STUTTGART, Germany –
Marine General Michael Langley took over as the top US commander for Africa on Tuesday, spearheading US military operations on a continent with some of the most active and dangerous insurgent groups and a relatively small presence. Little Pentagon.
Langley, who made history Saturday when he became the first African-American in the Marine Corps to be promoted to four-star general, was assumed the U.S. Africa Command in a ceremony at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. He is the second African-American to lead the command, which has between 6,000 and 7,000 soldiers across the continent.
Speaking at the ceremony, the outgoing commander, Army General Stephen Townsend, pointed to the often limited troops and resources that are allocated to the mainland. “There’s a new challenge every day and we don’t have the resources to meet those challenges. So we have to think,” said Townsend, who is retiring after 40 years in the military. “The United States cannot afford to ignore Africa. The continent is full of potential, but it is also full of challenges and stands at a historic crossroads.
For years, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the turmoil in the Middle East, an increased focus on an increasingly combative and competitive China, and the recent war in Ukraine have dominated the Pentagon’s attention. But insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants, thrive in ungoverned spaces in Africa, and al-Shabab remains a significant threat in Somalia.
Earlier this year, Townsend warned Congress that, at best, the US was “marching in place” and “may be backing down” on Somalia, due to former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the country to the approximately 700 US troops in their final decision. days in office. His decision forced commanders to rotate small teams of special operations forces and intelligence personnel around the country for short periods of time to provide limited support to the Somali National Army and the mission there.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this spring authorized the return of some 400 US troops to the beleaguered country.
On Tuesday, Austin signaled that decision, saying a continued US military presence to train and assist Somali forces is crucial as al-Shabab’s attacks on civilians become more deadly and brazen.
He added that the African continent is “on the front lines of many of the most pressing threats of this century, from mass migration to food insecurity, from COVID-19 to the climate crisis, from the drumbeat of autocracy to the dangers of terrorism”. And he said China is expanding its military presence there, seeking to build bases in Africa and trying to “undermine US relations with African peoples, governments and militaries.”
Both Austin and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted the historic nature of Langley’s appointment.
The Marine, Milley said, “is the right leader at the right time with the right skills to lead this command.”
And Austin, who is the first African-American to serve as Pentagon chief, said young Marines around the world are watching Langley.
“Your extraordinary achievement reminds them that they belong,” Austin said. “And it reminds them that the United States military is deeply committed to progress, breaking down barriers and opening its arms to every qualified American who hears the call to serve their country.”
Langley, who was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1985. His father was in the Air Force.
He told the gathering that his father always told him to aim high. And now, he said, “I know I have a lot to do. We have a lot to do, as we look at the African continent and its quest for adequate security and stability.”
The Marine Corps, which traces its roots to 1775, did not accept black men into its ranks until 1942, a shift that followed the attack on the US air base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941 and the US entry into World War II. World.
Most recently, Langley was commander of Fleet Marine Forces, Marine Forces Command, and Atlantic. He also commanded troops in Afghanistan.
Army General William “Kip” Ward, also African American, was the first commander of Africa Command when it launched in 2007.