Monday, October 14, 2013

Botswana, US brush off fresh AFRICOM speculation

President of Botswana Ian Khama. Botswana and the US have brushed off speculation of construction of AFRICOM inside Thebephatshwa Air Base. PHOTO/AFP

President of Botswana Ian Khama. Botswana and the US have brushed off speculation of construction of AFRICOM inside Thebephatshwa Air Base. PHOTO/AFP 

GABORONE

BY MTOKOZISI DUBE

Botswana and the United States of America have brushed off speculation that the ongoing construction of a military facility bankrolled by the Obama-led administration inside Thebephatshwa Air Base could in future become a doorway for America's Africa Command (Africom).

Botswana has previously been cited as a possible base for relocation of Africom should the command be moved from its current headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

American deputy ambassador to Botswana Mr Michael Murphy said the project was aimed at supporting future collective exercises at Thebephatshwa Airbase, which is located south-east of Botswana.

He added that the US Department of Defence were not constructing a US military base, neither were they planning to relocate Africom headquarters to Botswana.

“This project, a direct result of Botswana hosting Exercise Southern Accord in August 2012, underscores the close and ongoing partnership between the BDF and United States,” said Murphy.

The construction block consists administration, instructional and latrine facilities.

Botswana Defence Force (BDF) director of Protocol and Public Affairs, Colonel Tebo Dikole also said the project was meant for future Botswana-America exercises and not Africom.

“These particular facilities were chosen so that if Botswana and the United States agreed to a future exercise at Thebephatshwa, normal BDF operations will not be disrupted,” he said.

Mr Murphy believes the Exercise Related Construction (ERC) will reduce costs for exercises by doing away with the leasing of tents.

The BDF, according to Murphy, will be free to use the facility after the departure of the American army following the completion of the exercise.

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