F/A-18E Super Hornet from the 'Pukin' Dogs' of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. [AP]
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP)--The U.S. military has named a senior American diplomat to serve alongside a Navy admiral as deputies to the general leading its new Africa Command, an acknowledgment of the importance of the civilian aspects of the operation.
Mary Carlin Yates, a former ambassador to Ghana and Burundi, is the first senior government civilian who is not part of the Defense Department to be named to a top-level job at a U.S. military regional command.
"Certainly it's a first among the unified combat commands," said Vince Crawley, a spokesman for Africa Command, where Yates will supervise coordination between U.S. government agencies and the U.S. military.
The command began operations Oct. 1 with a staff of 175 under Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward and will increase to about 800 through 2008.
"It's been our intent from the beginning to have a civilian aspect to the command,"" Africa Command spokesman Maj. Steven Wollman said. ""The appointment of Ambassador Yates signifies ... the resolve behind the intent to make that happen."
Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller was appointed deputy for military operations.
"The appointment of Ambassador Yates signals the Department of State's commitment to the success of Africom," Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in a statement.
The Africa Command headquarters, which started operations earlier this month, is meant to help African security forces tackle regional crises and terrorist threats — recognizing the continent's increasing strategic importance.
It works closely with African nations on joint military exercises, but also on aid and other humanitarian operations.
The Africa Command operates from the U.S. Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, with diplomatic efforts still under way to find a permanent location in Africa.
Liberia is the only country to publicly offer to host the command, though U.S. officials say other nations have made private offers.
While some countries are receptive to having the command based on the continent, the plans have met with sharp resistance from many other African nations — most recently Nigeria, which worked to block the headquarters from being established in the Gulf of Guinea region.
In August, South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said that there was widespread hesitance among African nations to host the headquarters.
Eric S. Edelman, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said in a statement "the goal of Africom is to provide the most effective support possible for those who seek African solutions for African security."
It is a so-called "unified combatant command" made up of all branches of the military, as well as civilians from not only the Defense and State Departments, but also the Agriculture, Treasury and Commerce Departments, along with USAID.
Under the U.S. military's system of regional headquarters, responsibility for Africa previously was split between the Pacific Command, Central Command, and European Command.
The U.S. plan foresees a small headquarters, and five regional teams spread around the continent. The Pentagon has emphasized that it is not building new military bases.
U.S. Gunships Battle Pirates Who Seized Tanker Off Somali Coast
FOX News, Staff
Magic on Tuesday, October 30 - 09:19 AM
A pair of American warships battled pirates Tuesday who had seized a tanker off the coast of Somalia, reportedly sinking two pirate vessels and pursuing a hijacked skiff carrying some of the fleeing hijhackers.
The crew of the tanker Golden Mori, which was hijacked Monday night, reportedly fought back and overpowered their attackers, regaining control of the vessel, maritime officials said.
On Sunday, the destroyer USS Porter responded to a distress call from the Golden Mori that it was under attack from two pirate skiffs in international waters off the coast of Somalia near the Socotra islands in the Indian Ocean. The destroyer, on loan to an international task force aimed at stopping piracy and terror in the region, responded with deadly force, sinking both vessels, officials said.
The Porter's sister ship, the USS Arleigh Burke, reportedly was pursuing the escaping hijackers and providing an escort for the Japanese-owned tanker.
There were conflicting reports regarding the Golden Mori's registry, with reports saying it was flying a Panamanian flag, while other reports saying it either was a North or South Korean registered ship.