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Pentagon denies plans to establish base in southern African state

The AFRICOM commander says Washington has “deepened” its security ties with Zambia but has no plans for a military “footprint”

Washington has no plans to set up a military base in Zambia, the Commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) told reporters on Thursday.

General Michael Langley was responding to claims that the US is considering a permanent deployment in Zambia without the approval of the southern African country’s lawmakers and regional authorities.

“That’s absolutely false. We have no bases in Zambia. We have no plans to put one there,” the general stated.

Last week, Zambian MPs demanded accountability from the government in dealing with regional disputes, warning that hosting AFRICOM forces could strain relations with neighbors.

The protests followed concerns expressed by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, during a visit to St. Petersburg earlier this month that the US was attempting to “militarize” Zambia in an attempt to project power in the region and isolate neighboring Zimbabwe.

South Africa, Libya, and Nigeria have previously opposed AFRICOM deployments in Africa, fearing that Washington intends to expand its influence on the continent and prioritize protecting oil interests.

READ MORE: Zambia does not need US military presence – MP

The US military presence in Zambia has long faced opposition, particularly since Washington announced the launch of AFRICOM’s Office of Security Cooperation at the US Embassy in the capital, Lusaka. The African nation’s authorities and Pentagon officials have insisted that the center’s sole purpose is to train national troops for UN missions.

However, Stephen Kampyongo, a member of the landlocked state’s National Assembly, told RT in an exclusive interview last week that Lusaka does not need a US military presence. The Patriotic Front lawmaker criticized AFRICOM’s “unclear” objectives in the country, saying that “any international policy must be premised on mutual respect, appreciating the sovereignty of each state.” 

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FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Africa Command commander US General William Ward (2nd L) and his successor US General Carter Ham (R) take part in the AFRICOM change of command ceremony in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, Germany.
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At Thursday’s press briefing, General Langley said Washington has a “very deepened partnership” with Zambia, but that there are “no plans for a base.” 

“We have increased security cooperation with them, but there is no footprint, there is no posture, there is no base. Within our security cooperation office, which is resident in the embassy, but there is no base,” he said.

Washington is seeking to maintain its presence on the continent after being ordered to remove its military from significant areas, including key Sahel states – Niger and Chad. Earlier this week, top US army officials, including Langley, were in Botswana to co-host an AFRICOM conference of African defense chiefs.

In response to a question on which countries the Pentagon is considering for a base after pulling out of Niger, the AFRICOM commander declined to give names but said he has traveled across West Africa to engage with partners on tackling regional security threats.

June 29, 2024 at 02:09PM

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