Vice Chairman Makes Whirlwind Visit to Troops in Djibouti
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 25, 2005 The job the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa does is overshadowed by actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it is an important component in the overall war on terror, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace said here today.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with the troops in Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa during his visit to the region March 20.
Photo by Sgt. Brian E. McElaney, USMC
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, highlighted that importance with a whirlwind tour to Djibouti, the CJTF home. Pace visited for 16 hours March 20 and was back at his desk in the Pentagon in time for work the next morning.
"I did it ... because I wanted the guys and gals in Djibouti to know that they were important," Pace said in an interview.
The general met with Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen assigned to the mission. He also met with CJTF leaders and the U.S. ambassador to Djibouti.
The CJTF mission in the region often is cited as a model for American efforts in the war on terror. President Bush said that one aspect of the war is building a world where people do not join extremist organizations in the first place. The CJTF has around 1,000 personnel assigned covers seven nations - Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia. Camp Lemonier is the main headquarters located in Djibouti City.
The task force men and women "are helping establish better ties and rapport with the nations of the region," Pace said. The servicemembers based out of Djibouti have launched numerous medical, dental and veterinary civil affairs projects in the region, he added, and Seabees and engineers have dug wells, improved or paved roads and built bridges and river fords. In addition, they have built or repaired schools and civic buildings and even helped repair mosques, he noted.
"If you think about it, the things that the CJTF Horn of Africa are doing are things that will change people's lives and change their impressions of the United States in the long run," Pace said. These changes, he maintains, will have sustained positive impact.
The vice chairman said that what coalition forces are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is important to help provide stability. But U.S. and coalition forces are going to need to do the same kinds of works in those countries as they are on the Horn of Africa to bring about a long-term change.
Part of the success the Horn of Africa task force is having is a result of the cooperation it receives from the host nations. "Seems clear to me by their actions, that the host governments are pleased to have us there," he said. "They take very seriously ... the fact that we are guests in their country, which includes force protection of their guests. The climate in which we are working seems to be very, very supportive, and healthy for the future."
Pace credits Army Gen. John Abizaid for devising the CJTF template. Abizaid commands U.S. Central Command. Pace also likes the model the CJTF presents to other areas. "You don't have to have a big footprint to get a big effect," he said.
The government of Afghanistan has said it wants to maintain a strategic partnership with the United States. Someday, a democratic government in Iraq may decide the same. "If governments of Afghanistan and Iraq wanted to have long-term relations (with the United States), that much, much smaller footprint in the Horn of Africa would work well in Afghanistan, would work well in Iraq as a way to keep facilities available for cooperation between our governments," he said.
The model could also be used in the Pacific. "It's the correct way to have military-to-military interaction that if done robustly can help us prevent having to use much larger forces for traditional actions," Pace said.
Pace said the servicemembers he met in Djibouti understand why they were there and the need for coalition forces in the region.
The region is very hot, dusty and poor, but U.S. servicemembers are not complaining, Pace said. "They had ample opportunity to complain, but they didn't. They are proud of what they are doing."
Many servicemembers in the region are reserve component personnel. He said their professionalism and behavior were impeccable, and that they told him "that putting their other lives on hold was worth it."
One aspect that may change in the region deals with tour lengths, he said. Staff tours may be lengthened. "It's one thing if you have Pfc. Pace there pulling guard duty for six months," the general said. "But it's something else for Major Pace to be on the staff and have a four- to six-month tour. About the time I really understand how to be effective, it's time for me to go home.
"We're taking a look at the JTF tour length," he continued. "We really need stability on the staff.