ARLINGTON, Va. — Gen. William “Kip” Ward has been nominated as the first commander of the new U.S. Africa Command, Defense Department officials announced Tuesday.

Ward is currently deputy commander of U.S. European Command. Officials at EUCOM said Ward could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Commissioned in June 1971, Ward has had several overseas assignments, including tours to both Korea and Somalia. He is currently the only black Army four-star general, according to service officials.

Before becoming second-in-command at EUCOM, Ward served as deputy commanding general/chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army. During this time, he also served as the U.S. security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority from March to December 2005.

Defense officials told reporters earlier this month that AFRICOM’s first commander will face a skeptical African populace, as evidenced by recent editorials from local papers. One from Botswana said the new command “does not bode well for the continent” and that cooperation with U.S. military “would mortgage away sovereignty.”

AFRICOM is slated to be fully operational by December 2008 and is intended to coordinate U.S. military and humanitarian efforts for almost all of Africa.

Currently, most of the continent falls under EUCOM, with U.S. Central Command responsibly for seven nations in northeast Africa and U.S. Pacific Command responsible for Madagascar and other islands off Africa’s east coast. AFRICOM is expected to assume responsibility for all of Africa except Egypt, which will remain under the purview of CENTCOM because of existing ties with the command.

The overall U.S. troop presence in Africa is not expected to change much after AFRICOM becomes fully operational, said Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant defense secretary for African affairs.

AFRICOM currently has its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, but eventually it could have several small headquarters on the continent.

Ward must be approved by the Senate before taking over the new post.

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