Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a virtual meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday that given the series of recent clashes with armed rebels, as well as continued efforts to push back on militant groups like Boko Haram, the U.S. should consider moving its military headquarters overseeing Africa.
“Considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel weighing heavily on Africa underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating Africom headquarters from Stuttgart in Germany to Africa, and near the theater of operations,” Buhari said, according to a transcript of the call released by the State Department.
“The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impact it more negatively by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region,” added the president, who is also a retired major general.
Buhari went on to say, “The support of important and strategic partners like United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concern, cooperation, and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.”
Africa’s West Sahel region, which includes Nigeria and other surrounding countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon, is currently facing a security crisis amid attacks from groups with ties to al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
While French and United Nations forces have provided assistance to the countries, Buhari argued Tuesday that a more centralized U.S. presence on the continent could offer a significant boost in their coordinated fight against militants.
Africom, founded in 2007 as part of the Department of Defense, initially established its headquarters in Germany due to concerns within Africa about a heavy U.S. military presence on the continent, and the upfront costs of moving have also deterred U.S. officials from relocating.
Last year, former President Trump ordered Africom to move its headquarters from Stuttgart as part of the administration’s military drawdown in Germany.
When asked whether the plans to move would continue under President Biden’s administration, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier this month that he would not “relitigate” the decision “when Africom was established about where it was going to be based, and it was decided to base it in Europe.”
Tuesday’s meeting comes a week after one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, Chadian President Idriss Déby, died in clashes with rebel groups.
Deby had been with troops battling rebel groups based across the northern border in Libya at the time of his death, though the exact cause was not immediately clear.
The late Chadian president had long been considered an ally of the U.S. and France in the fight against extremists in the region, though rebel groups had repeatedly attempted to overthrow the leader due to criticism over his management of Chad’s oil wealth and crackdowns on political opponents.