White House National Security Adviser John Bolton on Thursday gave the administration's tentative support for moving U.S. Africa Command from Stuttgart, Germany, to a new headquarters somewhere in Africa.
In an address at the Heritage Foundation on Africa policy, Bolton said the Defense Department backs the move, although his assertion appears to contradict what current AFRICOM commander, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, and previous commanders have said.
"The Pentagon has been clear for some period of time after AFRICOM was created that it ought to be in the theater it's responsible for," Bolton said in a question-and-answer session following his policy address. He added that "I think the Pentagon's been right on that."
But in May, Waldhauser warned that moving the headquarters to the continent would be controversial among African nations and possibly not worth the cost and effort. At a Senate Armed Services Committee, he voiced concerns for "what it would mean for other partners in the region."
SASC Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said at the time that a new headquarters on the continent could heighten tensions about "perceived colonialism."
AFRICOM's main base of operations in Africa is at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. In his address, Bolton focused the inroads Russia and China are making on the continent, particularly China's expansion of its own base of operations in Djibouti a few miles from Camp Lemonnier -- China's first overseas military base.
He charged that China has trained military-grade lasers on U.S. aircraft operating out of Djibouti nearly 200 times, resulting in eye injuries to at least two U.S. pilots. Bolton also said that China was maneuvering to take over the Doraleh Container Terminal at the Port of Djibouti, potentially posing a threat to the resupply of Camp Lemonnier.
With a takeover of the port, the balance of power on the Horn of Africa would "shift in favor of China," Bolton said, and fit a pattern of growing Chinese economic, political and military influence worldwide with "the ultimate goal of advancing Chinese global dominance."
For its part, the U.S. has three core interests in Africa -- advancing commercial ties, countering radical Islam and ensuring that U.S. aid was well spent, according to Bolton.
In his presentation, Bolton also said the U.S. would pull support for United Nations peacekeeping missions in Africa deemed "unproductive."
"The United States will no longer provide indiscriminate assistance across the entire continent, without focus or prioritization," said Bolton, a former UN ambassador. "And we will no longer support unproductive, unsuccessful, and unaccountable UN peacekeeping missions. We want something more to show for Americans' hard-earned taxpayer dollars."
To support his assertions, he singled out the UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, noting it has been there for 27 years.
"All too often, establishing a peacekeeping force and deploying it is the end of creative thinking [at the UN]," Bolton said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.