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Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Richard Spencer hands the US Africa Command guidon to incoming AFRICOM Commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend during a change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, on July 26, 2019. Army photo by SSgt. Grady Jones.

​US Army Gen. Stephen Townsend on July 26 took the reins of US Africa Command, a 10-year-old command of growing importance to the US and its allies.

Townsend, who formerly led the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, took over for retiring Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser during a ceremony in Germany.

Townsend comes to AFRICOM as regional combat operations grow, particularly focused on strikes and raids against al-Shabab in Somalia.

AFRICOM is also expanding its presence in West Africa, as MQ-9 operations at Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez are expected to begin within months.

During his confirmation hearing in April, Townsend said that while the fight against violent extremism is the top concern, AFRICOM will have to remain a steady presence on the continent to counter Russia and China’s growing influence.

“To our partners and allies both in Africa and Europe, AFRICOM is known for its diverse organization and partnerships,” Townsend said during the July 26 ceremony. “I promise you, you can continue to count on AFRICOM to continue to work side by side with you to advance our shared interests for security, stability, and prosperity across Africa.”