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The Pentagon has taken another step forward in the possible creation of an Africa Command, establishing a working group this week tasked with developing just such a plan.

Pentagon officials announced Monday that an “implementation management team” including military and civilian officials have begun work on a proposal that could be presented to the Department of Defense as early as next year, Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, a military spokesman, told reporters.

An Africa command would add one to the five existing U.S. military regional commands; responsibility for most training and operations in Africa is currently split between the Germany-based European Command and Central Command, which oversees the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. military already has a growing presence in Djibouti, headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which has a self-described anti-terror mission in the region.

Some 1,500 servicemembers and civilians are assigned to the task force, which is currently led by a Navy admiral.

The new Africa Command — which would have to be proposed by the Pentagon and approved by President Bush — would focus on counterterrorism and prevention and response to potential crises, officials said.

The planning team includes Pentagon officials as well as experts from other government agencies.

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