President Bush has ended speculation about the development of bases for the new Africa Command, saying Tuesday during his swing through Africa that AFRICOM would plant no bases within Africa. During a press session in Ghana, Bush called the standup of AFRICOM itself “a controversial subject,” and added in explanation: “It is a command structure that is aiming to help provide military assistance to African nations, so African nations are more capable of dealing with Africa’s conflicts.” He then said, “We do not contemplate adding new bases.” To which he added, however, “Now, that doesn’t mean we won’t develop some kind of office somewhere in Africa.” That “office,” if it gets set up, will not be the command headquarters, at least not initially, according to a spokesman for AFRICOM in Stuttgart, Germany. Vince Crawley told the Associated Press (report via Seattle Times) that after the command is “up and running fully” at its Stuttgart location, “people will understand what it is and we can have discussions with sovereign governments whether it makes sense to do that in locations on the continent.” The Air Force, which was heavily engaged in the President’s trip, flying more than 20 C-17 missions to ferry accompanying personnel and cargo, has put small airlifters in its unfunded requirements list to support the new command’s operations.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.