White House selects Marine general as next head of US forces in Africa

President Biden has nominated Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley to command all U.S. forces in Africa, a choice that, if confirmed, would make him the first Black four-star general in the service’s history, the Pentagon revealed Thursday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the nomination decision on Langley, who has served as head of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command and Marine Corps Forces North, as well as commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic since November 2021.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would lead U.S. Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and tasked with all U.S. military operations on the African continent.

The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests from China and Russia — the latter controlling the private military company Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic.

Africa also struggles with terrorism and violence in the Sahel region, and military coups in Chad, Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Burkina Faso.

Langley would take over for current Africom leader Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who has headed the command since July 2019.

Commissioned in 1985, he has commanded at every level from platoon to regiment and has deployed to Japan, Afghanistan and Somalia, the latter where Biden recently decided to return up to 500 troops for counterterrorism operations.

Langley has also worked at the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, the military arm which oversees American forces in the Middle East, according to his Marine Corps biography.

In May, The New York Times first reported on Langley’s impending nomination, with former Defense Secretary James Mattis praising him, telling the paper: “He’s a Marine’s Marine.”

The Marines have a complicated history with Black Americans. The service was the last military arm to admit Black troops when it did so in 1942.

Since then, fewer than 30 individuals have reached the rank of general in any form, with none making it to the four-star rank, according to the Times.

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