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New US Africa Command Won't Have Its Own Troops

The U.S. military officer responsible for building the new command for Africa says it will not have its own contingent of combat troops, as other U.S. regional commands do. In a VOA interview, said the creation of Africa Command will not necessarily increase U.S. military activity on the continent. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

Admiral Robert Moeller says Africa Command will take responsibility for current U.S. military activities on the continent, mainly the counter-terrorism task force based in Djibouti. But he says continuing training missions and any other U.S. military activity in Africa will still come from troops based elsewhere, and exactly who will command them while they're in Africa is still being discussed.

"The exact details of how we would work through operational situations like that will be something that we'll work out over time. But we would not anticipate, in other words, having forces in advance, as such, for one thing or another. So it would be a case-by-case basis of forces that we would draw upon for one thing or another, should that be required," he said.

Admiral Moeller heads the Africa Command transition team, based at European Command headquarters in Germany. By September, the team is to become a sub-command and it is expected to have a senior general or admiral in charge. A year later, Africa Command will formally become a separate entity, responsible for all U.S. military activity on the continent, except for Egypt, which will remain under the responsibility of Central Command.

But Admiral Moeller says many of the details are still under discussion, including where Africa Command will have its headquarters, who will lead it and exactly when it will take responsibility for the taskforce in Djibouti and possibly other U.S. military activity on the continent.

The admiral also stressed that civilian U.S. government agencies will play a larger role in Africa Command than they play at other U.S. regional commands. Still, he says it makes sense for the organization to be a military command because, he says, it will not be making policy or taking the lead in diplomatic relations with African countries. "What we are doing is better organizing ourselves to provide a lot of support for those activities, those agencies, that in fact do have the lead and will retain the lead for a lot of activities that occur across the continent today," he said.

Those activities include counter-terrorism efforts, fighting AIDS, training local armies and navies, and supporting regional military efforts like the African Union force in Darfur. Admiral Moeller says as time goes on, and with a whole command focusing on Africa, there could be some expansion of U.S. military activity on the continent, but he does not anticipate a dramatic increase in the near term.