Morocco bids to host base for new U.S. Africa Command
Source: WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, February 8, 2007
RABAT, Morocco — Morocco hopes to host the new U.S. military command planned for Africa.
Officials said the North African kingdom intends to offer a home to the new African Command as part of expanded military cooperation with the United States. They said Morocco represents the most stable country on the African continent.
"We have the infrastructure as well as the society that accepts foreigners," an official said. "It would be a good choice and we hope to discuss this seriously with our friends in Washington."
On Feb. 6, the Defense Department announced a new U.S. Africa Command, known as Africom. The command would coordinate virtually all of the U.S. military and security interests throughout the continent.
"This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa," President George Bush said. "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa."
Until now, Morocco and most of North Africa was in U.S. European Command. Egypt was in Central Command, while other African states came under the umbrella of Pacific Command in an arrangement Defense Secretary Robert Gates said stemmed from the Cold War.
Under the presidential order, Africom would be created by October 2008, but would exclude Egypt, which would remain in Centcom. The chief of the command would be a four-star military officer equal to other regional U.S. commanders.
"Much of its [Egypt's] activity and focus is focused toward the Middle East," Defense Undersecretary Ryan Henry told a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday. "One of the difficulties in setting up any combatant command is the issue of what we refer to as seams, wherever you draw a line, then there's a break there. So one of the things that we'll be going and looking forward to with the idea that, for the time being, that Egypt would be in Central Command is look at innovative ways to overcome that seam and perhaps take some approaches that we haven't tried in the past."
Officials said the temporary home of Africom would be in Stuttgart, Germany, the headquarters of U.S. European Command. The Pentagon, however, plans to locate the command headquarters in an African nation while determining whether and what kind of military forces would be assigned permanently to Africom.
"I think that will depend in large part upon the missions and the task that we have for Africom," Gen. Walter Sharp, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. "It will change over time. As we work with the countries in Africa and see our ability and their need to be able to help them build their capacities, we'll have forces going in and out on exercises and then out on training missions as it goes through."
Morocco has hosted U.S. military exercises and simulations as part of bilateral and regional military and counter-insurgency efforts. But officials said they doubted that the Pentagon would agree to station Africom in the kingdom.
"We would very much want the U.S. military to come here, but the feeling is that the African Command will be in sub-Saharan Africa," an official said.
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