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US military in Africa gets new commander as terror attacks rise in Somalia

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NAIROBI, Kenya - The US Africa Command [Africom] has received a new commander, just as Al-Shabaab militants intensified attacks within Somalia and across the borders, particularly in Ethiopia, a country that had successfully tamed the militants.

Lt. Gen. Michael Langley was confirmed by the Senate as the successor of General Stephen Townsend, who has been in charge of the troops for the last three years. Lt. Gen. Michael Langley is the first Black four-star general in Marine Corps history.

Senators unanimously voted for the promotions earlier this week after the upper chamber’s Armed Services Committee praised the men for their “exceptional” qualifications at a confirmation hearing last month.

According to the Stripes, Langley will break a racial barrier that stood in the Marine Corps for 246 years. More than 70 white men rose to the Marine Corps’ top ranks during that time.

During his speech, Langley said during his confirmation hearing in late July that the global security environment was “the most challenging I’ve seen throughout my 37 years [of service].”

The son of an Air Force noncommissioned officer, Langley grew up on racially diverse bases. He said last year that he did not experience discrimination until his father retired in the early 1970s and moved the family to “cowboy country” in Texas.

“Yes, we had challenges at an early age, and I think that prepared me for leadership of all Marines, regardless of color, regardless of creed, religion, orientation,” Langley said. “That experience at a young age prepared me to be a platoon commander years after that.”

Langley was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1985. He has commanded at every level, from platoon to regiment, and served overseas in Afghanistan, Japan and Somalia.

He now leads Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command and is the commander of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Va. Prior to that posting, Langley led U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa from Germany. He stepped into the role after his predecessor was removed for allegedly using a racial slur for Black Americans in front of troops, The Stripes added.

Langley called the move a "positive step" in a written response to a set of questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"A stable and prosperous African continent is increasingly important to the United States — politically, economically, and militarily — and will become even more so in the future,” he wrote.

A fortnight ago, Al-Shabaab militants crossed over to Ethiopia, forcing security forces in the country to open fire which left 100 of them dead. On Thursday, reports indicated that a number of Ethiopian army generals visited Somalia for a series of security talks.

The militants are keen to infiltrate Ethiopia, a country that is a major security partner of Somalia. Currently, there are about 4,000 Ethiopian soldiers serving in the African Union Transition Mission in Ethiopia who have been instrumental in the Al-Shabaab war.

Fundamentally, the changes come just months after the US redeployed over 500 soldiers to Somalia, a year after they were withdrawn. Somalia has been battling against violent extremism for the last couple of years and the US has pledged imminent support.

GAROWE ONLINE

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