WASHINGTON — The general tapped to lead the new U.S. military command in Africa remains confident that the military presence will eventually be a welcome partner on the continent.
Gen. William “Kip” Ward, at his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged some initial resistance to AFRICOM from countries such as South Africa.
But he stressed patience on winning over skeptics, saying that the new command needs time to debunk myths and explain what the U.S. goals really are.
“These things take time, and that’s why the investment over time is so important,” he said. “The trust and confidence we hope for must come not through just words but also the things we do, interacting over time.”
The new command, which will oversee training operations under way between U.S. forces and African military personnel, is expected to become operational next month, pending Ward’s confirmation.
He did not release any new details to Congress about plans for an African headquarters for the new command. Currently, it is being stood up in Stuttgart, Germany, and officials have said they expect the majority of staff to be stationed outside of Africa.
But Ward also emphasized the need to “get out of the foxhole” and interact with locals, in order to improve relationships.
He said officials view Camp Lemonier in Djibouti as an enduring Forward Operating Site for their projects, but reiterated that the command has no plans for a permanent military base on the continent.
Staff for the new command have already begun analyzing potential sites for the African headquarters, Ward said, but they need more consultation with African Union officials before any decisions are made.
“We need to be welcomed,” he said.
The committee is expected to vote on Ward’s nomination in the next few days.