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Less than 48 hours after Marine Corps General John Allen cited family health issues in bucking President Obama's nomination for supreme allied commander of NATO with his sudden retirement, the White House appears to have a backup in place: Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who currently oversees the Air Force's activities in Europe and Africa. Breedlove's nomination isn't haphazard, though; in fact, his experience provides a stark contrast to Allen. Whereas Allen was all but guaranteed the top NATO job after leading the end stages of the country's engagement in Afghanistan (for which he became one of the country's most recognized military officials, second only to David Petraeus), the nomination of Breedlove, whose career has kept him away from both Iraq and Afghanistan, would highlight the increased role of the military's presence in Africa, where in 2006 it established its AFRICOM headquarters in Djibouti.

Furthermore, Breedlove's experience on the continent — the preferred home of a growing number of al Qaeda cells — could also help bolster the military's ever-increasing drone strike program, which (if all goes according to plan) will expand to Niger, in northern Africa, as military leaders seek to contain recent waves in violence in Algeria, Libya, Yemen and Mali.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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