Marine Gen. Michael Langley has taken over as head of U.S. Africa Command, leading all U.S. military operations on a continent teeming with unstable governments, corrupt militaries and dangerous insurgent groups.
Prior to taking on his new responsibilities on Tuesday in a ceremony at an Army base in Stuttgart, Germany, Gen. Langley became the first African-American in the Marine Corps to be promoted to four-star general.
He is the sixth commander since U.S. Africa Command was established in 2008.
“I look forward to taking on the mantle of leading these talented professionals here at AFRICOM and across our components as we work shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners to advance peace and prosperity for both Africa and the American homeland,” Gen. Langley said at the ceremony over the weekend at the Marine Barracks in Washington.
Gen. Langley replaces Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who led the command for three years and is retiring after four decades in uniform.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were at the change-of-command ceremony.
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The command has been in flux as the Pentagon conducted a global survey of its troop needs, with early talk that U.S. forces would be relocated from the continent to bolster missions in Europe and especially in East Asia against China. But Mr. Austin said Africa remains a key focus of U.S. security concerns.
“The continent is on the front lines of many of this century’s most pressing threats — from mass migration to food insecurity; from COVID-19 to the climate threat: from the drumbeat of autocracy to the dangers of terrorism,” Mr. Austin said. “Every day, AFRICOM works alongside our friends as full partners — to strengthen our bonds, to tackle common threats, and to advance a shared vision of an Africa whose people are safe, prosperous, and free to choose their own future.”
Gen. Townsend said the years he spent leading U.S. Africa Command were an education about a continent he found “endlessly fascinating.”
“The continent is big, complex, and diverse. America cannot afford to ignore Africa,” he said. “America’s future security — and I believe prosperity — depends on a more secure and prosperous Africa.”