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AFRICOM faces historic time amid growing challenges

The unrest in Libya and the coalition intervention there illustrates the dynamics of the African political and military environment, the commander of U.S. Africa Command told a congressional committee today.

The continent has seen the growing threat of terrorists groups such as al Qaida, piracy, election crises, coups, and other potential challenges, including a voter-approved referendum to create a new country in southern Sudan, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, who recently assumed the command, told the House Armed Services Committee.

For Africa to reduce threats to U.S. citizens and interests, abroad and at home, “We need to contribute to operations, programs and activities that help African states provide for their own security in a manner that is consistent with the rule of law and international norms,” Ham said.

Building a coalition to address the unrest in Libya was possible because of longstanding relationships and interoperability in NATO, Ham said, adding that developing partners among African nations is an Africom priority.

“This is the kind of regional approach to security that [Africom] seeks to foster on the continent,” he said.

Africom incorporates regional cooperation and pursues interoperability in all its programs, activities and exercises, “so our African partners are postured to form coalitions to address African security challenges,” he said.

“This is a historic time for us in Africa Command,” Ham said. “We completed a complex, short-notice, operational mission in Libya and have now transferred that mission to NATO.”

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