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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 18:01 GMT
Uncertainty over US Africa force
By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC News, Addis Ababa

General William Ward
General William Ward is Africom's first commander
The officer commanding the US Armed Forces' newly created Africa Command has said it will not lead to a militarisation of their Africa policy.

Speaking after meeting African Union leaders in Ethiopia's capital, Africom commander General William Ward also denied the initiative would lead to establishing military bases, or the stationing of troops on the continent.

Ever since the US government announced the creation of Africom, rumours have been swirling about what it would mean.

There has been a lot of speculation about a new US interest in Africa, because of its oil, the threat of terrorism, or competition from China.

And there has also been an assumption that Africom would have a physical presence on the continent, in the form of some kind of base.

Countries have been queuing up to say whether they would (or more often would not) be prepared to host it.

General Ward clearly sees his visit to the AU as a chance to clear up some misconceptions.

What this was about, he said, was merely "doing the same things the US military was doing already, but doing them in a better coordinated and a more cohesive way".

"We don't come here and just do things because we want to do things, we come and do things to assist our African partners in increasing their capacity, their capability to provide a stable environment here in Africa."

"Any notion of a militarisation of the continent because of this? Absolutely false; not the case," added General Ward.

As to the vexed question of where Africom headquarters would be based, General Ward said there had so far been no reversal of initial suggestions that it would be sited on the continent.

But he said that thinking had evolved since then, although no final decision had yet been made.

Africom takes over the work currently done by three different command centres, all of them based outside Africa.

US to get Africa command centre
06 Feb 07 |  Americas
Profile: Lt Gen William Ward
07 Feb 05 |  Americas

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