Africa Turns Away the Troops

Many experts worry that Africa could soon become the world's jihadist base of choice; its combination of failed states, poverty, and pockets of religious extremism offer the perfect breeding ground for terrorists. That's a big reason why in 2007 the Pentagon created AfriCom, a new command responsible for organizing U.S. military involvement on the continent. Why, then, are senior AfriCom officials still stationed in Stuttgart, Germany? The problem is that locals are not exactly enthusiastic. U.S. officials considered both Botswana and Liberia as possible homes for the new command, but strong local opposition forced them to scrap their plans. In general, say AfriCom officials, there is little appetite for a big U.S. base in Africa, since African leaders worry that an American base would inflame fears of a new era of colonialism. According to AfriCom's chief, U.S. Gen. William (Kip) Ward, the hunt for an African host is now "completely off the table." Stuttgart, after all, is in the same time zone as most African countries, and a quick flight from the continent. Still, with counterterrorism operations ramping up in places like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, a Germany-based command is bound to become messy. A senior AfriCom official who wasn't authorized to speak on the record admits that they haven't quite given up hope: "When the Africans invite us," the official says, "we'll consider it." But that may be a long time coming.