Africa Command to be Based in Germany
Noah Shachtman is somewhat surprised to learn that the U.S. military’s new unified Africa Command will not be based, as its name suggests, in Africa but rather in Stuttgart, Germany.
The U.S. military’s newest command, Africa Command, could have only a small minority of its people actually working on the continent. Theresa Whelan, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, told a Washington- based think tank last week that 80 percent of the command’s staff would live outside of Africa. Whelan did not say where the majority of staff would be located, but the command, called AFRICOM, is currently forming up in Stuttgart, Germany. The Defense Department has previously called Stuttgart a temporary headquarters for AFRICOM.
When asked for further information on where the command’s employees would be located, Vince Crawley, a spokesman with the AFRICOM Transition Team in Stuttgart, said the structure and eventual location of the command is being debated at different levels of the U.S. government. “There’s a lot of discussion,” Crawley said. “You could keep your (80 percent) rear area in Stuttgart, you could move it to somewhere else in Europe, you could move it to somewhere else in the United States, or to some other area that hasn’t even been discussed yet. The decision is on the table that 20 percent would be in Africa, and where do you put the rest? And the 20 percent represents secretary Whelan’s best understanding of the thinking as of last week.”
The command is expected to employ 800 or more people, including active-duty servicemembers and civilians. The Defense Department has said that nonmilitary personnel, such as representatives from the State Department, would serve influential roles in the command. On the giant continent, the department is planning to establish a main office with five “regional integration teams,” one for each of the African Union’s five regional economic communities.
While rather amusing on its face, it should be recalled that the responsibilities that AFRICOM will assume are now and have for decades been performed by the European Command (EUCOM). Indeed, as the AFRICOM website notes,
In October 2007, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is slated to be structured as a sub-unified command to U.S. European Command. It is expected to be a fully unified command able to handle all responsibilities about a year later. AFRICOM will eventually have responsibility for the entire continent of Africa, except Egypt and the surrounding islands.
It certainly makes sense to have it based in Stuttgart, then, during the transitional period. Does it make sense to base it in Africa down the road? Possibly. But there are all manner of logistical concerns that come from this, including the issue of family members. Certainly, it’s a lot easier to provide proper accommodations for spouses and children in Western Europe.
Recall, too, that we’re currently fighting not one but two wars in the territory controlled by Central Command (CENTCOM). Its headquarters? Tampa, Florida.