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by Carla Babb May 17, 2016
The U.S. military has looked at 11 locations for a potential second base in Africa, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Colonel Mark Cheadle, speaking to VOA in Brussels on Tuesday, would not disclose which locations the military is considering for a possible second base, other than to specify that "Nigeria isn't one of them."
The United States currently has one military base in the east African nation of Djibouti. U.S. forces are also on the ground in Somalia to assist the regional fight against al-Shabab and in Cameroon to help with the multinational effort against Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez told reporters in Brussels that the U.S. military has trained members of Nigeria's intelligence corps as well as three Nigerian battalions, including one that "just recently" graduated.
"Boko Haram is the biggest killer of people across the world," the general said.
Rodriguez also said the command's headquarters, located in Stuttgart, Germany, will stay in Europe for the foreseeable future.
The command's stated mission is to advance U.S. interests and promote security and stability in Africa.
Meanwhile, as the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) continues to struggle against the approximately 4,000 to 6,000 Islamic State militants in the country, Rodriguez says the U.S. military is "prepared to support" a train-and-equip mission there when the Libyan government is ready for it.
But Libya's internal politics have made it unclear which armed groups are fighting with the GNA, Rodriguez added, leaving the U.S. "really dependent" on the Libyan interim government to determine "who is with them and who is moving over to them."
Militias will likely be key to stopping the spread of Islamic State once friendly forces are identified and aided.
"We're not at that point yet," he said.
Libya is under a U.N. arms embargo imposed to keep lethal weapons away from terrorists and militias vying for power.
However, a joint communique issued after international talks Monday in Vienna signaled that international powers, including the U.S., are set to provide arms and support to the Libyan government to fight Islamic State.
"The things that they need most is really ammunition and small arms," Rodriguez said. "It's not fighter aircraft and that kind of stuff."
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon that there were small teams of U.S. forces on the ground in Libya to get a "better sense of the players" to more accurately understand the Islamic State's presence and strength level.
Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow on defense strategy at the Brookings Institution, said the 20 to 25 U.S. forces now in Libya, along with other NATO allies on the ground there, should "get serious" about a training mission for a Libyan military or integrated paramilitary.
"I'm interested in asking if 1,000 to 2,000 Americans at the right time could make a big difference," he told VOA.