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Deployment of U.S. troops to Africa will pick up pace

AFRICOM means more missions, training

STUTTGART, Germany — For U.S. forces, the new Africa Command will mean more of the same: troops training their African counterparts, medics providing medical and dental aid, and airmen providing flights from place to place.

The headquarters itself would be staffed by middle- and senior-level military and civilian personnel.

In fact, the missions that have typically been carried out by younger troops are expected to continue. There might even be more of them, according to Rear Adm. Richard K. Gallagher, director of the U.S. European Command’s Plans and Operations Center.

“My prediction is that what you saw in 2006 is going to grow a bit, and grow from what you see in 2007 as well,” Gallagher said Jan. 30 in an interview with Stars and Stripes. “From 2008, that will be the steady state we are looking for. That is what we designed.”

As the new Africa Command, also to be based in Stuttgart, begins taking shape, EUCOM will continue overseeing missions in Africa. The Defense Department is garnering more money for missions in what it calls “Operation Enduring Freedom — Trans Sahara”: From $31 million in 2006 to $81.7 million in 2007 to approximately $100 million annually for 2008 through 2013, according to figures provided by EUCOM.

OEF-TS is designed to bolster nine nations in the northern and western part of the continent. The money is to pay for sending U.S. troops into the nations to train with host-nation militaries and other missions.

“We had our first U.S. military monies applied against OEF-TS in 2005 ($5 million),” Gallagher said. “In 2006, the funding level went up a good bit. But really, 2007 is the first year we are going to see stable funding that will now continue.”

Troops have been used increasingly in Africa in recent years. U.S. Naval Forces Europe, for example, had forces in the Gulf of Guinea for less than 20 days in 2004, but for approximately 140 in 2005 and more than 300 days last year. African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance events coordinated by U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe is increasing from eight in 2006 to about 12 in 2007.

MARFOREUR also is coordinating 21 military-to-military training events over the two years, plus organizing other small and large exercises.

In the past year, U.S. Air Forces in Europe medics distributed more than 4,000 pairs of eyeglasses and provided dental aid to more than 2,600 patients on the continent, according to USAFE. “EUCOM’s active security strategy is really focused on helping these nations help themselves,” Gallagher said. “It’s not about putting U.S. boots on the ground. That’s a continuing feature of this program.

“It’s not about a permanent U.S. presence. It’s about using our expertise and our resources, particularly where they can help the nations that need the help.

“The activities we do in Africa are coordinated with the host nations,” Gallagher added. “Everything that we do, we coordinate with the U.S. embassy in the country and with host-nation military and government authorities, so that we are working in each other’s best interest.”


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