WASHINGTON – The Army general leading the Pentagon's review on ending the ban on gays in the military has been nominated to head U.S. Africa Command.
If confirmed, Gen. Carter Ham would be only the second officer to head the nascent command, which has struggled to gain a foothold on the sprawling continent that houses some of the world's growing terror threats.
Launched in Oct. 2008, Africa Command is the newest of the military's six regional headquarters and is based in Stuttgart, Germany. The Pentagon abandoned efforts to base the command on the continent after it hit resistance among the African nations, and instead posted about two dozen liaison officers at embassies.
Africom, as it's called, has had to convince African leaders that the U.S. is there to assist the countries, and is not planning to build military bases there. The U.S. military currently has a base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.
Over the past two years, the command has worked to set up training programs, promote development and stability, and establish stronger military ties with the countries and island nations.
Over the same time, U.S. officials have growing more concerned about terrorist groups training and plotting attacks in North and East Africa, including al-Shabab in Somalia.
Ham is currently the commander of U.S. Army Europe. He served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanded the troops in northern Iraq from Jan. 2004 to Feb. 2005. His nomination to head Africom requires Senate confirmation.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Ham and Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson to head a working group on the impact that openly gay service could have on the military. Their report is not expected until the end of the year.
Africa Command: http://www.africom.mil/