AFRICOM HQ Won't Be In Africa
Ending months of speculation over where the headquarters for AFRICOM, the new unified combatant command for Africa, would be located, a definitive answer has been reached. AFRICOM will remain in Stuttgart, Germany, AFRICOM's base of operations since the command's inception. This question has been long running as a number of African countries came out in strong opposition to having the base in or anywhere near their territory. Liberia, the tiny country founded by repatriated American slaves on the Gulf of Guinea, was the only African nation to openly express a desire to host the headquarters facility. This question of location was a major distraction amid efforts to get AFRICOM up and running smoothly. According to an AFRICOM official:
Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the Stuttgart, Germany-based command known as Africom, told The Associated Press that "the discussion of where we will place the headquarters has been so animated and apprehensive that it is getting in the way of our programs."
In actuality, such an arrangement is not all that unusual. Central Command (CENTCOM), the command running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has its main headquarters in Tampa, Florida, while Southern Command, responsible for Central and South America, is located in Miami, Florida. In related news, President Bush is on the last legs of a several day trip to Africa. During the course of his visit, the establishment of AFRICOM was a major issue and Bush sought to allay fears among Africans that AFRICOM represents an effort to militarize US relations with the continent. What has apparently been unclear to these individuals is that Africa was previously covered by three commands, European Command, Central Command, and Pacific Command. The creation of AFRICOM as a means to concentrate responsibility for Africa under one roof is not a radical departure from previous policy. This appears to be getting overlooked in much of the concern over the command. President Bush responded to these concerns in his characteristic style:
"The purpose of this is not to add military bases," Bush said without being asked at the opening of a session with reporters here. "I know there's rumors in Ghana -- 'All Bush is coming to do is try to convince you to put a big military base here.' That's baloney. Or as we say in Texas,that's bull."
Amid the consternation about AFRICOM, much of the humanitarian work performed in Africa over the course of the current administration was overlooked. For example, Bush announced a new $350 million program to combat elephantiasis, hookworm and river blindness, not to mention previous large investments for HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa.