Africom Assists Security, Stability Efforts
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2010 The Africa Partnership Station, a U.S.-led response to requests by African nations for maritime training, is now in its fifth deployment as it expands its scope along the African coastline, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said today.
While its initial focus was on West African nations near the Gulf of Guinea, the program -- which comprises ships that serve as mobile training centers -- has extended its reach to the eastern coast of a continent plagued by problems on both coasts, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“The Africa Partnership Station, which includes our European and African partners as members of its staff, is now on its fifth deployment and has expanded from its initial focus on the Gulf of Guinea to other African coastal nations,” Ward said in a progress update to Congress.
An estimated 80 percent of Europe’s cocaine supply transits through West Africa. Much of it originates in Latin America before being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. In sub-Saharan Africa, roughly $1 billion is lost annually to illegal fishing.
Meanwhile, both the western and eastern coasts continue to be troubled by piracy – specifically in Nigeria and Somalia, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of the worldwide total in 2008, the most recent data available on Africom’s Web site.
Visits by the Africa Partnership Station are designed to support and strengthen regional capabilities on the continent and represent one means for building comprehensive maritime security in Africa. The program is inspired by the belief that maritime safety and security will contribute to development, economic prosperity and security ashore, defense officials said.
Training focuses on a broad range of areas, including maritime law enforcement, search and rescue capabilities, civil engineering and logistics, and navigation. Crew members also participate in humanitarian assistance efforts led by interagency and nongovernmental organizations focusing on health care, education and other projects..
The Africa Partnership Station is part of a list of initiatives carried out by Africom, the Defense Department’s newest unified combatant command, which oversees security and stability operations in the bulk of the African continent.
Describing other components of the U.S. mission on the continent, Ward said Africom personnel are assisting African partners in building their capacities to counter transnational threats from violent extremist organizations, to stem illicit drug trafficking, to support peacekeeping operations and to prepare for natural disasters.
“Supporting the development of professional and capable militaries contributes to increased security and stability in Africa, [and] allows African nations and regional organizations to promote good governance, expand development and provide for their common defense and better serve their people,” he said.
Ward said the United States promotes its interests by helping African states build capable and professional militaries that respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law and more effectively contribute to stability in Africa.
“We do what we do in Africom to protect American lives and to promote American interests,” he said. “We do it by supporting security and stability programs in Africa and its island nations.”