US Senate confirms new AFRICOM and EUCOM commanders

The U.S. Senate on Monday, April 29 approved the nominations of General Stephen Townsend and General Tod Wolters to serve as the commanders of American forces in Africa and Europe.

US Army General Stephen Townsend confirmed as Africa Command commander

US Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend
US Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend

During his April 2 confirmation hearing, Townsend told a Senate panel that Russia is “after access and influence to our detriment” in Africa, calling Moscow’s aims on the continent “exploitative.”

As AFRICOM commander, Townsend is set to replace U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas D. Waldhauser and oversee relationships with 51 African partner nations to help build their defense capability and capacity of their security forces.

The U.S. military has extensive training and support operations in Africa, including an aerial campaign in Somalia in support of the Somali government against al-Shabaab and Islamic State-affiliated militants.

Since March 2018, Townsend has been commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and was most recently in charge of U.S. and Coalition troops fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.

Under his command, the Coalition and its partner forces from the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Libyan Government of National Accord launched offensives against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, Mosul, Iraq, and Sirte, Libya.

Townsend previously served in operations in Grenada, Panama and Haiti, and led the 3-2 Stryker Brigade during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served four tours of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, including as Commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

His previous staff assignments include service J-5 strategy and plans officer for China and Special Assistant to the Commander at U.S. Pacific Command, Executive Officer to the Commander at U.S. Central Command and Director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell on the Joint Staff.

US Air Force General Tod Wolters, new European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander

US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters
US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters

Wolters will replace General Curtis Scaparrotti, who served as EUCOM commander since May 2016. Wolters is currently the head of U.S. Air Forces Europe, U.S. Air Forces Africa and NATO’s Allied Air Command.

As EUCOM chief, he will also be Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the highest military position in NATO.

He is expected to assume his new role in a ceremony in Belgium this spring.

During a joint confirmation hearing with Townsend, Wolters said U.S. “competitive advantage is eroding” against Russia in Europe, but Congressional budget increases would put U.S. forces back to a “comfortable” level by the mid 2020s.

Wolters told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that the recent budget hikes have led to an “improvement in readiness,” including more deployments of U.S. personnel and equipment in Europe, more military exercises, and the prepositioning of U.S. materiel under programs such as the European Deterrence Initative, Air Force Magazine reported.

EUCOM’s area of responsibility includes 21 million square miles across Europe – but also including Russia and Israel – and the command coordinates military activities alongside 51 U.S. partner nations in the European Theater.

The NATO SACEUR is responsible for all NATO military operations and plays an important public-facing role as the senior military spokesperson for Allied Command Operations.

The role is dual-hatted with U.S. EUCOM and has always been assumed by a U.S. commander.

In his current role, Wolters is responsible for air and missile defense of the 29 NATO member states and for commanding U.S. air power across more than 19 million square miles and 104 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Arctic.

Previously, Wolters served as Director for Operations (DJ-3), Joint Staff and in headquarters staff positions for U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Space command. He commanded the 19th Fighter Squadron, the 1st Operations Group, the 485th Air Expeditionary Wing, the 47th Flying Training Wing, the 325th Fighter Wing, the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, and the 12th Air Force, fighting in operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

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