AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham has again stated that there are no U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) plans to move its headquarters to Africa. He repeated what has been said by U.S. officials before: AFRICOM’s headquarters will remain in Stuttgart. Gen. Ham added that there would be “financial issues” in any location.
Concern that the United States wants to move AFRICOM’s headquarters to the continent—a “bad thing” for many African opinion leaders – will not go away, no matter how many official statements are made. Some of this persistent concern dates from the botched 2007 rollout of AFRICOM that failed to explain adequately to African audiences what AFRICOM would do. Some of it reflects the powerlessness felt in some African circles. Some is fed by the U.S. use of drones in Somalia and elsewhere as well as various counterterrorism initiatives. And many African intellectuals are suspicious of alleged U.S. “neo-imperialism” and were opposed to U.S. and NATO action in Libya and the U.S.-led initiatives with respect to Iran’s nuclear capability. It doesn’t help that some recent military coup makers have been trained by the U.S. military.
In the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is difficult to imagine U.S. domestic support for the expense of establishing an AFRICOM headquarters in Africa. And the looming U.S. “financial cliff” in January 2013 that could result in dramatic cuts in the budget of the Department of Defense (and most other federal agencies) is bound to inhibit U.S. military support for the “discretionary spending” that a new headquarters would represent. I think AFRICOM will remain in Stuttgart for a long time – unless its headquarters is moving to a vacated military facility within the United States.