Americans in Horn of Africa Using New Weapon in Terror War
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar, Apr. 18, 2006 American forces are using an unconventional approach to fighting terrorism in the Horn of Africa, the senior enlisted adviser at U.S. Central Command said.
"The weapon systems down there are well-drilling equipment and shovels, and building schools and hospitals, and training border patrols and counterterrorism forces," Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Brownhill said. "It's an elaborate civil affairs and security effort that is all about building capacity and confidence."
Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa is a small group of servicemembers who work with governments and U.S. officials in the Horn of Africa to improve life for some of the poorest people in the world. The task force is headquartered in Djibouti and includes operations in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Yemen.
"We're fighting a war down there and haven't fired a shot," Brownhill said. "We're taking on al Qaeda and associated movements there, and it's the civil affairs piece that's winning it."
The roots of the effort go back to 2002. After coalition and Afghan forces routed the Taliban from Afghanistan and fractured al Qaeda in that country, extremists "needed ungoverned spaces to squirt to, and the Horn of Africa is ripe for that," the chief said.
Central Command representatives went to the Horn of Africa and worked with local governments, with U.S. embassies in the area, and with non-governmental relief agencies to give the people of the region hope. "With the civil affairs assets and training the militaries, (the task force) has provided confidence and capacity, and the people have pushed back from al Qaeda and associated movements trying to find another Afghanistan," Brownhill said.
There are still problems. Continued drought is forecast for the region, and Somalia remains the largest "ungoverned space" on the planet. Warlords rule in the nation, and some are reported to be embracing a Taliban-like rule. Warlords have encouraged piracy, and most are corrupt.
The task force does not work within Somalia. But its work on the periphery of the nation gives people in the region "the will and confidence to say to these groups, 'Not here; not today; not now.' We see a brighter future than a dark oppressed future under warlords of a Taliban-like government," he said.
Efforts in the Horn of Africa are all about building capacity, prosperity and setting conditions for progress. "You find that when you prepare the ground and set those conditions, often you preclude the necessity of having to go in and go to war," he said. "It's the preferred way of fighting."