Washington D.C. (from Radio Havana Cuba) — President George W. Bush has approved a Pentagon plan for a command center for Africa to oversee U.S. military activities on the continent.
The White House says that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been given the order to get the new command, known as Africom, up and running by the end of September 2008.
The Pentagon chief revealed the new plans as he addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee on the defense spending President Bush proposed in his 2008 budget, submitted to Congress earlier this month.
Gates said the new Africa Command would allow the U.S. to better co-ordinate military actions in the region. It was pointed out that the U.S. gets more than 10 percent of its oil from Africa and is concerned about increased economic and diplomatic competition from China.
The Pentagon has voiced concern about 'potential threats' — including so-called terrorist activities that could emerge in war-torn areas such as Somalia. U.S. forces carried out at least two air strikes in Somalia last month and shrugged off international criticism of the attacks, which killed a number of innocent civilians.
The Africa Command would be the fifth regional operations base for the U.S. military. Unlike other regional U.S. commands, Africom will focus on military training operations for local governments, since there are no African nations that pose a direct military threat against U.S. interests.
But Defense Secretary Gates told the congressional committee on Capitol Hill that the African command center would offer support "to non-military missions, and, if directed, military operations."
Gates would not specify whether the new command center would be located on the African continent or in the United States, as are the U.S. Central Command, the Southern Command and the Pacific Command.