General Stephen Townsend, Commander, Africa Command

General Stephen Townsend

Commander, Africa Command

Stephen T. Townsend was born in 1959 in Scheinfeld, Bavaria, and was adopted soon after his birth by an American military family in Germany. He grew up in Griffin, Georgia. Townsend graduated from North Georgia College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He was commissioned into the infantry from the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

He has served across a number of units including the 10th Mountain Division and 75th Ranger Regiment. He fought in Operation Urgent Entry in Grenada, Operation Just Cause in Panama, and Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. He led a task force in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.

Townsend became commander of XVIII Airborne Corps and later took command of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He was nominated for appointment as the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command when he was promoted to general. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate and he took that command in March 2018. Since July 2019, he has been the Commander of the United States Africa Command.

In the News…

General Stephen Townsend, the commander of Africa Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the multitude of threats to the United States emanating from the continent. He laid out the terrorism landscape and provided insight into Russia’s and China’s investments in Africa. 

“Due to a lack of effective governance and counter-terrorism pressure,” the terror group al-Shabaab “has only grown stronger and bolder over the past year,” while “Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslmin, or JNIM, has metastasized into a powerful, sprawling terrorist network now threatening Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and littoral West Africa,” he said in his written testimony. 

General Townsend also expressed concern about the Islamic State, which he said exploits “ungoverned spaces, including recognition and creation of new branches elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa,” which “has increased the groups’ ability to destabilize local governments, exploit fragility and instability factors, and drive radicalism.” 

“Deadly terrorism has metastasized to Africa. Al-Qaeda’s Al-Shabaab in East Africa and ISIS and Al Qaeda groups in West Africa and elsewhere are among the world’s fastest growing, wealthiest, and deadliest terrorist groups and remain grave and growing threats that aspire to kill Americans, both there and in our homeland,” he told the senators. 

China’s and Russia’s efforts in Africa also pose a threat to America, and the two adversaries to the U.S. “have long recognized Africa’s importance,” he added. 

A decrease in Department of Defense funding “is an area of concern for me” because “I assess it opens the door for China or Russia to usurp the U.S. as the partner of choice,” he said. 


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