The departing commander, Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Marcus Hicks, said in a statement: “To the men and women of Special Operations Command Africa, you have accomplished so much with so little, so quickly and under such difficult circumstances. You’ve done everything I’ve asked and more. I am enormously grateful and immensely proud to have served with you.”
The overall commander of U.S. forces in Africa, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command, to which SOCAFRICA belongs, emphasized the diverse and difficult tasks his Special Operations Forces (SOF) are facing on a day-to-day basis, considering the vastness of Africa in terms of different cultures, languages spoken, and operational environments.
“The soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of SOCAFRICA are perhaps the most versatile and flexible individuals U.S. Africa Command has on the continent,” said General Waldhauser. “Almost daily, these devoted men and women interact with ambassadors, country teams, Western allies and African colleagues, truly embracing the concept of ‘with partners,’ to enable the accomplishment of U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Special Operations Command objectives on the African continent.”
Some of the challenges the new SOCAFRICA commander will be facing are how to counter the Russian and Chinese initiatives on the African continent. Aside from the non-state actors and terrorist groups, like al-Shabaab, that continue to pose a significant threat to American and Western interests in the region, the increased aggressiveness of America’s main competitors in securing resources and political influence is far more difficult to effectively counter than destroying Jihadist cells. This would require a long-term, soft power strategy with a focus on partnerships and rapport-building initiatives. Special Forces, PSYOP, and Civil Affairs teams are perfectly suited for that task, but it would require the cooperation of other government agencies, such as the State Department and the CIA, for the strategy to bear fruits. In essence, General Anderson’s task is one of diplomacy supported by a big stick.
The new commander, however, seems to be aware of the intricacies of his new assignment. “We operate in a complex environment and it’s only becoming more complex,” said General Anderson. “We’re no longer just addressing violent extremists who lash out against freedom; we now have to balance threats from regional powers who seek to intimidate their neighbors, peer adversaries who wish to change to world order, and those who seek to disrupt the peace and prosperity we’ve enjoyed for the last seven decades.”
SOCAFRICA is comprised of approximately 1,300 commandos from across all four branches.