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US Commander Recommends Possible US Military Facilities in Africa - 2003-10-10

The commander of the U.S. military's European Command says he has made proposals to the Bush administration for establishing new facilities in Africa.

General James Jones declines to say what specific locations in Africa he has recommended to the Bush administration as sites for possible future U.S. military facilities.

But speaking at the Pentagon, General Jones says his plan for setting up what are called Forward Operating Locations is part of an overall effort intended to help U.S. forces in Europe, postured in the past to meet a Soviet threat, to now meet 21st century challenges, including possible threats from Africa.

"Large ungoverned areas which are potential havens for the terrorists of the world and the future merchants of all kinds of things we are trying to do battle with," he said. "It is a huge continent and there are many places for this type of activity to go on so we are examining it, we're calling more attention to it and we think it's a source of future difficulty."

General Jones says the European Command's proposals are now being weighed within the administration and could be subject to change. But he says the proposal stresses the potential utility of having such facilities.

"What we tried to do is explain the utility of Forward Operating Bases and Locations in this very dynamic century we're moving into as an example of how we can achieve strategic effect, greater engagement with the more focused use of rotational type forces which is a growing concept within the Army, the Navy and the Air Force of the United States and the Marines," said General Jones.

The Pentagon already has special arrangements at various locations around Africa, including a two-decade old access agreement with Kenya for ports and airfields.

It also has what is termed an "intermediate staging base" in Senegal, which is one of the U.S. military's so-called "fuel hubs."

Additional fuel hubs for U.S. forces are located in Gabon, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia.

But a senior Pentagon official told VOA earlier this year defense officials were considering an expansion of this network of facilities.

The official said Mali, Ethiopia and Eritrea had all approached the United States to offer facilities. One top U.S. military commander suggested Sao Tome might also be an ideal location.

But the senior official emphasized there are no plans to establish any permanent U.S. bases or even to station U.S. military personnel in Africa to oversee these facilities.

Forward Operating Locations are not permanent military bases. They are instead facilities that could be used temporarily if needed in an emergency. They might consist of hangars or other warehouse type equipment storage buildings along with fuel facilities. They would not be continuously occupied by U.S. military personnel.

The only sizeable U.S. military presence in Africa is in Djibouti, where some 1,800 personnel have been deployed in connection with the war on terrorism. But that base is considered temporary.

Other U.S. forces gathered off the coast of Liberia earlier this year to assist in a West African peacekeeping operation. But that was a short-term, emergency activity.