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STUTTGART, Germany — A new leader will take the helm of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa on Thursday, assuming control of a mission in a volatile region that has been a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism efforts on the continent.

Rear Adm. Anthony M. Kurta will replace Rear Adm. Philip H. Greene as the lone operational commander on the ground in Africa, where he will serve a one-year tour.

The change of command is the first to occur under U.S. Africa Command, which took over all Defense Department initiatives in Africa on Oct. 1.

While AFRICOM is engaged in numerous missions up and down the continent, most of those efforts involve small numbers of troops on short-term missions and training exercises.

The CJTF-HOA project, meanwhile, represents the military’s most substantial effort in Africa.

CJTF-HOA was established in 2002 and initially operated from the USS Mount Whitney. In the spring of 2003, the mission moved ashore.

Based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, the task force includes about 2,000 U.S. troops, by far the largest U.S. military contingent on the continent. It’s responsible for numerous training and humanitarian missions aimed at curbing extremism and preventing conflicts before they start in the 13 African countries that form its area of operation.

Troops have worked on everything from drilling wells to building schools and medical clinics during the last several years.

The task force also has provided guidance to a new African peacekeeping force that is still in the formative stages. The African Standby Force, a unit designed to serve as rapid responders to emerging crises, is a continentwide initiative under the African Union. It will consist of five geographic brigades, pulling troops from all around Africa.

Greene, the outgoing commander, said during an October visit to AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart that the CJTF-HOA leaders are serving as mentors, helping to set up command and control structures for the African Standby Force’s eastern brigade.

"It’s helping Africa solve African problems," Greene said at the time.

With an array of programs already established, the focus going forward will be to develop and build upon efforts to train local military leaders, bolster coastal security and foster regional security cooperation.

Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, AFRICOM commander, will be on hand Thursday to oversee the change of command at Camp Lemonier.

Before being tapped for the CJTF-HOA command, Kurta served as director for policy, resources and strategy for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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