter of weeks most likely, a series of detailed conversations with countries around the continent to get their perspective on this idea of a headquarters location on the continent," he said.

One reporter asked if the decision to establish AFRICOM resulted from some worldwide "scramble for Africa," a struggle for economic or political power on the continent. Another asked if the center would be a headquarters for anti-terror investigations. Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant defense secretary for Africa, said a flat "no" to both.

"The purpose of this command is to help promote greater security, cooperation, and dialogue between ourselves and our African partners. That's the intent. To build capacity within Africa for security because security is the framework, the foundation, of stability required for economic development, social development. So this isn't about chasing terrorists around Africa," she said.

The transition team, led by Moeller, is working now at the European Command Center to start merging the operations of the three command centers that have been handling African affairs. AFRICOM is expected to begin operations later this year. President Bush has said he wants the command center to be fully operational by September of next year.

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