The Pentagon chooses the next commander of American forces in Africa

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has recommended that the White House promote Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael E. Lang...


WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has recommended that the White House promote Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael E. Langley to be the next military Africa Command chief, two U.S. officials said. in what would be a pioneer. assignment.

If officially nominated by the White House and confirmed by the Senate, General Langley would become the first black four-star officer in the Marine Corps. He would succeed Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, who is retiring this summer, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

General Langley, who oversees Marine forces on the East Coast, has commanded at every level from platoon to regiment during his 37-year career and has served overseas in Afghanistan, Somalia and Okinawa. He has also held several senior positions at the Pentagon and at Army Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East.

“He’s a Marine’s Marine,” said Jim Mattis, a former Secretary of Defense and retired Marine four-star general, praising General Langley’s operational and intellectual prowess.

But perhaps more importantly, a Black Marine is finally on the verge of four stars.

The Marine Corps has never had anyone but a white man in its highest four-star leadership positions.

Since the Marines first admitted African-American troops in 1942, the last military service to do so, less than 30 have achieved the rank of general in any form. None of them reached the top four-star rank, an honor the Marines bestowed on 73 white men. Seven African Americans have achieved the rank of lieutenant general, which is three stars. The rest received one or two stars, the majority in areas from which the Marine Corps does not choose its senior leadership, such as logistics, aviation and transportation.

After a August 2020 New York Times article on the shortage of Black Navy generals, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, was asked why the corps had not promoted an African American to its highest ranks in its 246 years of history. “The reality is this: everyone is really, really, really good,” General Berger said in an interview with Defense One. “For every 10 we choose, every 12, we could choose 30 more – just as well.”

General Langley is “aware of the weight of this promotion,” said retired Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, the first black man to command the First Marine Division, from 2011 to 2013. he was a first mate. I know how brilliant he is and he knows what that means.

The promotion, General Bailey said, “is bigger than Langley. It is for our nation. It’s been a glass ceiling for years, and now the Black Marines will see it’s possible.

When he received his first star, General Langley’s friends recalled that he recounted how his father resigned from his Air Force post after refusing to allow him to stay in Texas to take care of her children after the death of their mother.

General Langley grew up and joined the Marine Corps, where he was an artillery officer.

He would take over command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, at a time of growing economic and security competition from China and Russia in Africa and as waves of terrorism and violence gripped the region. Sahel, a vast sub-Saharan scrubland stretching from Senegal to Sudan.

Other seismic changes are rocking the region. In a reflection of economic insecurity and poor governance, military leaders over the past two years have overthrown the governments of Mali, Chad, Guinea, Sudan and Burkina Faso.

In Mali, France announced earlier this year that it was ending its counter-terrorism operation amid soured relations with Malian military leaders who seized power in a coup last May.

Western officials say Malian security forces have since hired Russian mercenaries with the Wagner Group, a private military company that also operates in Libya and the Central African Republic.

In East Africa, General Langley would oversee a changing mission. President Biden authorized the U.S. military to redeploy hundreds of special operations forces inside Somalia, largely reversing President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw nearly all of the 700 ground troops who were there stationed.

Mr. Biden also approved a request from the Pentagon for permanent authorization to target a dozen people suspected of being leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, three American officials said. Since Mr. Biden took office, airstrikes have largely been limited to those intended to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat.

Together, Mr. Biden’s decisions will reinvigorate an open-ended US counterterrorism operation that has resulted in a slow-moving war across three administrations. The move contrasts with his decision last year to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, saying “it’s time to end the eternal war”.

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, General Langley graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and was commissioned in 1985.

“Smart and thoughtful,” said Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a recently retired four-star Marine for whom Gen. Langley worked at Central Command. “Importantly, he was never shy about speaking up if he saw something that needed to be fixed – not afraid to take an unpopular position.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: The Pentagon chooses the next commander of American forces in Africa
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