The U.S. Army has finalized the plan to consolidate the U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa Commands into a single entity. The reorganization has been on the Army’s books for months but was confirmed in a release from the U.S. Army on Friday.
The Secretary of the Army, Ryan D. McCarthy, said that the consolidation “enhances global and regional readiness in support of the National Defense Strategy.”
The new command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa or USAREUR-AF, will be headed by the freshly promoted General Christopher G. Cavoli. General Cavoli was nominated for promotion earlier this year and was confirmed by the Senate on September 30. He pinned on his fourth star in early October.
In an interview with Defense News in early October, McCarthy confirmed that General Cavoli’s promotion was an important step in the command restructure.
“That’s why we advocated and pushed hard and got that done because, in his capacity, as U.S. Army Europe commander, he is the joint force land component commander, and in that capacity, if war breaks out on the continent, this is the officer leading all of those NATO elements under that umbrella,” McCarthy said.
General Cavoli has commanded Army Europe since January 2018.
The upgrade of the new command to a four-star billet suggests a brisk refocusing on the strategic importance of Europe.
Retired Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges told Defense News that “restoring the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe to the rank of general, with four stars, is an important signal to our allies of American commitment and how important Europe is in our strategic thinking.”
“It is therefore also a clear signal to the Kremlin of our resolve,” Lt. Gen Hodges added.
The restructuring comes just weeks after the White House and Polish President Andrzej Duda ratified an agreement repositioning U.S. troops in Poland from locations in Germany.
McCarthy hinted at this in his comments on the restructuring.
“The new structure will increase command and control effectiveness, flexibility, and the capability to conduct large-scale, joint, and multi-domain operations,” he said.
The administration is also considering a consolidation of the subordinate EUCOM and AFRICOM commands despite pushback from the House Armed Services Committee. The consolidation of the Army’s EUCOM and AFRICOM would match how the Air Force and the Navy command structures.
Under the new structure, U.S. Army Africa/Southern European Task Force will be re-designated as the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) which will be commanded by Major General Rohling.
By consolidating the two Army service component commands, the Army will be able to support missions across the two theaters much more efficiently: a streamlined headquarters will allow for faster order execution especially in situations that would have traversed the previous commands’ boundaries.
What remains unclear is how the new command structure will affect ongoing operations in Africa, especially in the Sahel where Coalition Special Operations Forces have been working to quell a rising tide of extremist violence by and radicalization at the hands of the Islamic State and related factions. Further, it is unclear how the freshly reactivated V Corps and its new rotational forward headquarters in Poznan, Poland will fit into the command’s strategic-level focus.
But the fact remains: the consolidation of command and control under a new four-star general, who will now oversee everything from the Sahel to the Nagorno-Karabakh, suggests a new focus on the proxy influences of Russia, Iran, and Turkey — as well as al-Qaeda and ISIS — on these regions.