U.S. Troops Fighting Terrorism in the Horn of Africa
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2003 Roughly 1,300 American and coalition troops are working to prevent terrorists from gaining ground in the Horn of Africa.
From the sea and on the land, Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa detects, disrupts and defeats terrorists in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen, Marine Maj. Stephen Cox said today.
Cox is the task force public affairs officer. He and his commander, Marine Maj. Gen. John Sattler, spoke via a telephone connection to reporters in the Pentagon from the unit's headquarters aboard the USS Mount Whitney, afloat off the coast of Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden.
Cox said about 400 service members man task force headquarters on the Mount Whitney, an amphibious command ship. The other 900 work at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.
Success in fighting terrorists in the region will largely depend on good relations between the task force and the governments of surrounding countries, he said. Since the unit arrived early last month, task force leaders have met with the heads of state of Djibouti, Yemen, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Cox said the unit has been building intelligence networks in the region and has the ability to prosecute missions against terrorists should Sattler receive "actionable intelligence."
Camp Lemonier, where 900 troops are sleeping, eating and working in climate-controlled tents, "I would describe it as very, very austere but very, very safe," Sattler said. "And it certainly meets our needs and our mission here."
He noted the camp's residents provide "very, very strong force-protection security" themselves. Task force members typically will serve 180-day rotations, but individually and in small groups to prevent a large-scale troop rotation that could degrade capabilities, he added.
He called the Mount Whitney "probably the most capable naval platform in the world." Sattler said the unit has state-of-the-art communications systems to reach anyone in the chain of command and helicopters on board the ship that allow him to travel anywhere in the region.
While U.S. Central Command officials might consider moving the task force headquarters ashore in the coming months, Sattler said there's no compelling factor pushing the force to hurry off the ship and move ashore.