WASHINGTON — AFRICOM will likely stay based in Stuttgart for another five years, the head of the new command told Congress on Tuesday.

Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said keeping the headquarters in Germany until 2014 makes sense as military officials build up operations for the command.

"We will benefit from the stability of staying in one location where we can polish out operational processes, cement our relationships with our partners on and off the continent and consolidate our gains," Ward said.

The command, which should boast about 1,300 personnel by this summer, has been based in Stuttgart since it was stood up in October. Military officials for the past two years had discussed basing operations in Africa, but resistance from governments there prompted the Germany decision.

"As time goes by, I’m sure we’ll revisit the location," Ward said. "But right now it does not affect our capacity to reach out."

AFRICOM does have two forward operational sites — one at Ascension Island, a dependency of the United Kingdom located 1,000 miles off the west coast of Africa, and another at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti — as well as cooperative agreements with several sites under control of EUCOM and CENTCOM.

Ward said that regardless where the headquarters is based, it won’t affect his busy travel schedule around the continent.

"Wherever the headquarters is, I’m going to be headed someplace else," he said.

The new unified combatant command was formed to collect all Defense Department programs on the continent under one umbrella. Missions range from anti-terrorism programs in the Horn of Africa to maritime security initiatives and military-to-military training exercises in numerous countries.

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