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| | |-+  United States increases its military clout across
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Author Topic: United States increases its military clout across  (Read 7308 times)
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« on: March 01, 2004, 10:13:36 AM »

United States increases its military clout across Africa

2004-02-29 / Associated Press /  

The United States is scaling up its military presence in Africa as concern mounts over terrorist threats - both immediate and future - on the continent, the deputy head of American forces in Europe said.

"The threat is not weakening, it is growing," U.S. Air Force General Charles Wald said in a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press from Luanda, Angola. "We can't just sit back and let it grow."

The focus on Africa is part of major restructuring as U.S. forces in Europe reposition for the war against terror.

The European Command oversees U.S. military activities in Africa excluding the Horn, site of a U.S. counterterrorism effort for northeast Africa and Yemen.

Africa is of growing strategic interest to the United States because of its terror links and its oil, seen as a possible alternative to Middle East fuel.

European Command is not looking to station large concentrations of troops on the continent, Wald said. But it intends to make its presence felt through joint exercises, training initiatives and other exchanges.

U.S. forces have also negotiated access to a number of sites, including air strips in Angola and Gabon, that can be used for stopovers, refueling, or to position troops and equipment.

Wald said this will allow U.S. forces to respond with light, mobile troops - whether for peacekeeping, crisis response or a specific terrorist threat.

"We're actually going to get more capability with less force because of our ability to move around fast," he said.

Key to the effort is supporting the development of strong regional security groups, improving the capabilities of African police and soldiers, and building relationships with the continent's governments and militaries, Wald said.

Wald is one of at least three top U.S. commanders to touch down in Africa over the past two weeks, following on the heels of the U.S. commander in Europe, Marine General James L. Jones. And he said he expects to be back about every three months.

Wald's trip includes stops in regional military powers Nigeria and South Africa; oil-rich Angola, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe; and Algeria and Niger, whose vast desert expanses are seen as a potential haven for terrorists.

At the same time, U.S. Air Force Major General Jeffrey Kohler, the European Command's point man on planning for force reconfiguration, has been visiting the Saharan nations of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

The three generals are leaders in proposals awaiting a decision in Washington to shift from Cold War-era troop buildups in western Europe to smaller concentrations closer to the world's trouble spots.


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