Mark Esper, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, announced earlier last week that European Command EUCOM will relocate from Stuttgart, Germany to the NATO headquarters in Mons, Belgium. He also ordered Africa Command (AFRICOM) to draw up plans to relocate its headquarters. But unlike EUCOM, there is not a place for AFRICOM to go.
As part of the Trump administration’s drawdown in Germany, 11,900 personnel who are currently stationed in Germany, will be repositioned to other locations, Esper said. Of the troops leaving Germany 5,600 will remain in Europe at other locations and 6,400 will return to the United States. The move will reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in Germany from about 36,000 to 24,000. Germany will still be the NATO country hosting the most U.S. troops.
EUCOM and Special Operations Command Europe will move to NATO HQs in an effort to speed and clarify the decision-making process and have greater operational alignment with our allies. The hope is that the same thinking will apply to AFRICOM and Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). Yet, this might not be as simple.
Africa is three times the size of the United States, and AFRICOM/SOCAFRICA engage with our partners in over half of the continent’s 54 countries. Yet, there has always been an issue on the continent with placing U.S. HQs there.