WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2015 —
Extremism is a
problem in Africa, but the people and nations of the continent are working
together to defeat it, the commander of U.S. Africa Command told the Defense
Writers’ Group here today.
Army Gen. David M.
Rodriguez said he came to his command wanting to build local capabilities on
the continent and to encourage nations to band together to confront the scourge
of groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia, a growing Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant presence in Libya and al-Qaida in the Maghreb and
its offshoots on the continent.
He is starting to
see a payoff, he said.
Command’s main effort is helping African nations build the capabilities and
capacity needed to handle their own problems, the general said. This is being
accomplished through small teams of U.S. forces who are working with nations at
the request of their governments.
“The major thing
they need and want is training and understanding how to operate in the
environments they are working in,” Rodriguez said. “They usually need help in
the same type of areas -- command and control and communications, [and]
intelligence -- we do a tremendous amount of intelligence training throughout
the African continent. They need help in logistics and mobility. They need help
in specialty skills anti-mine or IEDs.
militaries and institutions, the most important thing for them is to grow
leaders and select the right people and build the systems that sustain their
efforts for the long run,” he continued.
The nations are
working very hard together to protect the region -- something that wasn’t
always the case, the general said.
For example, countries
in West Africa considered Boko Haram a Nigerian problem and weren’t very
worried about it. The group operated in the northeast part of Nigeria, leaving
a trail of blood and tears. The Nigerian army and police were ineffective in
stopping the group. Now Boko Haram has declared allegiance to ISIL and the
group is spreading. Neighboring countries took note and they are cooperating
against the terrorists in a way they hadn’t before, Rodriguez said.
It’s having an
effect on the terrorists, he said, but much more needs to be done.
The same is true
in Somalia, where Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are cooperating in the African
Union Mission in Somalia to bring stability to that nation. This cooperation is
working there, too, as Rodriguez noted wryly that Yemenis are now escaping
their country for the security of Somalia.
among nations is growing as their capabilities are increasing, the general
said. In fact, “some of the African nations that have the capacity are also
helping to train some of their partners in addition to operating together,” he
said. “Some of the countries in Africa train African military leaders -- that’s
a good news story. That’s the next step as they build their ability to generate
their own forces and train their own forces that they will train each other.”
Even the Ebola
crisis helped countries work together, Rodriguez said. They had to cooperate to
halt the spread of the dread disease. Eleven countries have received training
in combatting Ebola and they are sharing lessons learned.
established U.S. Africa Command in 2007, many nations on the continent evinced
distrust. That seems to be a thing of the past. “I think Africa Command has
been able to first, listen to the Africans, and then help them where they
really need the help,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t detect too many places now
where there is a negative perception of what we are doing in Africa.”
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