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US Africa command will aid security: general
WASHINGTON, 15 November 2007 - The head of the new US military command for Africa vowed Wednesday that it would not interfere with peacekeeping efforts across the continent amid some hostility there to the project.
"We will do everything in our power not to disrupt or confuse current security and stabilizing efforts in Africa," said General William Ward, in his first testimony to the House of Representatives as head of the regional command AFRICOM.
AFRICOM currently operates from Germany under the US European command, but will become a fully operational command by October next year.
The general said commanders were assessing various places in Africa to find a safe spot for the headquarters, but nowhere had been chosen yet.
He said the command's goal was that by October 2008 "some element of the headquarters would be operating on the continent."
It does not plan to put new forces in Africa, but is looking for a country there to host headquarters for its staff.
Some 1,500 US troops are currently in Djibouti, neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia, on "anti-terror" operations in the Horn of Africa.
Ward was confirmed in September as head of the command, which aims to provide security assistance to African countries and help train their forces.
"We will work to support ongoing US government efforts while finding additional ways to improve security-related programs," Ward said Wednesday in his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
"USAFRICOM will directly contribute to enabling Africans to achieve stability and security."
African countries had previously been covered by three different regional commands for the US military.
"There are no new (military) bases envisaged in AFRICOM and there are no new combat troops," Ryan Henry, a senior Defense Department policy official told Wednesday's hearing.
Henry also moved to soothe hostility voiced by some African countries to the project, due to what he called "misperceptions" and "myths."
He rejected claims that it will make the host country a target for anti-US terrorism, or that the United States is looking to grab oil or destabilize Africa by vying with China for influence there.
"The creation of Africom does not foreshadow a militarization of foreign policy," Henry said.Source: AFP