U.S.-African Partnerships Evolve Ahead of New Command
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2008 While the new U.S. Africa Command prepares to stand up in October, Americans on the continent in the meantime are forging key African partnerships.
AFRICOM -- which will consolidate responsibilities currently divided between the U.S. European, Central and Pacific commands -- is on track to become fully operational on Oct. 1, a top Pentagon official said today.
But while the developing command is gaining attention, instances of current U.S.-African partnerships often are overlooked.
“There are a lot of things going on,” Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs said during a conference call, “probably more than most people are aware of.”
Highlighting the list of ongoing programs is the Africa Partnership Station, a U.S.-led response to requests by African nations for maritime training.
“The Navy is using ... the USS Fort McHenry as essentially a floating classroom and training facility off the coast of West Africa,” Whelan said.
The training is being carried out by instructors from the U.S. and several allied nations and includes both military-to-military and civilian-military exercises. The most recent port calls occurred in Cameroon and Nigeria.
“We recently conducted a trilateral maritime exercise between the French, ourselves and the Cameroonians,” Whelan said. “It was an opportunity for the Cameroonians to show what they had learned in the training.”
The multinational effort aboard the USS Fort McHenry comprises personnel from France, Portugal, Italy and the United Kingdom.
“We are all cooperating in this effort to try to improve African costal nations’ focus on their maritime security environment, which is something that they tend to forget, and yet is very important,” Whelan said.
Elsewhere in Africa, U.S. personnel helped train Ugandan and Burundi forces deployed to Somalia under the auspices of the African Union. Americans also have airlifted Rwandan troops in and out Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region.
In addition, the U.S. is conducting training coordinated through the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership with countries in the north-central African regions known as the Sahel and Maghreb. The program focuses on improving information sharing and field training to bolster border security, among other issues.
U.S. instructors are helping establish a national war college in Ethiopia and a peacekeeping center in Kenya. To the west, American technicians designed and continue to support a computer simulation center that aids military personnel and police in Nigeria.
Twelve U.S. military members are participating in “full-blown” security reconstruction efforts in Liberia, Whelan said, while others recently completed civilian-military training seminars in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“That’s a quick sampling, moving through different parts of the continent, of some of the things that we’re doing and will continue to do,” she said.