Rumsfeld favours US military command for Africa

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Friday he favours creating a new United States military command responsible for Africa, as the Pentagon aims to guard against potential threats to US security arising from the continent.

Rumsfeld said he and Marine Corps General Peter Pace, chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have pressed the military for six months for a proposal on setting up a command focused solely on Africa. Pace said Rumsfeld is due to receive a formal recommendation within a couple weeks.

“Pete and I are for it,” Rumsfeld said during a question-and-answer session with Pentagon employees.

The US military assigns responsibility for specific parts of the world to regional commands such as Central Command, which handles the Middle East, Central Asia and Horn of Africa and currently oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Responsibility for Africa is fractured among three of these: European Command, Central Command and Pacific Command.

Pentagon officials have expressed an awareness of the growing strategic importance of Africa and potential threats to US security emerging from the continent’s many war-ravaged regions and huge expanses of ungoverned territory.

Pace specifically voiced concern about the al-Qaeda network’s designs on Africa, among other regions.

“That challenge is there. We need to arrange ourselves in a way to address that challenge,” Pace added.

Al-Qaeda, responsible for the 2001 attacks on the United States, is believed to have a presence in East and North Africa, and Islamic fundamentalism appears to be increasing in some parts of the continent.

Pace said Marine Corps General James Jones, head of European Command, was formulating the recommendation.
Pace said options available include a full-blown regional command for Africa or something short of that like United States Forces Korea, responsible for the Korean Peninsula under Pacific Command.

A US military task force in the Horn of Africa, headquartered in Djibouti, has about 1 800 troops, with a counterterrorism mission. - Reuters