Wednesday, June 06, 2007

U.S. Naval Forces Europe Prepares For AFRICOM Stand Up

From Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- U.S. Naval Forces Europe, an organization responsible for naval operations in much of Africa, is preparing to work with the new U.S. Africa Command, which is slated to stand up sometime in October, the naval forces' commander said here May 31.

"We hope, as they stand up, to fold into their intentions and their planning," said Adm. Henry G. Ulrich III, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe. He said his command "will adjust, as necessary" as AFRICOM becomes operational.

A U.S. Navy ship will embark on a six-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea region this fall, part of a multinational maritime security and safety training initiative that partners with several west- and central-African countries. Ulrich said his command did the planning for the Gulf of Guinea initiative. That mission, he said, falls within "the spirit of AFRICOM and the initial operating capacity of AFRICOM."

In the past, Ulrich's command has worked with U.S. European Command, which was responsible for all mainland African nations except Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya, which now fall under U.S. Central command.

AFRICOM will eventually have responsibility for the entire continent of Africa, except Egypt and the surrounding islands.

President Bush in February directed the Defense Department to create a unified combatant command for Africa. U.S. Africa Command is to be stood up by the end of fiscal 2008.

"This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa," Bush said in a White House statement dated Feb. 6. "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and stability to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa."

The Gulf of Guinea mission dovetails with U.S. Africa Command's mandate, Ulrich said.

"If you look at the direction that the Africa Command has been given and the purpose of standing up the AFRICOM, you'll see that (the Gulf of Guinea initiative) is closely aligned," the admiral said.

The African continent currently is divided among three combatant commands: U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command. U.S. Central Command has responsibility for Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya. U.S. European Command currently has responsibility for the rest of the nations in the African mainland. U.S. Pacific Command has responsibility for Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean area off the African coast.