Nigeria’s president wants AFRICOM in Africa, but leaders in US and Europe also want the military headquarters
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 28, 2021
STUTTGART, Germany — Nigeria’s president wants U.S. Africa Command to relocate to his region, making him the latest public official from three different continents to make a case for the Stuttgart-based military headquarters.
President Muhammadu Buhari raised the idea Tuesday during a virtual meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I asked the US to consider re-locating the AFRICOM HQ from Germany to Africa — near the Theatre of Operation; against the backdrop of growing security challenges in West & Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region & the Sahel,” Buhari said in a Twitter post after the meeting.
Buhari said that while Nigerian forces are focused on containing the security challenges the country faces, the “support of important and strategic partners like the United States of course cannot be overstated.”
In Nigeria and other parts of Western Africa, Boko Haram and Islamic State group-linked militants have attacked government forces and killed civilians.
It’s unclear how Blinken responded to Buhari’s idea, but the odds of such a move are likely slim. The request, the latest in a long line of pitches over the years to move AFRICOM, comes as the Pentagon reviews how overseas forces are positioned around the world.
As part of that review, the military is assessing a plan by the former Trump administration to move AFRICOM out of Germany along with thousands of other troops.
In Stuttgart, also home to U.S. European Command, government officials raised concerns about Trump’s plan, which would have effectively ended the U.S. military presence there.
While the plan is officially on hold, the Pentagon hasn’t formally canceled the decision.
In September, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott from South Carolina made a pitch for AFRICOM, touting Charleston as an ideal location if a spot in Africa isn’t an option.
Questions about whether Stuttgart is the right location for AFRICOM have lingered ever since the command was formed in 2007. Over the years, political leaders from numerous U.S. states have offered up bases in their home districts in the hopes of gaining jobs and the economic ripple effect of hosting a major command.
The Pentagon looked to put a headquarters for AFRICOM in Africa when it stood up, but that idea was nixed amid a political backlash from some African officials.
Buhari’s suggestion that AFRICOM set up in Africa is a sign that some of that previous resistance has faded.
Still, moving the command of roughly 3,000 personnel, along with their families, would present the military with a major logistical undertaking complicated by security concerns.
In 2012, AFRICOM conducted a review of its headquarters location but decided it would be more affordable to stay put.
Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, seated second from right, poses with African leaders during a visit to Nigeria in February 2021. The country's president, Muhammadu Buhari, asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a virtual meeting April 27, 2021, to move U.S. Africa Command headquarters to Africa.
JOSEPH ADAH/U.S. EMBASSY NIGERIA