(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: www.america.gov) The commander of the U.S. military's Africa Command (AFRICOM) says that there has been positive growth in the partnership between his command and 53 African nations that work with him in helping to maintain regional stability and preventing civil strife. "What we do are things that our partners desire of us to do," Army General William "Kip" Ward said during a February 18, 2011 roundtable briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center. "This is an important part of our work. Through our interactive activities, such as conferences, exercises, training, our familiarization programs, our senior leader visits, we listen very carefully to our partners, and this is all part of our understanding what matters most to them," Ward said. The work of AFRICOM is in the interests of the United States, Ward said, but also in the interests of the African nations and the global community. AFRICOM, one of six Defense Department regional military headquarters, became operational October 1, 2008. The command, with a military-civilian staff of 1,300, is located at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. In fiscal year 2009, the command had a budget of $310 million and was budgeted for $278 million in fiscal year 2010. Before the creation of a separate military command for Africa, the United States' military and security engagements on the continent had been episodic. But after the command became operational, it has taken an approach focusing on building the security capacity of its partners, promoting strategic relationships, conducting civilian-military activities that foster stability and providing crisis response. Africa Command grew out of the U.S. European Command, which had responsibility for 92 countries in Europe and Africa. AFRICOM focuses entirely on Africa, with the one exception of Egypt, which is still under the aegis of the U.S. Central Command. However, Ward said that Egypt is still very much an African nation and actively participates in the issues and challenges of the continent. When AFRICOM was created, Egyptian officials were consulted on the U.S. approach. Coupled with the military cooperation is the expanded civilian cooperation through the command with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State and Treasury departments and other agencies. Ward told reporters there are "absolutely no plans now or in the future to move my headquarters to Africa." Since creation of the command, the question of a headquarters in Africa has been raised regularly. Leaders of African nations have repeatedly told AFRICOM that their security priorities include such things as the development of capable and accountable professional military forces; the creation of effective, legitimate and professional security institutions at the national and regional levels; a collective ability to dissuade, deter and defeat transnational threats from terrorist and extremist organizations; and increased African leadership and participation in international peacekeeping missions as well as peacekeeping currently being conducted in Africa, Ward said. "We conduct a wide range of programs and activities that help our African partners meet these goals," Ward added. Ward said his greatest challenge as commander of AFRICOM is providing the things that African leaders want. "Our ability to provide support is certainly a factor of our resources that we have available," Ward said. And that means, he said, that there are times when the command cannot do all of things it's asked to do. Helping African nations build professional militaries takes resources and equipment, he said. Asked by reporters about instability in the Middle East and in North Africa, Ward said that instability anywhere causes him concern because there are always those who want to take advantage of such situations to generate instability in other places.