Story highlights

Carter Ham has been commander since 2011

Africa has been beset by political turmoil

The command is based in Europe

There's one U.S. forward operating base, in Djibouti

CNN  — 

President Barack Obama will nominate a new leader for the Pentagon command in charge of Africa.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday the president is picking Gen. David Rodriguez to replace Gen. Carter Ham as head of the U.S. Africa Command.

Rodriguez is the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, responsible for the training, equipping and oversight of active duty, National Guard and reserve soldiers.

The choice comes during a turbulent time across the continent. Political turmoil rages in Libya, fighting continues to engulf the fractious state of Somalia, a militant presence has emerged in Mali, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has made its presence known in northern Africa, and sectarian strife plagues Nigeria.

The command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is one of six geographic commands operated by the Pentagon. Djibouti hosts the only U.S. forward operating base the United States has on the continent with 3,000 U.S. service members at Camp Lemonier.

The command was created by presidential order and officially activated in 2007.

It became fully operational in 2008. Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward served as its first commander. Ham, a U.S. Army general, became the second commander in 2011.

The U.S. Africa Command is responsible for all military activities and military relations with 54 African countries, including the islands of Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe, along with the Indian Ocean islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles.

U.S. Central Command maintains a traditional relationship with Egypt. Africom says it works with Egypt “on issues relating to Africa security.”

“The command has no plans to move its headquarters from Stuttgart and will be located here for the foreseeable future. In addition, USAFRICOM is not seeking the establishment of bases in Africa or anywhere else,” the command said on its website.