U.S. Africom Promotes Stability, Security on Continent
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 17, 2009 The nascent U.S. Africa Command is promoting stability and security on the continent through military-to-military activities and a host of other programs, the Africom commander said today.
Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward spoke about the Africom mission at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
“We work in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners to ensure that our activities are harmonized,” he told the Senate panel. “Our strategy is based on military-to-military efforts to enhance the security capacity and capability of our African partners.”
In his dealings with African leaders, Ward said, he receives one common message. “The consistent message they give me is for their intent for their nations to provide for their own security,” he said.
Ward said most heads of African states welcome Africom’s assistance in reaching their goals for establishing legitimate and professional security forces. Further, he said, most perform operations with integrity and are increasingly able to support the mission in support of international peace.
The U.S. mission in Africa has assumed an interagency approach that combines efforts by the American military and the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the departments of Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Agriculture and other agencies doing work on the continent, he said.
“Similarly, we reach out to international partners, including Europeans, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, private enterprises and academia,” he said. “Their perspectives on the situation in Africa are valuable.”
Currently, Africom – which officially stood up Oct. 1 -- is engaged in military training, education, sustainment operations, and provides logistics support. One activity of note is the International Military Education and Training program, or IMET.
IMET is a State Department-led foreign-assistance program that provides education and training for foreign military and civilian personnel and is critical to building long-term relationships, according to an Africom news release.
Officers and enlisted leaders who received U.S. IMET training fill key positions in many partner African nations. As of last year, for example, 11 of 14 general officers in the Botswana Defense Force, as well as the BDF command sergeant major, were U.S. IMET graduates.
Ward said he anticipates 46 African countries will participate in IMET.
“The International Military Education and Training program, I think, provides long-term benefits for our national interests as well as transforming those militaries in positive ways,” he said. “Those programs that deal with training and equipping our partner nations to better enable them to conduct counter-terror activities, to have better abilities to control their internal border, are very valuable.”
Meanwhile, Ward said, Africom also is involved in providing training, education and civil military assistance in the Horn of Africa and supporting counterterrorism efforts in North and West African nations. It also is aiding the State Department-led training of roughly 20 battalions of peacekeepers per year and assisting coast guards of the maritime nations in East Africa.
The general said he is honored to serve with Defense Department military and civilian personnel and interagency teammates and make a difference on the continent every day.
“Their dedicated efforts are a testament to the spirit and determination to the American people and our commitment to contributing to the well-being and security of our nation and the people of Africa,” he said.