WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Department officials gave testimony Tuesday attempting to smooth over concerns about the exact role of the U.S. military's new African Command.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs heard from top Defense Department officials Tuesday on Capitol Hill regarding operational plans for AFRICOM and the collaboration between military and civilian officials.
"It appears that ambitions for AFRICOM have been scaled back, apparently because of concerns by the State Department, USAID, and others about a military lead in areas of diplomacy and international development," Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., subcommittee chairman, said in a statement.
AFRICOM is expected to become an independent unified command at the beginning of October. In the first subcommittee hearing on AFRICOM, Tierney said the new command presents a number of oversight questions, including concerns over a heavy U.S. military presence in Africa and fears from African leaders that AFRICOM will lead to the militarization of aid.
Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, said AFRICOM will be expected to work in partnership with African nations and aid organizations to further issues concerning stability and threats from terrorism.
"(AFRICOM) represents an opportunity to strengthen and expand U.S. and African security relationships in such a way that our combined efforts can help generate more indigenous and therefore more sustainable peace and stability on the continent," Whelan said in a statement.