New U.S. Task Force Commander, Staff Prepare for Posting to Africa
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2007 The new headquarters commander and staff for Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa are nearing the end of training before their posting to a region of vital strategic importance in the global war against terrorism.
Navy Rear Adm. James M. Hart is slated to take command of the task force, which has its headquarters at Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti City, the capital of Djibouti, in early February.
Hart and his staff have been preparing for their one-year assignment in Africa since mid-October through specialized training provided by U.S. Joint Forces Command, in Suffolk, Va., Hart told reporters today during a phone interview from Suffolk. That training, he said, has included two trips to Africa.
Hart called the training for his new assignment “extraordinary” and said it stresses interagency cooperation and emphasizes diplomacy, defense and development.
“I think it’s been very advantageous that I’ve been given the opportunity since mid-October to get out and about and go to places like the State Department and spend time with (the United States Agency for International Development) and learn the interagency process,” Hart said.
As CJTF-HOA commander, Hart will command 1,800 to 2,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and coalition partners. The task force’s area of responsibility covers operations in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Ethiopia in Africa, and Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula.
Hart said the task force’s mission centers on conflict prevention, stability operations and helping countries develop good governance practices.
The United States’ policy in Somalia is to help its citizens regain political and economic stability, to counter terrorism, and to provide humanitarian assistance, the admiral said.
“We are about helping Africans help themselves,” Hart said, noting CJTF-HOA conducts joint military training and border security missions with the Ethiopian, Kenyan and other regional militaries.
Recent fighting in Somalia featured Islamic terrorists being defeated by moderate forces. That conflict “doesn’t really change our mission or our objectives” in Somalia, Hart said.
The task force oversees a region that’s vital to U.S. national security interests, Hart said. Offering a better life to people living in Africa and the Middle East is especially important because of the global war against terrorism, he said.
“We’re arriving there early enough with an opportunity to help shape the environment, work towards a more secure environment, and hopefully, to allow people the opportunity to choose a direction to go in their lives that steers them away from extremism,” Hart said. “And, that’s what I think is one of our primary reasons for being there.”