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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 21:37 GMT
US to get Africa command centre
US troops stationed in the Horn of Africa
The US already has an anti-terror task force in Djibouti
President George W Bush has approved a Pentagon plan for a command centre for Africa to oversee US military activities on the continent.

"This new command will strengthen our security co-operation with Africa," President Bush said.

Mr Bush said he had asked Defence Secretary Robert Gates to get the new command, known as Africom, up and running by the end of September 2008.

He said the US would consult African leaders on the command's base.

Mr Gates said the new Africa Command would allow the US to better co-ordinate action and counter potential threats.

The US gets more than 10% of its oil from Africa and is worried about increased economic and diplomatic competition from China, the BBC's defence and security correspondent Rob Watson reports.

There are also a variety of US security and humanitarian concerns ranging from the potential rise of militant Islam to the threat of failed states and the spectre of future genocides, our correspondent says.

The Pentagon has voiced concern about potential threats, including terrorist threats that could emerge in war-torn areas such as Somalia.

US forces carried out at least two air strikes in Somalia last month, targeting suspected al-Qaeda militants.

Africa Command would be the fifth regional operations base for the US.

Unlike other regional US commands, the Africa command will not be about preparing troops for major combat operations, as no African nation poses a direct military threat.

Rather, US officials say, it will focus on military training operations designed to help local governments.

'Outdated arrangement'

Responsibility for Africa operations is currently divided among three regional commands.

It was unclear whether the new command centre would be located in Africa or the United States, as are the US Central Command, the Southern Command, and the Pacific Command.

The US currently has an anti-terror task force based in Djibouti.

Mr Gates revealed the new plans as he addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee on the defence spending President Bush proposed in his 2008 budget, submitted to Congress on Monday.

"This command will enable us to have a more effective and integrated approach than the current arrangement... an outdated arrangement left over from the Cold War," Mr Gates said.

He said the Africa command centre would "oversee security, co-operation, building partnership capability, defence support to non-military missions, and, if directed, military operations".

Twin US aims in Somalia
09 Jan 07 |  Africa

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